Royal or not—do you and your S.O. have a real shot at marital happiness?

If there’s one couple the world can’t get enough of right now, it’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. As they embarked on a weeks-long vacation in Africa this past August, everyone sat by, eagerly expecting an engagement to happen. Alas, while plausible rumors have said the moment did occur, nothing has been announced or confirmed officially.

What did happen, however, was Markle meeting the queen in early September. Prince Harry, as a member of the royal family, is not allowed to marry anyone without the queen’s blessing. So, yeah, no pressure, Meghan!

All this speculation as to what’s happening between the duo is cause for a very important conversation. Or rather, conversations. When a relationship is headed toward engagement (much less marriage), there are some key discussions that need to be had beforehand. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of “The Web”podcast, told us: “Engagement is like a drug. It takes you on a blissful trip where you become temporarily oblivious to the realities of life and marriage. Your mind is occupied with the anticipation of being together forever.” But engagement, he says, is not really the best time to have the “big talks” every relationship needs. “The engagement signals to the world (whether it is true or not) that the couple has already come together on these issues.”

You and your S.O. might not have Granny’s stamp of approval to fret over, but you do have a few things to sort out before even thinking about the big day. “Have the conversations early,” Klapow says. “Don’t have them all at once, but gather information along the way.”

Here’s what Klapow says you need to know before your guy gets down on one knee.

01. Family

Ideally you will have met one another's family at least once or twice before getting engaged, but conversations about family should dive much deeper than these limited experiences. Klapow encourages us to ask questions about what family means to us and what family life might look like in the future. "What are each individual's thoughts about family, the role of family, and extended family and how do they see that fitting into their lives down the road," are just a few questions Klapow suggests to get the conversation started. Mismatched expectations about the kind of influence your parents will play in your marriage, how to spend quality time as a family, and where to spend the holidays can be a big source of conflict in marriage and even a deal breaker for some. So it's important to discuss before you commit to an engagement.

02. Speaking of Family—Kids!

Many dating couples just assume their partner is on the same page about children or that they will change their mind once they are married. But one of the biggest sources of conflict in marriage is mismatched assumptions, especially when it comes to something as important as your feelings about children in marriage. "Yes? No? How many?" are three questions we should ask to help get the conversation started, according to Klapow. But don't stop there. Differences on how you would like to raise your children can also be a tension point. You might not resolve it all before you say "I Do", but at least you got a head start and can rule out any issues that could be deal breakers. 

03. Religion and Other Strong Convictions

Finding a partner who shares your religion and values can be helpful for your future happiness, but it's not the most important thing. A couple may both go to the same church and even vote the same way, but could have a very different idea of how faith influences their day to day life. Klapow suggests asking, "How will religion play out in the marriage? How will the kids engage in religion?" These questions will help get to the heart of each of your expectations for married life as it pertains to faith and values. 

04. Intimacy

Perhaps the most essential feature of a happy marriage is healthy intimacy, which can be learned, but if you're considering engagement you should both have a healthy sense of intimacy and know how to foster it long term. The best way to foster intimacy is to ask one another questions. Klapow suggests asking questions like what do you fear? What do you need from a spouse? These questions can both equip you with skills to build intimacy and also uncover any red flags that might signal your partner might not be someone who will be a good partner over the long haul. 

05. Career

Right now you might not be able to imagine leaving your career to be a stay at home mom, or maybe you have always imagined you would be a full-time mom, or maybe working part-time while also raising your children is your ultimate career goal. Whatever you imagine, now is the time to share these dreams with your partner. Klapow shares two key questions to get this conversation started: "What do you want? What are you willing to compromise on?" Sure, your plans for your career might not always be the same, but at least you and your future husband will have explored all of the possibilities.  

06. Money and Material Possessions

Money gets a bad rap when it comes to marital happiness, but if you look beneath the surface you will find that this hot-button topic has much more to do about your relationship with money then how much you have in the bank account. Don't put off talking about money. Klapow suggests asking questions like, "What are your goals and expectations? How important is money to you?" These questions will help shed light on how your relationship with money might induce stress and how you deal with that stress, as well as how and why you spend and save. Read the book The 5 Money Personalities and take the quiz to find out what your primary money personality is and how that might influence your future marriage.

07. Trust

People throw around the word trust a lot, but what does that really mean? For example, knowing your partner will always have your back might mean something different to him than it means to you. Klapow suggests asking yourself and your boyfriend, "What makes you trust a person? What does it mean to betray your trust?" This conversation should be ongoing, as different life circumstances can change your perspective. But you should start the conversation long before you pick a ring.