money, chores, & kids: 3 conversations to have with your partner before you tie the knot


Unfortunately, marriage these days still only has a 50% success rate. A lot (but certainly not all) of the problems associated with divorce tend to stem from a lack of communication about the inner-workings of marriage before those papers are signed. Many people get into marriage thinking that their love for each other will fix any and all problems they may encounter in the future. Well I'm sorry to say this, but love won't pay the bills, love won't do the dishes or cut the grass, and love won't change your partner's mind about children. Talking about these three important topics below before you get hitched has the potential to alleviate the intensity and/or amount of arguments you most definitely will experience as a married couple.


1. Money

Money problems have been linked to causing numerous divorces in America. While talking about money can't solve any problems associated with a small wallet, it can allow you and your partner to understand each other better when it comes to your piggy bank.

Before getting married, you and your mate should openly discuss any and all debts you each have (this includes student loans, car leans, mortgages, credit card debt, etc.), you and your partner's spending and saving habits (even if you don't have any), and each of your yearly incomes. Not only do you need to talk about how much money you make, spend, and save, but you should also discuss how you plan to pay off your debt. Will all of the debt go into one "debt pile" and then both of you will pay it off together? Or, will you each continue to pay off your own individual debts? Further, it's especially critical to consider your plans for sharing money. Will you have separate bank accounts or one joint account? Or, will you have two separate accounts and a shared account? How will the bills be paid? Who will be responsible for paying them? How will you determine what counts as a "necessary bill" and what counts as an "unnecessary bill"? What will you do with the "unnecessary bills"? For instance, is your mate's monthly subscription to his or her favorite magazine something you both want to continue paying after marriage? In addition, it's important to talk about the different values you each place on money. Do you need the latest and greatest gadgets or can you do without? Maybe even more important, do you think that your mate should do without? Do you think that it's perfectly acceptable to spend $100 on a pair of jeans or does that bother you? Figuring out all of this stuff before you say "I do" can really help you start your marriage on the right note. And, if you discover major problems during this discussion, problems that can't be solved or ignored, you may need to nip this relationship in the bud and call it quits. I know that sounds harsh, but money problems haveruined a significant number of marriages, so discussing this issue prior to sealing the deal could help you avoid some heartache.

To help get the conversation going, you and your partner could take the Money Ethic Scale to initially identify your attitudes about money. Then, you could each make a list of questions (p.s. you can include some of the questions mentioned above) that you'd like to go over.



2. Division of Labor

Dirty dishes, cars that won't start, smelly laundry, and long grass. We've all encountered these things in our lives. And before you get hitched, you likely had to deal with these problems by yourself. And, it would make sense that your responsibilities would be cut in half when you get married, right? Regrettably, many couples have one person who does the majority of the chores. Before you wed, talk to your partner about who he or she expects to do the household chores. While the chores don't have to be perfectly divided down the middle (wouldn't that be great if they were though?), it's really important that you and your mate are on the same page about who should do each task. So, if you and your partner both agree that you should do everything, and you're both okay with that, then good. The purpose of this conversation is really meant to discuss expectations so that you can determine if you like what you hear and decide if you will be happy down the road.


Here are some tasks you and your mate could talk about divvying up: taking out the trash, doing the dishes, cutting the grass/gardening, loading and folding laundry, dusting/polishing, sweeping/vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, cleaning the fridge, mopping the floors, dealing with car troubles/appliance breakdowns/etc, organizing and paying the bills, scheduling things (like doctor appointments), making dinner, maintaining the sanity, and anything else you can think of. You will be much more satisfied in your relationship if and when you and your mate can come to a consensus or even a compromise about how to deal with dividing labor before the big day. Although I can't promise that you and your partner will always follow through with your decisions, at least you'll know what your mate expects of you and your mate will know what you expect of him or her.

For more information about sharing duties, check out this article about breaking free from gender role stereotypes. Oh yeah, and check out this one too.




3. Kids



Here's the big one. Kids. Talk about children with your partner. Do you want kids? How many do you want to have? If you're someone who really wants kids and your mate doesn't, this is a HUGE problem. Understand that you will not be able to change his or her mind in the future. If you stay together and never have kids, you will resent him or her. If you stay together and have kids without him/her being fully "on board," your partner will resent you. If this is an issue for you, break it off now. Additionally, talk about who is going to take care of the kids. Do you expect one person to stay home and not work, are you going to take the daycare route, or are the two of you going to split up the caregiving (like these people)? After you've got all of that squared away, it's important to discuss child-raising. Initially, you could discuss things related to infancy like who will wake up in the middle of the night or who will be responsible for changing diapers, feeding, bathing, etc? Then, you could discuss issues such as how are you going to deal with discipline problems? Who is going to do homework with the kids? Who will drive your kids to and from all of their functions (school, extra-curriculars, playdates, etc.)? Talking about kids before marriage and answering some of these questions will help you determine if your mate is the right person for you.

As you probably know, having kids takes a toll on your relationship. Take a look at this article and this article for some tips about keeping the peace in your relationship as a new parent.

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I know, all of this may a BIT overwhelming. Don't worry, you don't need to talk about these important issues in one conversation- that would be ridiculous. And, these shouldn't be conversation topics for a first date (yikes!). Instead, begin these conversations when marriage has become a serious option for you and your partner and then spread these conversations out over the course of your serious pre-marriage relationship. Talking about money, division of labor, and kids prior to walking down the aisle can help you better navigate marital problems later on. Remember, love may conquer all, but it sure as hell doesn't clean the house, put your screaming kid to bed, or pay off those pesky student loans.

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