There are certain expectations that come with getting engaged; mainly that 1) you'll get married and 2) you'll live happily ever after.
But while it's wonderful to get swept up in romance, getting engaged can make you overlook important relationship issues, such as finances or family planning, which should be addressed before you or your partner pop the question.
"Everyone wants a relationship that feels happy and fulfilling, but are they willing to work at creating that?" relationship expert and "Canada's Dating Coach" Chantal Heide said to HuffPost Canada in an email.
Heide said couples need to practice honest communication before getting engaged so they can rid themselves of any unrealistic expectations of marriage.
"Expectations are the biggest relationship killer because what they ultimately boil down to is a story created inside our own heads," Heide explained. "When those stories don't play out the way we've envisioned them we become upset, blaming our partners for the level of disappointment we experience."
In Canada, about one in five people in their late fifties were divorced or separated in 2011, and in the 20 years prior, approximately five million Canadians separated or divorced, according to the 2011 General Social Survey on Families. While the survey did not elaborate on why couples split, The Canadian Encyclopedia suggests that there are many factors, including more women entering the workforce, society's focus on individuality, and fewer people associating religion with marriage.
"All of these factors suggest that an increased divorce rate may be an indication that expectations about the quality of marriage have risen and that many people prefer a divorce to an unhappy marriage," The Canadian Encyclopedia noted.
So how do you start a conversation about expectations with your partner? Here, Heide offers three questions to ask before you pop the question.
1. "Are you willing to show me your financial situation? I need to know if our money management styles match up in order to understand if we'll be able to achieve our collective goals."
Considering money is the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a 2015 study, you should know your partner's financial standing before you say "I do." And if you have big long-term goals, such as becoming a homeowner or starting a family, talking about finances can be particularly important.
"Finding out too late your partner is overloaded in debt can throw a wrench in your own goals," Heide said. "You want to know before tying the knot what financial obstacles may stand in your way and deal with those before getting married."
2. "What would our collective plan be if something unexpected happens, like loss of a job or a health crisis? I need to know how we'd work together to face challenges that can create drastic changes to our lifestyles and goals."
"Never assume you know your partner's stress thresholds until you ask a question that directly challenges their view of how the future will work out," Heide warned. "Unexpected things will happen, and asking your partner how they think they'll face those challenges gives important insight into their levels of patience and understanding."
The relationship expert added that knowing their reactions in tense life situations can help you realize their true character.
For instance, "you might realize that your partner has an 'every man for themselves' mentality, and has zero tolerance for taking on extra burdens should something happen to their significant other," Heide said.
3. "Do you expect anything to change once we get married? How do you see us dividing finances and household chores? How do you envision raising our kids in terms of discipline?"
It might seem tedious, but these are all important points to take note of, especially if you've never lived with your partner and have not yet had a chance to discuss these topics.
"Some people have different value sets depending on where they are in a relationship. You might find that someone who insisted on paying for everything from the get-go has an expectation that finances will be split down the middle once you're married, while also assuming household chores won't," Heide said.
"These are things that should be negotiated before an engagement takes place so fights over unexpected differences in values don't happen down the road."
Heide said having open communication with your partner will not only better prepare you for marriage, but will show your partner that you're serious about moving the relationship forward.
"Asking questions like this shows our partner we're serious about the future and how we'll handle it together, and gives us an opportunity to negotiate complex issues before they actually become problems," she said. "It helps you find your deal breakers before they become devastating, and opens the dialogue about your individual set of problem-solving skills well ahead of time."
"Honest communication comes from a place of self-responsibility," Heide added, "because to get what you want you need to model the behaviours you're looking for."
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