5 Conversations To Have With Your Partner (if you haven’t done it yet..)

Love is in the air! Or rather, it seems like it. Since last year especially, a lot of my friends have gotten married (or are in the process of getting married) and I was not excluded from this wave. Not at all. The biggest blow for me was seeing my bestest online buddy get married – Emily – and I’ve known her since I was… 13? 14?

It’s so awesome.

Now I’m seeing my friends’ babies on my newsfeed, and quite a number, like me, are counting down our own D-days.

For me, I can’t believe that I’ll be celebrating my one-year anniversary with my husband a month from now. I mean, a year. Imagine that! Time flew by, but life has definitely thrown its share of lemons to me this year. And while it had been a very challenging year in my life, I’m truly grateful to have my husband by my side supporting me through everything.

So what has happened this year, so far? I graduated, firstly, from my Masters. Then declined a few job offers to help a friend’s business, which turned out very very wrong and I received nothing from the three months I was there – looking back, the three months actually made me feel like a fool. Suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness) for a month which eventually led me to become hospitalised for three days. Then, just pregnant and relying only on side-income, I had to job-hunt, and alhamdulillah managed to secure a job against the odds during pregnancy after being shot down so many times. 

Difficult? Yes. But I had a wonderful support system.

Some people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. To me, I believe it is the best year so far, even though it has been my most challenging year. And I think a major reason why I find the first year to be the best – despite the lemons thrown at me – is because of the things we talked about together right off the bat. There were no surprises, no secrets kept between us, and so when things were happening, my husband knew how to support me.

Both as a family counsellor and a wife, here are five things I believe every couple should talk about as soon as they get married (or even before they decide to get married) so that when real-life challenges come, you know you have that support system you can always rely on.

1) Debt and finances. Be clear how much you have, how much you’re earning, and how much the expenses are. This is so, so, SO important. When I joined my friend’s business, I was told I’d earn so-and-so amount of salary, and from there my husband and I had already planned our finances. We knew what debts to pay, our expenses, our income, and how much we wanted to save. But when I received nothing in terms of income, this is where this topic is challenged, and immediately we needed to revisit the topic. Be clear. Don’t beat around the bush and be secretive about finances. Too many couples are separating because of financial issues that they refuse to resolve together.

2) Split house chores. You may laugh, but this is again a common complaint, especially with new wives. So much so that I’ve read in a study before that typically, a woman especially has to do double the housework when she’s married than what she needed to do when she’s single. This needs to be discussed soooo early in the marriage. Don’t keep quiet about it for three, five years and suddenly burst out that the husband doesn’t help out. Talk about it, and split the chores. My husband does the laundry. I fold them. I cook. He does the dishes. I keep everything organised. He vaccuums the house.

3) Set boundaries. I love going out with my friends, but he asks me to be home before dusk. He loves watching football, so I ask him to come home before midnight. Sometimes he has night programs to conduct at his college. Sometimes I stay up proofreading documents. Whatever it is, discuss and talk about if there are boundaries that needs to be set and followed. You’re not single anymore. You’re a married couple. And for a unit to work together, there must be an element of give and take, and negotiation.

4) How to fight fair. All couples will disagree on some things sooner or later, and sometimes this can turn into a fight. Talk about how to fight and what is a definite red line that both of you cannot cross. No shouting. No physical violence. No storming out of the house, unreachable by phone. There must be rules on how to fight, so fight fair and make sure you never sleep on a fight.

5) How to show love. This is my favourite topic. According to Gary Chapman’s ‘Five Love Languages’ there are five ways we show and receive love: gifts, quality time, acts of service, physical touch and words of affirmation. My husband and I actually took the test to find out our love languages, and we talk about how to show our love, or what actions were done that made us feel loved. Don’t assume that because you need quality time to feel loved, that your partner needs the same. He might need something else to feel loved, so talk about it, find out, and do more of it.

Among the reasons why some people say the first year of marriage is the hardest, is due firstly to the unrealistic expectations they had when they came into the marriage. They expected their partners to be a certain person, and they expected their lives wouldn’t need to change a certain degree also.

When I did counselling, the couples who often came asking for divorce always have the “me me me!” idea in their heads. He didn’t do this. She didn’t do that. He was supposed to do this. She wasn’t supposed to do that. They forget that marriage is actually teamwork. You’re a team, and in a team, it’s the concept of ‘we’, not ‘me’.

This year was the most challenging year of my life so far. But it has also been the best so far. Because I have my teammate, my husband. So when something bad happens to me, it also affected him. There’s no concept of ‘This is my problem’ or ‘This is your problem’.

I’m sure there will be many, many more challenges to come. But insyaAllah, I hope we’ll always be prepared. And I hope all my friends will enjoy their marriages, and live the best lives, despite all the challenges of life they may face, now and in the future.

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