DEAR DR. JENN,
My fiancé and I have had a whirlwind romance. I know he is the one, and we have a wedding date planned. I am preggers and would love to walk down the aisle before I get too big. Given that we are getting married so quickly, what questions should we be asking each other to prepare for a healthy peaceful marriage? — Speed Bride
DEAR SPEED BRIDE,
First of all, congrats on finding your soulmate and your pregnancy! While I usually recommend that couples get premarital counseling with a licensed therapist before getting married, it sounds like you are on the speed train to the altar and may not have time for that. That considered, there are a few questions you should ponder together. You will want to hit on the biggest issues couples struggle with: money, parenting, chores, connection, boundaries and sex.
Of course, when you do have time to sit down with a therapist and do a little pre-marital counseling, this can be a roadmap for those conversations. For some couples, these guided talks help strengthen the relationship — no matter how quickly you jumped in.
Here are the questions you should be asking each other.
1) How do you see us organizing our finances?
Couples should discuss how they will organize their money. Joint accounts, or separate? Who pays for what? How will you handle big purchase decisions? Under what circumstances do you each have veto power? You should also discuss whether or not will there be a prenup, as more millennial couples are signing them, even if they’re not wealthy.
2) What is your parenting philosophy, or what do you imagine it will be?
You and your partner should discuss what you liked and didn’t like about your upbringing. What traditions are important to you? When it comes to religion, what is important to pass on to your children? When do you think children should have screen time? Should both parents participate equally in custodial care (diaper changing, baths, feeding, nighttime care, etc.)? What is your stance on vaccinations? Do you believe in spanking? How should discipline be handled? Also consider discussing how you will handle parenting disagreements, such as what you’ll do when you don’t see eye-to-eye and your child is in the room.
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3) How do you envision the division of labor?
Sixty-two percent of men and women report that sharing household chores is very important to marital success, but all the studies show that men are still way behind women in their contribution to housekeeping (despite their improvement over the decades). Couples need to discuss how they will handle supermarket shopping, home cleaning, laundry, cooking, pet care, etc.
4) How are we going to stay connected and prioritize our relationship?
Studies show that sex is rarely the primary reason for cheating. In over 90 percent of cases where a spouse cheats on their partner, the reason is either a lack of connection, or a lack of emotional and sexual connection. Couples need to examine how they will make time to nurture their relationship, give each other attention, prioritize each other over others, and protect their emotional bond. This becomes increasingly challenging once children are in the mix. Recognizing the importance of connection and making a plan is a great first step.
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5) How are we going to handle boundaries with others?
A nationwide survey of marriage counselors found that jealousy is a problem for one-third of all couples who come in for therapy. This is often a result of having poor boundaries with other people. Social media has added a whole new element. Another study of 2,000 married couples found that 25 percent have at least one argument a week about social media and 17 percent argue about it every day. Divorce attorneys report an 81 percent increase in divorce cases as a result of social networking. Couples need to discuss the behavior and boundaries they consider to be acceptable. Is it OK to confide in a friend of the same gender as your spouse about your marital problems? Is it OK to connect with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend on social media? Is it OK to air your dirty laundry on a social media post? Will you share passwords? How much transparency is expected? It is important to come up with boundaries that work for both people and protect the relationship. Some people even do social media prenups.
6) How are we going to deal with the normal ebbs and flows of a long-term sexual relationship?
In long-term relationships, most couples have both dry spells and periods of time where their intimate life is hot and heavy. Couples need to talk about how they are going to handle times when there is a disparity in desire. They need to make plans for when things get stale and discuss how they plan to keep their sexual relationship fresh and interesting. They should discuss monogamy and what constitutes cheating — these days, relationships and boundaries are defined in all kinds of ways, so it’s important to be on the same page. Additionally, couples who stay together for a lifetime will inevitably watch each other change, both emotionally and physically. Couples should discuss how they will handle weight gain, health problems, menopause, and performance issues that are likely to come up later in life. Discuss with your partner how you envision changing together.
Overall, I see far too many couples who are so caught up in the romance and excitement of marriage that they skip over the challenging discussions. They are often shocked when they have opposing views or are so triggered they can’t work though the issues without guidance from a therapist. It is great that you and your fiancé are jumping in and talking about the issues now — and it will definitely make a difference down the line.