So, you are ready to get engaged? Congrats! Feeling prepared to commit to one person for the rest of your life is a beautiful and powerful thing. In fact, it is something that I, myself, have experienced.
However, although we feel prepared to get engaged, we need to consider certain things. In this blog post, I will discuss the four conversations we need to have with our partner. These four conversations — the four F’s as I like to call them — are crucial within a marriage and could cause potential problems within your relationship later if you don’t begin the conversations now.
Something important to keep in mind is that even if everything isn’t solved at the moment, it is helpful to begin the process of learning how to handle conflict as a partnership rather than as individuals. It is important to begin learning how to love during conflict and disagreement. And it is simply helpful to understand your partner’s perspective and how you may need to compromise, or understanding what the big oh no’s are going to be within the marriage.
Before my partner and I even began dating, we were best friends. We had these four conversations dozens of times, and honestly, we continue to have these conversations today. I am telling you to have these conversations before you get engaged, but as you change throughout the course of time, you may need to revisit these topics. If there is one thing we all know it is that nothing and no one remains the same forever.
Faith is a huge aspect of many people’s lives. There are so many types of religions, or lack thereof, in our world today that this conversation definitely needs to happen. As a counselor, I have met with couples who are struggling with a difference of faith years into marriage. So, if your faith, or your partners faith, is important to either of you, it is imperative that you have this discussion.
This conversation does not have to be scary or intimidating, but it is important to be transparent and vulnerable. Remember, there is power in transparency.
Consider asking your partner:
- What faith were you raised with?
- Do you like attending church?
- What faith are you practicing right now, if any?
- What is important to you about faith?
- Tell me your story about coming to faith.
These questions are basic, but they can be helpful in getting a conversation going. Don’t be afraid to take this conversation much deeper, though!
As children, we watch our parents and learn so much from them. We watch how they love, how they hate, how they handle conflict, how they.. well, how they do anything and everything. And we develop learned behaviors from our parents. So, it is important to discuss your family relationships with your partner. Explain to your partner how you grew up, what your parents were like, what your role in the family was, and more.
In addition, our friendships can truly shape us. We all face difficulties with friendships, and sometimes those difficulties can become trigger points for us. For example, maybe you had a “frenemy” who ridiculed you about your hair color. Have you noticed if anyone discussing your hair color now has become a trigger point for you? Do you find yourself feeling immediately defensive or getting upset when someone mentions this topic at all? These are important things to discuss with your partner. If he/she does not know what bothers you, he/she won’t know what to be sensitive about.
Consider asking your partner:
- What were your parents like growing up?
- What was your role in the family dynamic?
- What did you enjoy about childhood? What did you dislike about childhood?
- Do you have any long-time friends?
- Did any of your friends ever hurt you? If so, what happened?
- Do you still feel any pain or resentment towards any friends you once had? Why?
Once again, these are only potential starter questions! Ask more and dig deeper with your partner.
Goals, goals, goals. Our entire lives center around goals, whether we realize it or not. Our goals can turn us into different people, lead us to new relationships, or even bring us to new locations.
Before engagement, it is important to understand your own goals and your partner’s goals. As a partnership, you will need to be on the same page and will need to be supportive of one another. Understanding one another’s goals is an important piece to that support.
Consider asking your partner:
- What goals have you achieved?
- What is the next goal you hope to achieve?
- What is a long-term goal you have?
- What is your biggest and wildest goal?
Although I would argue that we never quite reach the future since we are always living in the present, discussing the future is super important. You want both you and your partner to at least know the hopes and desires of the other partner. You want to know what type of future both you and your partner envision, and you need to work together to strive for a compromise regarding that future.
During a training I attended recently, the trainer discussed a couple he had once counseled. He mentioned how one partner wanted to work on the family farm during retirement and the other wanted to sail year-round. In the end, the couple made the compromise of working the farm during the warmer months and sailing during the colder months. Although this issue was resolved later in their marriage, I do believe that it can be very helpful to begin discussing this topic prior to engagement. And to maintain that conversation every so often. As I previously mentioned, the one thing that we are certain will be constant is change. Right now you may want to sail around the world, but when you are seventy, you may want to work on a farm.
Consider the following questions:
- What’s the end goal?
- Where do you see yourself in the future?
- Where do you see our relationship in the future?
- Do you hope to have children?
- Do you desire to travel?
- How would you like to spend retirement?
The Four F’s Reasoning
I recommend discussing the four F’s with your partner simply because these are huge aspects that impact all our lives. Some more than others, but all play a role. Also, it is important to begin learning early in the relationship how to be vulnerable and handle challenging conversations with your partner. In a partnership, these conversations will be required so it is helpful to begin increasing your skill set in this area as a couple.
Remember: The goal is to begin functioning as a partnership, rather than as an individual.