The Pre-Wedding Exercise Engaged Couples Should Try Before Saying 'I Do'

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Why you should mediate before you marry
Love, Family

Do not overlook the important conversations before you walk down the aisle.

What is mediation and how important is it to the marriage of a couple?

Before getting married, engaged couples will spend hours selecting the right outfits for their nuptials. They will go store-to-store, adding coveted items to their wedding gift registries. They will make binders with charts and calendars and a Pinterest page with photos. 

But, during the engagement period, how many couples take the time to go to pre-marital counseling or even talk to one another about the future of their marriage — specifically, money, their assets, their debts, going through a household budget, or coming up with a plan for retirement? 

Some of the biggest obstacles that couples during their married life face relate to finances. It is not uncommon that only one of the spouses is the bookkeeper and financial planner for the household. 

It may be uncomfortable to have a serious conversation about finances. It may be inconvenient to find the time while you are planning your dream wedding. It is horribly un-romantic to talk about your credit score. 

But, imagine how many potential arguments you could stave off by getting on the same page before you walk down the aisle?

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Many engaged couples need to have the big talk — the talk about their future. But, many don't know where to begin. 

Many individuals have difficulty with their own budget, so the thought of actually adding up how many dollars are spent each month on Starbucks’ runs, let alone disclosing that number to your betrothed, is difficult. 

Herein lies an excellent tool that is under-utilized: mediation!

Mediation is not exclusively about solving existing problems. While mediation may be the process of choice for many divorcing couples, mediation should not be seen as exclusively for couples at odds. 

Mediation is simply a facilitated conversation and a mediator is a communicator — a neutral person with training and experience to help you communicate. 

While some mediators may have a mental health background, mediation is not therapy. The goal of using mediation during your engagement is not a way of ensuring that you are made-for-each-other (although that may be an unintended side-effect). 

Mediation can be used, quite successfully, to help you work through all the questions that, if discussed early, can lead to marital bliss, instead of a walk to a divorce lawyer’s office.

It can work to facilitate a discussion for very specific issues. For example, do you have a gambling problem? Do you want children? Are you of different religions and how do you reconcile that in your future household?    

Mediation can also be used to talk about the bigger picture and to solve problems. Where do you see yourselves living and working over the next ten years? What will your household budget look like after the wedding? Are you cat people or dog people?

RELATED: 12 Scary Signals You're Engaged To Your Future Ex-Husband

Mediation can also be a successful process if you need something more formal before tying the knot — a prenuptial or premarital agreement —  particularly with spouses who are more mature, have more assets, or have their own children from a prior relationship.

This is normal. But, in reality, there is nothing more awkward than working with lawyers who are used to un-tying the knot to prepare you for a marriage. 

I think lawyers are indispensable and good lawyers are necessary to ensure you understand the complicated ins and outs of any legal document, but lawyers are not necessarily communicators in the best sense of the word. 

Good lawyers can tell a story to a judge. They can advise about the law. But, law school does not necessarily teach one to facilitate a conversation between two amicable love-birds who may need some reality checking. 

Mediation may be an under-used process to have the necessary pre-requisite conversation to your prenuptial or premarital agreement, before taking the agreement to lawyers for finalization. 

Ultimately, if you forego mediation before you marry, know that you should still have those difficult conversations about your goals for your new married life. 

What type of person do you want to be? What are your goals for your own career? Where do you see yourself in ten or twenty years? 

Do not shy away from the difficult, even if un-romantic, topics. You will have a happier longer marriage if you and your soon-to-be-spouse are on the same page.

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Melissa Kucinski is a D.C.-based family lawyer and mediator. She works with families to help them restructure and move forward in a positive way. Learn more about Melissa and about the mediation process on her website.