4 Harsh Conversations You Should Have Before Getting Married
Everyone seems to have a pretty good idea of what marriage is like right up until the honeymoon anesthesia wears off and they can start to feel life's groin shots again. Sometimes that takes a few years -- sometimes it happens right out of the gates. But it eventually does happen, and how you handle it can drastically alter the direction of your life.
The bad news is that there is no way to avoid these situations. The good news, though, is that you can at least prepare for them to make the blows a little easier to take -- like an MMA fighter punching himself in the face before the bout. Or a soldier shooting himself in the leg before a war. I don't know much about the military; I'm doing some assuming there. You get what I'm saying though, right? The bullet in the case of marriage is a simple conversation, but almost no one does it because it's extremely hard to have. But if you can summon the balls, you're going to have an extraordinary advantage over life's bullshit if you can talk about things like ...
Exposing Your Ugly Past
There's a problem with relationships that I'm not sure any amount of evolution can ever surmount, and that's the abrupt end of the impression stage. There's nothing wrong with that stage -- it's natural. Hell, most of us aren't even aware that we're doing it because it doesn't happen as a conscious choice. We just know that the person we're trying to get (and keep) likes X, so we do lots of X. Money, sex, appearance, romance, dates, grave robbing. Whatever they're into.
The abrupt change happens when we get comfortable in the fact that the other person isn't going anywhere. And that change isn't us becoming worse people ... it's us becoming our normal selves again. The other person just isn't used to that because they've only known the "impression stage" you. Here's the problem: Making impressions isn't just about you doing things; it's also about you covering up the terrible parts of yourself. And all too often, that impression stage doesn't end until you're bound by law and vows. The end result is that your partner doesn't get to know the real you until after you're married.
"What? I thought I told you about my hobbies."
In the early stages of your relationship, it's probably best that they not see all the nasty brown streaks in the tighty whiteys of your past. But let's be realistic here -- at some point, you need to divulge some information that's not exactly easy to talk about. It's not fair for your spouse to find out that you have a legitimately crazy ex when they confront them at 3 a.m., standing at the foot of your bed, holding a knife and half of your dog. They can't find out about your past addictions from a current relapse.
It's hard. I know that. But it's necessary, because not all of those demons stay buried, and eventually one of them is going to catch up with you and try to make you eat devil poop. As surprised as you'll be to see it, your spouse will be absolutely fucking blindsided by it. "Wait, you promised our firstborn child to the MAFIA?! No, it doesn't matter that it was before you met me or that you were just young and stupid! This is information I needed to have before we conceived a child!"
"Women. Am I right?"
Thankfully, not all of us have horror stories to tell, but it's still an issue that can easily be overlooked because it's boring and clinical. "We have a history of cancer and heart disease in my family. I have a common, mild case of herpes. My case of broccoli farts are extremely severe, though, so don't ever make that." These things seem unimportant and kind of gross up front, but you don't really want to find out about them the hard way.
Related: Why Your City Looks Ugly AF
Figuring Out What to Tell the Kids About Subjects You Bitterly Disagree On
Debate is a good way to keep some spice in a relationship. Let's face it, if you find someone who agrees with every single thought that ever passes through your skull, not only can it get boring pretty quickly, it will be just flat out weird. I wouldn't want to date a boob version of myself. On some levels, it's nothing: My wife loves Arrested Development -- I don't. I love StarCraft II -- she'd rather shout offensive slurs at Candy Crush Saga.
Where it gets sticky is when there are fundamental beliefs at stake. Differing political, religious, or financial views can be absolute deal breakers if not approached with ninja precision. Over time, situations will absolutely present themselves that require both of you to make a joint decision, and that decision will infringe upon one of your sets of core values. Especially if you have children.
"That's right, Jimmy, one day you'll be tasked with destroying it all."
One of you is an atheist, and the other is a Baptist. The atheist is totally fine with the baptism because, eh, what can it hurt? It's just a little water, right? But a few years later, you find yourself in a volcanic blowout about whether to send the kid to a Christian school or a secular one. Later, the kid is learning about government, and the parents are telling him completely conflicting lessons, like dirty recruiters trying to sweet talk him into joining their team. Years after that, one of you is ready to split up for good because the other is insisting that professional wrestling is fake, and that Stone Cold Steve Austin was a pussy.
If you're not prepared for it, it will shove a splitting maul up your relationship's ass in a heartbeat. But more importantly, it'll confuse the living shit out of your children. If you talk about it at great length before you commit to marriage, you can at least set some basic terms for when those situations do pop up. Rules of engagement like "On opinion type stuff, we can talk to our kids separately, without the other parent present, so we don't debate about what we're teaching them. That way they get both sets of values and can decide on their own what to believe." And compromises on the hard stuff: "Let's put them in a secular school for basic education, and I'll agree to take them to church so they can learn your spiritual stuff."
"... and the darkness shall swallow us whole ..."
It's not as easy as that, but it's a start. And it's definitely a fuck-ton easier than just winging it when it becomes a real world ordeal out of the blue.
Planning for Death
I'm not talking about having a will. Let's just get that out of the way right off, because even though it's a smart move, we've all heard it before -- I won't bore you with that. What I'm referring to is more about basic survival.
One day out of nowhere, you get the call you never wanted to hear. Your wife's bear-fighting class has ended in tragedy, and now your team is a player short in the game of Life Rugby ... sorry, I'm running out of metaphors. I'm just saying that your wife is dead -- you get the damn idea. What now? Can you take over her role that she filled when she was alive? Can you play both the right wing and the ... rugby ... polisher? Goddammit, I'm American; why didn't I use football? Too late now, I'm not changing it. The point is, she did a lot of things for the family that you did not, and now you not only have to start doing that, but you have to maintain what you already did yourself.
"This is our new home. It's much easier to maintain."
So before you go into a marriage, you both have to ask yourselves things like: Can you both cook? Not just frozen heart-clogging bullshit that you throw into the oven on the fly, but actual meals. Can you both operate a washing machine? Do you both know how to pay the bills? Which ones are auto-deducted from your bank account and which ones do you need to physically mail out a check for? If you have to change that, do you both know who to call and how to do it? Do you both know how to grocery shop? What foods only last a few days and which ones can sit in a cabinet for a month without going bad?
It's going to be bad enough if it's just you that she leaves behind, but if you have kids, it is going to be absolutely vital that you know all of this stuff. Not only is it necessary to keep them all alive and healthy, but everything they learn about being an adult is now placed solely on your shoulders. Not to mention a million other things you won't think of until it happens, like does she have relatives who you just straight out hate? If they're not posing harm to your kids, you can't just cut them out of their lives. They're related, and they have a right to see each other. Whether you like it or not, you have a duty to make sure that happens.
"You ready to go see your whore of a grandmother?"
So keeping all of that in mind, why didn't I use the word "divorced" instead of "dead"? They're going to be somewhat similar experiences, right? One of you is going to be left with the primary custody of the kids and be chopped down to a single-parent household. Well, mainly it's because virtually no one will ever, ever, ever discuss the possibility of divorce with a potential spouse. It's beyond taboo. "You think we're going to get divorced?! Well why even bother marrying me? If you think our love won't last forever, then there's no need to plan for something like that!"
Death is inevitable. It's absolute. And if you can prepare for that, you're prepared for just about anything.
Preparing for Awkward Discussions Before They Happen
Let's face it: In 10 years, you are not going to look, act, or think the same as you do right now. And it will sound obvious to the point of being insulting, but I'm saying it anyway because it seems to me like no one really understands this: neither will your spouse.
Let's take weight gain for an example, because it's extremely likely that you're going to have to deal with it in one form or another. It's common because we're human, and humans typically gain weight with age, right? Well, what happens if that weight gain happens so dramatically that it changes the shape of your face? Will it turn your wife off? Will it not affect her at all? What if it made your gut protrude and your ass jut way out like Elvis in his final years? If she gains 60 pounds, will it affect you sexually? I don't mean that in a shallow, materialistic way. You can't reprogram your sexual preferences, and we're not talking about love -- we're talking about pure, primal visual attraction.
"No, honey, I love you, but remember, you're going to be on top of me from time to time."
Nobody likes to talk about that because it's rude. If you say that something like that would negatively affect you in a sexual sense, people look at you like you're a piece of shit. How dare you think that? But the reality is that, yes, it can actually become a problem, even with kind, logical, compassionate human beings.
It's an offensive conversation to have. There's no way around that fact. What kind of self-centered prick can look at another person and say, "You're fat, and it turns me off"? But that's why it's important to talk about it before it becomes an issue.
The beauty of doing it early in the relationship is that you're both most likely still in pretty much the same shape, size, and frame of mind as when you first met. Or at least you haven't changed so much that it's turned you into someone else. And since you both don't have the problem you're discussing, there's nothing to take offense to. Take it a step further by putting the heat onto yourself, and suddenly it's a topic that doesn't become an emotional catastrophe.
"Personally, I prefer the more direct route. Just burst into the room and start throwing pies at me."
"If I ever change to the point where it affects you emotionally or sexually or even makes you worried about my health, here's how I'd want you to approach it." Letting them know that, yeah, it sucks for someone to call attention to your flaws, but there are ways to go about it that will hurt your feelings the least. Not just about weight, but anything that's changeable: they've let their hygiene go, they've become bossy or preachy, they've stopped helping with chores, they've been ignoring you, they've taken up snake juggling.
It's hard. All of this is -- I won't deny that. All I'm saying is that if you tackle this shit early, it'll be a whole lot less difficult. Consider it an emotional disaster kit.