While typing the title, I became aware of three important aspects contained therein, and how powerful our words can be. Therefore, I decided to start by briefly explaining the hidden power behind my choice of words.
Essential- refers to the undeniable fact that we need to address those serious, difficult to communicate and agree upon facts, ideas, opinions, feelings, etc. It usually contains planning, auctioning and managing of all the operational parts and/or concepts of marriage and determines the effectiveness, functionality and beneficial results of your relationship.
Discussions–refers to an ongoing process of shared input, actions, evaluation, reflection and continuous development. It is more than a mere conversation. It is an opportunity to grow and develop together with your partner, to discover their thinking patterns and to utilize the character strengths and unique skillset to establish a strong bond, trust, and respect.
Successful – success is one of those tricky and relative concepts. Success has different meanings for everyone and contains many variations and forms. Your definition of success will serve as the tool you use to measure the effectiveness of your, outcomes, actions, goals, worth, purpose, and satisfaction, amongst the others. Thereafter, it will serve as your guideline to remain on your determined life course while focusing on reaching your ultimate life goal/dream. It also serves as a diligent agent of self-regulation and self-determination, as you take corrective actions when you realize that you got derailed for some reason.
To determine and explain the essential discussion points, I use the analogy of drawing up an agenda for an important business meeting. You can tailor your list of essentials to your heart’s delight, once you are comfortable with the process.
Essential topics for discussion – in no particular order:
1. Marital health status
We often assume that our partner knows exactly how we think and feel as if they have the gift of clairvoyance. They do not. Never make the mistake of assuming that you know exactly what occupies your partner’s mind, you do not. It is crucial to only work and rely on facts when assessing your marital health. Ask questions about each other’s experience of your marital relationship. Are you happy? Does your marriage provide purpose and meaning in your life? What aspects can you grow and develop as individuals and as a couple, and establish a realistic, and practical plan?
2. Reality check
I call this the mirror game to achieve the Michelangelo Effect, to becoming your ideal self. We know that some mirrors distort true reflection, resulting in a complete misrepresentation of reality (a great example is the mirrors in all clothing store’s fitting rooms, no matter what maneuver you graciously apply, you just never look good enough). Then there are those that provide a more or less accurate image. Why more or less? It is a scientifically proven fact that you will never see yourself in a mirror in exactly the same way that others see you. Thank heavens for your partner. He/she are able to provide you with the most accurate reality you will get, provided that, he/she is sensitive towards your feelings, honest, sincere, keep your best interest in mind and has pure and positive intentions, free from any form of benevolence and cognitive biases. Treat all suggestions as exciting possibilities to learn and grow from and not as some sort of degrading critical analysis. This is an extraordinary trust building activity and often leads to quite a lot of laughing.
Include expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your relationship. Is it realistic? Is it practical? Is there a need for resources, if yes, how do you plan to obtain and effectively utilize them? Is it within you and/or your partner’s physical and psychological ability to meet those expectations? Failure to communicate about your various expectations can lead to a boiling cauldron, filled with unnecessary trouble.
4. Finance and marital admin
Discuss your joined budget at least on a monthly basis. Abstain from dominating your partner in this area. Listen to each other’s ideas and needs, while planning your budget. Always be honest, open and transparent about your financial circumstances, in terms of income and expenses. You are a team for a reason so share both the abundant and the slightly scarcer times. Make sure that your admin and filing is in order when it comes to your estate, medical aid, insurance, loans, retirement annuity, investment, and policies. Both partners must know the true status and nature of all the aforementioned components. You do not do your partner a favor by withholding any of this information from them, even if they say that it does not bother them, they do secretly worry, and fear the day they will desperately need this information and will not know where to start. I have witnessed individuals trying to carry chaotic administration and extreme financial burdens on their own, with devastating consequences.
If you want to raise strong, happy, emotionally secure and confident children, you must form a united front. To be supportive, authentic, and strong parents you will need to speak from the same mouth. Discuss and agree on issues such as rules, routines, and discipline. Plan at least two family outings away from technology, to reconnect with each other and have fun together. What actions will you take and how will you implement those actions. The result will be a balanced family life with clear and healthy boundaries.
6. Our dreams and goals
You need to have big dreams as individuals and as a couple. When discussing these goals and dreams with each other, you ensure that they constantly align, complement each other, remain relevant to you and your marriage, and acts as a positive and meaningful driving force in your lives.Goals will be the mutually agreed upon smaller actions you decide to take daily, weekly, monthly, etc., to reach your dream in the timeframe of your choice. Some couples prefer to have a vision board, that is actively updated weekly and is placed in a visible and strategic place in their homes, to act as a constant reminder of the dreams they are working towards.
7. What is our definition of success?
Develop and define a clear definition of success, as applicable to you as an individual and your marriage. This discussion does take time and remains a work in progress. Remember that this will become your measuring tool. Keep it simple, practical and reasonable, and always insist on celebrating even the smallest victories as individuals, and be successful happily married partners.