Before the Wedding
Reception hall booked? Check.
Florist picked and flowers decided on? Check.
Bridesmaids dresses chosen, agreed upon, and on their last fittings? Check.
Tuxes rented? Check.
Rings bought? Check.
Wedding dress of your dreams bought and hanging in your bedroom? Check.
Nothing left to do. . . oh wait. There is still something left to do. A big something! The wedding is planned, now it’s time to prepare for the marriage!
Although the wedding may seem to be taking precedence right now, it is even more important to look at several issues that will impact your marriage sooner than later. Awareness and preparation is a strong foundation to a great marriage.
It has often been quoted that the two biggest topics of contention in a marriage are sex and money, so let’s start there.
Sex. I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “is that really something that needs to be discussed?” Believe it or not, yes.
Men and women approach sex differently, and although it may seem like an activity that is much anticipated right now (or already being enjoyed, depending on your belief system), sex can quickly become a source of tension within marriage.
Most men can come home from work completely exhausted, having had one of the worst days of their life and want sex to unwind from their day. A woman on the other hand will come home from the same type of day and not only not want sex, but be unable to even respond sexually if it is initiated.
Men can compartmentalize and easily move the sex compartment at a moment’s notice. Women, on the other hand, have every aspect of their life blend into each other. That includes how her day went and it’s affect on her sexual desire.
Before getting married it is helpful to discuss your expectations for sex, like how many times in a week is ideal, who should initiate, and what you need in order to find it most fulfilling. Discuss what makes you feel most connected to your partner, because it is a close connection that will bring about the best sex.
While you’re on the topic of sex, it’s the perfect time to talk about your plans for a family (if there are not yet children present). During this particular discussion you are going to want to talk over when you feel the best time to start a family is and what you will use for birth control until then.
When talking about raising a family, it is also wise to talk over different thoughts and opinions on parenting, such as will you both work and use child care, or will one of you be a stay-at-home parent? Will you homeschool or send your children to private or public school? How will you discipline? How many children do you want? What if you find you can’t have biological children? Will you adopt or foster?
Finances. Chances are, one of you will be a spender and the other one will be a saver. If this hasn’t already created some tense moments in your engagement period, be assured, it will once you begin living the married life.
For the first year of my marriage, I would pay the bills and attempt to save money and my husband would spend money. We were caught in a deadlock of me being a penny pincher and him being a spender. Almost all of our “intense discussions” took place around this topic. Just as I would go to pay the bills, he would bring in a pile of receipts and I would discover, once again, that I didn’t have money for bills. Being a Type A personality, I wanted to plan and pay off all debt in the first two years. My husband on the other hand, being a spontaneous personality, took the approach, “When it’s paid off, it’s paid off. It’ll work out.”
A year and a half into our marriage we ended up getting a financial coach. That is how much of a heated issue this became in our marriage. In the years following this, I have learned to have a bit more fun when it comes to spending money, such as conceding to new clothes once in awhile, and my husband has become more focused on paying off our credit cards.
I would encourage you to develop a budget with clear cut financial goals before the wedding vows are spoken. This can alleviate a great deal of frustration and tension from the first years of marriage.
Don’t forget to add the topic of in-laws to your premarital discussions. When we get married, ideally we “leave” our family and become one as a couple. Many times it doesn’t happen this way. Instead, the in-laws come right into the marriage with your spouse. Figure out before hand just how much they will be allowed into your marriage.
Your best practice at laying down the boundaries will come during the wedding planning. This is a time like no other to hold your ground and, while respecting both your parents, also standing up and claiming your wedding –- and future marriage — as yours, not theirs. Boundaries laid now will be easier to enforce after the wedding.
How close are you each to your respective families? How much time is expected to be spent with immediate family? Does your family accept and respect your future spouse? Do they treat them well? Are you able to defend your fiancé to your family if they don’t treat them well, or do you back off in their presence and let your partner fend for themselves?
What role will you allow your family to play during arguments? Will you run to family members when there has been a fight between the two of you and get them involved, or will you commit to each other to keep your fights to yourselves? Women, will you confide more in your mother or sister, or will your husband become your confidant? Men, will your brothers be your best friends and recreation buddies after marriage, or will your wife be your best friend that you want to spend time with?
There are no right or wrong answers here. There are however, answers that must be agreed upon, or this in-law issue will become yet another hot topic that will divide a marriage very quickly!
What roles will you expect the other person to step into once married? Some may approach marriage as a partnership with both spouses working full-time and sharing the cleaning, cooking, and shopping load equally. Others will work full-time but have an expectation that all the home duties will fall on the wife in addition to her job. Still others will see the man as being the breadwinner and the wife as being the cooker, cleaner, shopper, and doing anything else that helps the home run smoothly.
Establish before you become husband and wife what your expectations are for each other. What do you need from each other and what do you desire from each other? Although we cannot base our marriage on expectations, it is still beneficial to at least communicate about what our mental image is of marriage and the roles of husband and wife.
Learn about healthy communication and learn how to fight well. By this I don’t mean learn how to have a rip-roaring fight, but learn how to take those inevitable times of arguing, and use them to get something accomplished instead of letting them whittle away the marriage. For help in this area, check out our recommended reading list at the end of this article.
Lastly, I would encourage you both to develop goals as individuals and then as a couple. List your personal goals, such as finishing your MA degree, building your own business, starting an art studio, writing a book, cutting a record deal –- whatever they are, write them down and share them with your future spouse.
After you have gone over your individual lists, create a list of goals that you have as a couple. On this list might be things such as: have children in five years, pay off our debt in three years, buy our own home within five years, have a date night once a week, have a night apart from each other and with our close friends every other week, etc.
Once your lists are created (there should be three by now –- his, hers, and ours), create the steps you will take to help each other reach those goals. Keep this action plan in a place where you can refer to it often as a couple to keep on track with where you are with everything.
Marriage is awesome! It’s also something that takes a lot of hard work and effort. It’s worth it, though. Plan your wedding, but don’t get so caught up in that you don’t prepare for your marriage.
Before You Say I Do by H. Norman Wright and Wes Roberts
His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair Proof Marriage by William E. Harley, Jr.
The DNA of Relationships by Dr. Gary Smalley