How well do you know your spouse or spouse to be? Do you have a fair knowledge of his likes and dislikes on important issues which can impact your marriage? It sounds romantic to hope that emotions and love would conquer any unexpected bump you encounter in your marriage, but I tell you, applying this approach towards a relationship as sensitive as marriage, can boomerang in the twinkling of an eye.
Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? Amos 3:3 NLT
No one has a perfect mastery of emotional intelligence, so much that he can chest the idiosyncrasies of any human, especially one you intend to spend the rest of your life with. As such, you just need to essentially hash out some matters, preferably before marriage.
It is a well-researched fact that issues around work stress, in-laws, money, sex, housework, roles and responsibilities, and a few more, are the most classic areas of struggle in marriages. Unfortunately, these are the very topics I have discovered (in the course of my work as a marriage counselor), that couples avoid discussing like a plague or make assumptions about.
I will attempt to discuss 7 of the issues further down, feel free to add yours!
- Debt/Money styles/Privacy.
Don’t exercise any fear in broaching the issue of finances. A lot of spouses have secretly snuck large amounts of debt into their marriages, without the foreknowledge of the other spouse. The debt may have accrued owing to the lack of a stable means of livelihood or a lavish lifestyle, which was successfully kept away from their partner. The other spouse wakes up one morning to learn about this, feeling betrayed and cheated.
Likewise, couples need to clarify whether they will combine income or if partners can set aside some money which they can spend as they wish or what their approach to debt and savings will be? It will be unfair if couples had earlier before/within their marriage agreed they keep a joint account, only to discover that one of them maintains a secret personal account.
Not discussing these issues early on can lead to long-term stress in your marriage. Ask yourselves what your money styles are, and if anyone is in debt. Discuss each other’s spending or saving habits. Find out if any of you has reservations in being accountable with respect to funds.
- Unspoken Expectations (Work/life balance, distance).
Talking through your views on work/life balance is crucial. For instance, do you expect your significant other to be home after work? You should ask because some husbands prefer to hang out with friends, to ease off work stress.
You need to ascertain each other’s perspectives on how open you are, moving to another city for the sake of the other’s job. This is vital because, some people enter into marriage, believing they could work anywhere. Such persons can decide, without batting an eyelash, to work in Abuja while their immediate family members reside in Ibadan, yet expect their spouse to understand.
In another vein, if you are the kind of person who loves to travel a lot, go on vacations, personal retreats, or you would love your husband to help out with certain chores when you both return from work, kindly speak up. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
- Your love map (Upbringing, experiences, modeling, definitions).
What is your spouse’s position on the subject of love? Is it based on the parent’s relationship, romantic books they have read, or their experiences from past relationships? It is important that couples sit down to discuss how they individually define and view love, how they attach emotions to situations? Is it conditional or unconditional? Is it based on tit for tat? Is it based on love and empathy? Understanding and accepting your different views will help you interpret how you both behave in a given circumstance.
- Boundaries with family members, in-laws, friends, ex-partners, opposite sex.
For your sanity, gain clarity about boundaries in your marriage. I encourage you to have conversations such as: the level of secrecy you are both comfortable with in your marriage, your positions on keeping a lock on your computers or phones, and whether your spouse can have open access if they desire.
Don’t leave out conversations on the type of relationship you will have with your in-laws, friends, friends of the opposite sex, and your exes, because this is a huge part of setting boundaries too. For instance, if you have dramatic in-laws, who throw tantrums at the slightest opportunity, their visit will definitely be a cause for concern, especially if your spouse is not levelheaded. Consequently, you need to talk about it and ways you can stand up for each other.
If you have friends you loved to hang out with when single, call your spouse’s attention to that fact, if you intend to keep up with those friends. About the opposite sex, it is advised that you begin your marriage with the right foundation, by setting certain boundaries and precautions, such as, letting each party acquaint themselves with those categories of friends. Leaving this issue open may result to either spouse getting into compromising relationships without your knowledge, thereby, leading to confusion and resentment down the road.
- Preferences (Sex, Food, Faith).
A great way to engender good communication in a marriage is getting to know each other’s preferences, in terms of food, sex, faith, movies, music, dreams, important experiences, style of communication, problem-solving styles, style of rendering apologies, etc. An instance is when an argument ensues, will you work out a compromise right away or will you each need time to cool off before you can calmly discuss?
On your spirituality, if you love to attend weekly services, or wake up early in the morning praying loudly in tongues, or wish to have a family altar, don’t assume your spouse would understand, you need to know how he feels about your spirituality. Discuss your preferred sex predispositions as much as possible.
The earlier you understand that people are nurtured differently and experience life differently, the better you will realize they are bound to have different biases concerning the issues listed above, so, never assume you are on the same page.
- Roles and Responsibilities (Gender roles, care, etc.)
Lots of people are staunch believers in gender roles, they believe certain roles are for females and some others for males. In a marriage, it is unwise to assume roles for each other, agree on who would be in charge of what. I have had countless sessions with some females who say that their husbands take care of the laundry, dishes, child care, etc, while they take care of other chores. They could achieve that because they have taken time to spell out their responsibilities.
In addition, you must discuss and understand each other’s love language e.g. the kind of attention and care you expect from one another in different circumstances. Not only that, you have to take further steps by being intentional about adjusting to each other’s expectations, marriage is a compromise, you know?
- Addictive habits.
Some spouses are trapped with certain addictive habits before marriage, which they haven’t been able to resolve. During one of my sessions with a couple, the husband said as a single, he would sleep off in his living room and retire to his bedroom in the midnight. Upon getting married, his wife expects him to retire to the bedroom with her, turn out the lights, and get mushy. Sadly for the husband, he can’t wrap his head around why it has become a subject of argument to retire to bed when he wants to, shall I add that it’s a marriage of 2 months. This seemingly funny scenario can quickly escalate to becoming a threat to the marriage, if not broached wisely.
Ideally, the issue can be resolved if both parties agree to strike a balance on their different expectations. It is better to be honest about your addictive habits. Talk about how you have been struggling to be better and your willingness to change. It is not okay to expect your spouse to accept your bad habits, don’t be shy or arrogant to ask your spouse to help you work around it.
In conclusion, where couples fail or avoid discussing crucial issues before or in a marriage, resentment and strife is bound to dwell in their hearts, which if not well managed, may lead to divorce. Set aside some time with your significant other, (before or within you marriage), to discuss your hopes, dreams, your concerns and yes, your finances and start building a strong foundation for the long-term success of your relationship. Talking about the issues and mutually reaching a compromise show that you care about each other’s feelings, which is a peculiar trait in a good marriage.
Couples in marriages statistically expect to be understood, appreciated, respected, and loved, nevertheless, for clarity, you have to specifically express your personal expectations promptly, so that together with your spouse, structures can be put in place to make things work. By doing this, your marriage stands a better chance of panning out beautifully.
Nevertheless, there are times you find yourself entangled with a spouse who remains adamant towards these conversations and refuses to shift ground no matter what. Well, this may be a sign of a dysfunctional upbringing or spiritual manipulation. If you have sensed spiritual warfare in your home that makes it difficult to discuss the simplest issues with your spouse without leading to chaos, kindly book a session with me to address it. Better still, get my book Untold Secrets That Wreck Marriages. Spiritual warfare is real in marriages today and you must master when to engage the help of God for intervention in your home.
Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. Psalms 127:1 AMP
If you would like to learn more about how to navigate your early marriage, I advise you join Young Couples Club Academy, where you would learn more about how you can boost the foundation of your marriage, how to get better with your marital roles, and connect with other couples.
I hope this article helps you.