We may think that some things are better left unspoken. We may like to adhere to a policy of not making waves, or follow that old barroom adage: “no talking politics or religion.” We may avoid certain topics because they make us uncomfortable, and we may still avoid others because we know they make our spouse angry…
Unfortunately, though, some of these tough conversations are things we just have to talk about it. Once we get through the discomfort, our marriages will be better off in the long run.
While some topics might be off limits for casual acquaintances or coworkers, this is a marriage we’re talking about here! If you’re going to commit your life and heart to another person, if you’re going to share a home, finances, a bed, etc., you will likely want to know where your spouse stands on certain topics that affect you both. Your spouse isn’t just an acquaintance you can “agree to disagree” with, and go on your merry way. When you’re divided on serious topics, the disagreement will come up time and time again – until you make the effort to address it head on.
Here are 10 touchy subjects that all married couples should take the time to talk about, even if they make you uncomfortable:
In any relationship, there’s a risk of jealousy. It’s a part of human nature to feel possessive to some degree, and it’s equally natural to sometimes feel threatened.
This is much more that jealousy of other people, though. In a marriage, nearly anything that occupies time and attention can cause jealousy, from the kids to a job, from hobbies to spending time with friends and family.
Jealousy is a powerful emotion, and it can lead to all kinds of arguments, accusations, and trust issues. If you’re feeling jealous, speak up – and do your best to remain calm while you discuss it with your partner. Even sitting down to discuss previous experiences with jealousy, reaffirm your commitment to each other, and get a feel for how your partner might react in certain situations – all of this will help you avoid problems down the road.
Not everyone wants children – and even if you already have kids, not everyone agrees on how to raise them. There will always be room for differing opinions on what they should eat, what they should wear, when they should go to bed, how to discipline them, etc.
It’s important to understand, however, that we often feel so strongly about “what’s right” for the kids because we care about them so much! Even if you’re fighting with your spouse, you’re both coming from a place of the children’s best interest – you just might not agree on what that is.
If you have kids (or are thinking about having kids), sit down with your spouse and lay it all out on the table. Talk about your own individual experiences as children, with parents, and the kind of parents you hope to be. Talk about your principles and your ideas. The closer you can get to agreeing on parental styles and responsibilities, the less likely you are to run into disagreements later.
Money causes stress for just about everybody, and when you’re sharing finances with another person, it’s very easy for things to get tense. Couples might disagree on how money is being spent, have arguments about who’s bringing in more income, and even fight about very minor purchases – simply because money is already an ongoing issue in the relationship.
If you’re going to share finances, establish a family budget that you both agree on – and can both stick to. Discuss what expenses are the most important, and what’s just extra. Even if you have disagreements later, you’ll have a foundation – and a budget – to fall back on.
Time is the constant struggle. There are never enough hours in the day to take care of the chores and the kids, to make meals, to get to and from work, to finish projects, and to simply find time to spend with your spouse. The two of you can agree to ally against your common foe – time – and work together to be efficient and time-conscious, and not let the hours slip away (which will only make you more stressed and able to spend even less time together).
Just like your monetary budget, you can also agree on a time budget. Determine how to meet your needs, and then decide what to do with the rest. If you’re on the same page as your spouse, you’ll find a lot more time to do the things you enjoy!
While this is one of those “off limits with strangers” kind of topics, it’s absolutely essential to be clear about religious convictions with your spouse. Because it can have an impact on where/how you spend your time, the kinds of activities you are in to, where your money goes, the foods you eat, even the school your children go to, it simply has to be discussed in detail for any marriage to be successful.
Ideally, this is something you’ll know about each other long before you tie the knot, but if it isn’t, or beliefs are changing for either of you, make sure you include your spouse in this part of your life.
You don’t have to share the same beliefs to be a happy couple, but you do need to know where your spouse’s religious beliefs lie if you’re going to know them on a truly personal level.
Do you have an experience from your past that directly influences you now? It could be an old relationship, a bad experience with friends, something with your parents, etc. – and most of us have these kinds of hang-ups from some point in our lives. Being up front about this kind of stuff with your spouse, even if it takes a triggering situation for it to come up, let’s them know that there’s more at work than just their words or behavior. It’s also a reminder for yourself that your reactions or opinions are complex – and tied to your own unique experience.
If you can recognize these issues in yourself, and accept that your spouse will likely have some similar troubles, you can discuss things rationally – with your own personal history in the right context.
You should also understand and agree that people can grow and change – and not hold one another to an “old” version of themselves.
We all know that sex is an important part of marriage, but with so many other responsibilities (and drains on energy), it’s one of the first to be pushed aside. Having honest conversations about expectations, levels of satisfaction, and even about specifics that go on in the bedroom – all of this is healthy and will help make your love life more satisfying.
It might seem a little ironic to communicate about communication – but it’s an important topic nonetheless! It’s a bit self-fulfilling, but one of the best ways to make sure both of you are satisfied with your marriage’s level of communication is to, well, check in with each other about it.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re leaving room in your busy days for real, ongoing communication. This could mean meals away from the TV, sitting together over coffee in the morning, anything away from distractions that’s going to help you and your spouse stay in touch with one another. Even if it’s just chitchat, it’s an important part of maintaining the connection you share.
Like the religion topic mentioned above, political beliefs can be very divisive. Again, you and your spouse don’t have to share the same views, but being aware of where each other stands can likely save you from heated disagreements or “foot-in-mouth” moments.
These beliefs can influence so many other parts of our lives, and it’s important to know where our spouse’s opinions sit. Being able to predict what might push your spouse’s political buttons will help you avoid conflicts across the board.
This might be the most important discussion you can have you with your spouse – your overall priorities. This conversation is going to be different for every couple, but having common priorities – or at least being clear about each other’s individual priorities – will put so many of each other’s actions and attitudes in perspective.
Your joint priorities will determine how you spend your money, how you spend your time (together and separately), what your household is like, how you raise your kids… the list goes on and on. Your priorities practically define your reality!
You need to have this stuff laid out clearly so you and your spouse can have some direction and some common ground in your relationship. Even if your priorities change, talk about them! The more you know about what each other wants, the more you can help each other achieve those things!
These conversations might be tough, they might be awkward, and you just might have to have them more than once, but for the positive impact they will have on your marriage, it’s more than worth it!
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com