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When you’re starry-eyed and in love, it’s easy to overlook asking some of the important questions before getting married. But the truth is, if you really love this person, you’ll be willing to put in some hard work on the front end to create a game plan for life.
If you are engaged for six months or more before being married, go through in-depth pre-marital counseling (not just one visit with the preacher, high-five, walk out, and get married) and take some pre-marriage classes. You may think that’s overdoing it, but there are four main areas that need to be in harmony before you get married.
The 4 Things to Discuss
- Money: Where do we stand?
- Religion: What are our views?
- Children: Do we want any?
- In-Laws: What are our boundaries?
Let’s break them down so you’ll be ready for the conversation when the time comes!
1. Where do we stand on money?
One of the biggest causes of divorce is money problems, so you need to have a discussion about money. Put all the debt on the table—all cards face up. No secrets. It’s time to come completely clean and get in agreement about what’s going on here. When you do that, you’ll also learn a lot about that person’s habits, whether they are a spender or a saver, and those kinds of things.
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We’re not talking about, “Oh yeah, I know he has some credit card debt from college.” What you need to know is, “He’s got $42,321 in debt between student loans and credit card debt. He cut up the cards and started paying off debt before we ever met, and he’s got a plan to be debt-free in 22 months.” Those are the details you need.
2. How will our religious views impact our marriage?
If you have the same faith, you’ll most likely have a higher chance of staying together. When your faith is aligned, so are your value systems—your guiding principles—and that’s your natural road map through life and the tough times we all have to face.
3. Are we going to have kids?
Dig into each other’s expectations about kids and make sure they’re compatible. How many do you have in mind? How should children be raised? Should they be allowed to run around like wild animals, or do we make them behave?
Talk about how each of your families raised you—what you agree with and what you don’t. Kids may not be coming for years, but when they do, you need to know where the other parent stands and be in agreement early. Be sure that you discuss how you can raise money-smart kids. You don’t want to start sorting through this for the first time with baby number one on the way.
4. Are we prepared to deal with our in-laws?
You really need to find out what you’re getting into with your in-laws. How much of your life do they want to be a part of—and how involved (or uninvolved) do each of you want them to be? Lay out your expectations up front.
Discuss how you can honor your parents yet separate from them and become one. If you don’t agree about what this looks like from the get-go, you may be headed for real trouble. Dave recommends renting for the first six months of marriage (even if you’re in a position to buy) in case you need to move farther away from one of your families than you thought!
From Stress to Success
Don’t fool yourself into thinking things have to be perfect. Having a solid, healthy relationship is a great goal, but shooting for perfect is too much pressure. There’s no such thing!
The good news is this: Knowing the four main problem areas for marriage gives you the opportunity to focus on them before you ever walk down the aisle. You can turn what are trouble spots for most people into areas of strength and success that will hold you together for a lifetime.
Dave Ramsey’s proven plan, Financial Peace University, is a great resource to get on the same page financially with your spouse.