There was a time when relationships were more about necessity. British women in the early 1800s, for instance, had many obligations and few choices. They were controlled first by their fathers and brothers and later by their husbands. The goal of women was to find a man and have children. In fact, failing to do so could be a cause of ridicule and pity by the community.
But now some relationship experts argue the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction for most relationships. According to a recent article by Simone Collins in the Huffington Post, “Modern relationships are plagued with too much romance and too little ruthlessness. Couples in relationships who have unrealistic expectations and impractical plans would benefit from forced confrontations with stark realities before making significant commitments.”
Do I need a relationship contract?
As mentioned above, it was not until recently that “romantic love” played a significant role in relationships. In fact, marriage historically has often been little bit more than a transactional or contractual agreement, although now many of us think this concept is the “antithesis of an ideal relationship.”
Collins argues it may be time to bring back a bit of that practical model. She argues, “A strong, uniform, and cohesive cultural norms governing relationships no longer exists.” Because of this she notes it may be time to “establish norms of our own.”
She argues for an actual contract which encourages couples to have an active dialogue about what they expect, one that is “easily be updated, commented on, and revisited over time.” But even if the expectations are not documented, they should at least be discussed. Recently I heard a pastor note that if couples spent as much time preparing for their marriage, rather than their wedding day, this could be a simple first step to making a marriage better.
Relationships benefit from frank discussions
So what issues should you discuss before marriage? There was a time when spiritual and cultural norms helped define our expectations. Experts still argue that marrying someone that shares your expectations and religious ideals can heighten your compatibility, but even if you do this it is still important that certain major issues are discussed. So what should you address before you marry?
One of the top issues is money. At the very least couples should discuss whether both spouses will work, how much money will be saved, how the money will be spent and who will manage the finances.
2. Living arrangements and household duties
Gone are the days when most women stay home and raise the children while the husband heads off to work. With both spouses working, it’s important for the couple to agree how the household chores will be divided.
Having children can be a blessing from God, but it is a major decision that not everyone is ready to make. Make sure you understand where your potential mate stands on procreation. Then talk about how your children will be reared and their education.
There are many more issues that should be discussed before marriage. Getting premarital counseling or taking a compatibility test may seem silly or unnecessary, but it can be a great way to ensure you and your loved one are right for each other before making a long-term commitment.
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