4 Family-Planning Conversations to Have With Your Partner Before Becoming Parents
Relationships come with their fair share of hard-won milestones and tough conversations, but perhaps no moment is more life-altering than a couple's decision whether or not to have children. With birth options to weigh and numerous names to consider, it's a monumental choice that requires tremendous amount of foresight and constant conversations with your partner.
Certain pre-parenting discussions are essential to ensure you and your partner are on the same page, which is why we looked to Candice Cooper-Lovett, PhD, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, to determine the four most crucial conversations all couples should have. Before you begin fantasizing about a future nursery, read on.
1. Evaluate the foundation of your relationship
First and foremost, it’s crucial to make sure your relationship is on solid ground. If you find it hard to trust your partner, or if you’re having constant recurring arguments, try to sort those issues out before becoming parents. “Your level of commitment and trust in one another should be strong,” says Cooper-Lovett.
To build a strong foundation, make sure you’re learning how to air your grievances and talk through issues. This will help you both learn how to be more effective communicators. “It's important for partners to have healthy and effective communication with one another,” says Cooper-Lovett. “Children don’t make things worse, but they do shift things, so the relationship has to be strong.” Cooper-Lovett also stresses that having a child should not be the means of fixing a relationship. “If things are not strong in your union, adding to your family can make things worse,” she warns.
2. Understand your financial goals
Financial goals are constantly evolving, but once children come along, money often becomes the priority. “Consider the state of your finances and how having children will impact your income," says Cooper-Lovett, who also stresses the importance of creating a budget before baby. “While you can’t predict what [your budget] will be until your family has expanded, it's good to have a plan.” To prepare your bank account for the arrival of a new addition, create a budget, stick to it and consider where you should cut costs in your current living situation.
3. Identify your parenting styles
Even if your parenting style differs from that of your partner's, that doesn't mean you won't work as co-parents. However, it is helpful to know in advance how you'll both tackle issues like discipline and late-night feedings. “Couples need to discuss expectations for each another when it comes to responsibilities and child-rearing,” says Cooper-Lovett. “It’s helpful to consider the structure of day-to-day planning, [and how] your days will be different.”
4. Experience making your relationship a priority first
This point may seem like a no-brainer, but spending a considerable amount of alone time with your partner will help you appreciate your union before the arrival of a third party. "Couples should experience enjoying their relationship first and foremost, as children will take priority later on," says Cooper-Lovett of putting an emphasis on alone time and travel with your partner. "Oftentimes, the relationship takes a backseat and a person's satisfaction with their union can decline."
Now is also the opportune time to really get to know one another’s families—especially those family members who will play a large role in your future child's life. Consider planning a weekend getaway or week-long vacation with your in-laws, since travel is an easy way to strengthen family ties.