The period of courtship is probably the most exciting time in a couple’s relationship life. So much that it is easy to get drowned in the emotional high of preparing to walk down the aisle with the love of your life and the constant visuals of the both of you on your wedding day as Mr. and Mrs. Perfect!

Perfect, right? Certainly. However, this period should also be seen and treated as the most defining in the timeline of the rest of your lives together. While you plan towards the wedding including all the nitty-gritty details of it, it is also essential that you use this time to map-out the course of your married life. Remember that the ceremony is after all only a few hours, but the marriage is for a lifetime. Marriage is a lifetime journey and you shouldn’t embark on this journey without an itinerary.

One of the ways in which you can plan for the marriage is to talk about certain issues that will have a major bearing on your relationship once you jump the broom. Discuss openly and honestly about those issues, don’t leave anything to chance or embrace the thought that, “when we get to that bridge, we will cross it.” You need to lay all your cards out plainly on the table regarding these matters.

So what are these issues that should be squared-away before marriage? There are four important ones I have identified which should be talked about prior to saying “I do.”

Finances: Research has shown that finance is one of the main stressors in a marriage. A lot of marriages are strained because of money, and not necessarily the lack of it. The best time to have that money talk is before you walk down the aisle. This will help you better understand each other’s money culture. Ask each other the right questions in this regard. Questions like: Who will be the money manager in the family? Will we operate a joint account? To what extent will both of you be accountable to each other with your finances? Does your husband/wife need to inform you about every expense he/she makes? Be open and honest with each other about your financial principles, beliefs and expectations.‎

Children: Stories abound of couples that have had major disputes in their marriage in this regard – cases where people discovered after marriage that they hold totally opposing views about children, including parenting skills. It is therefore imperative that you use the courtship period to talk about your individual preferences for number of kids, the point in your marriage when you would like to start having kids and your ideas about parenting and discipline. It is of utmost importance to develop a parenting module that will include both parents, but this can’t be achieved if you don’t share your ideas on how you think your children should be raised with each other.

Extended Family: The in-law relationship generally can be a dicey one especially when a person comes from a close-knit family. This may just be the second major source of strife among married couples. For a lot of women in this part of the world, the relationship with the mother-in-law is often treaded with caution due to the notion that there’s her often interference in the marriage. I can’t overstate the importance of talking about this with your spouse-to-be; don’t be afraid to express any concerns you have with your fiancé.  You need to let each other know: Will you be comfortable having the other’s siblings or parents on long visits where they’d sleep over at your home? What kind of boundaries would you want to set (if any) between your spouse and your family? In the end however, both need to understand that once they’re married, their first obligation is to each other before any other family member. ‎

Life Plans/Goals: Marriage isn’t just the coming together of two individuals, with two different personalities and behavior patterns – it is the coming together of two purposes. It is my opinion that a marriage shouldn’t take away a person’s individuality in terms of their life’s purpose and destiny. A lot of people leave these areas under wraps until they find themselves fighting over decisions that the other isn’t comfortable with. It is very crucial to be open with your fiancé/fiancée about your life plans whether career, business or otherwise. What things are you planning to pursue? What areas can be compromised? What are you not willing to give-up? One thing to keep in mind is that your life’s purpose may not necessarily align with that of your spouse and it does not have to. You can thrive in your individual endeavors and still thrive as a couple – this should be the ultimate goal for every married couple. ‎

You both are likely to not see eye-to-eye on these matters but talking about them ahead of time will give insight into your future spouse’s ideologies which will in turn enable you to build some type of winning strategy for your marriage.

Of course a person may embrace new beliefs and ideals with new experiences but knowing what you’re up against beforehand, will help you learn how to build a marriage that actually works, without anyone having to lose their identity, core values or their purpose in the process.