Whether you’ve had a million failed relationships, or you’re with your very first sweetheart, finding The One and falling in love is one of the most exciting and exhilarating life moments you will ever experience.
In the early stages of a relationship it’s easy to assume that your partner has the same values and ideals as you. You’re blissfully gazing at your partner through rose tinted glasses so you may not see that actually you have some fundamental differences that may cause issues as the relationship progresses.
“You can't see the entire, complex picture of your partner in this early stage of your relationship. It's only over time – anywhere between six to 18 months – the differences in your relationship will start to emerge. You might notice you have different opinions, you have your first argument, and you start to realise that your perfect partner is not so perfect.”
Making the decision to get married and be with someone forever is a wonderfully huge commitment that should not be entered into without discussion as to how you both see your life in the future. Taking time to intimately get to know each other before making such a commitment can save heartache in the future, although the journey of mutual discovery lasts forever.
“Of course, it's valuable to ask each other the really big questions such as, "do you want kids?" or "what faith do we want for our children?" However, it takes some time for you to truly know each other and get the answers to all the little questions you never even thought of. In fact, getting to know your partner is a lifelong process that never stops,” says Clinton.
Asking questions such as “Do you want kids?” or “Where do you want to raise a family?” may yield answers that are seemingly insurmountable.
“Some questions are so important that if you disagree, it can be a deal breaker for one or both partners. The question, "do you want kids?" is often an example of one of the big questions that can be a deal breaker for some people,” says Clinton.
“However, just because your partner disagrees on one of these big questions, it doesn't mean the relationship has to end. I've worked with many couples over the years where one partner was initially adamant that he or she didn't want to have children, and then through our work together, and over time, they gradually changed their position to become open to the idea.”
On the flip side maybe they will never become open but if you’ve not posed the query before you walk down the aisle, the honeymoon may be an awkward time to discover your partner has no desire to procreate.
The big questions aren’t just about kids and family but both of your ideals on lifestyle may differ greatly. “Can we discuss sex openly?” and “How will be household be maintained during a) the baby years, b) the dual income years?” can be T-Rex sized questions that you may not come across in the honeymoon phase.
Money discussions are notoriously unsexy but questions such as “Will we share the debts we entered the relationship with?” and “Will we have a joint bank account?” can help alleviate the problem of feeling blindsided by such a sensitive subject after your trip down the aisle, which may cause disagreements.
“Disagreements in a relationship are never the problem,” says Clinton. “Often the issue is how you and your partner are discussing, negotiating, and problem-solving the disagreements. When you can do this effectively, the disagreement becomes less important because you are both feeling heard, validated and understood.”
Feeling heard and validated are major factors towards relationship success, but another area we can run into issues is when family gets involved. Posing the questions “Do we like and respect each other’s families?” and “How much family involvement do you want in our lives?” can reveal a disparity that may otherwise go un-discussed.
Differing ideals do not necessarily spell The End, but taking the time to get to know your partner and know what you’re in for is good preparation for spending your lives together.
“Pre-marriage counseling can be valuable for many couples because it can help each partner understand more about the history, values, beliefs, and future aspirations of their partner,” says Clinton.
“Pre-marriage counseling can also help you develop the tools and skills to communicate effectively and resolve conflict. This, in turn, helps you build a stronger and more resilient marriage.”