The top 14 conversations you should have with your partner… BEFORE you get married

By Liz Paul, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

Marriage can be great, but at times it can also be hard. For ALL couples.

So, what can you do – before you get married – to help your marriage have more of the ‘great’ and less of the ‘hard’?

One thing is to make sure you have discussed some of the tougher and more important issues BEFORE you get married. Just to check you are on the same page, or at least able to agree on a compromise.

Here’s 14 of those discussions that could be worthwhile having with your partner (if you haven’t already)… in no particular order:

  Children: Do you want children? If yes, when do you want to start? If you are unable to conceive, what is your plan?

  In-Laws: How involved should each set of in-laws be in your lives (e.g. time spent with them; joint holidays; raising children; decision making etc)? Should you put any boundaries in place for the in-laws? Will you support each other if those boundaries are crossed?

  Living arrangements: Where and in what type of home do you want to live once you are married? And 10 years after that?

  Values: What are your views on religion, abortion, infidelity, truthfulness, criminal acts and politics etc?

  Deal breakers: What behaviours will you absolutely not tolerate from your partner?

  Bucket list: What big ticket items do you want to achieve or experience at some stage?

  Skeletons in the closet: Do you have any history your partner should know about now, rather than possibly learning about it after you are married?

■  Housework: Who will do which chores? Will you hire people to help out around your home?

■  Conflict resolution: Based on how each of you handle conflict (e.g. passive aggressive or silence or shouting etc) what rules will help ensure your arguments don’t get out of hand? And what rituals should you employ so you can reach out to each other when the argument is over?

■  Personal time: What are your expectations regarding personal space, time together and time with friends?

  Money: Consider things like: Joint or separate bank accounts? Who pays for what? How much debt is too much? Who pays back debt incurred by one of you before marriage? Is it a problem if one of you earns a lot more or less than the other? What are your long term money and lifestyle goals? How important is saving for the future versus maintaining a certain lifestyle now? Will the children be sent to a private school?

  Career: What is your ideal work/lifestyle balance and how does that fit in with your joint money goals? Is it okay if one of you is ambitious but the other is not? Is it okay if one of you doesn’t want to work? Where would you like your career to be in five years’ time? Would you like to leave your job to start a business? Will one of you be happy to take time out of your career if children come along?

  Is there anything you would like to change about your partner?

■  Sex: What are your expectations for the regularity and type of sexual activity? What is off limits?

What are the issues for which most people seek assistance?

  • Relationship break-ups
  • Constantly fighting with your partner
  • Loss of intimacy with your partner
  • Communication problems with your partner or child
  • Difficulty parenting toddlers or teens
  • Pre-marriage counselling
  • A child misbehaving
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Family counselling
  • Wanting to separate from their partner amicably
  • Helping the children cope after a relationship break-up
  • Trouble staying in relationships
  • HSC stress for students and their families
  • Relationship commitment issues
  • Problems at work
  • Couple counselling
  • Difficulties with step-children
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Substance addiction
  • Facing major life changes
  • Making new life choices
  • Relationship counselling