If you’ve just gotten engaged, you are likely focusing on invitation lists, dress shopping and the all-important dilemma of band vs. DJ. But it’s crucial to remember that the wedding is only one day and your marriage is meant to last a lifetime. Preparing for marriage is the best gift you and your fiancée can give each other.
Knowledge is power, and these are the 5 things I think every engaged couple should know:
- How to communicate in a loving way – The key to a successful marriage is honest and loving communication. When a couple ends up in a marriage counselor’s office and describes an incident which upset one or both of them, they often tell totally different stories. This is because emotions weren’t communicated properly and neither party can see the other’s side. Communication is a skill and it can be learned. Even if you think you’re pretty good at it, it’s a good idea to learn tried and tested ways to improve communication and create a more loving environment.
- How to be a team – A long-lasting marriage is one in which both spouses are committed to work together to deal with all the challenges life throws at them. The happily-ever-after dream is just a dream; there will be many challenges big and small throughout life, and they can make or break a relationship. If you go into marriage with the attitude that it’s forever and that you are each other’s greatest cheerleaders, difficulties will serve to strengthen your marriage instead of weaken it.
- How to reduce money stresses – Money is one of the biggest stressors in a marriage. In addition to positive communication, open honesty and teamwork, it also helps to get professional advice about finances. Financial management is not taught in school, but it’s one of the most crucial life skills. Before marriage and whenever your financial situation changes, meet with a financial consultant to manage your money better and reduce the stress that comes with financial setbacks.
- What to do when you disagree – Unfortunately, most couples react to disagreement by arguing with each other, each spouse trying to prove that he or she is right, and one side unhappily conceding defeat at some point. A much more productive way to approach disagreement is with problem-solving tools. When you work together (you’re a team, remember?) to solve the problem, everyone wins.
- What each partner expects – Each partner in a marriage grew up in a different household, with different divisions of labor and expectations of roles. One partner may have witnessed a traditional role division, with the wife spending more time on domestic tasks while the husband focused primarily on his career. Or he may have grown up in a house where the wife made all the major decisions and the husband was a follower. Each spouse brings preconceived notions about roles, responsibilities and customs into the marriage. Many conflicts can be avoided simply by talking about these expectations and examining how they will be met or not met in the current relationship.
In my experience, success in marriage is like everything else; if you learn the tools and skills necessary, you have a much greater chance at making it work. Every engaged couple should seek out services which provide them with the tools they are missing and lead them toward a better marriage.
I am devoted to providing marriage education to dating, engaged and newly married couples, because I see what a huge difference it makes. Even a short workshop can change the direction of a relationship and enrich it. It’s easy to get carried away by the fairy tale in the days before a wedding, but once real life intrudes, the right skills become a necessity.