I’ve been dating my girlfriend for almost 10 months now. We are thinking about getting married. What issues are important to discuss before marriage? I know we all tend to have secrets or past experiences that we wish to take to our grave. Should every detail be shared or only those that we think could affect a marriage relationship? We’ve talked about going through a workbook that will help us see our compatibility. Should see a pre-marital counselor? Frank


Dear Frank, thank you for writing. I would encourage you to purchase the book Before You Say ‘I Do” by Norman Wright. It covers most of the topics and issues you need to discuss prior to marriage.

Once you have decided to marry –– then, go for premarital counseling. If you find that you are experiencing some hot topics or issues in your relationship now you may want to get counseling sooner. Take the Prepare-Enrich inventory to discover the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship and areas of compatibility. You can see the American Association of Christian Counselors site for a referral to a counselor in your area.

Relationships take work. Relationships grow with honesty and authenticity. If you feel you have something to hide from the past – that is not good. Most likely, the event or issue should be shared in order for complete openness in the relationship. If you hide the past that will become a pattern for the future. It will only destroy your relationship. Openness about the past will develop your trust, love and forgiveness. If your partner is willing to accept you and your past, acceptance will build a strong foundation for a healthy relationship.

What issues and topics do you want to work through at this stage in your relationship?

1. Communication: What kind of communication is needed for a healthy intimate marriage?

Here are some healthy characteristics for great communication: openness, honesty, an ability to admit when either is in the wrong or has done something to hurt the other. Great communicators are tactful, loving, gracious and listen. Each partner is willing to speak the truth in love. Purchase the book: A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage by Scott Stanley, This book teaches very helpful communication skills.

2. Discuss and explore the roles and expectations each of you has for marriage. Partners come into a relationship with ideas about “who does what” and “how life together should be”. You like to squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle. She likes to roll it up!

3. Commitment: what does that mean to you for a marriage relationship? Is each of you dedicated to the other – to endure the hard times as well as the good times together? Or is one of you thinking “If it doesn’t work out, I can always get a divorce…”. Marriage demands a sacrificial attitude – a “you’re the only one for me” kind of attitude.

4. Anger and conflict management: How do the two of you handle anger and conflict? What is your style? Have you worked through issues of power and control? Are you able to problem-solve and work through conflict? Learning skills in these areas will not only enhance your relationship together but, help you manage conflict which could ultimately destroy your marriage. Read the book: What’s Good About Anger?

5. In-Laws or Out-Laws: this is a big issue. If one of you has a very dysfunctional family –– they could interfere with your relationship. Working through potential issues with controlling relatives is a major area of growth.

6. Goals for marriage: Are you planning to have children? Do you both agree on this as a goal in the future? What else do you want in your marriage? Do you have the same beliefs? Is there disagreement about what faith to teach your children?

7. Finances: How do you manage money individually? Do you have similar or very different spending patterns and goals? Is one more concerned about living within a budget and one more concerned with spending money?

8. Forgiveness: Do you have a process for forgiving each other? What happens when you feel disappointed by your partner and vice-versa? Does resentment tend to build up? Forgiveness is one of the most important building blocks for a healthy relationship. Ruth Bell Graham wrote: “A good marriage is the union of two forgivers”. Read about The Power of Forgiveness on this site.

As you can see there are a lot of issues to talk about and explore. But, working on these issues can draw you closer and help you discover areas of growth, areas of strength and whether there are some differences which can’t be worked out.

©2007 by Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC