Many couples wait until they're already engaged to talk about their long-term life together.
But wedding therapist Landis Bejar said it's better to address some topics before a proposal.
Discussing how you want to raise your children or handle finances will prepare you for married life.
You should discuss kids before you agree to spend your life with your partner.
Landis Bejar, a wedding therapist and the founder of AisleTalk, told Insider that you shouldn't only talk about whether or not you want children but also what exactly having children would look like for you with your partner early on in your relationship.
"How many? What are your views on parenting?" Bejar recommends asking. "How were you parented? What were your experiences being parented? What were your relationships like with your parents growing up, and how are they now? What do you envision would be your ideal version of that for if you do want to become a parent?"
Bejar also says it's a good idea to spend time with children as a couple if you can.
"If you have a sibling or a friend with kids and they need some time away and they trust you with their kids, spend some time with them," she said. "It can invite some really fruitful conversation about how you handle the stress of that: what your needs are, how you like to relate to one another."
It's also important to talk about money as a couple.
"People really don't like talking about money," Bejar said. "Money feels very, very taboo."
But it's crucial to discuss with your significant other because your personal finances impact nearly every aspect of your life, even if you don't plan on combining your money with your partner when you get married.
"You want to get on the same page because there's a lot of variability about what partners' expectations are or how they handle their money," she said.
"I really like to start premarital counseling with questions like, 'What does money mean to you? How was money talked about growing up in your family?'" Bejar said, because money can represent different things to different people.
For some, money offered a sense of security, or it could have been a huge source of stress or even trauma.
"That's all going to impact the way that you talk about money, the way you feel about money, the way you spend money, the way you invest money, and the way you save money," Bejar said. "All of that is really rich with story and emotion and behavior, and it can very easily be swept under the rug as not relevant in your relationship."
You and your partner might have different thoughts on the roles your parents and extended families will play in your lives.
As Bejar told Insider, having in-depth conversations with your partner about your "families of origin" can help you understand them and the vision they have for your involvement with your future in-laws.
"As you shift from being a child of your family versus creating your own family, how do you integrate those two identities?" Bejar said.
She says you might want to talk about how often you expect to see your in-laws throughout the year and how involved you anticipate them being with your children if you plan on having them.
And if either of you plans on having your parents live with you someday as they age, you should mention that to your partner, as that would have a dramatic impact on what your day-to-day life would like.
"You want to have a sense of where you guys stand on that and whether that's going to be something that creates challenges along the way," Bejar said. "We're not coming to a compromise right now, but maybe it'll be something that we need to compromise on in the future."
Cultural and religious differences can become sources of stress if you don't talk about them early in your relationship.
Talking about religious and cultural upbringing might be simple for you and your partner if you come from similar backgrounds.
But as Bejar told Insider, even if you were raised in the same religion as your partner, that could have still looked quite different in reality.
"As you're combining a family together, you want to talk about how you formed your own cultural or religious identity," Bejar said. "If you do want to have a family, talk about what sort of values you'd like to bring in from your own upbringing. Do those conflict with your partner's experience? How does that look when you're talking about it with kids?"
Bejar also said discussing your religious and cultural backgrounds early on in your relationship might make wedding planning smoother.
"It actually comes up a lot with weddings because sometimes you have a couple who might not be actively day-to-day practicing within their religion or their cultural background or their ethnicity," she said. "But a wedding is a big life milestone where you would infuse that."
You shouldn't assume you and your partner will automatically be on the same page about sex.
Although sex might seem like an intuitive aspect of a relationship for some people, Bejar said she encourages her clients to talk about intimacy expectations as they look toward marriage.
"You want to talk about how you feel good sexually with your partner. You want to talk about what doesn't feel good," she said.
For instance, one person might want to have sex more often than the other, and being open with your partner can help ensure a difference in sex drive doesn't lead to conflict.
"You want to have open lines of communication about sex," Bejar went on to say. "And you want to have open lines of communication about what to do if things change. How can we talk about that?"
When you spend your life with someone, it's inevitable that things will evolve, so establishing a "culture of communication," as Bejar puts it, can prepare you and your partner to take on those changes in stride.
You shouldn't wait until you're already engaged to talk about life-changing topics.
Bejar said that for many people, a proposal marks the beginning of a life together. Waiting to talk about topics like children or money until you have a ring on your finger can be an issue, as you may discover you and your partner want really different things as you talk.
"When you start to feel serious about one another, it's time to start talking about those things," Bejar said. "You want to make sure that you're not just on the same page about life in the moment that you're meeting."
"Breaking off an engagement feels different than breaking up for a non-engaged couple," she added.
Read the original article on Insider