After all that is said and done on that glorious wedding day, the one thing that the two of you share, despite any differences you may have uncovered, is ‘The Future’. Now you have a partner to help you and be assisted by you; to guide you and to follow you; and to enhance your life while you enhance his or her life.
The Future is your blank road map, with some general highways and boundaries. It is up to the two of you to decide what are your side trips and destinations.
In our previous articles on “Conversations Before the Wedding”, we discussed the areas of “Marriage and Work” and “Home Responsibility”. Though these issues are ever-changing on your road map, they often are concerned with the rituals and immediacy of daily life. In this article we aim to engage you in conversations that relate to the future. These questions may seem far away and esoteric; however, the discussing them now and continuously ‘checking in’ will aid your decision-making, define your values and identify your needs.
There are fundamentally five key future subjects common to most couple’s experiences:
2. Family Traditions and Vacations
3. Elderly Parents
5. Illness and Death
Some of these subjects, such as ‘Children’ and ‘Family Traditions and Vacations’ may appear to be pressing issues, especially to couples who already have children from a previous marriage. Others, such as ‘Illness and Death’ not only seem morbid but unpleasant and obscure to a young healthy couple. However, it is the practice of engaging in these tough topics now, especially when they seem so remote, that will enable the two of you to feel more comfortable and secure in these future conversations. Keep in mind, illness and death does not discriminate, winning the lottery can happen, elderly parents often become dependent on assistance, holidays can get sticky especially when you have children and children are with you for a long time.
As with all these topics, each partner should answer these questions alone, thus without influence of others and able to seriously contemplating his or her own desires, thoughts and perceptions of the future. Then, with your notes in hand, come together in a serene, comfortable, and private place to discuss with one another your answers. Remember that this is a learning opportunity and a practice of discussing difficult subjects. The goal is to discover information about one another, find areas of common desire and opinion and to determine where, how, and what compromises you will need to make to get to your future destinations in life.
1. Do you want children? Do you know if you can physically have children? How many children did you envision having?
2. At what point in our marriage do you want to have children?
3. If one of us cannot physically have children, and one of us wants to have a family, what options would you consider?
4. If one of us does not want to have children, and one of us wants to have a family, what options would you consider?
5. Describe the first five years of raising a child? How are you involved? What do you believe is essential to the child’s first years? What is essential to our relationship in those first years?
6. Describe how you envision our roles as parents, income earners, household caretakers and a couple during those first five years of having a family?
7. What ideals do you have about child raising; in other words, what are your opinions on the following subjects regarding childraising?
◾Education: Primary, High School, College
◾Relationships: Behavior, Manners, Communication, Philosophy
◾Friends: Who, How, What, When, Where
◾Drugs & Sex
◾Freedoms: Driving, Socializing, Choices, Music, Clothes, Moving Away
◾Authority: How is it divided – or is it? What, how, etc. is the Role Model
◾Politics & Community
◾Family: Cousins, Grandparents, etc
◾Responsibilities: Home, School, Community, Pets, etc
◾Television, Movies and Art
Family Traditions and Vacations
1. What are the family traditions that you want to maintain?
2. What family traditions are you opposed to?
3. Are there any traditions that you would like to establish that you aren’t practicing now?
4. If I do not want to participate in one or more of your family traditions, what issues does that create and how will we deal with my absence?
5. If one of us does not want our child(ren) to participate in a family tradition, what issues does that create and how will we deal with it?
6. Describe what you envision vacations to be?
7. Do vacations include the children? All the time?
8. Do we always vacation as a couple?
9. If we have different ideas about vacationing, what are the alternatives, solutions or compromises?
10. How often and how much do we budget for vacations?
1. What are your values around caring for your parents when they need care?
2. What plans do have about moving further or closer to your parents?
3. Are there any other siblings available for helping with your parents?
4. How often do you want to see your parents? On what occasions?
5. If one parent dies, leaving behind his or her partner, what is your position on the care of the surviving parent.
6. If one parent or both become ill and require medical or personal attention, what arrangements do you want to make concerning their illness?
7. What is your idea of alternative care?
8. Who in your family is the decision maker or most responsible for your parents and their situation once they are too frail and dependent?
9. What are your feelings about having a parent living with us and needing our assistance?
1. What are your thoughts about retirement?
2. At what age do you think you would like to retire?
3. Where would you like to live upon retirement?
4. What would you do and how would deal with the possibility that retirement is not financially possible?
5. How are planning on making your retirement plans possible?
6. When do you believe we should begin to financially plan for our retirement?
7. What considerations have you made about the days when one or both of us cannot drive or care for ourselves or one another.
Illness and Death
1. What are your experiences with the death of a close family member or friend? How did that make you feel about your death?
2. Have you thought about what provisions you will leave upon your death?
3. What are your feelings about life insurance? When and how much insurance are part of your considerations?
4. Do you have a will? If not, when should each of us plan to make one?
5. What plans have you made or thoughts do you have on your death and the arrangements that follow?
6. In the case of terminal illness what considerations do you want taken on your account?
7. In the case of a life support scenario in a hospital what considerations do you want taken on your account?
8. What burial arrangements do you want?
9. If one of us dies while our children are young what considerations do you want to be taken into account?
10. How do feel about remarriage after one of us dies?