If you’ve ever planned a wedding, been in one, or at least been close friends with someone getting married you know that the preparations can take months, hundreds of hours, and in most cases, $1000s of dollars! So many of us get caught up in planning the “Big Day” that we neglect to prepare for something even more important: the marriage!
How do we miss this important step?
There are invites to send out, cakes to taste, dresses and tuxedos to try on, flowers to select, and a million other things to take care of. Often the engagement period can be one of the most stressful times in any relationship (right up there with having your first child or buying your first home).
What happens for many couples is they put all of their focus on making sure that all of the decorations are in place, the song list is matched perfectly to each dance, and the guests are all seated at appropriate distances from that one relative you know they’ll get in an argument with. It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of wedding preparation and forget about having those EVEN MORE IMPORTANT conversations about what life will be like AFTER the Big Day.
What will change about your relationship?
Even if you’ve been dating for years or living together for a long time, there will still be changes. There’s something fundamentally different about relationships once there’s a legal commitment made on paper and in front of at least a judge (and more likely everyone you know and care about).
Who is going to take care of which chores? Who will handle the finances? Will you have only joint accounts or will you each keep one in your own name? (I’ll discuss the pros/cons of these situations in a later post). Will you own pets? Have children? How many? Where will you live? What holidays are most important to your new family? How often will you have sex? How many hours do you expect to actually spend together each week?
How can you think about this moving forward?
The list of important things to discuss is endless and will continue to be addressed the rest of your lives together. You will grow and change together for years to come. If I could summarize my two biggest encouragements for you as you prepare for your wedding and marriage at this point it would go like this:
- Make sure to spend some of your precious and limited engagement season preparing not just for your wedding, but for the decades of marriage to follow. The wedding will happen and the mistakes you laugh at will be more fun to remember than the things that went off without a hitch. Get ready to spend your lives together, not just a day.
- Remember that you’re not marrying him/her because they are perfect or even perfect for you. In 10 years, neither one of you will be the same as you are now. You are marrying them because you want to grow with them. Start growing together now!
Having a hard time with these conversations?
If you’re finding it hard to get through these conversations on your own, it can be helpful to discuss them with someone whose counsel you trust. Find an older or more experienced couple and ask them how they get through the tough talks. It is also typically helpful to see a marriage professional (psychologist, couples/family therapist, etc.) as they are trained to help you see the potential rough spots in the relationship that you may have overlooked in addition to having the conversations discussed above.
The bottom line is that your marriage is too important to not prepare for it with the same level of intensity that you put into picking that perfect flower combination to compliment the bridesmaid dresses. Investing in your marriage now will pay big dividends in your relationship for decades to come! Feel free to give me a call to see how I can help or get in touch with someone you trust in your area.
Dr. Robert Pate is a licensed Clinical Psychologist practicing in Orange County, California. If you’d like to set up a consultation call 657-200-8080 or visit www.cavfamilytherapy.com.