Getting married without premarital preparation is like starting a business without a marketing plan — it can work, but there will be more bumps than necessary. Don't just wing it or count on luck and romantic attachment; start off right by discussing these questions together.
Communication is more than talking. It is a balance of talking, listening and understanding. It includes paying attention to what your fiancé is thinking and feeling. Good communication builds both parties up, increases self-esteem and is uplifting. Religious leader Theodore M. Burton said, "Couples interested only in themselves don't communicate. Lack of communication then becomes a major stumbling block in developing true love."
How will you resolve conflicts that arise in your marriage?
Issues will arise in your marriage, so having the ability and willingness to talk about and resolve them together is important. Remember that the two of you were raised in different environments with different ways of solving conflict. Both ways may be positive and work, but they may also be very different. How you work through the conflict is more important than the conflict itself. As you learn to work together, you will learn the art of compromise and forgiveness.
Who will be in charge of the finances?
The topic of finances is always tricky, and needs to be discussed together. Coming up with a budget and how the money will be spent should be a couple decision. Money issues are one of the top three issues in a marriage. When financial issues do arise, discuss them as soon as possible to prevent further issues.
How will you share household responsibilities?
"Chores" — you know, the ones your parents made you do before you could go out on Friday night? These now become yours and your spouse's joint responsibility. Remember, your mother does not live with you anymore and your spouse is not your parent.
How do you like affection shown?
Different people receive and express love differently. Love is the willingness to be there for another person and to share in each other's life. Love is a combination of emotional, spiritual and physical feelings. To make your marriage the best it can be, learn to understand yourself and how you like affection shown.
Intimacy and sex can be difficult issues to discuss, even in a healthy marriage. In marriage, the goal is to have a deeply intimate relationship that is also sexually healthy. Men and women experience intimacy and sex differently. Intimacy is not just sex; it includes hugging, cuddling and embracing as well.
What about children?
The first question to ask each other is: Do you want to have children? Pending an affirmative response, the next question to consider is: How long after marriage do you want to start having children?
What are your expectations regarding time together?
Before marriage, you make an effort to spend time with your fiancé. You arrange your schedules to be together. Once married, couples sometimes get so involved in their daily lives that they often forget to spend quality time with each other on a regular basis. Make time to still go out on dates. Remember, your marriage is the most important relationship you will have in this life.
What are your greatest concerns about married life?
We all have concerns, and maybe some apprehension, about new ventures. Marriage is a new venture. Remember that every marriage has its ups and downs.
Are you willing to share and comfortable sharing your concerns with your fiancé? If you are not, do what you need to do to become comfortable. Be willing to open up and share your fears and concerns with each other. Realize marriage is a lifelong decision, and everyone has marital concerns. It is OK to be nervous. Do not let any of the concerns you discuss get in the way of your marriage. Discuss them, resolve them and move forward together.
What behaviors/beliefs do you expect both of you to follow?
Expectations are based on several factors, including the way you were raised and religious beliefs. Some of these expectations may have been hinted at throughout your courtship.
For example — movies and video games. Are there certain kinds of movies you expect not to be watched, together or alone? This may include the amount of time you spend in these activities or it may involve ratings.
Social networking is an issue that should be discussed in depth. What are the expectations regarding being friends with those of the opposite sex? What about former boyfriends or girlfriends?
What are your priorities in life?
What you value is generally where your priorities will be, and what you spend time working on. What are your goals for yourself and as a couple? Setting goals allows you to have direction. In order to set goals, you will want to know and understand your priorities as well as each other's.
What do you want to achieve in life? How ambitious and motivated are you to accomplish those goals? Are you comfortable with your fiancé's level of ambition and motivation? If not, what compromises are you willing to make?
Consider setting goals in areas like employment and your profession. If your profession requires schooling, will you be able to start attending now or do you need to wait? How will you pay for your schooling? What are your goals and objectives related to your career?
Love is the foundation of a good marriage. As long as you protect your love for each other in marriage, you will be happy. Enjoy every moment and do not let the small things get in the way of making it a happy marriage. Notice I said, "making it a happy marriage." It is up to each of you, individually and together, to make your marriage a happy one.