Marriage talk isn't just about when you should apply for a Build-to-Order (BTO) flat or whether a destination wedding makes sense. You're going to want to discuss the intimate and awkward stuff too. Let's face it, it's better to be surprised now than years after you tie the knot.
1. How does he spend his money?
Why: Talking about money is always a delicate issue - we get it. But you need to know how much he earns, how much he saves, and what he's spending on, says family life specialist Judith Alagirisamy of Focus on the Family Singapore. Money, she adds, can become a major sticking point, since his habits directly impact your joint household income.
Although you're not expected to completely merge your finances, Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre (EMCC) principal counsellor Diana Chandra says that you should discuss how to split the household bills and whether you want a joint account. And if you do, how much does each person contribute? Find figures that work for both of you. Be upfront about what you have and want - it shows you trust each other. EMCC runs its Marriage Preparation Programme and Seven Principles Programme for couples, on top of providing mediation and counselling services.
What to do about it: Get a better grasp of his attitude towards money with simple and light-hearted questions, says Judith. Ask him how he would spend a million dollars, or what's the one thing he can buy that would make him happy. It'll give you an insight into what he prioritises. Even if you're not on the same page, acknowledging your different views about money and setting shared goals will mean less friction later.
2. Is he sufficiently covered for medical emergencies?
Why: Does he have a family history of diabetes? Has he ever had a heart attack? Look at health factors that might have long-term effects on your relationship. It's wise to find out how prepared he is for the future so you can plan ahead and ensure you have financial security, says Relationship Matters director Jean Shashi.
What to do about it: If he already has a medical condition, does he have enough resources to manage in the years ahead? Get a financial planner to look at options - like whether he needs life insurance in case he's unable to work later.
Even if you're both healthy, talk about what sufficient health coverage means to you. He may not see the point of paying extra for what might not happen. If you can't reach reach a compromise, ask yourself if you can live with the potential outcome of his decision. If not, you'll need to re-evaluate the relationship.
3. What kind of relationship does he have with his family?
Why: Be prepared that his parents might expect him to care for them down the line - which will have a direct impact on you, says Diana. Then there's the question of how much financial support you have to give your parents and his, and whether this comes out of a joint account or your own pockets. Don't let this issue lie. Diana says it can breed conflict and distrust, especially when you feel blindsided by each other's expectations.
What to do about it: Talk about options, says Diana. Find out what level of support is comfortable for both of you. If ties between you and your in-laws are strained, discuss whether it's feasible to get them an apartment nearby rather than have them move in. Things might change over time, but it's more important to set the boundaries first.
4. Are kids non-negotiable?
Why: Don't downplay what you want - it could breed frustration and resentment in the future.
What to do about it: How fixed are your decisions? "Your choices might not be the same a year from now," says Diana, adding that you both need to know if you're open to discussing this at a later time.
Also, talk about how you both feel about options like adoption, but don't force a viewpoint on your partner, says Jean. For example, if you know someone who has adopted a child, open with "A friend of mine adopted a kid - it's challenging, but she seems to be doing well", before progressing to "What if we're unable to have children? Would you be open to adopting?".
5. How does he handle conflict?
Why: "Knowing how he handles conflict ensures that you avoid misunderstandings when he acts out of character during arguments," says Focus on the Family Singapore principal psychotherapist Larry Lai. You'll also be better placed to de-escalate the tension.
What to do about it: Is he the sort to talk it out, does he retreat when confronted, or is he quick to anger? If it's the latter, it hints at an unhealthy response to stress and disagreements, says Judith, adding that you could encourage him to get professional help to manage his emotions.
6. How often does he expect to have sex?
Why: "A lot of couples don't talk enough about sex because they're embarrassed," says Diana. They shouldn't be. Sex and intimacy are closely intertwined, and if needs aren't met, the relationship suffers, she adds.
What to do about it: If you're not feeling the love, the only way to fix it is to be upfront and honest about what you need, says Diana.
7. What boundaries should he draw with other women?
Why: Can he do dinner and a movie with his close female friend - without you? Letting him know your threshold early on helps him toe the line, and protects your marriage from physical or emotional infidelity.
What to do about it: Ask him whether he's cool telling you about what he shares with his female friends, and if they know stuff you don't, says Judith. If it's too close for comfort, he can pull back. But it'll also give you a clearer perspective of these friendships so you won't worry as much.
This story was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Her World.