This is so true. Couples tell me they didn’t discuss money, kids, step-kids, in-laws, location where they’d live, and so much more. I wrote a blog, Premarital Conversations that I strongly recommend you read, and discuss everything before getting married—maybe before even getting engaged.
Spend a couple of years with your partner and wait until the happy chemicals in your brain calm down before deciding to marry. What’s your hurry? (Use consistent birth control so you don’t end up in a hurry.) Many people notice red flags during this time, but ignore them either consciously or unconsciously. Pay attention to those flags. What information is trying to come to your attention? What do your most trusted friends have to say about your partner? Do they enjoy spending time with him/her? Do your friends avoid your partner? Have you given up your friends to be with your partner?
Does your beloved do what s/he says when s/he said s/he’d do it? Is your partner respectful? Does your beloved put your needs on par with yours? Does your relationship come first, taking into account your individual needs? Fighting a bit is normal (as long as it’s not physical); anger lets you know a boundary has been crossed. How do you fight? Do you blame and figuratively point fingers? Or, do you listen and let the other person know you heard? Do you give the benefit of the doubt? Are you looking for intention and not just your reaction to what s/he said? Many people react to tone of voice. Talk about that when you’re calm.
Equally important is to spend time with your future in-laws. How do they treat each other? However they treat one another is what your potential spouse grew up watching, listening to, and experiencing. It’s very likely your mate will treat you very similarly to how her/his parents do.
When you’re upset, do you want to be alone to regroup? Do you lash out? Do you stay strong and calmly and kindly discuss your concerns? How does your partner handle that? It’s common for couples to get into the dance of intimacy: one comes forward, the other retreats. The more one comes forward, the further the other retreats. This leads to resentment, and needs to be addressed. At times the retreater will come forward, either calmly or with fire, causing a different type of upset.
What are your hopes and dreams as individuals and as a couple? How will you support each other in being your best self? How will you each grow and not grow apart? How will you handle the inevitable curveballs life will throw your way?
Stan Tatkin recommends creating essentially a marriage constitution, a social contract, he calls it. It consists of 3-5 guiding principles for your marriage. Any decisions you need to make will be covered by your constitution.
Make sure you consider whether you want to be parents at all, and if so, when. You two need to still be each others’ top priority—it creates the roof of security over your family. How will you parent? You may consider voting for a CPO—chief parenting officer. You both put forth why you think you’d be best for the job, then vote on it. The CPO makes the major decisions, but like all leaders, you seek the input of your spouse. This can avoid a lot of “s/he’s not parenting right” thoughts, discussions, and resentments. If you’re the mom, don’t expect your husband to be involved in parenting and then push him out so there’s no space for him to do that. Moms and Dads parent differently—that’s okay, and actually good for your kids.
Take the time to understand your attachment styles and be prepared for them to show up under pressure or stress. Read my article What's Your Attachment Style and Why Does it Matter to Your Relationship?
Plan your marriage before you plan your wedding. Put premarital counseling in your gift registry—it may be the most important give you can give each other.