I’m thinking back to 2002 when I met my now husband- Jon. I say met, but we actually already knew each other from college when we were 16. My friend at the time was going out with Jon’s friend and so while they were together, we often smiled and exchanged the odd word or two. This meant that nine years later when we started dating, I already knew a few things about him- where he came from- what he was like at college etc. Nothing too deep though, and quite a lot of what I did learn in the early days involved trivial facts like his favourite film (Point Break), his speciality dish (always stir fry) and what kind of things he enjoyed doing (listening to live music and ski-ing). It’s quite easy after a while to feel like we know someone so well that, when we take the leap from dating to marriage, we forget to discuss the really important things in life, to make sure we’re both on the same page. Without having these conversations, we might find that we want different things or have different opinions, which can lead to arguments later on. Worse still, it can even cause some of us to break up. Here’s some of the things I think are important to discuss before we get married or settle down.
Do you want children? There seems to be an expectation that after we get married, we should all have children. I’ve heard people ask newlyweds if they are now planning on starting a family. I’ve even done it myself without even thinking about it. The point is, not everybody wants children. Some people aren’t maternal or paternal and like the fact they can do ‘whatever’ they please, ‘whenever’ they please, without having to take a child into consideration. This is all absolutely fine of course, unless you both want different things. I remember being a few months into our relationship and I decided to ask Jon if he wanted children. Luckily he said yes, which is why we’re still together! Things could have been very different if he didn’t though because for me, having children was such a big part of my life, it was important to be with someone who wanted them too. Wanting of course, is very different to being physically able to, and after being told when I was twenty-five that I may not be able to have children, we discussed what we would do if this was the case. We agreed that for us, fostering would be too upsetting because at some point we would have to say goodbye to the children that we would have grown attached to. On the other hand, adopting children was something that we were both happy to do if we weren’t able to have children naturally. When people talk about ‘having children’ it can mean ‘one’ or ‘several’- I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say that they would like to have ‘a child’, I’ve only ever heard people say that they would like ‘children’. Someone once told me ‘if you’ve got two children, you might as well have three, there’s no difference!’. They were wrong. The difference is one whole extra person. One human being to take care of, feed, clothe, teach and worry about, on top of any other children you may have! The number of children you both agree on having is definitely an important topic of conversation. ‘How many children would you like?’.
What kind of a parent do you want to be? I think the obvious answer is ‘a good one’ but what that looks like is often different to different people. For me, being a good parent means doing the best that you can- being there to look after the children when they are young if possible, and putting their needs before your own.We spoke about being the type of parents our children could talk to about things without feeling they were going to get told off because we would much prefer to know about things so that we could try to help. When they are older- we both agreed we would much prefer a call asking to be picked up than have them walk home late at night. Having their friends back to ours was also preferable than walking or hanging about the streets.If we ever found ourselves arguing a lot and not getting on, we also agreed that it would be better for us to split up to save the children witnessing us arguing and being unhappy.
Who is going to look after the children? We wanted one of us to stay at home and look after the children when they were young. I wanted to stay at home and look after the children and I was lucky that Jon was happy to go back to work and didn’t also want to stay at home because this would have caused a dilemma! Luckily we could financially afford to do this as I’m quite aware that many people don’t have the luxury of such a choice.
Who are going to be their guardians should the unthinkable happen? This is something that didn’t occur to us to talk about until the children were 5+ when we decided to write our wills. I don’t think it’s necessarily a question that needs to be discussed before marriage but I think it’s worth including it here because it can easily be forgotten in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood.
What are your plans for the future? I’m not too keen on flying but we’ve spoken about getting a campavan and travelling as far as we can that way. I can’t remember talking much about this before marriage though because I think we were both quite young and not sure what we wanted to do in the future, but if there was something quite different or unusual that we had in mind, like working abroad or moving to a different area, I would have expected us both to discuss it before getting married or settling down together.
What is your financial situation? Money is never an easy thing to talk about, but when it comes to settling down with someone, it’s important and necessary to know how much each other earns and if each other has debts, especially as the future will almost certainly involve applying for a mortgage or rental agreement at some point. Having debt can effect the amount you can borrow for a mortgage and depending on how much the debt is and whether it is being repaid back as planned, it can also effect your credit rating, which tells lenders how reliable you are. This is so important because it can literally effect whether you are able to get the home you dreamt of or not. Who is going to be in charge of the finances? Are you going to have a joint account?
Can we talk about everything? There are so many questions to ask and the more questions you ask, the better you get to know that person, their values and principles. How are you going to split the chores? How are you going to make sure you both share the childcare if you choose to have them? How do you feel about religion? How often would you like to go out? What if your children have special needs- how would you manage? Would you like pets? Have you got any secrets or skeletons in the closet that I don’t know about?
Even after asking lots of questions, things will inevitably come up that you hadn’t even thought of discussing and you won’t always agree with each other or have the same views, but it’s all about learning to listen to each other and compromise. Unless of course, the answers to the big questions are deal breakers. What are your deal breakers?Are there any skeletons in the closet that are so big that you could change your mind about marriage? Finally, don’t forget to discuss how your names will change after marriage- is the women going to take the man’s surname, or is the man going to take the women’s? The same conversations for same sex relationships. Nowadays it’s acceptable not to take the traditional route which gives more reason for it to be discussed before getting married, especially if children are on the horizon and having the same surname is something you would like. Oh and don’t forget the ultimate question ‘Why do you want to marry me?’ and ‘can we promise to be honest with each other- no lies?’ There are way too many questions to ask all in one day or night so make sure you spend time talking together about them properly.
Top Tip- Never go to bed on an argument- always make it right before going to sleep.
Don’t just ask each other questions, ask yourself too- ‘can I see myself with this person for the rest of my life?’ But most importantly ‘do they make me happy?’.
This blog is particularly dedicated to my most precious- Chiara, Charlie and Eliza xxx