Are you engaged or practically engaged and expecting happily ever after? Planning a wedding is so thrilling and it’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life. It can be all that, but it can also raise all types of issues. Talk about pressure. Weddings bring up issues around finances, family loyalty, dreams, and expectations. Weddings can bring up stress and highlight the differences between people. While there is no “right way” to be engaged or even “married,” the ritual of marriage lays the groundwork for happily ever after. The act of marriage can be an opportunity to reflect on where you have been and where you are going. A useful exercise to help you transition into marriage is to discuss your expectations and consider professional premarital therapy as a way of preparing for your life together.
For all those naysayers, who think marriage will not change their relationship at all (people who have already lived together, merged finances and maybe even had kids) the fact that your community looks at you differently will have subtle changes. Friends and family take your commitment to each other more seriously, the tax codes change, and your medical rights change.
To help you successfully transition to marriage, we encourage couples to take some time and discuss the following topics. Prior to dialoguing with each other, first independently write out the answers to the following questions:
- How much time in a typical week do each of you want to realistically spend together? Spend with friends? Spend with family? Spend at work? Spend working out? How much alone time do you need?
- How will you boundary off your relationship? When will you prioritize each other over others?
- What family traditions matter to you? How will you implement them? How will holidays be spent?
- What role do you want your spouse to play in your life? What role do you want to play in your spouse’s life?
- How involved will each of your extended families or friends be in your life? Who will have keys to the house or be allowed to stay over? How much will you two discuss social plans before making them?
- How will financial decisions be made? At what price point to decisions have to be shared? How will you handle helping family or friends out with financial issues?
- How should debt be handled? When are you financially responsible for your partner?
- What does parenting look like? Do you even want kids? And if so, when?
- For those who have not lived together full time, there is a major adjustment to ways to live with the roommate chores as a couple. You will also need to find a way to love each other’s quirks or the direction you like the toilet paper roll could end your marriage.
- In what way(s) has your partner influenced you?
- In what way(s) does your partner want you to change? How do you want to change?
- By getting married what side(s) of yourself are you letting go of? What side(s) of your spouse is she/he letting go of?
- What role do you want religion / spirituality to play in your marriage?
- What do you need now? And how can you imagine your needs changing over time?
Proactively planning your marriage chapter is a fun and exciting way to manage the normal anxiety and fear of change to help you say you know you are marrying the right person for you, right now. Premarital therapy and couples counseling after marriage can help you set yourselves up for success to manage such a big change that causes some people to say the first year of marriage is the hardest.