This is such an exciting time – sharing your news with others elicit hugs, happiness and congratulations. There is so much to do before the big day! And it’s going to be a wedding like nobody’s ever seen. The dress, the cake, the party…
Hold on! Bridezillas and outrageous dress shopping makes for entertaining TV, but smart couples know that marriage is not about one day in a white dress with a wild party. Successful couples know that planning the marriage sets the stage for a strong partnership.
Regardless of the whirlwind of excitement in planning a wedding, don’t forget to fill this pre-marital prescription for love.
1. Talk, talk, talk – and not just about the flavor of the cake.
You may feel so in love that the idea of any disagreements seems impossible. You love everything about your fiancé – how in the world would you ever disagree? The danger lies in assuming that you do agree on everything. There are many fun books on the market with questions that start meaningful conversations about everything from what temperature you want the bedroom to how you’ll raise children. Discuss the heavy stuff now, not after you’ve come home from the honeymoon and your new spouse suddenly announces they don’t plan on going back to work.
2. Learn how to fight fair.
Learning how to disagree without things blowing up is possible. Remember, this is your life partner, not your enemy. You’ve chosen this person to face both the good times and the challenges of life with. Knowing that you have each other’s back is one of the most comforting and gratifying feelings in the world. Above all else, this person cares about what is best for you and the marriage. In the heat of battle, many couples forget this and only focus on being right, not on doing what is right for the marriage.
Just like learning the rules of basketball or the steps to setting up a blog, you can learn ways to listen, present your point of view calmly, and seek solutions together. A pastor or relationship coach can give you exercises and tools. Get your hands on those valuable resources sooner, not later.
3. Make sense out of your money attitude.
Money is the most common reason couples split. It represents power, security, love and much more. Planning a wedding budget can be a major source of tension. You’ve seen those TV brides saying “Heck with the budget, I’m getting married!” Remember, they’ll be the ones struggling to pay their bills when the dishwasher breaks or the car needs new tires. While it may not sound romantic, discussing money is one of the most loving things you can do.
We all have deeply ingrained attitudes about money – some people hoard it, others can’t seem to save any and others think it matters more than relationships. Be open about your money situation BEFORE saying I do, and allow your fiancé to do the same. If there are student loans or big credit card debt, be open about it and have a plan on how you’ll tackle it. Be that couple that can discuss money without drama or surprises. That means reading money management books together, talking to a financial planner or trusted friend who can shed light on how to agree on spending, saving and long term goals.
4. Establish healthy boundaries.
You are not just marrying your fiancé, you are marrying their family too. In-laws, outlaws, exes, children, stepchildren, the list goes on and on. Establishing your marriage as your first priority isn’t selfish, it’s vital to success. Communicate clearly with each other about expectations on how you’ll juggle holidays or how deeply you’ll immerse yourself in family drama (here’s a hint, don’t!). Remember to stand firm together – you’ll be a married couple. Husband and wife come first.
That doesn’t mean you’ll shut yourself off from them, it does mean that outside family members do not call the shots in your marriage. Listen to their advice, but make your own decision on what is best for you as a couple.
5. Get on the same page with sex.
This is another area that couples often assume everything will just work out. However, you may have different attitudes about sex. Someone expecting to have sex every night may not understand someone who feels that once a week is plenty. Physical intimacy, touch and closeness are important aspects of the human experience. It is vital to a happy marriage, regardless of what other wives’ tales you may have heard.
It should never be used as a bargaining chip. Withholding sex to make a point or to punish your partner deeply damages your relationship. Physical contact re-establishes your bond. Couples that drift apart cite lack of physical intimacy and sex as the leading factor.
6. The big three sticking points- Careers, Children and Religion.
This is a big can of worms all rolled into one, but the advice is the same for all three. Some brides fall victim to the fairy tale syndrome, thinking that they’ve been rescued by Prince Charming and that he’ll work, pay all the bills and satisfy every whim. This is not the ‘50s – today most couples share equally in earning income and raising children. We are not as isolated as we were in our grandparent’s generation, we encounter a wide variety of cultures and religions in our own neighborhoods.
After the honeymoon is not the time to start discussing these topics. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to marry someone thinking you’ll have a family and then finding out they don’t want children at all, or that they don’t plan on recognizing your faith or traditions.
All six of these areas have one thing in common: communication. Talk now. Discuss the tough stuff now. Ask questions now. Put that vision of the incredible dress, outrageous reception or grand honeymoon on hold just long enough to work through these areas. Seek out wisdom from your clergy, long married couples or a relationship therapist. Then, when you are standing together taking those vows, you’ll know to your core that you are setting off on a lifetime adventure with your true partner at your side.
Over to you
What are some of the things that you do to prepare for a strong partnership with your husband or wife-to-be? If you are already married, what is one advice that you can give to couples on how to prepare for marriage?