Take a break from looking at floral arrangements, put down those honeymoon brochures for a minute, and read this….
After many years of counseling couples, I’ve found four key issues can make or break a marriage. Below are those issues and my tips on how to ensure a happy, successful marriage follows a picture perfect ceremony.
He wants to register at Outdoor Sports R Us and she wants fine china at Tiffany’s. He wants to tighten the family belt and save for a home; she wants to try the latest four star restaurants with their five star prices! People have different views of money and what it means. Explore where your partner’s beliefs and spending styles come from. For instance, your mate may come from a cautious, save-for-a-rainy-day kind of family while yours was a we-could-all-die-tomorrow type of upbringing. Money represents fundamental qualities like security, control, how we were raised as well as the means to fun and indulgences. Use this opportunity to not only plan for the wedding but to understand one another’s differing views on finances, financial planning and how you are going to put down roots as a couple after the “big” day.
In-laws and extended families have a huge impact on a couples. Family loyalties can create an enormous amount of conflict, which can be painfully apparent during the wedding planning process. When couples decide to get married, each partner must transition from putting their parents first and move their spouse into the number one position. What seems like a normal, healthy relationship between a bride and her family can feel threatening to a groom. For example, if the bride has a close knit family who drops in unannounced on a regular basis, a groom from a family where meetings are planned and announced well in advance might be unpleasantly surprised. Couples need to agree to consult each other first before making family-related decisions and then present a united front. These confused loyalties provide a perfect example of what you want to bring into premarital counseling to preempt future conflict.
The wedding was a success, now he wants to start a family. She’s not so sure. He wants his wife to return to work after having a child. She wants to be a stay at home mom. The question of whether or not you are going to have children must be discussed and accepted before you walk down the aisle. Don’t feel that you can skirt around this one. Let me say it again. This is one area that is fraught with unspoken and hidden agendas. Don’t assume he’ll change his mind about having children once you’re married. Every couple must discuss whether to have children, when to have children and who will stay home with the children before the marriage begins. You might even want to discuss different philosophies regarding discipline.
He’s never gone to synagogue. She goes every Friday. She’s Episcopalian; he’s a Buddhist. Will you raise your children with religion? And which one? Is having an interfaith family a possibility? What, you never asked these questions? These are important to get out on the table now as you’re planning the big day. Spiritual and religious orientation is important, and with some guidance, I have seen many families do a beautiful job of combining their different faiths. But the key is to talk about religion beyond should we get married in a church, synagogue, outdoors, or in a tent.
You don’t have to consult a psychic to predict which of these areas will lead to your downfall or to your success. Unfortunately, people ignore important differences by choosing not to see what they see or know what they know because they’re caught up in the pursuit of that perfect dream wedding day….
But being willing to be honest and see what’s really behind those wedding vows can lead to the most meaningful and fulfilling relationship in your life. There have been those rare times in my practice where after tackling these key issues, couples see a red light, and find it’s best to just call off the marriage. Other times it’s a green light, all systems go. But more often it’s a yellow light which says proceed with caution, slow down.
Bottom line, don’t go it alone.
Take the time and get help – from your rabbi, minister, or marriage counselor. Statistics show that couples who have done just four short weeks of premarital counseling have a much lower divorce rate than those who have not.
Finally, give yourselves a time out….
Once a week, plan a date to spend time together just playing. Take a walk on the beach, cook a great meal together or rent your favorite movie to remind yourselves of why you decided to get married in the first place. Have fun and don’t discuss your wedding plans!