Debt, children, and cheating: those are three of the topics you should discuss with your partner before getting married, according to a thread that’s gone viral on Twitter, with more than 220,000 likes.
The thread was written by a 21-year-old who is Afghan-American and based in California, inspired by her own experience. The woman, who uses the Twitter handle @cxkenobxkerry, was engaged aged 19, but the relationship ended before the wedding. She “learned a lot of lessons the hard way”.
“Had I taken these 20 questions far more seriously, before entering the engagement period, it would have saved a lot of heartache for everybody involved,” the woman, who chose not to share her real name, tells HuffPost UK. “I see the thread as a personal learning curve and shared the points with the world, in the hope others could learn from it.”
She didn’t expect the thread to go viral and adds that there’s “no rulebook on marriage”, but hopes spreading a little wisdom may be useful in some way.
Here are the 20 talking points she believes couples should discuss. They won’t apply for all marriages, particularly the notes on gender roles for same-sex couples, but there’s sure to be something in there everyone can relate to:
1. Talk about debt.
2. Fully and willingly commit to one another. No ‘I’m not sure’ and ‘what ifs’ and ‘it’s not the right time.’ You are either in or you’re out.
3. When/how many kids y’all want (adoption? are one of you infertile? etc.)
4. Talk about STDs. Get checked. Seek medical help/informed professional knowledge. Keep those tests up to date and find ways to do so even within the marriage.
5. Talk about your 5-10 year timeline regarding career/education. Can you move? Willingness to relocate?
6. Levels of religiosity. Openness to growth? Lack thereof? Do you share fundamental core beliefs about life? Very important.
7. Anger managements issues: do one of you struggle? Are you in therapy for it/taking it out on others? Seek help, because it will destruct you and the future and the children.
8. Energy. Does it match? You decide. Follow your gut.
9. Clothing: it may seem like a small problem but small things eventually add up. Make sure your expectations match one another to full comfort.
10. Sexual compatibility. Not going to go into details, but y’all need to be on the same playing field. Consent wise, willingness to try things, traumas, etc… figure it out.
11. Finances: how do you intend on splitting bills? Gender roles? Taking the parents in during old age?
12. Age doesn’t matter too much. In my experience it’s about the person and what their world views are. If you are young, make sure the person you’re with will allow you to keep growing at your own pace and in your own way. It’s called respect.
13. Opposite gender boundaries. Set what’s okay. What’s not okay. Hugs/handshakes/etc. I know it sounds tribal and trust should be there, but you’d be surprised what people’s boundaries are. Better to know than not know.
14. Social media: believe it or not, people will break up over this. Some prefer privacy. Some not. Get on the same page or you’ll be clowning on one another.
15. I mentioned this before, but savings. How much do y’all have earned and combined? How much is your intended salaries? Is it sustainable? Apartment? House? Speak futuristically if it’s not something you can afford right now. Get on the same page.
16. What is cheating? Entanglements? Define your breaks.
17. Physical and verbal abuse: what is and isn’t considered abusive language and decorum? Seek help, please. Professionals can always step in.
18. What are your dying wishes? Burial proceedings? What if one of you becomes paralysed? Godparents? Uncertain events? Death? Speak it. Speak on all of it.
19. Importantly, love is not what keeps relationships going. An active commitment to LOVE, despite the downfalls, keeps it going. Get out the princess-king happily ever after mindset and you’ll be fine.
20. I want everyone to notice how I failed to mention level of education, family or tribal background, ethnicity, job level and all. It’s because none of this matters in the long run. Trust. you ain’t a good person based off superficial attributes.
Commenting on the thread, therapist Lucy Fuller, who offers couples counselling, says most people decide to get married when they’ve been in a relationship for quite some time, “so they can confidently say they know each other really well”.
“Getting married is usually about getting to that point in life when you feel as though you’re in a loving and trusting relationship and you want to settle down,” she tells HuffPost UK. “In fact, this should be what getting married is about – giving in to that warm fuzzy feeling that you get from being with your partner. If you have any doubts about your partner, then listen to your gut feeling. If it doesn’t feel quite right then it probably isn’t right.”
She adds that getting married doesn’t mean a relationship will necessarily last for ever – even if you ask the questions above. “People and circumstances can change but if it right for you both, right now, and something you both very much want to do, then this is what should help you make the decision,” she says.
Many of the ideas in the thread were echoed by marriage therapists and relationship psychologists when HuffPost asked them what couples should discuss to help “divorce-proof” their marriage.
Ryan Howes, a psychologist in California, added that it’s important to discuss the need for personal space. “Discuss your need for time alone, or apart from one another,” he said. “People often overlook this topic initially but after the intense bonding of the early stages, one or both of them may want a bit of time to themselves, or time apart as they go out with friends.
“If this isn’t discussed beforehand, one partner may feel ditched or jealous, or one of them could begin to feel suffocated and start building resentments.”
Megan Fleming, a New York City-based psychologist and sex therapist, said it’s not only important to talk about if you want kids, but also how you’ll raise them. “I see couples getting into power struggles a lot about raising kids ‘their way’ because they believe it’s the ‘right way’ with complete disregard for their partner’s preference and perspective,” she said.
“Having parents on the same team (knowing that it often takes work to get there) is imperative to the mental health and wellbeing of children.”
And finally, while a relationship might seem glorious in the engagement stage, it’s important to discuss how you’ll manage when challenges are thrown your way. “You both need to know that your partner will do whatever is necessary to deal with future obstacles in the relationship, be it physical, emotional, mental or financial,” said Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Arkansas.
“If the marriage falters, will you go to counselling with me and stick with it to work it out? We all need to know that our partner is action-oriented as opposed to being a person who sweeps things under the rug or just says, ‘This is me, deal with it.’”