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I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do - 6 Things Engaged Couples Need to Talk About Right Now
“Love me or leave me, make your choice but believe me, I love you, I do, I do, I do, I do….”
Nothing encapsulates the exhilaration surrounding a marriage proposal like Abba’s classic from 1975 for those of you like us who remember it. Having accepted the marriage proposal and been swept away with the excitement of planning for the big day, how do you make sure that the reality of married life matches up to the smiling photos of the big day?
Far from infidelity being the number one cause for divorce, the problems that fester and lead to relationship breakdown often build up over a period of time and can include difficulties communicating with each other, getting into marriage for the wrong reasons, unmet expectations, intimacy disappearing, different ideas about money and difficulties resolving conflict. The list is endless and non-exhaustive.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your partner to try to gain clarity in relation to your respective expectations and plans for the future.
1. Why Are You Getting Hitched?
If you are living together and are co-existing happily, is your decision to marry a genuine statement of your commitment to each other? Are you getting swept along with social and family expectations or perhaps marrying for financial security? Are your peers getting married and you feel under pressure to do the same and move on with your lives as well? Be honest with each other and yourself, the expense and pressure of planning for a wedding can itself be an added stress to your relationship.
2. Make a 5 Year Plan
It is important to map out what your aims and expectations are, after all how you begin married life matters. Of course there needs to be flexibility but, for example do you want to have children right away? Do you want to spend time travelling? Is it important to buy a home and build your financial security? Is one of you intending to embark upon a degree or set up a business? Any successful enterprise has both short and long term goals and marriage is no different. It is also important to review your goals with each other regularly.
3. Talk About Money
It is not so much a lack of money but differing ideas about money that can lead to problems developing. Do either of you operate on credit? How do you deal with debt? Are you expecting to pool your resources collectively or will you each retain control of what you earn? If there is inequality in your earning capacity how will this be dealt with? Is one of you a spender and the other a saver? Are you comfortable with being completely open and frank about your financial position? Get these issues out in the open. It is much better to do so before you are legally and financially entwined.
4. Sex and Intimacy
Whilst it’s not very romantic discussing infidelity when you’d rather be discussing the seating plans, we can’t ignore the fact that for whatever reason, affairs happen. Monogamy is assumed when couples marry but is this a choice you are both fully committed to? Furthermore, how do you define faithfulness and what is and isn’t appropriate from flirting to sexting to watching porn? When the honeymoon period is over and life takes over, how will you maintain intimacy and address differing sexual needs?
5. What about Children?
Having kids is a game changer. Try suggesting a bit of “how’s your father” when your dearly beloved has had 3 hours broken sleep and is covered in baby sick and see what reaction you get! You’ve got to ask lots of questions of each other and can’t assume that your partner will want children at all, or at the same time as you do. If you both want children, will one of you give up work, will you employ child care, what are your views about parenting, discipline and schooling for example? It is far better to unearth any differences now.
6. Will You Have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?
Whilst the very subject of a Pre-nuptial agreement can be a difficult conversation to have, it forces couples to have the sorts of conversations that we have identified and confront issues head on around money, lifestyle, children and expectations. It is not only designed to provide protection for assets particularly built up before a marriage, but if prepared properly can allow couples to choose the way in which their separation will be dealt with in a bid to prevent the cost and uncertainty that some couples may face in the event of something going wrong.
Karen Chapman is a Director at Chapman Pieri Solicitors, Southgate Office Village, Block D, 286 Chase Road, Southgate, London N14 6HF. Tel: 020 8882 9850. www.cpfamilylaw.co.uk