4.) Core Values
The values we establish to create the foundation from which we make decisions throughout our life. They are the things we believe are important and dictate how we live and work. They determine your priorities and in many ways, measure the way in which your life is turning out the way you want (or not). Values are usually fairly stable over time but don’t necessarily have strict boundaries or limits. Some values may change over time as your life circumstances change (for example, work/life balance once you start a family). You should ask yourself what are my values? Work/life balance, money, ‘things’, career, children, religion, travel, time with extended family, and/or giving back. Once discussed, where do you match up? Are there differences? And if so, how will you resolve them? Is there room for compromise?
Our lifestyle helps define who we are and what’s important to us, much like our values. Often times our lifestyle changes as we evolve and grow. Things that were once important can become less important. How we spend our time changes. Asking such questions as what is your lifestyle like? What are the similarities vs. the differences? Do you like to go out every night? Are you a homebody? Extrovert, introvert, or ambivert? Sports fan? Do you like to have a house full of people or do the couple thing or both? When you envision your daily life, what does it look like? How do you view your downtime? With social media overtaking our lives, what’s a fair amount of time to spend on it? Does it interfere with your relationship? Can you set healthy boundaries? What are the expectations regarding time together vs time apart?
6.) Communication styles
One of the biggest areas of contention in relationships is communication. People are communicating but not ineffective or healthy ways so they often feel stuck. One of the more common communication styles is the distance/pursuer relationship? For example, the more one moves towards their partner, the more the other partner creates distance. Is this your style? Some people are passive/aggressive, confrontational, overly assertive and loud. Others are defensive and have difficulty waiting their turn and simply listening and hearing. The goal being to learn your communication style and your partners and start to change how you communicate. A good therapist can help you do this more effectively by creating the bandwidth and platform to hear both sides, interject when needed, and guide you to having more conversations. Another important component of communication is your emotional intelligence or EQ. This is vital not just in your personal relationships, but professional ones as well.
7.) Work and home demands
Many couples have difficulty having the conversation about how they will balance their work and home life demands. Trying to make sure that everything is fair and equal often results in fights. Some couples keep score (this never works and undermines the health part of the relationship). How do you talk about what your expectations are? Are the lofty and not achievable? How important is your work to you? Are there work expectations that need to be addressed so that your partner feels like they are included in the decision? How do you think you can balance both work and home demands? When deciding on ‘house chores’ make sure you decide on an equitable split of the chores or an agreement where both of you are happy. I often suggest that couples begin with the things they like to do are good at. This provides them with strengths so when they have to look at the remaining items, there’s a stronger likelihood of a team effort rather than what’s not fair.
This is a must-have conversation that all too often people ‘kind of’ talk about. Do you really want children or feel you should. And if so, how many children do you want? How you will financially support them? How much will your family be involved (if this is an option). Also, will one parent stay at home for a period of time as the one income family is more of a thing of the past than the norm anymore? What is your parenting styles? Are they similar? How will you reconcile the differences in how you were raised and how you wish to parent if this exists? Do you plan to parent how your parents raised you? What are your thoughts about how you will go about nurturing the relationship once children arrive on the scene?
Taking a proactive and honest approach to this most important decision in your life, will allow these conversations to take place and evolve so that you start your marriage off on the right path!