5 Rules For a Happy, Balanced Marriage

As soon as you say 'I do,' everything becomes a 'we.' But does that mean there's no longer a 'me'? Discover what the best marriages are made of.

Rule #5: Hash It Out Now

It may not be terribly romantic to sit down and decide who'll be taking out the garbage or doing the dishes once you're married, but these conversations are best had now, says Kandi Walker, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at the University of Louisville, Kentucky.

Her advice: Draw up an "open contract" with your fiancé, in which you actually write down answers to questions such as: Who will do the grocery shopping and the cooking? Who will balance the checkbook? Whose parents will you visit on holidays?

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"The answers may change later on," she says, "but if partners differ greatly in their marital expectations before the wedding, there is a greater chance of conflict and disappointment down the road."

If you talk about nothing else, discuss money — it's the topic married couples fight about most. "I'm so used to my money being my money," says Sheri Daly, a research analyst in Weymouth, Massachusetts. "I like to shop, and it's frustrating sometimes when my husband objects. Our different spending styles are going to be the toughest part of our merger, but hopefully in time we can find a system that works for us both."

To help negotiate your differences, consider premarital counseling. Getting help does not mean there is something wrong with your relationship, says Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Long Beach, California, and co-author of How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free.

"In an effective premarital workshop, you will be encouraged to talk about the difficult matters every couple needs to settle beforehand, such as sex, religion and career issues, saving and spending money, and child-rearing philosophy and practice," she says. You'll also learn communication skills so that you can better settle differences of opinion when they arise. And they will arise.

All in all, the road to "We"-ville won't always be smooth, but learning how to navigate its obstacles in advance can be one of the most important things you do for your marriage. For this trip, you'll need patience, poise and lots of practice. So, hold on tight, you're about to take the ride of your life.



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