I often get comments about how odd it is for me to have been married for over 10 years to my high school sweetheart. In fact, most of the people I’ve met or spoken to have been in at least 1 prior marriage that didn’t work out. So, naturally, I get a lot of questions as to how we’ve managed through the years and stayed happy along the way.
My response is always the same: We worked very hard over the years (and still do) to communicate effectively with one another and be transparent in our relationship. We also had a long series of conversations about our expectations, limits, and goals for the future before deciding to tie the knot.
Deciding On The Future Together
These initial conversations were one of the reasons we’ve been so successful. We were able to know what our expectations and hard limits of the relationship would be from the beginning. We understood that we had to compromise on the big points in life to make it long term. If that was the case, we were prepared to stay just friends.
This didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt to make a conscious decision to remain single. I had enormously strong feelings for Lino and he had the same for me. However, I’ve always felt marriage is something to be cherished. I could not link myself to someone knowing full well that I would eventually divorce him because we did not have the same ideals and values.
What To Discuss Before Marriage
When Lino and I met, there was no google to search up the top lists of things that couples fight about. If there was a way to get that information, I didn’t know about it. However, I found there were some common arguments in every relationship by observing my own family and listening to friends talk about theirs. So, I made sure we discussed those things in depth.
This was the most important thing on my list to discuss. I knew from a young age that I would eventually want children. At that time I didn’t, but I knew I would want them in my future. I also knew that if Lino really could not see fathering children in his future, then we would not make it. Having children was a hard limit for me.
So, we talked about it openly and attempted to take as much of the emotional aspects out of it as we could. It was a business discussion of sorts. No matter how much I loved him, I knew there would come a time where I would grow to resent him if I couldn’t have children. Conversely, no matter how much he loved me, he would resent me if he felt forced into having children.
Besides, how great of a father would someone be if he never wanted children? He definitely wouldn’t be the father I would want nor would he be a father a child deserves.
As it turned out, Lino did not want children right away. However, he was open to the idea later in life. We compromised and decided we would have them, but we wouldn’t have them in first couple years of marriage. Once that was settled, we had to figure out how many children we wanted and eventually came to an agreement.
Another thing that couples often fight about is money. Usually, this is because the two parties disagree about how money should be spent. It ends up becoming problematic when the money runs out.
There are several ways people can go about managing their finances when in a relationship. A couple can choose to view all financial matters as a family unit. This would combine all incomes and debts together. It’s an even partnership of sorts.
Conversely, a family can treat each income as separate and split the finances between individuals. Though, to be fair, I’ve rarely seen this work in the long term. This method often causes a divide between parties due to differences in incomes and expenses. Those differences can lead to a power differential between the two and cause rifts in the marriage. In more basic terms, it’s making one spouse CEO and the other an employee.
From “Mine and His” to “Ours”
To me, it made the most sense to have one main family account in which both parties contributed. It took away the mine and his and made everything ours. This method also pushed us to be completely transparent in our financial activities and work together to solve debt.
It also meant our individual debt before marriage would be combined. I would be agreeing to take on his debt and he mine. We would have to work together to pay off any credit cards or loans. It meant we both had to push ourselves to be responsible with our money because there were no secrets.
Luckily for us, we both had the same mentality regarding these ideas. It made things much smoother. That’s not to say we never encountered any bumps in the road about spending, but we were equals when it came to tackling our problems. Had we differing mindsets regarding these issues, we would have had to come up with a game plan before either of us agreed to tie the knot.
This is also a big fighting point among couples. How to deal with family and how to raise your own is going to come up repeatedly between a couple. It’s guaranteed both parties are going to have different ideas about how a family should run. Additionally, you’re going to have different ideas about how existing family should be handled.
For example, Lino and I came from very different backgrounds. In fact, he came from a culture with very different expectations of family. We had to work out how to shape our living arrangements to make this marriage work.
In Lino’s culture, it’s expected that parents retire and come to live with you as they will eventually come to rely upon you to help care for them. Yet, common practice in my family means your parents live independently as long as possible.
From his perspective, it’s also common for children to continue to live in the same home as the parents and grandparents well into adulthood. In my family, it’s normal for adult children to move out when financially able.
Dealing With In-Laws
On top of all that, we had to decide how we would interact with family. For example, one half of my family spends quite a bit of time together while the other half sees each other only on holidays. This is, of course, different than how Lino’s family worked. We had to decide how we would handle visiting our families, holidays, and how to deal with the other family’s quirks. We even discussed how often we contacted family and how our obligations to our families differed.
This was indeed a hefty conversation between us. We had to figure out how we would navigate the differences in our expectations of family and family roles. To make this work in the long term, we had to set some ground rules. Without considering these things, we would have run into far more arguments than necessary. We wouldn’t have known where our limits really were and what values we wanted to uphold.
This may not seem like something of which you’d want to have an actual sit down discussion. Most people would rather partake of it than talk about it in a business like manner. However, it’s a rather important topic when it comes to relationship longevity. Before getting married, you both must be on the same page about how often you will do the deed. While in the beginning of a relationship it’s easy to assume you two will always see eye to eye about this, but your relationship is bound to change over the years.
If you’re someone with a naturally higher sex drive than your partner, it may seem obvious to you to do the dirty at least every other day, or every day. However, unless your partner also has a high sex drive, this might be overkill for them. Conversely, if you have a relatively low sex drive, you would expect far less frequent encounters than your partner would expect. Either way, this will cause serious relational difficulty unless you go into the marriage with an understanding of each others needs.
So, it’s best if you both sit down and have a discussion about your expectations of intimacy. Otherwise, you will be much more likely to run into issues later on down the line.
Communication is Key
So, at the end of the day, communication is essential to a successful marriage. While knowing how to communicate effectively is absolutely vital, knowing what to communicate with one another before you tie the knot is also extremely important.
At minimum, it’s best to discuss the main fighting points that many couples seem to struggle with: kids, money, family, and sex. Those are the main topics Lino and I discussed before choosing to marry and it has served us well for many years. However, there are many other things you can and should discuss before you marry.
I know all of this sounds like business instead of love, but a successful relationship is based on both. Love is a strong and essential component of marriage. Obviously you want to care deeply for the person you are marrying. However, if your values and expectations differ too significantly, your relationship will eventually crumble. You must be willing to examine the business component to make a marriage stand the test of time.
Do you agree to disagree? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.