In the hurly-burly of wedding preparations it’s so easy for a couple to overlook each other’s expectations of married life before tying the knot. Once the headiness of the wedding has settled and normality returns, the real issues can become apparent.
Months or even years down the line, advice columnists and counsellors find themselves dealing with couples with issues that could have been avoided if they had better communicated their expectations prior to the wedding.
Here are some of the issues that a couple should air and sort out before tying the knot…
Where to live
It’s not uncommon for two people to have drastically different ideas on where to put down roots. Home or abroad, country or city? And if you enjoy moving around for work or lifestyle reasons, ensure your partner is happy with that idea.
Do you want to have any and if so, how many? A relative of mine wanted a family but only discovered after the wedding that her husband, who had a child from a previous marriage, did not. It caused a lot of heartache before she could accept this.
Different parenting styles: If you have children from a previous marriage, there may be clashes between different styles of parenting. There’s always readjustment with stepfamilies.
If you have a particular faith, how important is it that your partner shares and practices it with you? If you plan to have children, what religion, if any, do you want to raise them in?
Outstanding debt: Who has it and what is the plan for paying it off? Money issues are one of the biggest flashpoints in a relationship.
What’s your married name going to be? Who takes whose name? And what surname will you give your children, if you have them?
Will you start a joint bank account, retain your own accounts or do both? Will you each contribute towards shared bills and which account will be used to pay them?
How committed is each of you to your careers? Do you live to work or work to live? Are you prepared for the personal sacrifices you will have to make to climb the career ladder? When will happen if one of you decides to stay at home and look after the children?
It’s amazing how cleaning the house, ironing, cooking, food shopping or emptying the dishwasher jobs can become a source of friction. To avoid problems, find a way to compromise: ‘I don’t mind doing this, if you do that job.’
A comfortable mattress is vital for a good night’s sleep. Rack up too many sleepless nights and your relationship will suffer. So if you and your partner have different ideas of what makes a comfortable mattress, visit a bed shop and sort it out!
There’s a saying that when you marry someone you also marry their family. There’s no problem if you’re both family-orientated people but if you don’t like what you see, it could be a rocky road. Crucially, neither of you should feel that the in-laws get priority over you.
A friend of mine found that living near her mother-in-law wasn’t such a great idea as she and her husband were expected to go round for lunch every Sunday. After a gruelling overseas trip she was hoping to have a lie-in one Sunday when her mother-in-law rang asking what time to expect them for lunch. ‘It was the final straw,’ my friend said. ‘I put a stop to the arrangements there and then. There was no time for us as a couple after a busy working week’.
Hopefully, you should know what types of holiday you both enjoy. There may be an issue if one of you likes camping while the other prefers a chic boutique hotel, or one can’t bear to be away from the office while the other counts the days to time off. Discussing some solutions that you’re OK with will help you address friction in the future.
I know of two situations where this has worked well. In the case of the workaholic businessman, his travel-loving wife took herself off on luxury single holidays. Another woman petrified of sailing reached a compromise with her husband who dreamed of sailing his yacht around Europe. While he sailed across the English Channel and in the Mediterranean, she flew to meet him in different ports. She said: ‘Meeting him on dry land seemed the best solution – at least we could enjoy some of the travel experience together’.