Getting engaged is exciting. As you announce your news to the world, people celebrate the love you’ve found with each other and you get to think about your future. Finding that person you want to spend your life with is not exactly an easy task. But it’s also ranked #7 on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, which ranks life events in relation to how much they stress us out and impact our overall health.
Making sure you’re on the same page with what you want in your future – from simple things like what colors you want at your wedding to more personal and potentially challenging conversations like the decision to have or not have children – will help make your engagement, wedding, and life beyond that a bit easier. Communication and money-related issues are two of the most frequently cited causes for divorce.
Here are five things to talk about with your partner before popping the question:
1. Agree on a Wedding Budget.
In 2016, weddings pushed past $35k on average. Depending on where you live, it could easily be more. You can save money by doing some things yourself, but be prepared to do the work. If you want a large wedding, be prepared to shell out a fair amount; smaller weddings, however, could easily be done for virtually free or very little money. It all depends on what you want as a couple. If you’re totally lost, check out some recommendations from TheKnot. And if you’re going to be throwing a sizable wedding, cushion your budget significantly to make sure you come in feeling comfortable and can have a wedding within your means. Going into a marriage debt-free is a great feeling.
2. Talk about if you want kids.
Kids aren’t for everybody – and that’s okay. Nobody can force you into having kids, and it’s an entirely personal decision that you need to make with your partner. If having your own kids isn’t possible but you still want to raise one, talk about adoption. If you decide to raise a child, understand what it means financially. Turns out it’s not cheap.
3. Know each other’s credit scores and debts
Checking your credit score might suck, but it’s an important thing if you want to do things like buy a house. Grab a few beers and create a free account at Credit Karma. This will give you your credit scores; if you’ve been building credit diligently and responsibly for several years, your score will be higher than if you’ve misused credit or have a very short credit history. Scores alone don’t paint the full picture so I also recommend that everybody go to AnnualCreditReport.com and get copies of all three credit reports to make sure there are no inaccuracies reported. If there are, you can fight them.
4. Talk about how you will structure your finances.
There are advantages and disadvantages to combining finances completely, and it’s a decision – like kids – that will vary based on the couple. Kristin and I are combining all of our finances – but this won’t work for everyone. Depending on what you found out about your partner’s debts and credit history, you may or may not want to combine finances. Make sure that both of you are comfortable with the decision. If you’re combining finances to any degree, make sure you see eye-to-eye on budgeting.
5. Figure out your short- and long-term goals, and your plan to achieve them.
I’m not suggesting that you need to have all of your plans figured out, but knowing what you want short-term and long-term is important; it’ll drive every decision that you make (together, hopefully). Does one of you have a life goal of running their own business?
I remember talking to an old co-worker at a holiday party about her life 30-some-odd years ago when she was dating her now-husband. She had reminisced on how she used to be much more active. She enjoyed being outdoors, going on hikes, and was an excellent gymnast – and she missed a lot of that. When I asked her if she still was active outdoors, her response was flat, and very telling. “I used to do all of that stuff, then I married my husband and, well, he likes pottery.”
Don’t let lack of communication keep you from doing the things you enjoy or from achieving goals you want to achieve. Your plan will change. When you get married, you’re signing up to take those changes in stride, together.
If you’re recently engaged, recently married, single, or have been together with somebody for years, these are still important conversations to have. Regular communication can make or break any relationship. Being on the same page with finances and what each person wants in life will help you achieve your goals together more quickly and strengthen your relationship.
If you’re engaged, married, or divorced, what did you and your partner talk about before tying the knot? What did you not talk about that you wish you had?
And if you’re single or contemplating popping the question, is there anything you’re scared about talking to your partner about?