Until death do us part is a really long time to love and cherish a person, no matter the circumstances. I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but everyone means their vows when they recite them at their wedding.

Still, as the years pass and life happens, many couples find their marriages in trouble. Despite their intentions, many married couples find themselves drifting apart. The romance is still there, they still have fun together but, when it comes to living life, they’re headed in different directions.

Sometimes this happens because of circumstances, but other times the reason is far more simple. Two people headed in different directions, with different expectations got married without talking about the things that really matter to them.

If you want to live with your spouse until death separates you, you need to be headed in the same direction when it comes to the most important aspects of life. Marriage is hard enough when you agree on things. Disagreeing on the essentials will jam a wedge between you and your spouse.

Below are five conversations you must have if you want to stay married:

Establish Boundaries.

Your spouse isn’t your life-long roommate. Your spouse is your spouse. Your life has fundamentally changed. That means you have to change the way you live your life. This means you may have to make sacrifices of your personal freedom for the sake of your marriage.

Every healthy marriage has boundaries. Whether it’s stated or not, every normal marriage has some boundary in regards to relationships with the opposite sex. The question isn’t whether you do or don’t have boundaries; the question is where you put your boundaries and whether you’re going to talk about them on the front end.

You save an enormous amount of frustration for both of you if you have a series of honest conversations where you agree on your marriages boundaries.

I highly recommend establishing boundaries away from actual trouble. Be willing to sacrifice freedom to preserve your marriage.

Where do you draw the line in regards to relationships and interactions with the opposite sex?

My wife and I never spend time alone with the opposite sex. I don’t ride in cars alone with girls I’m not related to. I don’t have lunch appointments with women. I just don’t do it.

How much money can you spend without talking with the other person?

What are your rules of engagement when you get into a fight?

I highly recommend you clearly define a set of rules for when you get mad at each other. You’re going to disagree in a major way. Set ground rules for how to do so without damaging your relationship.

Talk About Money.

One of the top causes of divorce in North America is money fights and money problems. The sooner you get on the same page with money, the more likely you are to able to dodge the bullet that is fighting about money.

Do you regularly carry debt?
Do you have a budget?
Are you going to combine finances? And what do you mean by combining finances?
What is your plan for retirement?

You need to know each other’s financial history, and you need to be on the same page.

Discuss Your Faith in Depth.

I can’t imagine a marriage where you disagree on what you believe about why we exist and the basis for morality.

My faith informs how I act as a husband and father.

My faith informs my entire moral code and purpose in life.

I honestly can’t fathom how difficult it would be to sort through the important decisions in life if we didn’t agree on our foundation. If you met your partner at church, this is probably a fairly easy conversation. If you met in a different context, this might be a much more difficult conversation.

What do you believe? What is your faith/religion?
Where will you go to church?
When it comes to your faith, what is most important to you?
How do you intend to raise your children in the faith?

Address What Life Looks Like with Your Potential In-Laws.

As a purely anecdotal observation, it seems—in most marriages—one person is really close to their family, and the other person prefers a bit more distance. Distance doesn’t necessarily mean drama, but it means they don’t feel as urgent of a need to spend time with their family or talk with them.

I see my mother and sister at least once per month, sometimes more, but I have fairly limited communication with my extended family. There’s no drama. We just don’t see each other very often.

My wife talks to her mom on the phone almost daily. She goes to her parents’ house bi-weekly and her extended family comes to town about once every two months. After almost eight years of marriage, we still have regular conversations about how much time we should spend with the in-laws and extended family.

You need to know what each person is expecting, and have a good idea of how well each of you get along with the other person’s family.

How much time do you expect to spend with your family?
How do you expect to spend time with your extended family?
How much does your family mingle in your business?
How well do each of you get along with the other person’s family?

Bring Up Kids.

If you’re on the same page, kids are an amazing blessing which will pull you together.

If you’re not on the same page, kids can create massive wedge between the two of you.

Imagine you’re married and your first child is getting to the age where you need a discipline plan. You were raised to believe “Spare the rod, spoil the child” and your spouse was raised to believe that spanking is borderline child abuse.

Suddenly, several years into marriage, you realize that your spouse thinks you want to abuse your child, and you think your spouse doesn’t want to discipline your child. That’s a big problem, and this is just one of the countless examples of where being on separate pages causes problems.

How many kids do you want?
How will you discipline your children?
How much technology will you allow them to use?
Will you try to pay for their college, or take out loans?

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