So you’re thinking about getting engaged. YAY! That’s amazing!
Before you get engaged, there are a few things you need to have a serious chat about.
“You don’t know my life,” I hear you saying. “We know all the important things.”
Do you? DO YOU REALLY? Maybe you think you know everything because you’ve had vague conversations that allude to the issue at hand. Maybe you didn’t want to push too hard and thought, “Yeah, we can compromise down the line.”
What if they’re not willing to compromise? You seriously need to get this stuff nutted out before getting engaged.
1. Do you even want to get married?
Well, this is a bit awkward. I hope they didn’t buy you a ring. Seriously, though, a lot of people don’t view marriage as a necessity; they’re perfectly happy to live in de facto relationships. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page about this. If only one of you views marriage as extremely important, is the other willing to compromise to make them happy?
2. Do you want to have kids?
Just like wanting to get married, having kids is not a given these days. What if you CAN’T have kids? Would you consider adoption or surrogacy? Would infertility be a deal-breaker in any circumstance? It sounds harsh but this is NOT something you want to find out if/when you’re already devastated about not being able to conceive.
In addition to asking whether kids are an option, it’s a good idea to ask how many you want and how you’d like to raise them. For example, is religion important? What about schooling? What kinds of discipline do you think are appropriate? Who will be the primary caregiver? You may be so used to your own views that you don’t realise there’s a completely different way of doing things.
3. Do you still talk to your ex?
You should also consider how they talk ABOUT their ex. Do they consider the person to be crazy? (If so, that’s a whole separate issue.) Is there a lingering sense of fondness? Are you comfortable with their ongoing friendship? You don’t need to issue a them-or-me ultimatum; you just need to know the facts and assess how you feel about the situation. If it makes you super uncomfortable, have a discussion about it before you let the resentment build up.
4. How do we set boundaries about our parents?
There are cool, approachable parents. And then there are the parents who give you advice even when you don’t ask for it. And by “advice” I mean they tell you to do something and then harp on and on about it until you either do it or end up hating them forever. Possibly both. They’ll pass judgement on how you spend your money, how you raise your children, how you run your household – no topic is off limits.
Make sure that you and your partner can agree on when enough is enough. For example, do they get a key to your house? Can they stay for extended periods of time? Would you ask them for financial help? Lay down the law early on so that it doesn’t become an issue further down the track.
5. Are you happy with my ambition?
YOU might be happy with your job but what do THEY think? If they assume that your nursing role means you want to become a surgeon or that your job as a secretary will inevitably lead to a position as a CEO, it’s important to set the record straight. If they think you’re lazy and unambitious when you’re actually killin’ it in your preferred industry, that could be a cause for contention later on.
6. What are your financial expectations?
Do you split everything 50/50? Should you get a joint bank account? Is one of you a saver and the other one a spender? You really need to sort that out.
You also need to figure out your individual attitudes towards debt. Some people prefer to ignore mountains of debt in the hopes that it’ll go away or they’ll die before it becomes a real issue. Others like to tackle the problem immediately to keep the interest down.
This is something that requires a serious discussion, especially if you’re going to be splitting things 50/50. When you get married, does their past debt become your debt and vice versa? Is there an expectation that your healthy savings account will go towards paying off the interest on their credit card that has been building up for three years?
7. What are your lifestyle expectations?
Do preconceived notions about gender roles lead to the assumption that one person will do the housework and one person will take care of the yard? Work out something that suits you both. If you’ve been living together, you probably already know how things play out but it’s good to make sure you’re both fully aware of your commitments to the upkeep of your home.
8. Do you want to travel?
You want to share amazing experiences with your partner and you hope they want to do the same. But if they DON’T, are they totally cool with you jetting off to awesome locations on your own/with your mates? Would you be OK with NOT travelling so they don’t feel left out?
9. Big wedding or small wedding?
Just how much money are you willing to spend on your big day? Is it more important for the two of you to own a home together or put the money towards something else? Or are you happy to splash the cash?
10. What’s your health history?
If you’re lucky, you won’t have to worry about health issues until much later in life. But if you choose to have children together, it’s a good idea to discuss any hereditary issues that could be passed on.
It could also be beneficial to familiarise yourself with their end of life plans, including their stance on organ and tissue donation. Sure, that sounds morbid when you’re in the prime of your life and you have many happy years ahead of you but life is unpredictable and you don’t want to realise that you have no idea what they would have chosen if that time comes cruelly early.
11. Are we satisfied sexually and romantically?
Everyone expresses their love differently and it’s not necessarily something that will change with time. Do you wish your partner could be more thoughtful? Would you like more or less physical affection in public? Would you like to have sex more or less often now or in the future? It can difficult to broach these subjects but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored completely. Your emotional and physical satisfaction are equally important.
12. What are you willing to give up?
Marriage is all about compromise. If your partner gets an amazing opportunity in a different city, state or country, would you be willing to pack up your life and move with them? If not, how would you deal with travelling to see each other? Would you be comfortable with having elderly family members live with you when they need care? If/when you have children, would either of you give up your career to stay home and care for the children or would you continue to work?
13. How might we deal with a break in trust?
Whether it’s infidelity or a simple case of your partner talking about personal issues with someone you don’t feel should be included in the conversation, a break in trust can be humiliating and can put your relationship on rocky ground. While you can think it through rationally during a conversation, try not to make any hard and fast rules about how you will deal with the situation; you can’t always predict or control your emotions when the hypothetical becomes reality.
14. How important is physical appearance?
This might be one of the most personal conversations you have with your partner. If something drastically altered your physical appearance, how might that impact your relationship? This isn’t just about a disfiguring accident or illness; how would you feel about possible future weight gain? You obviously can’t guarantee that you will continue to look the same way forever and if unrealistic expectations are being placed on you, you need to know that immediately.
15. Is there anything in your past that you’re not proud of?
If it’s something as small as “I accidentally broke my mum’s favourite vase and told her it was the dog” it might not be an issue. If it turns out that they previously had an addiction, they have children you don’t already know about or that they’ve been arrested for something serious, those are things you need to know.
Not everyone will have these skeletons in their closet but you want to know that you can trust them implicitly. Having these things crop up without any warning is not going to be pleasant for anyone.