It’s (almost) never too late to sit down and talk about your marriage, but it’s best to agree upon some guidelines before you tie the knot.
It may be old-fashioned, but having a third party such as a clergy member give you premarital counseling, can help. (See Seven Old Fashioned Ideas That Can Make Marriage Last).
Whether you are seeing a counselor or talking about your future together alone, here are a few insights into loyalty and betrayal you might want to discuss before you head down the aisle.
1. Don’t assume you both have the same values and beliefs about marital loyalty and what constitutes betrayal. If you and your spouse have had different upbringings and backgrounds, it’s even more important to talk openly about the topic. If you don’t have a set of ethno-cultural or religious guidelines that you both believe in, try and create a general list of guidelines—together.
2. Is complaining about your spouse to a parent or parent-in-law kosher? Bringing your mom or dad, or your spouse’s, into an argument, is usually not a great idea if you want to keep a marriage unified. (There are exceptions to every rule—if your spouse is abusive, or harmful to himself or others, everyone may need to be involved.)
This doesn’t mean you can’t ask your parent for advice on some matters, but knowing where to draw the line can be a bit iffy and worth talking about ahead of time. Of course, in some family cultures, nearly everything is discussed with nearly everyone in the family. This works fine only if both you and your spouse are comfortable with this and agree to live this way.
3. Complaining about your spouse to a friend or colleague can hurt. How would you feel if your spouse complained about you? While it’s true that sometimes we all need to vent or to talk things out, it’s important that we do so with the right person. If you have a problem with your spouse that you two can’t solve on your own, you might want to plan on getting help from someone with some measure of expertise and confidentiality, such as a counselor, coach, or clergy member. (Or at least look for a self-help book on the topic.) By protecting your spouse’s privacy you protect your own.
Remember: This does not apply to an abusive situation. When dealing with an addiction, violence, or emotional abuse, confiding in someone right away, even a friend, is necessary. You are not violating a premarital agreement or rule if someone is getting hurt and you tell a third party.
4. Revealing personal information about your spouse to a friend or acquaintance, even if you’re not complaining, might be a betrayal. But revealing information about your spouse that your spouse might be uncomfortable with is a form of betrayal. Period. (Again, unless it fulfills the requirements of the abuse/addiction/harm caveat.)
5. Our tradition teaches that your other half, your best friend, your soul mate is your spouse. We’re taught that other relationships are vital to having a well-rounded life, but still, your spouse is most important person in your life. When both partners in an emotionally healthy marriage put each other and the marriage first (above friendship, workmates, even family-of-origin), they’ll likely find that though other relationships may not be as intimate as they perhaps could be, they’ll gain in durability and respect.