Congratulations on your engagement! This is one of the most exciting times in many of our lives. You very likely are swept up in all sorts of yummy brain chemistry as you’re in the honeymoon phase of your relationship and gearing up to walk down the aisle with your honey. As much as your loving feelings for each other feel amazing, this inherently causes many couples to forget to have some pretty important conversations.
It's critical to discuss your expectations around marriage before you tie the knot.
I know this very clearly as I’m a couples' therapist who's worked with countless married couples who never did and experienced fallout later because of it. All I'm saying here is that a little time discussing this issue can avoid heartache and hurt feeling later.
As Leslie Dares, MFT and author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage, points out in her book, "The further they are from reality the greater the disappointment when things don't go as planned." It's just this disappointment that can cause a great deal of distress for a couple, particularly if the tangled areas hold a lot of meaning for one or both of you.
The following are a few places I’ve seen couples get snagged on later - and things you can benefit from discussing with your fiancé now:
• Where do you both ultimately want to live?
• What does marriage mean to both of you?
• How will you handle money as a married couple? What are each of your beliefs about spending/saving money?
• Do you both want children? How many?
• What are your expectations about raising children and parenting?
• If it is planned that one will stay home, will he/she rejoin the work force and when?
• How will you handle holidays and each of your extended families, particularly if they both are not in the area?
• What are your expectations about social activities?
• What are your expectations around you, me and we time?
As life dictates, things can go wrong in your marriage but the most effective antidote is open, honest communication. If there’s no dialogue, nothing will happen! Make it a priority to flesh out the above issues and any others that come up for you (spiritual/religious, sex, social lives, etc.) before you get married so you both have a clear set of expectations to decrease the chances of disappointment later. Keep in mind that it’s important to remain somewhat flexible to the ebb and flow of life changes too. Lastly, if you don’t know the answers to some of the questions just yet, that’s ok. When you have new thoughts about the subject, share them with your partner.
Being clear on each of your expectations of your marriage together is an integral part of a strong relationship foundation. In my workbook, The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples, I help guide couples through this type of discussion and others around communication, emotional safety, relevant family of origin issues, etc.
You can never have too many tools in their relationship toolbox. So start gathering them together — and happy wedding!
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