Being engaged is such a special time. It’s when you get to call your love your fiancé. A time of planning, a million decisions, and the anticipation of what the next phase of your life will look like. While there’s so much good and excitement during this time, any change, however good, is stressful — rightfully so, as taking a leap of faith and saying “I do” for a lifetime is a huge deal.
While you try to get your head around committing to a new version of life, you’re also planning a wedding, attempting to include and please your loved ones, and spending a ton of money. It’s so easy to fill your engagement with celebrations, family chaos, and details that sometimes you forget there’s an actual marriage that starts after the party.
I’m all for giving special attention to all the loving touches that go into a wedding (a perfect dress, special flowers, clever favors) but it’s so important to take care of your relationship in the meantime and do what you can to prepare for a long, strong, and happy marriage.
To help you check in with your soon-to-be-spouse and get in a little marriage-prep, I’ve included 11 important topics to talk about while you’re engaged. Try to resist the idea that you already know the full scope of your partner’s thoughts and feelings on each of these things, as you may be surprised at what comes up. Make a weekly ritual out of it and tackle a topic a week.
Lastly, give yourselves a little extra time and understanding to let whatever comes up in these conversations soak in and find its place. Trust me, having these conversations before you’re married is eons easier and less intense then having them after. Marriage brings up complicated feelings that are totally expected, and navigating through these complicated feelings is where true intimacy and understanding comes in.
Marriage changes —
How will you expect your partner to be different after your wedding day? Will you have different expectations of your relationship? What will it mean to be a Mrs. or a Mr.? Will your expectations of yourself change?
Family of origin —
What role will your family of origin play in your relationship? How can your partner make you feel supported and honored in the context of family and siblings? What happens when what your family needs is at odds with what your spouse needs?
Do you want kids? How many, and when? If you guys struggled with infertility what would you do? Would fertility treatments or adoption ever be an option? How will you raise your kids? Would they go to a private or public school? Would you raise them religious? What makes someone a good parent?
What does it really mean to be “faithful?” Does that mean no sex with other people? No porn? No falling in love with someone else? Is flirting allowed?
Is there anything you haven’t told the other but would like to? Is there anything that’s burdened you that you don’t want to take into the marriage? This may feel like the scariest thing ever but it’s so much better to get anything lurking in the dark out. Loving and trusting your partner and giving them the chance to love you and know your secrets is incredibly intimate, loving, and romantic.
How will money work once you’re married? Will you keep your resources separate or pool it? How much debt do each of you have? Does your debt become combined debt once your married or does it stay as your separate responsibilities? What did you like and not like about how your parents dealt with money? Does the way you think about your money separate you or unite you as a team?
What role should work play in your life? Will you both always work? How will you create a work/life balance that nurtures your relationship? Are there any circumstances where you’d like to not work? What scenario would make not working okay with the other?
Are you happy with your sex life? How often is ideal? Is there something either of you would like to be a part of your sex that currently isn’t? Do you need more or less of something?
Love language —
What is your love language? What is your partners? As a couple, read or listen to The 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. It gives a whole new understanding to the many ways we love and want to be loved. It’s truly relationship changing!
Aside from love, what things make you compatible and a good fit? Why did you pick each other?
What do you think your marriage will look like in five years? Where will you be living? What do you imagine you’ll be doing? What will be different and what do you imagine will be the same?
While these topics may be awkward to talk about, good things will surely come from it. If you want help having these conversations, a premarital prep group or couples therapy can be great options to consider. However you get there, these efforts will help you enter your life as a couple closer and more understanding of each other’s needs.
Jaimi Brooks, M.A. is a therapist in Los Angeles helping people navigate the tricky parts of being human. In addition to providing individual therapy, Jaimi runs therapy groups including Motherhood + Identity, Considering Motherhood, and a Premarital Prep Group.