Remember the euphoria of being engaged? It is Wonderful!! As part of the Disney generation we learned that “They lived happily ever after” IS the end of the story! So what happens when you wake up to your honey who has bad breath, annoying habits, and mood swings – things you never witnessed before you said “I Do.”
Recently I was asked the following questions about preparing for marriage, so I wrote this post to help engaged couples be better equipped for their Happily Ever After, or as Paul Harvey called it, “The Rest of the Story!”
How should engaged couples prepare for the realities of marriage?
One of the biggest issues I see with couples is not having hard discussions during the romantic high of engagement. Most of their discussions center on wedding colors, flower choices, ring shopping and juggling parental expectations. They often avoid discussing the more important issues of money management, communication style, priorities, or thoughts about handling in-laws, all of which surface after the honeymoon and can cause tension, disagreements, and disappointment. Engaged couples need to develop good communication skills around the difficult topics.
Questions to discuss:
- How do you handle money? How were you taught to handle money? Are you a saver or a spender?(Financial Responsibility & Habits)
- What happens when you get angry or feel disappointed? Do you discuss it head on, or avoid the issue? Are you willing to have difficult discussions and be uncomfortable so we can grow closer and create even deeper intimacy. (Conflict management)
- How will you handle the pressures from your parents that will inevitably surface as they struggle to let go and not give too much advice?
- How adept are you at communicating your needs, wants, desires, disappointments, struggles and hurts? (Expressing Expectations & Desires)
- How would you like me to handle these things when I see you are struggling?
- What are your thoughts about kids, career, life goals?
How can couples get out of their “bubble” to avoid disillusionment or unmet expectations that can occur after a wedding?
Talk, talk, and talk some more-especially about all the things you don’t want to talk about! Usually this is most effective with the help of a counselor or coach, who can introduce and help navigate the more difficult issues often avoided or unseen during engagement. This will also equip both parties to create better communication techniques and understand each others personality and style of relating more fully.
In addition to the questions/subjects above:
- Learn each others love languages and begin to share the places things are going well, as well as the missteps, hopes for more and ideas of how each one hopes the other will “grow and change” once they are married.
- Talk about their hopes and dreams they may not have voiced, so neither is surprised.
- Identify the top 3 things they adore about their fiancé’s personality and the 2 they struggle with the most. This will help them learn to have tougher discussions in a constructive and productive manner.
- Talk about fears and doubts. WE all have them, get them out in the open with a professional who can help mediate the conversation.
- Talk about sex! (if they are sexually active, what they like, dislike, want more of, wish their partner would…) (if they are not sexually active, then talk about the realities of sex, their fears, and the fact that it takes time and practice for great sex to happen- the movies are not real!)
What resources should engaged couples seek out for this kind of help and how do they find such resources?
The Engaged Groom: You’re Getting Married, Read this book. By Doug Gordon – great book for grooms, as many brides are want more involvement from their groom.
- Read and discuss The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
- The Mystery of Marriage, by Mike Mason (faith based)
- Take the DISC personality inventory and discuss the implications of your personalities on the relationship. This is something I do with all my couples as it helps them understand each other better and reframes some of the most difficult or perplexing issues that are often viewed as cute and quirky during engagement, but lead to dissension and strife post honeymoon.
- Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money: The Handbook of Financial Peace University –
find a couple whose marriage you enjoy, and ask them about marriage, money and any other tips they can give you.
- Talk about sex: Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.
- My book, Listen, Learn, Love: How to Dramatically Improve Your Relationships in 30 Days or Less! offers great communication and relationships building skills and tips every couple could benefit from.
What are some limitations of premarital counseling or programs?
Marriage changes the relationship in ways you cannot know, anticipate, or understand until you are married. Just like training for the Olympics is not the same as actually being in them. The adrenalin, pageantry, unanticipated, or unexpected turn of events all impact both spouses and their relationship. Thus, premarital counseling or programs, can only prepare you for the “unknown” world of marriage.
Preparation is crucial, because without it couples are flying blind, and often have more troubles in the first few years. These are not fun things to discuss and may take the shine off the giddiness of engagement, however doing so will prepare the couple for a much stronger start in building a married life together.
Pre-marital work cannot equip the couple for dealing with unexpected life events, illness, parent issues, or times of crisis. However having learned some communication skills, worked on a growing awareness of the other’s strengths and weaknesses, can help a couple navigate the unexpected challenges far better than those who didn’t do any pre-marital work.
Like anything new in life, you don’t know what you don’t know, until you are smack dab in the middle of it.
What are 1 or 2 things you wish you had discussed before you said “I Do?”
What is something you think Disney left out of “and they lived Happily Ever After!?”
Share your thoughts below and let’s chat!