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Wedding season is upon us and this wedding season is extra special because my baby sister is soon to be married and helping her plan for that day has me thinking back on my own pre-wedding feelings and thoughts. My husband and I will be at three years by the time her wedding bells ring, and though that hardly makes us experts, I can certainly look back in gratitude at some of the ways we set ourselves up right.
Only a few days before our wedding, I had the sudden realization one night that my husband-to-be had never seen the 1985 film Clue (based on the board game) and the thought that I was marrying someone who had not only never even participated in the comedy brilliance of that film, but more importantly might someday see it and not even like it was too much for me. I cried kind of a lot and also laughed at myself through tears for caring that much about it.
You’re never going to know absolutely everything about the person you plan to spend your life with until you actually get started on the “life together” part (and even then there are surprises). Whether or not my husband had seen Clue isn’t ultimately essential to our future joy, but there are some things that are pretty important to discuss.
Getting these things out in the open and understanding where you’re each coming from on these topics will go a long way in easing the transition into married life and even though some of them are hard to bring up, I promise you’ll be very glad you did.
1. How We Saw Our Roles in Our Future Household
Whether you realize it or not, you and your future spouse both have certain expectations about what a wife’s job is and what a husband’s job is. You may both look over The Family: A Proclamation to the World and say, “yeah, that’s what I’m planning on” and still have two totally different pictures in your head.
I’m ambitious. I grew up with a working mother whose professional pursuits as a writer and gospel scholar and a citizen of the world had a profound impact on me. Watching her create an environment where her passions and pursuits outside of the home and her presence as our mother could be balanced led to me to conclude from a very young age that I would always find a way to keep working even when I had children. I don’t think every woman needs to feel this way, but for me personally, the hope of having a full creative identity outside of my home is my lifeblood.
Not every partner I could’ve found would be ok with the manic level to which I cling to my dreams of a performing and writing career. I happened to have found someone that is happy to adjust and adapt and find a way to alternate who is working when so that we can both have the things that we want and still have kids that always have a parent around.
Getting on the same page on this subject was incredibly important to my feeling secure enough to move forward into a new identity as a wife. You may think you are already on the same page with your special somebody, but if you haven’t actually talked about it, you need to. Some men may have always assumed they’d have a two-income household while their would-be wives always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom. Alternatively, some women may thrive on an ambitious professional life, never knowing their husband expected a wife that would take on a more traditional role in the home. Talk about it. Talk about it.
2. Our Financial Habits and Attitudes toward Money
I want to make it clear that I’m not implying that just by talking over these issues, you will have solved them, but getting them out in the open in a measured, civil way now will help you avoid having them burst out into the open in an angry, overwhelmed way later. Everything is easier when it’s hypothetical, so set yourself a great foundation and appropriate expectations when you’re still speaking hypothetically.
Which brings me to finances.
Finances often find their way to the very top of “reasons for divorce” lists. Often it’s not even the lack of finances that causes problems, but the lack of compatibility in your financial sensibilities and expectations, so says the Internet.
Turns out my husband’s sensibilities about money and my own are about as opposite as they could possibly be. While we were dating, a friend of his sat me down and told me just how impulsive he is with money. I’ve since learned that the impulsiveness to which he referred includes being an incredibly generous gift giver and tipper. Meanwhile, my Dad told me once that the intensity of my thriftiness would probably be a hindrance rather than a virtue in my future if I didn’t cool it. A lot of my gifts tend to be hand written notes…
Like I said, knowing that we were bringing such different sensibilities to the table didn’t pre-solve all of our problems, but it helped us at least (sort of) know what to anticipate. It also helped us decide to do a honeymoon cruise specifically because everything would already be paid for and we wouldn’t have to discuss what we were willing to pay at every single meal.
3. Our “Sexpectations”
This is perhaps the most important one to address, particularly as an LDS couple where you are entering into the world of intimacy for the very first time. Again, whether you know it or not, you both harbor certain expectations of what your future sex life will be like or what it won’t be like. It’s worth getting certain things out on the table, particularly if there are things that one of you may feel is totally acceptable for a married couple and the other feels is not.
Many LDS couples haven’t ever had much discussion about boundaries or limits within an intimate relationship and talking through your “sexpectations” ahead of time can hugely reduce anxiety in the moment. Anxiety is the enemy of pleasure so it’s worth clearing the air about anything that concerns each of you so that you can just enjoy the experience without fear.
For me, those concerns included talking through some body insecurities I had. Somehow, being open about the parts of my body that I have a hard time with allowed my future husband to validate my feelings, but invalidate my fears. It helped me to hear how little he cared about those imperfections and meant I could move forward without feeling like I would be scrutinized in a way that took me out of the moment.
Talk through things. Seek out righteous resources to be more educated. Set yourself up for success. Also, maybe hold off on this discussion until closer to the actual date. It’s a topic that can be exciting to think about and very frustrating to wait on.
4. The “P” Word
Pornography can feel like an impossibly sensitive subject to bring up with someone. But it needs to be brought up. It doesn’t matter how unlikely it seems that that person would ever have dealt with that issue, you need to talk about it. Advances in technology have made our day an incredible one to live in. The knowledge and wonder and information available at our fingertips are unprecedented and you have to but sit on your own couch and watch Planet Earth to have an insight into the natural world that most naturalists in history could only have dreamed about.
The flip side of that coin is that growing up with that kind of access means essentially no one in this generation can say that they’ve made it to the marrying age without encountering pornography in one way or another.
The point of addressing this subject is not to rehash things that have been repented of or to reevaluate one’s suitability as partner. The purpose is establish love and support for one another and set a precedent for open and honest communication in your relationship, even about the most difficult things. So often, when people discover their partner has had and concealed an issue with pornography for many years, it’s the deceit as much as anything that does the damage. On the flip side of that coin, it’s often the shame and hiding that fuels an addict.
Be honest with each other. Talk through it. “Setting a precedent” means this might not be the last time you address this topic, it means you’ll always be honest about it from now until forever. For you two, make this one something that’s always out in the open.
5. How We Would Prioritize Things in a Life Together
In a subtle way, your dating relationship is often indicative of your future dynamic and priorities together. I met my husband in Nepal. We went on dates in Zanzibar, Kenya, Jordan, Israel, Alaska, Scotland and England. One might conclude that we were going to be travelers. I suppose I wouldn’t call that subtle. In reality though, what you do in your carefree, falling-in-love months or years might not be your ongoing state. I knew a couple that used to go dancing often while they were dating, but once they were married, they essentially never went dancing again. Living the life you want doesn’t just happen, you make decisions together and you prioritize and plan.
If you want to keep doing the things you’ve been doing, make sure you’re on the same page about that. If you want to be doing things differently than you do now, talk about it. Not every husband would be ok with directing a fairly large portion of our household’s financial means towards standing on Mount Kilimanjaro for our second anniversary. That was a decision we committed to together even though it meant living cheaply in other ways and perhaps pushing back other financial goals by a few months.
You may think that because you found someone to marry with whom you share a foundation in the Gospel, you share the same values. In reality, what you value as an individual has implications outside of just Church engagement and participation. Does he value a nice living space? Do you value lots of time in the outdoors? How much does he value privacy? How much do you value tidiness?
You don’t have to know the answer to every single question about yourself or your someone before you get married. Life is long and I imagine some of the answers may evolve over time, but it’s important to understand the things you each value the most. I value having new travel experiences more than I value having the latest fashions or the best skincare products or the biggest house. Bryan is like a husky; if he doesn’t run around outside enough in a day, he’ll get moody and eat the couch.
These things are important for us to understand about each other to have a happy household. And it’s important for you to find out each other’s values and mold your vision together accordingly.
Talk about it. Talk about everything. Good marriages are built on good communication and good communication starts before you say ‘I do’.