If you and your future spouse only disagree over which football team is the best, or over which coffee shop has the best caramel macchiato, you will probably make it through life with minimal bruises; but, if you guys disagree on deeper topics such as faith and child-rearing, you may find yourselves struggling through some frightening and sleepless nights.
Couples cannot be expected to agree on every minuscule detail of life, but for your sake and the sake of the next generation, you and whomever you marry need to agree on the topics below.
In my opinion, both based on experience and what I’ve witnessed in others’ relationships, it is not enough to almost agree on the following:
- Faith and Theology. It is of the utter most importance that you and your sweetie are practicing the same faith. Additionally, it is important that you share similar theology. When Eric and I got married, we thought we were in great shape because we both agreed on the main tenants of the Christian faith. We believe salvation is given by God’s grace, and not of our works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We believe in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We believe the entire Bible was God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). However, we discovered later that we did not agree on some other central theological doctrines. We both wished we had discussed our beliefs in more detail before getting married!
- Husband and Wife Roles within the Marriage. We can quote marriage scriptures all we want, but the rubber meets the road when it’s time to discuss gender roles and responsibilities in the home. If one of you believes a husband and wife should equally share responsibilities, and the other believes in traditional male/female roles, you will probably butt heads often. If he declares “I am the head of this house!” but you don’t believe in such a concept, you will either laugh at him, fight with him, or stop communicating with him. If she wants you to lead her, but you believe in each person looking out for oneself, you will get thoroughly annoyed with each other. I simply cannot recommend that any couple get engaged if they disagree on the nature of roles of husbands and wives in the family.
- Child-Rearing Philosophies. There are hundreds of lessons you will not learn until you are actually raising your own children. However, you and your sweetie already have some child-rearing philosophies, even if you have never verbalized them. You don’t think so? Okay, walk through Wal-Mart and let a toddler start screaming on the next aisle. You will immediately discover a portion of your child-rearing philosophy. ~smile~ You may be thinking, “Discipline that child immediately!” but your sweetie may be thinking, “Awww, that baby needs a new toy and a nap!” Those two opposing points of view could come to a head in a public place someday, so be sure to discuss how you want to raise your kids now in as much detail as you can muster. ~smile~ (And perhaps some babysitting is in order to have some real-world experience and discussion together!)
- Monetary Attitudes. How do you feel about managing money? Do you consider the handling of your finances central to your life, or do you think managing money is an unnecessary bore? Some people imprison their money and do everything in their power to keep it from leaving their hands. Others practically open the door and throw it into the great expanse for the rest of the world to enjoy. If you don’t agree on how to manage your money, expect problems. Period. Money fights and money problems are two of the most cited reasons for divorce. Money does not just represent our ability to buy something we want or need. How we approach our money says a lot about our character, our goals, our personalities, and our level of generosity. If you and your sweetie get engaged and married without first agreeing on how you will manage your money, you are asking for a war (and not a small one). It may turn out that you have the same views on financial management, or it may turn out that you have completely opposite views. Don’t chance it! Discuss the management of resources in detail before getting engaged! ~smile~
Am I declaring that anyone who gets married without agreeing on these topics is sure to divorce? No. However, couples who marry without agreeing on faith, child-rearing, marital roles, and money management will constantly struggle to communicate and connect effectively.
Your faith is central to who you are, and the way you interpret your marital role will guide your actions and how you interact with your future spouse.
Raising children is a joint venture, and if you don’t agree with your spouse on how to bring them up, they will suffer for it – and your relationship will suffer too. There is nothing like a fight over the children to turn a typically docile person into an erupting volcano.
How you manage your money will affect your retirement plans, your lifestyle, your goals, and your giving. If you are a giver, you will probably battle your husband if he’s a tight wad. If you are a spender, you will likely argue with your wife if she is a penny-pincher.
As nice as it would be fall in love and get married without having to work through the tough stuff, the idea is simply not realistic. It’s good that marital preparation takes some work. It strengthens and connects a couple.
So, take a deep breath and talk through these subjects together. Be transparent. It may be tempting to make light of your beliefs for fear of losing your sweetie; but, when you are in the process of choosing someone to be your lifetime mate, it is no time to downplay your core beliefs.
Friday, we will conclude this series with four final topics we believe couples should agree on before getting engaged – and those topics will be a bit lighter! ~smile~
Are you and your sweetie’s core beliefs the same?