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15 Things Every Couple MUST Discuss Before Getting Married

New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), or submit a question for advice.

I’ve been writing an advice column in some shape or form for close to eight years now, and I can say with confidence that at least 75% of the letters I receive from married people are about issues that could have been avoided if the couples had better communicated their expectations about married life before tying the knot. Letters like the one I answered last week in which the husband and wife had drastically different ideas on where they’d like to raise a family are, sadly, not uncommon. But they’d be much more of a rarity if couples would discuss these 15 issues before getting married:


1. Outstanding debt.
Who has some and what is the plan for paying it off?

2. Children.
Do you want them? If so, how many? If not, are you sure enough about that decision to take permanent steps to ensure you don’t have them (like a vasectomy)? If you do want them, when do you want to have your first? Are you open to adoption or fertility treatments if you’re unable to conceive naturally? How long do you want to try to conceive naturally before trying different options?

3. Location, location, location.
Where do you want to put roots down? And if you don’t want to put roots down and would prefer to stay on the move indefinitely — my parents, for example, raised me and my sister in three different countries (none of which was the US, where they were raised) — make sure your partner is on board with that idea. How would you rank location in terms of importance for your well-being? If you love where you live, what would persuade you to move — a job offer, desire to be closer to family, better schools for your kids?

4. Religion.
If you practice a religion or have a particular faith, how important is it that your partner share the faith and practice it with you? How does your religion or faith affect your lifestyle? If you plan to have kids, what religion, if any, do you want to raise them in?

5. IKEA.
Marriages are broken in the aisles of IKEA every day. Do not underestimate the power of the Swedish smorgasbord of cheap, disposable home goods. If you and your partner plan to spend even a minute of your marriage in IKEA, decide whether a $40 book shelf is worth the two or three years from your life it may cost you.

6. Dream home.
Do you want a McMansion in the ‘burbs? A cozy condo in the sky? A beach bungalow? A cabin in the woods? A macked-out tree house? A ranch in Utah? You may never live in your dream home, but knowing whether you and your significant other share common long-term goals will help solidify your roles as partners in each other’s lives and confirm that you’re working toward the same thing.

7. Bank accounts and bill-sharing.
Will you share a bank account? Keep individual account? Both? And what bills will be paid by what accounts? Will you each put a certain percentage of your income toward shared bills? Do you have an emergency fund? What if one person is out of work or decides to stay home to raise the kids? What’s your plan for affording that?

8. Division of household labor.
Dishes, laundry, yada, yada, yada. Barter, negotiate, and plead if you have to, so that you aren’t stuck doing the thing you least like doing all the time. If you hate, hate, hate washing dishes, but don’t mind cooking, suggest to your partner that you head meal preparation if he or she agrees to take on the dishes. This works best if the thing you hate with a passion isn’t also the same thing your partner hates with a passion. If it is, find a way to compromise, using your best negotiation tactics “Okay, I’ll empty the litter box and do the laundry and give you a BJ once a week if you please wash the dishes…”.

9. Sex.
Do you want to sleep with just one person for the rest of your life? Can you and still be happy and satisfied? If not, you need to discuss either the possibility of an open marriage, strategies for keeping the spark alive, or waiting on marriage until the idea of monogamy isn’t a death sentence for you.

10. Hard or soft.
Your mattress! You will (hopefully) be sleeping in the same bed as this person for a very, very long time, and a comfortable mattress is imperative for a good night’s rest. Rack up too many sleepless nights and your relationship will suffer. So, if you and your partner have different ideas of what makes a comfortable mattress, how will you compromise?

11. Family obligations.
How much time to you spend with your family now, how much do you expect to spend with them once you’re married and potentially have children, and how much time do you expect your spouse to spend with them (and vice versa). How do you plan to spend your holidays and what’s your plan for giving both sets of families equal time with you/ your children during the major holidays? Are you the type of person who likes to vacation with your family, and if so, how often?

12. Vacations.
In addition to extended family vacations, you and your partner need to discuss what other types of vacations you do or don’t enjoy. If you’re a Disneyland fan and your significant other hates Mickey Mouse with a passion, that may cause some friction. If one of you only likes camping and the other prefers staying in chic boutique hotels, there’s an issue. Likewise, if the workaholic in your relationship can’t bear to be too far away from the office while the other would like to get as far away from home as possible, you need to talk through how you’re going to compromise. You can’t expect to plan all your vacations for the rest of your life together, but discussing some solutions that you’re both OK with will help you address friction in the future.

13. The name game.
What’s your family name going to be? Will one spouse take the other spouse’s last name? And if not, what surname will you give any kids you have?

14. Career.
How committed is each of you to your careers? Do you live to work or work to live? How will your respective careers affect family life? Where are you in terms of living a “dream career”? Do you have more schooling and apprenticing to finish? If so, what’s the time frame for completing these steps toward obtaining the kind of job you hope for? What kind of personal sacrifices will you have to make to climb the career ladder of your choice?

15. TV in the bedroom: Yay! Or nay?
Think of the TV in the bedroom as a metaphor for your whole marriage. Do you want a method of escape or to protect the intimacy? Neither answer is right or wrong, but answering yourselves the question before you get married could provide a valuable insight into how you picture your married life together.

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{ 117 comments… add one }

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 2:09 pm

Wendy, isn’t this list a bad business move for you? If you nip these problems in the bud before they happen, where will all these crazy letters come from?!

Seriously though, I like this list. I’m in an intense marriage-planning process, and since we’re not members of any mainstream religions, pre-marital counseling is not easy for us to find. I’ve been trying to hoard secular pre-marriage books and saving as many lists like this one so that we can discuss them all together in lieu of counseling. If anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way!

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 2:16 pm

Although I will say that we haven’t talked about all these specific details. I don’t think we have any idea how long we’ll want to try for a baby before we look into other options. Not many people know enough about what’s “normal” before they start trying to conceive. I think as long as we’re on the same page and willing to roll with the punches, it’s all fine. You can’t plan out everything, but you can at least figure out who has rigid beliefs about something and who’s flexible about it.

((P.S. – Why can I never put all of my thoughts into one single comment?))

Dear Wendy Wendy August 15, 2012, 2:19 pm

It sounds like you’re on the right track even thinking along these lines before getting married.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 2:20 pm

Awh, shucks! Thanks, Wendy!

avatar kerrycontrary August 15, 2012, 2:36 pm

Maybe you could bring what questions you want to cover to a couples counseling session? You may not need couples counseling, but it could be helpful to have an objective third party mediate the session.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 2:43 pm

I would love to do that. I just haven’t had much luck finding any counseling that isn’t Christian-based. :( I don’t know how much the added religious aspect actually makes a difference, but I don’t want anyone pushing stuff onto us.

avatar Taylor August 15, 2012, 3:57 pm

For what it’s worth, we did all the Catholic pre-marriage stuff, and there was a lot of helpful secular stuff in it – lots of discussion of communication styles and long terms financial/work/family goals. We went through the church because it was easiest, I tuned out during the ~25% Jesus stuff, and most of the rest was pretty helpful. They had these really long questionnaires that drew trends out for how you communicate – we actually filled them out shortly after the biggest fight we’d ever had, not the best idea, but useful long term.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 2:53 pm

My fiance and I are having the same problem- pre-marital counseling that isn’t based in a church just doesn’t seem to work. We’ve decided to explore the couples couciling his employer offers and see if they can do a couple sessions of stuff similar to what a church based course would cover. If not we might just find a religious based class to take.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 3:00 pm

His employer offers couples counseling? Wow, I’ve never heard of that. What a unique benefit.

This might be dumb sounding, but we took the 5 love languages quiz together, and the apology quiz by the same guy. They were written by a marriage counselor, so it’s not like a dumb Cosmo quiz. It’s something you might be interested in. It might just tell you stuff you already knew, but it puts it into words and gives you a good jumping-off point for conversation. I also ordered the guy’s book “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married.” We’ll see if it’s helpful at all.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 3:07 pm

He’s a Phd student so he’s employed by a university and has access to the university health center which includes mental health services. Schools not in session yet so we’ll see if it works out. Luckily we’ve covered just about all of the points Wendy has outlined so I think we’re alright.

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:08 pm

I loved reading about the love languages! It’s a good book. I read “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married,” and I thought it was pretty useful. Some of it is really obvious, but it can’t hurt to review. What love language did you and your fiance turn out to be? Mine is Words of Affirmation.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 3:19 pm

Mine is Words of Affirmation too! Followed closely by Quality Time. His is Quality Time and almost zero on Words of Affirmation, but at least we’ve got one thing in common. It’s kind of amazing because the same day we took that quiz he started giving me more compliments and saying sweet things to me more, and now I realize how important it is to him that I always prioritize our conversation-time.

I’ll remember to give you lots of Words of Affirmation now, Kristen! haha Did your husband get the same result?

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:24 pm

That’s so funny! Quality Time was my second-highest too. My husband’s was a tie between Quality Time and Physical Touch. It was interesting to talk about it and realize that part of his version of “quality time” is just being in the same room as me. He said he finds it relaxing and calming to just have me in the room, even if we’re doing two different things.

It’s funny how you can prefer to receive love in one language, but naturally give it in another. My natural way of showing people love is through acts of service (look! I made you this homemade dinner that took four hours!), which doesn’t really register with my husband. So I kind of have to adjust my expectations and realize that I can do those kinds of things because it makes me feel good to do them, but not to expect a huge reaction.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 3:34 pm

I had the exact same realization! Omg, we’re love twins. I registered 0 on acts of service because it turns out I feel like the division of labor is kind of separate from love. It doesn’t make me feel love for him to do his part, but it would make me feel unloved if he didn’t. Yet I continue to surprise him with cakes and cookies and lasagnas, and it turns out he’s just been thinking of it as what’s for dinner. I like the realization you came to about it. Now if only we could get the guys to give us Words of Affirmation about how awesome our Acts of Service are, we’d be in good shape.

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:37 pm

Exactly! It all comes full circle, haha. We’re totally love twins.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 3:38 pm

I can’t wait to take this quiz/test because I am always making food for people. It’s like a weird obsession.

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:42 pm

Take it online and let us know what you get! :)

avatar tbrucemom August 15, 2012, 3:41 pm

My employer offers free counseling too and my ex-husband and I went and one of the things she had us do was read the 5 Love Languages. I loved it and it was helpful. Of course we ended up getting divorced so I guess it wasn’t all that helpful, lol. Seriously, it was very insightful so you’re probably already doing some of things you should be doing on your own. Wendy’s list is a good one, even though I don’t get the IKEA reference since I’ve never been to IKEA, lol. I’d use it to get you and your fiance talking about specifics. I have to add a comment about religious based counseling. When my ex and I went for premarital counseling with the chaplain, it wasn’t at all preachy. Assuming that you’re not a strict atheist and don’t plan on excluding all traditional vows, marriage itself is at least a little bit spiritual. My point is I wouldn’t judge all religious affiliations with the ones that try to “convert” you.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 3:08 pm

Just realized that sounds bad (the “we’re alright”). What I mean is I think we’re taking all the steps to ensure a long healthy marraige as best we can. And I will look into what you recommended.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 3:22 pm

It didn’t sound bad at all. Honestly, putting in an effort to discuss this stuff will probably automatically put you above “alright.” http://www.5lovelanguages.com if you’re interested. The guy is a Christian counselor, but it didn’t affect the content of the info at all. It’s applicable to everyone.

Red_Lady Red_Lady August 15, 2012, 3:53 pm

My husband & I went to a church sponsered pre-marital thing, and they showed a video of Chapman talking about the 5 love languages. My husband had gotten “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married”, and I had glanced through it and thought it was pretty dumb – they guy just seemed stuck up to me, and most of the points he made seemed pretty obvious (the toilet doesn’t clean itself?! Marriage doesn’t mean you’ll stay at home w/ each other all the time?!). But the video was like a completely different guy!! He actually had a charismatic personality, and seemed to bring up some great points. But honestly, I think the main idea is just that marriage takes work, and you need to make sure that you show your spouse that you appreciate them, in a way that they know they are appreciated (the 5 love languages)

avatar MMcG August 15, 2012, 4:43 pm

A friend recommended someone that offered a 4 session premarital counseling plan, could even do it over skype! She was good, in the DC area though;) First thing she had us do was describe our parents marriages and homelife growing up… it was very interesting to see where we were coming from so I suggest having that conversation.

Also, I recommend PAIRS tools and workshops (which the counselor also referenced). http://www.pairs.com/

avatar lemongrass August 15, 2012, 5:31 pm

My parents asked us to go to pre-matiral classes but we refused based on the religion thang. I did however google the questions that they ask you, skipped the religious ones and we discussed the rest. I didn’t feel we would need a third party anyhow because neither of us get too heated in discussion. It was a great thing to do. We talked about all the stuff on the list- except for IKEA. Probably because he knows & accepts my IKEA fetish.

I think it is just as important how you work through talking about these issues as it is to talk about them. If your husband to be freaks out over it all then that sends you a sign about how marriage will be.

avatar CG August 15, 2012, 2:11 pm

“How does your religion or father affect your lifestyle?” Uh, should that be faith instead of father? :)

Dear Wendy Wendy August 15, 2012, 2:16 pm

Oops. I hope no one thinks that was a Freudian slip…

avatar Eagle Eye August 15, 2012, 2:12 pm

Oh Ikea, I have a great relationship with my boyfriend in that I am allowed one full on, two year old sized temper tantrum in Ikea in which I scream and I cry over my boyfriend’s endless fretting over whether Ikea has changed their usual pint glasses and whether they match our current Ikea pint glasses, and is 2.50 too much to spend on Ikea pint glasses that may not match perfectly with the old Ikea pint glasses, and why did they change from the original Ikea pint glasses since the new design isn’t as nice as the old Ikea pint glasses…

Tearing.Out.My.Eyeballs.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 2:17 pm

Wow……. I’ve never been to Ikea. How is this different from any other store? If Walmart discontinues your old set of glasses, wouldn’t it be the same issue? I just don’t get the whole Ikea thing.

avatar kerrycontrary August 15, 2012, 2:38 pm

Because IKEA is SO big and so overwhelming if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. And lets not even get started on assembling the stuff that doesn’t even have directions with words, just PICTURES of stick people. Luckily, I actually felt like my relationship was validated when my boyfriend and I put together an IKEA dresser without tears involved.

Amybelle Amybelle August 16, 2012, 6:46 am

In the early days of our marriage, my (now ex) husband and I very nearly murdered each other attempting to put together a four poster Ikea bed! Omg those picture instructions are a nightmare!

avatar Eagle Eye August 15, 2012, 2:45 pm

I’ve never been inside a Walmart so I can’t tell you for sure but ikea is MASSIVE and maze-like, the top is primarily showrooms to display how you can have the perfect Ikea apartment and the bottom floor is where you pick up the odds and ends along with the warehouse where you actually pick up the larger pieces of furniture. These trips could take us easily 5hrs from start to finish. My temper tantrums were usually hit around hour 3.

This is made worse by the fact that my boyfriend by rule is a fretter, in that he doesn’t really come to a decision but requires a constant debate over any and all purchases, so lots of back and forth. Which is fine if we’re like deciding on a new bed or something expensive but he was doing this for EVERYTHING. It was also early-ish in our relationship, I no longer feed the beast so to speak and basically just threaten that either he comes to a decision or I’ll just make one, which now really pisses him. Ugh, I swear to God our relationship is so much healthier than its coming across in this post…its just the evil cave that is ikea.

FWIW, if you watch 30 Rock, see the Valentine’s Day episode, it’s basically the total truth.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 2:50 pm

I didn’t mean my comment as an insult about your relationship at all. It sounds like Ikea has that affect on a lot of people. It must be really chaotic and stressful. Their stuff must be amazing for people to go through that.

avatar Eagle Eye August 15, 2012, 2:51 pm

Oh no, I didn’t take it as such, I just started to realize what it sounded like as I was writing it! I didn’t want people to read too much into it!

avatar lemongrass August 15, 2012, 5:39 pm

My husband is the same way. I, however make very quick decisions. IKEA is my area- He only gets an opinion if asked.

avatar anonymous August 15, 2012, 6:53 pm

This is so freakishly my husband. I won’t go with him to shop.

True story: I went to REI to buy biking cleats. I asked the salesguy which ones he recommended. He told me, explained why, and found a pair that fitted. All seemed good to me, so I bought ‘em. Fifteen minutes later, I was on my way home.

My husband asked me about it, and I told him the level of detail I’ve given you. He went to REI, spent 4 HOURS there (no joke), and came home — with the same exact shoes.

Makes me crazy. I’m better off letting him shop alone.

avatar bethany August 15, 2012, 2:58 pm

Ikea is a glorious place that you have to experience to fully understand. God Bless Ikea.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 3:15 pm

Amen.

avatar Addie Pray August 15, 2012, 5:15 pm

WGGS!

avatar Addie Pray August 15, 2012, 5:19 pm

It’s so glorious. And those meatballs, ay caramba!

JK JK August 15, 2012, 5:21 pm

They don´t have it here. :(

avatar lemongrass August 15, 2012, 5:40 pm

Come to my place, I’ll make you real Swedish meatballs.

avatar MMcG August 15, 2012, 4:49 pm

It’s the setup, plain and simple. Once they have you in the door there is no going back… it’s like you have to walk in a certain mazelike bizarre pattern up down and all around every inch of the store. You can not escape or leave without going all the way through it like a funhouse. A funhouse with Swedish crap furniture (I’m sitting on an IKEA couch as I type this so please understand I’m not trying to look down on anyone) and about halfway through the Swedish funhouse you actually start to really like the stuff and then it drives you to arguing with your SO/roommate over which thing to get – whereas prior to going in the store you would have never dreamed that the $39.99 tray and lamp combo was worth fighting to the death over.

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 2:40 pm

I think the bigger arguments can come when you try to actually assemble all the furniture you buy! I try to stay as far away from any type of “home improvement” or assembly projects as I can and just let my husband handle it. Too many opinions leads to friction really fast.

avatar Eagle Eye August 15, 2012, 2:49 pm

Yes! We have managed to assemble many a faulty Ikea piece and we’re stronger to show for it! Especially our leaning tower of Billy bookcases, that I thought was a riot but slowly drove my boyfriend crazy…

Also, my rather wealthy (and decidedly non-handy) dad took 5 hrs trying to put together a MALM dresser for my sister’s new apartment. Having no idea about Ikea or that furniture can perhaps come in pieces that other people won’t necessarily put together for you – it was an event lets just say…

avatar jlyfsh August 15, 2012, 3:12 pm

YES! I just left the house last time and bought back a congrats you put it together snack. Works out much better.

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:38 pm

Love that idea.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 3:15 pm

Very very true. We’re both so dang stubborn things can go sour quickly when assembling furnature. Mostly because I don’t read instructions (or recipies) and he is a stickler for them.

We try to difuse the situation with beer.

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:20 pm

Oh, yes. Beer and wine always make things smoother.

Jessibel5 Jessibel5 August 15, 2012, 4:24 pm

Haha, I LOVE putting together furniture and whenever we buy something to be put together I go “step back, I got this.” and shoo him out of the room. No fights!

EscapeHatches EscapeHatches August 15, 2012, 5:14 pm

I’m the handy one, but he gets all annoyed when I take the reins.

Chick engineer meet computer dude. Now kiss.

MaterialsGirl MaterialsGirl August 15, 2012, 10:06 pm

I’m also the more mechanical and handy of the two of us (which is why I own the tool box). I will put anyone’s iKEA stuff together for them. Just pay me in beer.

avatar Buzzelbee August 15, 2012, 2:58 pm

You get Ikea brain. In addition to negotiating between you two I suggest having a cold beverage and a snack to recharge you mid way through the display sections and allow yourself to eat at least one of the many snacks if you feel the impluse (there is only so much willpower and you need it to fight at least one moment of panic).

My husband’s parents are Swedish and he grew up dreaming of a house fully furnished from Ikea. We still have disagreements about it, on the up side it’s super easy to get more furniture that matches what we already have.

avatar Marta August 15, 2012, 4:21 pm

IKEA looks like office furniture to me.

avatar Riefer August 15, 2012, 4:39 pm

I don’t understand this one. I saw it on 30 Rock and it was pretty funny, but is this real? The only problem we have is that he wants to leave quicker than I do, but he just says “I’m ready to leave any time you are”, so I stop window shopping and just concentrate on what we’re there to get.

Also I love putting the stuff together so I do most of that. I just get his help if I have to lift the whole thing at some point, because it’s usually too heavy for me.

avatar Kathy August 15, 2012, 2:16 pm

LOL’d @ the negotiations in #8!

iwannatalktosampson iwannatalktosampson August 15, 2012, 2:23 pm

16. How you’re going to handle unexpected expenses and if you will accept help.

I just add this because it is really relevant to my life right now. Ethan has been sick for a year and a half and it’s obviously been a huge financial burden. Well that and me being in debt from school and not having a job, haha. His parents have offered to cover all our medical expenses. Ethan does not want to accept because all things come with strings with them. Which is totally true. I get that. But I don’t feel like we are in a position of having pride you know? Like turning down money is something you do when you have money to spare.

God and then family vacations. How long do you let your parents pay for them. (Wendy I can see you judging me right now – I know, I know, we are 80′s babies that need to grow the fuck up). But I mean if the options are not go on family vacations because you can’t afford it – or go and let your parents pay for it – wouldn’t the best option be to go and send them to Paris when they’re old and we’re more established as a pay back?

Okay everyone evaluate my life right now. Judgment welcome and appreciated.

JK JK August 15, 2012, 2:35 pm

Some friends of mine go on vacation (all paid for by her family) all the time. And they´re mid-late 30s with kids. I find it a bit weird, but if they´re ok with it, who am I to judge?
The expense thing is tougher, great that your inlaws can help with the medical expenses, but the strings attached must be tough.

avatar AlexisKS August 15, 2012, 2:57 pm

Ooof – haha. My husband and I (and our son) go on an annual vacation that my family pays for! So that hit a little close to home for me. We do this because they are “family reunion” type trips that involve my whole extended family, and my father wants to pay for everyone to go (not just us). They are actually a lot of fun and there are no “strings” – so it works for us. But now I am wondering if we should rethink…..

JK JK August 15, 2012, 3:00 pm

If it works for you, then thats great!!!!
I wouldnt particularly want to go on vacation with any members of my (and esp not my husbands) family.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 2:39 pm

I think men are less willing to accept financial help, because a lot of times they see it as one of their own personal failures as a provider. (Not saying that your division of labor is actually set up like that, but that men often default to that mindset regardless of what’s going on in their relationship). While it’s frustrating, I think it’s something women should be sensitive to. If he’s been sick, he might already be feeling less manly, so to take away another one of his traditional gender roles might be even more difficult for him emotionally. I don’t know, maybe this doesn’t apply. It’s just a thought.

Vacations: I can’t imagine ever wanting to go on a vacation with my family, so I don’t know. Obviously letting them pay comes with its own strings attached. You won’t have any say on what you do on the vacation, and you’ll probably feel indebted to them after it’s all over. I would just take a stay-cation, or a long camping trip at your local state park.

avatar MMcG August 15, 2012, 5:01 pm

“I think men are less willing to accept financial help, because a lot of times they see it as one of their own personal failures as a provider.”

YES X 1000!

avatar kerrycontrary August 15, 2012, 2:40 pm

Yeh I think the family vacations thing is whatever you are comfortable with. If your parents want to pay for you and your spouse and they can afford it, why the heck not. They have roughly 30 years of income on you two. Anyone who judges you should spend more time worrying about themselves.

Lili Lili August 15, 2012, 2:58 pm

IWTTS-I wouldn’t worry too much about the judgment on the health and vacays thing. Its a known fact that healthcare here in the US is messed up. And, well with the recession none of us are getting those mad signing bonus type jobs people only a few years older than us were getting the minute they graduated college. And college tuition, sky high in the 4 yrs I was in school from 02-06 my state school TRIPLED its tuition. So not affording all those vacations isn’t something to warrant judgement on you. More like how all the 70s babies screwed us over with their signing bonuses, their low college rates and then the housing bubble!

avatar Riefer August 15, 2012, 4:44 pm

Sorry, just have to butt in here – the 70s babies didn’t provide signing bonuses, or low college rates, and they aren’t the ones who deregulated the housing market and caused a crash. You can hardly lay the blame on them. They’re not even old enough yet as a group to hold many positions of power to be able to change these things. The baby boomers still have pretty much a lock on that.

avatar MMcG August 15, 2012, 4:59 pm

YEAH BLAME THE BOOMERS!!! I am a perfectly innocent bicentennial baby Gen Xer :)

Lili Lili August 15, 2012, 5:12 pm

Ah, I forgot the amirite–to indicate a joke. But yeah, its the boomers. Blame the boomers!!!

avatar bethany August 15, 2012, 3:01 pm

If your family wants to pay for you to join them on vacation, why would you say no?! It’s one thing if you ask them to/expect them to, but if they offer, I see no problem with it. So long as you’re gracious, say thank you, and try to pay for a dinner or something while you’re away.

avatar SweetPeaG August 15, 2012, 3:01 pm

I know for a fact that my parents occasionally accepted help from their parents when I was a kid. But, it was usually for things that my grandparents WANTED to help with… sending my sister and I to private school and yes, for family vacations. The huge family vacation I got to take with my parents, my sister, my grandparents, my aunt, uncle and cousins… a memory I’ll always have & cherish… and that my grandparents were happy to pay for. I think when it is something like that, it is perfectly fine to take the help and just call it a gift.

When it comes to accepting help for other, more serious things (like needing help with rent/mortgage), that is a bigger discussion a couple needs to have. It is less of a gift and more of a “Well, we can’t take care of ourselves right now”… that’s a much harder pill to swallow and a bigger discussion should be had.

avatar Guy Friday August 15, 2012, 3:58 pm

I don’t believe it’s inappropriate to go on vacations paid for by one set of parents. My wife’s parents likes to go on big family trips every 5 years or so, since their kids are scattered all across the country. They actually offered to take me along after I’d been dating my wife a while (but before I proposed, though by the time we went we happened to be engaged), and when I offered to pay my share they told me I was being ridiculous and wouldn’t accept it. I ended up treating the family to a nice dinner one night we were there, which wasn’t even close to equal but was at least something. Hell, my grandparents still stuff 20s in my pocket when I see them (though I suppose technically they ask me to CALL them now and again, so I guess you could argue there are strings attached :-) )

Look, it depends on the relationship you have with them. Some family members are manipulative, and then you have to decide if the guilt is worth taking their charity. But some family do it just because they like seeing you happy. It’s just like offering to split the check on a first date. Should you offer? Sure. If the other person shoots you down and says, “No, I’ve got it”, is it always indicative of an expectation of sex later that night? No, of course not. But sometimes it is, and you should just use your gut and judgement.

avatar AmyRenee August 15, 2012, 4:28 pm

This is very very true. And who are you willing to accept the $ and strings from. For instance, my parents paid for my college, most of our wedding, and most recently gave us the money for the down payment on our current house. And it is understood that when they get older, we will be taking care of them, hopefully only emotionally and physically, but financially if necessary. His parents, on the other hand, only took out one small loan for his college and my husband wants to pay them back for it, and when they got a rather large inheritance he wasn’t willing to discuss even getting a loan from them (to refinance one of our rental properties – basically taking out a mortgage through them, paying them interest instead of the bank). He’d rather have the strings with my parents than his. And since its his family, I respect that, even if I don’t agree.

And along those lines:
17. How much support are you willing to give family when they need it? Would you be willing to move an aging parent in with your family? What about to an apartment nearby? What about letting your out-of-work brother-in-law sleep on your couch? What about loaning him money? Family issues can be tricky, but its important to discuss some of these “what-ifs” just in case – we are in the middle of some of these now, and we had enough general conversations about it to know that at a minimum, you say “let me discuss it with my wife/husband” before making any promises to the family.

avatar MMcG August 15, 2012, 4:57 pm

A year ago (a few months into our engagement) I declared that once we were married we would have no financial ties to his parents… who are currently helping him while he’s back in school. Last month I happily announced that if we can continue to squeak the car payment through on the parental tab until next Spring when it’s all paid off, well that might not be the worse thing in the world :) Pride would be so much easier with a trust fund.

I’m still pulling him off the family cell phone plan though – his folks don’t need to know about his calls!

It’s called pragmatism, nothing to be ashamed of

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 15, 2012, 2:43 pm

I think these are great ideas but you have to keep in mind that no matter how much you discuss and agree on things one or the other of you can still change your mind or things just don’t go as planned.

The first placed we moved didn’t work career wise and so we ended up moving to a different region of the country. Some jobs are very portable and you can do them almost anywhere and some jobs are very limited on available locations. You may not be able to choose both the career you want and the location you want.

When I was an undergrad I wanted four kids. By the time I was in grad school I knew I wanted kids but was more comfortable with two. We did agree to adopt if we ended up unable to have kids. We had our son and then when we tried for a second baby nothing happened. After years of trying for a second baby and me deciding I didn’t want to go for fertility treatments we accepted that we would have only one child and then we were pleasantly surprised by our daughter.

The chores that we each do has varied by location and changed when we had each child. Every location is different so requires varying times for everything.

Our good friends built the house they wanted, a beautiful four bedroom, three bath house in a quiet development. But ten years later after they had two kids and wanted to change careers they decided they would be happier with a smaller, three bedroom, one bath house. They decided they didn’t want to be so tied to a house, they wanted to be more flexible with their money, their time and their careers so they moved and they love their smaller house. Their mortgage is lower, they spend lots less time cleaning because the house is much smaller, they can afford to go away on the weekend more often and can also afford more after school activities for their kids.

So talk about things as much as you can but realize you will need a degree of flexibility because you can’t forsee everything in your life. You don’t always know when jobs will end or cancer is looming or when or whether a baby will arrive or if you can afford the house of your dreams of if your dreams will change.

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 2:47 pm

I totally agree. It’s great to have everything planned out, but things don’t always turn out as you planned. We both talked about wanting kids fairly soon after marriage, but we didn’t plan on getting pregnant on our honeymoon (oops). So that’s a huge shift in perspective that we’re dealing with right now. And along with that comes when we we’re going to move out of our townhouse now that we’re going to have an infant and if we want to buy a house and a million other questions we didn’t think we’d have to address for awhile. Life is crazy.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 3:00 pm

Ooo I didn’t know you were pregnant! How exciting! Wishing you a smooth pregnancy!

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:03 pm

Thank you! I just found out myself four days ago, haha. I’m kind of freaking.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 15, 2012, 3:16 pm

Congratulations!!!

Jessibel5 Jessibel5 August 15, 2012, 4:29 pm

Congrats on Oopsy Baby! I was one myself (although I was technically AT my parents’ wedding).

Sending good thoughts your way for a smooth, healthy pregnancy! So exciting! Wait, does that make all of us at the DW community aunts and uncles? ;)

avatar Daisy August 16, 2012, 4:41 am

Congrats, Kristen! I have a friend who was born exactly 9 months after her parents’ wedding — which I find kind of amazing (and she finds kind of gross haha). Anyway, if you manage to have a baby like that I will be very impressed!

avatar jlyfsh August 15, 2012, 3:13 pm

Ooh congrats! :) That’s what Charleston does to you. Now you have a low country baby!! :)

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:19 pm

I know!! There’s something in the air there ;)

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 3:25 pm

Wow, Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll be an excellent mom!! (see, there’s a nice Word of Affirmation for you)

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:27 pm

Aw, thank you :) (It really does work!)

avatar SweetPeaG August 15, 2012, 3:38 pm

Congratulations! I second that… I am sure you’ll be a great Mom. I think simply wanting to be a good parent often makes a person a good parent. From reading the posts of yours that I’ve read, it seems like you and your husband are dedicated to your marriage. I think you’ll be wonderful, dedicated parents!

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 3:41 pm

That’s so sweet! I’m kind of paranoid to tell my friends because they all warned me not to get pregnant for at least a year. They’re convinced having babies too early ruins relationships. I’m not worried about our relationship, but I am worried about their reaction. My one friend in particular is going to be simultaneously happy for me and giving me the side eye (like, “I told you not to do this!”)

Oh, well. It matters more what we think, right? :)

Jessibel5 Jessibel5 August 15, 2012, 4:32 pm

Ohhh, dear. That’s the kind of person to whom you say “Well, nothing we can do about it, it was unplanned, but not unwanted.”

avatar Kristen August 15, 2012, 4:35 pm

I like that! Unplanned, but not unwanted.

Jessibel5 Jessibel5 August 15, 2012, 4:40 pm

HAha, yes, that’s how my grandmother describes both me and my father. He was a “surprise” late in life baby, and I was an “ohh, we’ve been together for 6 years and are now pregnant…guess we should get married?” baby. My parents knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together but never actually had gone through the legal steps.

Sometimes Grandma changes it up as well to “Unplanned, but not unloved”

Jessibel5 Jessibel5 August 15, 2012, 4:36 pm

And depending on how grumpy you are, you can add a “Now STFU!”

Moneypenny Moneypenny August 15, 2012, 4:38 pm

I like that! Or, it was a happy accident. (I was a happy accident! ha!)

avatar Taylor August 15, 2012, 4:53 pm

Right!

avatar MMcG August 15, 2012, 5:07 pm

@ Kristen… congrats!

and if none of your friends have actually been married with babies to compare to married without they probably shouldn’t be warning you about anything. and if they do have the experience – well, everyone’s experience is different! Plus babies are contagious… ha ha

avatar AmyRenee August 15, 2012, 4:36 pm

Especially if you are relatively young when you get married, this is super important. You don’t know how your feelings are going to change as time goes on and as life throws things at you.

I would also add to the list for each question “and how confident are you in your answer?” Its ok to change your perspective on things as you grow up. But you should give your partner a clue as to how firm your convictions are for each of these questions and how likely you think you could change your mind. Someone who says “I want 10 kids and I’ve dreamed of that since I was 5!” is different than someone who says “I think I want a couple kids, I don’t know, 2 or 3?”

Jessibel5 Jessibel5 August 15, 2012, 5:07 pm

We had this issue concerning religion. When we met he wasn’t a churchgoer, nor was I, nor was his faith all that important to him at this stage in his life. Now that we’re married, we still don’t go to church. But he once declared while we were engaged that the second we have children, they’ll be going to church every single freaking weekend. This didn’t sit right with me, and was a pretty unilateral sounding BIG decision so we had a HUGE discussion about it and came to a compromise that we were both comfortable with. I’m not 100% thrilled that our children will be going to church at all, (I’m agnostic) but the church he grew up in and would take them to is actually pretty open and accepting (teaches about other religions/would marry homosexual couples/teaches that there isn’t ONE true religion, that there’s different beliefs and they’re all valid/etc) so I’m more okay with it than another one. My other stipulation was that they weren’t FORCED to go EVERY weekend. We came up with an idea that he would take them every other weekend. Neither of us is getting 100% what we want, but are satisfied with the compromise. Who knows, once we have kids and he realizes how hard it is to take a toddler to church by himself and have them sit quiet and still for a few hours, he may abandon the idea. But when he originally made that declaration, I was thrown for a loop because I felt like he had changed his mind and switched things up on me. I’m glad we had the discussion before we were married.

avatar Eagle Eye August 15, 2012, 5:15 pm

This is why I keep reiterating to my boyfriend (who is agnostic? sorta, kinda? he was raised by a lapsed Muslim and a lapsed Catholic), that raising my children Jewish is extremely important to me, to the point that its a deal breaker if he can’t comply.

I figure that if I say it early enough and for long enough – no one can say it came out of nowhere…

Jessibel5 Jessibel August 16, 2012, 12:00 am

Oh, I’m not lying when I say that this declaration DID come out of nowhere. I was raised by a lapsed Catholic and someone who thinks that the difference between a cult and religion is 100 years and a million people. He never talked about faith, or Jesus or anything like that.

You may want to sit him down and actually spell it out, just to be on the safe side.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 2:56 pm

I love Ikea. Like a lot. I’m going there for my birthday.

Great list Wendy, it will make for some great conversation during our (my fiance and I) drive to Ikea this weekend.

avatar GatorGirl August 15, 2012, 3:11 pm

I just re-read your list and I think #15 is ridiculously important. It is a constant source of irritation in my parents marraige. My mom holds the biggest grudge against my dad because he likes the tv on all night everynight and she doesn’t at all.

I made it clear a few weeks into dating that I’m NOT ok with tv in the bedroom and will never be. Luckily my fiance was ok with that :)

lurkerliz Medie711 August 15, 2012, 3:01 pm

I gotta add Home Depot/Lowe’s or any hardware store to the IKEA one. Seriously… bad fights have been had in a hardware store. Its amazing how one will argue over sprinkler heads, laundry room sinks or paint. Home renovations are a killer too. Ugh!

avatar SweetPeaG August 15, 2012, 3:14 pm

Yes! I recommend leaving most home renovations to a professional… unless one or both of you are really handy. Otherwise… it can just get BAD. I lived with an ex who was “renovating” his home entirely. He had neither the time or know-how. So, we lived in a state of constant chaos the whole four years I lived with him. It made us both cranky and didn’t help our already unhealthy relationship.

lurkerliz Medie711 August 15, 2012, 3:38 pm

Yes! I agree with the professionals. So much easier. Sometimes I just call and don’t tell my husband lol! Oh yeah did that get done? I didn’t notice ;)

avatar bethany August 15, 2012, 3:02 pm

Great list, Wendy!

I think it’s important to point out that there are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions- You have to decide what works for you both and your relationship.

avatar Kat August 15, 2012, 3:07 pm

As an extension on family obligations, discuss how you will handle your aging parents and unemployed/underemployed grown children. Is everyone welcome to move in? Not welcome to move in, but willing to support financially? This can become a huge issue, especially when dealing with children from previous marriages.

avatar SweetPeaG August 15, 2012, 3:10 pm

Wooo, I’m doing well… my fiance and I have discussed all of these things to a pretty decent extent. Well, I wouldn’t say we haven’t sat down to talk about Ikea, but we are on the same page with our shopping. We have survived a joint Ikea trip together. Get in and get out. We love to have some sort of list and hate to agonize over what we buy. He even put something from Ikea together wrong, and I don’t even care. Maybe people judge us when they come over if they notice our wonky tv stand… that’s just fine with me. Judgey McJudgersons.

As far as tv in the bedroom… the bedroom is for sweet, sweet lovin’ and sweet, sweet sleeping.

theattack theattack August 15, 2012, 3:27 pm

At first I read your last phrase as “sweet, sweet slapping,” and I thought to myself “Wow, Sweet PeaG is more like Sweet PG-13 in the love-makin department.”

avatar SweetPeaG August 15, 2012, 3:34 pm

LMAO! That made my afternoon. I might change my name to SweetPG-13.

avatar Rouge August 15, 2012, 3:27 pm

Oh IKEA so true!! after 11 years of marriage, and the last 2 years in couples therapy. My ex got absolutely nuts on Dec 31st at IKEA, my first new-year resolution was to file the divorce papers already. It has been 5 years and every time I go to IKEA to buy a do it your self type of furniture (the only kind they have) I stop and think about the irony on the situation. In the plus side I have become an expert on figuring out how to assemble any book case, really they are easy and beautiful. Wendy you made me laugh when you included IKEA in this list.

avatar becky August 15, 2012, 3:40 pm

you need to add a Pin It button for pinterest! i need to pin this to my “IF i do” board!

Dear Wendy Wendy August 15, 2012, 5:08 pm

Added!

Kristina Kristina August 15, 2012, 4:40 pm

This is a really great list. It pains me to hear about some people’s marriage problems that could have been easily solved before they got married.

But it’s funny, only recently did I realize just how important my religion is in a relationship–or at the minimum, someone to have respect for my faith.

These are all great points to discuss; hopefully, I’ll become better at compromising, hah.

avatar AKchic August 15, 2012, 5:05 pm

#17 – Criminal records – who has ‘em and how will they impact your relationship in the long run?

#18 – TV. Seriously, how are you going to work out tv scheduling conflicts? If he wants to watch the new “Billy the Exterminator” show and you want to watch the season premiere of Alphas/Warehouse 13 – who wins? Rock, Paper, Scissors (Lizard, Spock) competition?
Also, if you two don’t really like each other’s tv shows – how do you plan to work around it?

#19 – Friends. How will you both handle your respective friends who may not like your soon-to-be spouse much?

avatar Christy August 15, 2012, 11:29 pm

OMG sports on TV. My gf actually talked about what we’d do if a hockey game overlapped with a football game. I believe I’ve convinced her that there aren’t really important hockey games during football season, especially since football is only on once (or twice) a week.

We’ll see how that goes.

avatar jlyfsh August 16, 2012, 9:26 am

So agree on number 19. In a perfect world our spouses would love all of our friends and our friends would love our spouses. But, the reality is everyone doesn’t always mesh well. It takes a lot of effort from both the friend and your spouse. And it can definitely suck when one or both of them is not understanding.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 15, 2012, 6:36 pm

7. Adding on to this one who will be responsible for paying which bills if you have any joint accounts. If you own a business or rental properties who does the bookwork. Also, will you own everything jointly. A house probably but what about cars?

avatar evanscr05 August 16, 2012, 9:57 am

My husband and I never did premarital counseling before we got married, but we had defintiely discussed every single one of the things in list, and probably more, already. Not in some “we should make sure we’re on the same page before we walk down the aisle” specific kind of conversation, just organically over the years discussing things. Sometimes it errupted into fights, but fights that were necessary to get to the root of what was important to each of us, and now I notice we discuss a lot of those same things with a lot more ease than we used to.

avatar MarkD August 16, 2012, 12:50 pm

Good list, move #7 to 5, and stop at 5. The rest of it is all noise.

Take my opinion for what it’s worth. Mrs D and I were hardly fluent in each others’ native language when we got married, and we worked it all out.

avatar Jessica September 6, 2012, 6:18 am

So I don’t know if someone has already asked this or if it is answered somewhere else. But are these questions that should be mentioned during the relationship? When should these questions be asked?

avatar roeny February 21, 2013, 12:51 am

great 15 things..

avatar Rob May 30, 2013, 12:21 pm

One of the best well-thought out posts on marriage and what to plan for I’ve seen online :) Money and religion are two biggies but I didn’t realize how many other areas we needed to be concerned about! Thanks for an awesome guide to pre-marriage!!

Rob.

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