After many years of practicing family law and sitting through hundreds of hours of consultations with potential divorce clients, there are at least five things you should discuss before marriage to ensure continued marital bliss.
- Intimacy. This probably isn’t the lead in you expected from an attorney. But, it is a critical component of marriage. Understand your own body issues. Ensure you both of you are comfortable practicing clear communication regarding expectations and needs.
- Finances. There should be a serious discussion of the marriage. How will money be handled both day-to-day and long-term? Will you keep separate accounts or joint or both? Will you share bills or split bills? What is the maximum amount one may spend without consultation with the other? The discussion should also include a plan for saving money including the handling of investments and retirement accounts.
- Division of Labor. Currently, most homes have two working spouses so household chores can be a serious area of contention. Resentment over chores can develop into a bitter score card. Chores are not always going to be split 50/50 and sometimes a spouse might bear the burden of 100% of the chores. Remember you are a team working together to accomplish the same goal.
- Children. There should be a discussion about how you plan to raise the children. Where will they go private or public school? How will you discipline them? What religion will you teach them? What extracurricular activities will you encourage? Parenting is challenging enough, even when you are on the same page philosophically. Entering into this commitment with extremely different views only adds to the challenge, and often not to the benefit of parent or child.
- Family obligations. You choose to marry your fiancée; however, the in-laws are an added bonus. There may also be exes with child custody orders that will dictate your new married schedule. The new marriage is not going to be a reason to modify a custody agreement so it should not be expected that the schedule will change after the marriage. How much time do you spend with your family now? How much time do you expect to spend with them once you’re married? What holidays do you spend with your in-laws? Do child custody orders dictate holidays? What’s your plan for giving all the families equal time with you/your children during the major holidays?
These discussions may be difficult; however, they should be helpful to ensure that you are on the same page. Life is hard, these discussions before marriage should make a joint life a lot easier. And, ideally, keep you out of my office.