As a financial coach I’ve learned that my job involves much more than helping people with their finances. I’m often a marriage counselor, psychologist, and a motivator.
Before you need the whole marriage counseling aspect, let’s try to spearhead a few of the most issues couples face.
It surprises me how often people get married on a whim.
Rushing off to Vegas to get hitched by Elvis.
Running down to the courthouse after 4 months of dating because “you’re madly in love.”
Maybe it’s not even on a whim…maybe you’ve known the person for years. However, have you considered that you’re just good buddies and have failed to really dig into the deeper issues of life?
In reality then, you’ve failed to get to know the person that you plan to spend the rest of your life with and you’re setting up your marriage for failure.
It’s no wonder why the majority of marriages in the United States end up in divorce.
Isn’t it sad that I get surprised to hear of a couple that has been married for 50 years? Or when I get surprised to meet a person my age (27) that has parents that are still married?
If you’re interested in having a marriage that beats the odds and lasts for decades, then here are 6 things I think you should delve into before popping the question.
Do you both want to have children?
If so, how many?
How long will you wait after you get married?
The key to these conversations is to go deeper than simply the questions allow: are you ready to handle the sacrifices that being a parent entails? Are you both grown up enough to be responsible for another person’s life? Are you willing to be the parents that the child needs you to be?
When Holly and I first started dating we were both against having children. I’m not exactly sure why, but it just wasn’t something we were both interested in.
I’ve talked to dozens of people on this topic and I the responses always confuse me. You hear that children are the greatest blessing on earth and they’re the best thing that will ever happen to you!
But from the other side of the mouth you hear the same person say how difficult they are and how much they’ve had to give up for them.
I’m not trying to create an argument here; my point is only that there is no “correct” answer. The answer is dependent upon you and your future spouse.
The key is that both of you should be on the same page and have a great understanding of what you each expect as far as having children is concerned.
To be fair, Holly and I have both eased on our stances of having kids. We’re certainly not ready as of this time, but I could see a day 3-4 years from now when it’s a possibility.
Another topic that causes great marital distress is religion.
Regardless of your beliefs it’s important to know what your future spouse believes. I’ll go out on a limb and say that an atheist and a devout Christian aren’t going to live happily ever after.
Personally speaking, I wasn’t really raised in a church and believing in God didn’t really matter all that much. On the other hand my wife was raised Christian and her family regularly attended church and bible studies.
While we failed to discuss religion early in our relationship, the longer we were together the more my spiritual beliefs were influenced by her.
Over the course of time we saw religion through the same lens. It’s been one the greatest blessings in our marriage, but I can only wonder what it would be like if we weren’t on the same page.
As a financial coach I’m consistently surprised as to how ignorant each spouse is of their husband/wife’s spending habits.
Not only that, but many people don’t know their spouses financial past before getting married!
While you shouldn’t make your marital decision based on their financial failure/success, you should know how they handle money and you should know how much debt they have before you get hitched!
Finances are the #1 cause of divorce in this country for the mere fact that so many of us are different: we come from different backgrounds, we each have different values and goals, and we each have a different understanding of how to properly manage money (or no understanding at all).
To make matters worse, I’ve found that it’s very common for one spouse to be a SPENDER and the other to be a SAVER.
Opposites do attract and that’s why it’s so important that you talk about money before you get married. I don’t recommend that you combine your finances prior to getting married, but you should have a firm grasp on each others financial views and situation.
It’s SOOOO important to have family boundaries before getting married.
Does your husband like to visit his parents every weekend? Is he a momma’s boy?
While there isn’t anything wrong with that – heck, I think it’s good to spend time with your family! – it could cause problems and be a serious area of conflict.
As husband and wife you’ll have to start making decisions and resolve conflicts on your own. It only creates issues when one spouse runs to their family for help and alienates the other spouse.
It’s also a recipe for disaster if you’re so tied to your family/parents that your spouse always questions himself/herself and constantly looks over their back.
Relying on your parents and going to them for advice prior to consulting your spouse is a BAD IDEA.
It’s also not a good thing to compare your spouse to your parents: ‘well, hun, you’re a good cook and all but it doesn’t compare to my mom’s.’
Or, ‘my dad was sure handy with cars, why can’t you ever fix anything?’
I’m not saying you can’t think those things, you just can’t say them! Good grief! We undermine our spouses a lot without even realizing it. Hopefully, for your sake, they’re able to let it roll off their back.
For a majority of people this won’t be a big deal, but I’ve met quite a few people that are VERY opinionated.
The reality is that strongly opinionated political minds are just that: they’re not really willing to accept somebody else’s ideas or arguments.
It is possible that you can exist together for the majority of your marriage, you might just want a large enough house to separate once every 4 years.
Take some time to discuss what your goals are in life and in your careers.
Do you want to own your own business and be an entrepreneur? If so, there are sacrifices and risks that come along with those things and you need a spouse that will stand by your side through the thick and the thin.
Will one of the spouses want to be a stay-at-home mom (or dad) if you have children? What would that look like financially? How can you start planning for that as soon as you get married and set things up so that dream can become a reality?
Do you both have similar work ethics and motivations? A major problem I’ve seen with spouses is that one will work like a crazy person and the other is relatively unmotivated and isn’t driven to do much.
While it’s fine for you to get married if you find yourself in this situation, don’t get upset or frustrated years down the road if your spouse isn’t bringing in much bacon. Furthermore, don’t expect the person to change just because you’re marrying them – what you see is what you get.
It’s not uncommon for people to completely ignore a majority of these discussions. The fact is that you might love the person you’re with and simply enjoy spending time with them. However, if you want to set your marriage up for the long-haul then I’d strongly encourage that you take some time and have a few serious heart-to-hearts.
What have been some of your biggest marital hurdles? Were there things you wished you would have discussed prior to tying the knot?
The articles are written by personal finance enthusiasts (not certified professionals) based on their personal experience. What works for them may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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