(Thanks to Lissette Steele for suggesting this topic on Twitter.)
So, you’re dating intentionally with the goal to eventually get married. Before you can make that decision, there’s a lot you need to know about each other and a lot of questions to be answered.
What things should you discuss when dating? Such a list could be very long, but there are some things that stand out as more important than others:
Beliefs. This is first because it is the most important thing. You can have different hobbies or root for different football teams and still have the makings of a great marriage. But if you have a completely different view of how the world works and what you should be living for? That’s at the core of everything you do and everything you are. If you’re both fully committed to following Christ, you could pretty much make a relationship work regardless of your other differences. But if you’re not equally yoked, it’s hard to imagine ever achieving true oneness.
Finances. Yeah, money is a big deal. But it’s not the amount of money we’re talking about here; it’s your attitudes towards how money should be stewarded. Arguments about how to manage money are consistently cited as the top reason why people get divorced. So, at some point in your dating relationship, you need to talk at length about how you’re going to handle earnings, savings, spending, and debt.
Family. Your significant other’s family is important because they helped shape him or her into the person they are today. But they’re important for another reason as well: after marriage, they become your family, too. You’ll need to discuss the roles of in-laws, how you’ll handle holidays, and what your family traditions will look like after combining families.
Children. Do you want to have children? If so, how will you raise them, and how will that affect your work and finances? It’s probably one of the more obvious premarital questions, but it’s a huge decision that definitely belongs on this list.
Goals. What do you want to accomplish with your life? Where would you like to live? What things are most important to you? If one of you wants to live in an uptown high-rise and the other feels called to be a missionary in Haiti, that might not be the best match.
Divorce. If you do get married, is divorce ever an option? The wedding vows state that you’ll stay together “for better or worse” and “till death do us part.” If that’s not your commitment level, then you shouldn’t take that vow. If anything—adultery, disability, financial problems, disagreements about leaving the toilet seat up—would cause either one of you to ever leave, you might as well write that into the vows. Or, you could truly commit to love each other as Christ loves you: always forgiving, always pursuing reconciliation and intimacy.
Expectations. If you expect marriage to look a certain way, and your future spouse expects something different, one (or both) of you is going to end up disappointed. So, it’s important to talk through all your expectations and come to an agreement on how things are going to work. This includes everything from childcare and career decisions to whether or not you make the bed each morning. Watermark’s Merge premarital class does a good job of helping you talk through all of the many expectations you might not even think about.
If you are married, what’s the most important thing you talked about (or wish you had talked about) before tying the knot?