It’s wedding season – and weddings are fun! This year’s season began with the romantic and beautiful celebration of the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton. This elaborate event captured imagination and elicited thoughts on how to view weddings – which are the birth of a marriage – as about more than the perfect dress, beautiful flowers, a wonderful meal, and a great party. Sometimes the excitement of getting engaged or planning a wedding can overshadow some of the more important issues about the decision to marry. Making the wedding more about a marriage is important!
Engagement and marriage is one of the most significant psychological transitions in life. It involves more than just finding true love. Often engaged couples believe that their relationship will not experience the relationship problems other couples face. However, nearly half of marriages end in divorce so clearly this belief is incorrect in many cases.
To have a healthy marriage, each partner has to be mentally and emotionally mature. This means having a strong sense of self. Rushing into marriage before becoming a “grown up” rarely is successful. Being in love is simply not enough!
Plan your marriage – not just your wedding! This is about more than one day. The popular TV personality Dr. Phil advises engaged couples to consider developing an emotional prenuptial agreement, outlining how you’ll handle children, discipline, sex, money, household chores, religion, careers, in-laws......the list goes on. It may not be very romantic, but marriage isn’t all romance – it’s also collaboration and if you don’t plan for and discuss tough issues – you won’t be able to successfully merge two lives together.
Some engaged couples participate in formal pre-marital counseling before their big day. Such professional sessions can assist in examining compatibility and conflict resolution style. Investing in preparation counseling sessions provides a format for couples to discuss and understand the “hot topics”. Of course, these discussions can occur outside of a professional’s office. The goal is to communicate openly and honestly about what is important to each of you. Not everything can or will be covered before the wedding but by learning effective communication skills, a couple can learn how to navigate future issues of conflict. This skill is critical in marriage.
Agreement on all the issues is not the goal. During these premarital discussions, if you agree on everything, someone isn’t being honest. You are different people and will disagree! However, being able to express strong feelings and respectfully accept a partner’s strong feelings is essential. Finding where you are willing to and how to find that important middle ground is a necessary skill in all marriages.
Living intimately with another person requires making decisions together. It requires consideration of another’s view. Be sure to identify and communicate needs and expectations. It is not selfish to know what is most important to you. Be honest with yourself and your partner about your “non-negotiables” – the deal breakers. We all have them – it is important to understand what they are for you and your partner.
Pre-marital counselor, Dr. Rich Nicastro offers the following five questions for engaged couples to consider:
1. Why do you want to get married? A feeling that “it’s time” is not enough.
2. Why do you want to marry this person? “Because I love him/her” is not enough.
3. What core values do you share with your future spouse? Compatibility on values matter.
4. What are the main differences between the two of you? Understanding and accepting differences are important.
5. How do you envision married life? Discuss expectations.
If a wedding is planned for your summer, take the time to discuss how the wedding day should be the celebration and beginning of a beautiful marriage.