Five conversations before you put a ring on it

From Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin There comes a point in every relationship when the time is right to have some critical conversations about what comes next.

While I wouldn’t recommend having these discussions on the first date, they can help to evaluate whether your partnership is a good fit for the long-haul, and if so, to set a healthy and inspired vision for the future of your relationship.

I’m often asked what I consider to be the most important conversations to have with your partner when you’re evaluating your future together—and these are the five conversations that I always recommend:

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1) What are our respective career goals?

This can be a really broad inquiry, but it’s a great (and often comfortably benign) place to start. From the perspective of your career success, as well, it’s critical.

For example, are you a young lawyer at a big firm who wants to make partner? That may mean certain things in terms of when you want to marry and potentially start a family.

Do you want to kick it really hard and retire by 40? That may also mean that you need to put certain aspects of your personal life on the back burner while your ambition takes priority.

Looking at your long-term career trajectories, does your partner have less earning potential than you? If so, how do you feel about being a primary breadwinner in the future? How does your partner feel about it? Are any traditional gender norms in play here for either of you?

2) What are our expectations of long-term partnership and marriage?

Prior to my own marriage, a few people warned me that it’s often really easy to focus on getting engaged, planning a wedding, and taking off on your honeymoon without any conscious attention to the idea that marriage begins on the day you marry. Now, six years on, I know exactly what they mean.

This conversation needs to include the sometimes touchy issue of our families of origin. What kind of marriage was modeled to you by your parents? What did you like about it? What did you find challenging? Do you have any fears around marriage that result from what you witnessed growing up?

Furthermore, what does your ideal marriage look like? Are both of you on the same page in terms of what you want and need in terms of support, time together, time apart, intimacy, and coupledom? What do you expect from your partner in a healthy marriage? What does your partner expect from you?

3) How do we feel about sharing our money?

One of the most fraught issues of marriage—and one that causes the most conflict—is money.

Do you want shared bank accounts? What about shared investments?

If one of you owns a business, will it become joint property?

If one of you stands to inherit substantially, how will that money be treated in your partnership?

And lastly, does either of you want a prenup, or feel one is necessary?

These can be very tricky conversations, but staying present to each other’s needs and breathing through the emotions we attach to money can help to create a shared path toward the healthiest financial future for both of you.

Moreover, particularly for executive women, there is one additional explicit conversation I recommend having on the money front with your partner. That conversation centers around the question of “whose money is it?”

If you are the primary breadwinner, how do you feel about sharing money you earn with your partner? If you are not, how do you feel about spending money your partner has earned? Does one of you have a sense of entitlement while the other feels disempowered?

How will money be shared if there is an earnings disparity in the partnership? And how does that disparity make each of you feel in terms of your power and authority in the relationship?

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4) What do we want our family structure to look like?

If you and your partner are anticipating becoming parents at some point in the future, this is a conversation you need to have now.

Do you plan to take a break from your career when you have kids? Or do you want your partner to be a stay-at-home parent?

Do you want to work only part-time for a period of time after having a child?

How do you feel about childcare options? What about education?

Are there any potential religious or cultural concerns that you need to discuss with your partner about child-rearing?

What are your beliefs about what makes a good parent? What are your goals for your children and their upbringing? What kind of a home do you want them to experience?

5) What is our shared vision for the future?

Lastly, you need to have a conversation with your partner about the big dreams and goals you have for your life as a whole.

At the end of your days, what do you want to look back upon with pride? Is there a mission you know you need to fulfill? What about a bucket list of experiences?

How will your partnership foster and feed those goals? And does your partner have big-picture goals as well that are individual or shared?

Make an inspired plan for how to accomplish what you both want in life as individuals and as a couple, over the long life you will hopefully share together. Make it beautiful and wide. Honor each other in the asking and the planning, and create a vision for the future into which you both can’t wait to step.

Conscious, courageous communication is critical to the success of any relationship. By evaluating your future together through these five conversations, you’ll be on the road to lasting success at home, in partnership, and in the world.

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Photo Credit: Jake & Allisha Iturra

Source: Invanka Trump 

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