Spend time talking about these hot-button topics—well before you take the plunge.

Thinking you know your partner like the back of your hand and actually knowing your partner like the back of your hand are two very different things. A couple can be together, and in love, for years without ever broaching crucial topics like how much debt they have or whether or not they’d consider adopting kids in the event they can’t have them biologically.

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These hot-button issues aren’t always pleasant to talk about, but that’s part of what makes them so important: They’re real issues about real life. Getting married means promising to devote yourself to someone, to remain a loving team, no matter what life throws at you—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So before anyone puts a ring on anything, make sure you’ve engaged in sincere, constructive, and realistic conversations about these essential topics. And if that doesn’t sound very romantic to you, just think of how much more deeply you’ll get to know each other by sharing your take on these five intimate heart-to-hearts.

1. Money

Hi, hello, no one likes to talk about money or financial habits—but you have to. How much money do you both have saved? How are each of you at managing money? How do you like to spend money? Who will make more money—and is the other okay with that? How much debt do you really have? These are all questions to get into before saying “I do,” because once you’re married, your (singular) money becomes your (plural) money.

2. Kids

Whether or not you want children, and how many, might change as you change, but whatever your current take is, it’s critical to bring up the topic of a family now—not later. One of you might be content to have one or two kids way in the future. The other may expect to start a big family as soon as (or before) the honeymoon’s over. Beyond how many children you want to have and when, don’t avoid touchy subjects like what you’d both do in the event you’re not able to start a family biologically. Are you both up to invest in IVF or adoption, or would you be content not to have children? Again, the darker, uncomfortable questions like these are often the most important.

3. Religion

Faith is often (though not always) a cornerstone of a couple’s union. But religion will be an especially subject to broach if you two come from different religious backgrounds. You each have your own belief systems, familiar customs, and familial expectations. This can be an indisputably touchy subject, but you have to make sure you’re on the same page about building a life together, compromising, and raising a family within the context of your shared or respective faiths.

4. Career Goals

This topic can be approached more generally as The Future, and ties into everything from kids to money to where you want to live. Quiz each other on where you want to be personally in 1, 5, 30 years. Do you want to work until your body quits, or are you willing to sacrifice a full-time job to help raise a family? Have you always wanted to take an opportunity in another city? Are you willing to put certain ambitions on hold to accommodate your partner’s work changes and accomplishments? Think about it, talk about, and be 100 percent honest about it.

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5. Sex

If you’ve been together a while, you’re likely doing this part right—but it doesn’t hurt to talk about the future in terms of your sex life. Life gets busy, difficult, and stressful, and you won’t be in the honeymoon phase forever. You two need to know you’re on the same page. While it’s not impossible, people with vastly different libidos often don’t click forever, so acknowledge and understand each other’s sex-life expectations before you wind up sharing a bed ’til death do you part.