Should Couples Consider Caregiving Before They Wed?


Last updated: February 19, 2012
Wedding Cake

Any advice for those thousands of newly engaged young couples out there planning spring and summer weddings? Among the topics that experts say they should talk out before they tie the knot: Credit scores, when to start a family, conflict management styles a "relationship mission statement" -- and oh yes, what about how will future potential caregiving obligations impact the marriage?

Premarital discussions ought to include "not only the couple's finances, but also estimates of their liabilities for caring, emotionally and financially, for their parents," wrote a New York City social worker, as one of more than 100 reader responses to an earlier "Field Notes" column in The New York Times about questions couples ought to ask one another before marrying.

Seeing as many couples don't even work through basic money issues, asking about future caregiving commitments may strike some people as a little far-fetched. How can you possibly know, years ahead, what your parents' health needs will be, on whose shoulders the caregiving burden will fall, and whether siblings will share the burden or shirk away? Would knowing that a boyfriend's parents are in less than perfect health -- one overweight (diabetes risk! dementia risk!) and the other with high blood pressure (stroke risk! heart attack risk!) really make you inclined to turn down his ring?

Should "in sickness and in health" refer to considerations about the generation above your betrothed as well as him or her?

"I believe marriage is meant to reveal our character, shadow and sunlight," wrote another reader.

Or is there something to this? What if you're marrying an only child with four parents (two step-parents)? What if you're marrying a 50-year-old with broke 80-something parents? Is potential future caregiving something couples contemplating marriage should put on the table?

Then again, some experts in the Times piece even proposed that engaged pairs map out an exit strategy -- how to divorce -- before shopping for that tux and white gown. Talk about thinking of everything.

Image by Flickr user Kim Marius Flakstad used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

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