With more than one-half of marriage proposals taking place on Valentine’s Day, we bring you the real conversations every couple should be having before they walk down the aisle
Being in love is a wonderful feeling, but it’s so easy to get stuck in the euphoric bubble of your relationship that you let your heart take charge of your decision-making processes.
This can be dangerous, particularly if you’re in a serious, committed relationship, because you sometimes forget to ask pertinent questions that have the ability to affect your future in one way or another.
Marriage counselling is a good place to start, but there are also a few potentially awkward, but pertinent conversations that need to be had long before you even make the decision to spend the rest of your lives together.
Do you want children?
You’d be surprised by how many couples enter into a marriage without having discussed their views on parenthood, whether they want children at all and most importantly, their partner’s expectation when it comes the number of children they want to have.
The topic of children can be a massive deal-breaker in many relationships, so it’s an important elephant in the room to address as soon you start discussing the possibility of marriage.
The questions you should be asking revolve around how long into the marriage you plan on starting a family, how many children you ultimately want, where you want to be financially as a couple when you start trying, whether one of you plan on taking time out to raise the children, the kind of education you want to provide for them and how they will be looked after.
What do your finances look like?
Money is the leading cause of divorce and while it is likely to be one of the most difficult of the conversations you need to have, there’s no two ways about it.
Be honest about the debt you’re dealing with, your assets, income and your expenses, regardless of whether you’re getting married in or out of community of property.
“Marrying in community of property is the default marriage contract in South Africa and under this regime both spouses will be jointly liable for any debt. So before you get married, you may need to settle your debt or consider which marital regime will best suit you and your partner,” says Faeeza Khan, a legal marketing specialist from Liberty.
This information is critical to getting to grips with the state of your finances as a couple and enable you to better plan for your future.
How will our household finances be managed?
On a practical, day-to-day level, you need to figure out how you are going to pay for all those joint expenses – should you have a joint bank account or contribute to your expenses separately?
If you decide to run your finances separately, then you need to have an agreement as part of your monthly budget as to who covers which expenses. For example, one spouse could pay the mortgage/rent and household insurance, while the other pays for groceries and utility bills. This arrangement only really works if you have worked out a proper budget.
“It is not uncommon to hear arguments between spouses about their expensive food or drink tastes, as such, in order to successfully manage your household finances, you need to know realistically what your expenses cost each month and what you expect to pay for electricity and water and apportion these expenses fairly among each other,” Khan advises.
If you do opt for a join account to manage your household expenses, then you need to take stock of the pros and cons and implications on each of you as joint account-holders.
Family ties – how involved is your family in your life?
Everyone knows that when you marry your partner, you marry their family too, so it’s important to understand your partner’s family dynamic.
Do they support other family members and if so, how many and how much money per month is being spent on family obligations?
It’s also useful to to have a conversation around what both of your possible possible points of conflict and emotional triggers are relating to finances.
What could we both work on to improve the relationship?
Have a frank and open discussion about the issues that could lead to conflict and how you can mitigate them.
These are the kinds of issues that tend to come out in marriage counselling, which is another reason why it is important to go through some sort of marriage counselling programme before you get hitched.