Are You Ready for Marriage?
Despite myths of "happily-ever-after" or "love conquers all," problems in the marital relationship may surface within a short time after the wedding. The success or failure of a marriage relationship can hinge on how well the couple deals with issues such as financial assets, communication, conflict, parenting, in-laws, leisure time, sexuality, family of origin, spirituality, expectations, and chores.
Most couples don't talk about these issues before they get married, and are surprised one or two years down the road when conflict seems more prevalent than romance. The question to ask yourself is: are you ready for marriage?
The First Fundamental Question
The first question to ask yourself to determine if you're ready for marriage is: why do I want to get married? While it may seem silly, thinking about and answering this question will make it less likely that you'll have unrealistic expectations and be disappointed in the future. While a family law attorney can help you create a premarital agreement to avoid conflict about financial issues, it's helpful for couples to ask themselves many other questions. Take some time to review this list with your future spouse. You may be surprised how open communication about these subjects will improve your relationship.
Finances and Money Management
Money is probably one of the most common subject of arguments in a marriage, so it's important to know each other's expectations about finances, including how money will be managed, before getting married. First and foremost, it's important to discuss if everything will be shared 50/50. Remember, each state views marital and separate property differently.
All states view property acquired before the marriage, property received as a gift, and property inherited during the marriage as separate property, meaning it's not shared by the marriage. States are divided about how to treat marital property -- the property that is acquired or earned during the marriage. Community property states divide marital property equally, while the other states use equitable distribution and divide the property "fairly," which could be 50/50 or some other proportion.
Determining how money will be managed prior to getting married can help to avoid marriage money problems down the line. This can include discussing and deciding on the following issues:
- Do you intend on living within a budget? Who will manage the budget?
- Who will pay bills? Which bills?
- Will you have a joint checking account?
- Will major assets (such as a home) be held jointly?
- What are your long-term financial goals? How will you achieve them?
Children and Parenting
It's important to discuss whether you want children, and how many you'd each like to have. Often people assume that their future spouse want children, so they don't discuss this prior to marriage. Then, down the line, they're surprised to find out that their spouse doesn't want children or wants a different number of children. Also, it's a good idea to discuss if you're open to adoption, in the event that you're unable to have children naturally.
Similarly, assuming you both want children, it's important to discuss how you think children should be raised. For example, will one parent stay home to raise the children or will you arrange child care so both parents can work? It's also a good idea to discuss whether you'd prefer to send your children to public or private school. Each person's views on children and parenting can obviously cause issues in a marriage, so it's best to discuss children before getting married.
Daily Life and Personal Philosophy
Finally, it's also a good idea to discuss your daily life and personal philosophy. You each may have an expectation of what daily life will look like after getting married, but if you don't share it with your partner, you're risking disappointment - or even an argument - once the honeymoon period is over. For example, it's important to discuss how the household chores will be divided. It's also important to think about and discuss the following:
- Do you mind if your spouse spends a lot of time alone or pursuing leisure activities without you?
- How will you make sure you have quality time together as a couple?
Also, although it's likely that your personal philosophy has come up during the course of your dating relationship, an open discussion about this can be a good idea. For instance, does religion play an important part in your life, and will it bother you if your spouse doesn't share your religious beliefs?
Get Professional Help with Your Legal Questions About Marriage
Pursuing this type of discussion will not only help you figure out if you're ready for marriage, but also often reveal mismatched expectations and help you resolve areas of discrepancy before they become divisive. If you encounter issues that require assistance from an attorney, such as financial issues, property titles, adoption or child support questions, be sure to consult with a family law attorney who's familiar with the relevant laws in your state.