Excerpt from a conversation between me (M) and a coworker (C) over apps and drinks:
C: So, what do you think are the key things people need to discuss before getting married?
M: Uh, I don't think I have much advice to offer on marriage seeing as how I am currently getting divorced.
C: No, I think you have interesting things to say. I want to learn from you. So, what would you put on the list?
M: Ummm, okay -- well first, you should talk about finances. Figure out where on the spend-save spectrum each of you are. Also, how you plan to prioritize your expenses.
C: I'm a spender.
M: As long as he's ok with that and you can still pay your bills, then it doesn't need to be an issue.
C: Alright, what else would you include?
M: You need to talk about kids and family. And by that, I mean whether or not to have kids, who will take care of them, how much time you each intend to devote to raising your family. After the birth of baby #1 is not the time to discover that you each were each expecting the other to take parental leave or stay home with kids permanently. And, you need to talk about how much of a priority extended family will be in your lives. A mismatch can potentially create some resentment -- ie. your partner may not want to go to your family functions every single weekend, or vice versa.
C: I like that... Next?
M: Ummm... religion. Religion as it relates to each of you, and especially as it relates to how you intend to raise your kids. If you are expecting your potential spouse to go to synagogue/mass/temple/whatever with you and the kids every week, you should probably clear that with them.
C: Anything else? I'm listening. This is really interesting.
M: Life goals, hopes, dreams. You need to support each other for these types of projects. If you're really mismatched -- ie. one of you wants to live on an ashram in India and the other wants to stay in their downtown Toronto condo -- resentment can build and lead to big conflict. This isn't to say that there isn't room for compromise, but just that any big projects that you think are critical to your sense of self need to be put on the table up front. And similarly, you should talk about your general expectations from each other regarding things like gender roles, household tasks, time devoted to activities outside the relationship.
C: That's a great list!
M: Thanks. I'm glad you liked it.
Anyone have anything to add to the list?