In my practice, I find that the focus of couples is always on the wedding, not what comes after the wedding. That’s a mistake. I tell clients there are issues that need to be discussed before they get to the altar. I encourage couples to plan their marriage at least as carefully as they plan their wedding day. Your wedding is one day; your marriage is the rest of your life.
By planning, I’m talking about everything from soup to nuts. You may not have thought about certain conditions and expectations before you said “I do” but when you’re married you’re forced to confront them: holidays, parenting, relatives … Many people don’t think about these things. The decisions they’re confronted with can be a shock.
Expectations may change. You and your groom or bride may think marriage is just a piece of paper, but it’s more than that. It’s a set of obligations required by law and people have built-in expectations. By people I’m referring to family, friends, employers, business associates – everyone you come into contact with.
Often couples tell me they didn’t really know each other until they were married – even unmarried couples who have lived together. I tell them just because you live together doesn’t mean you’re even ready to be married. They’re not the same thing.
- Finances. How will money be handled, bookkeeping, purchases? How will you manage debt?
- Children. Do you both agree that you want or do not want to have children? What if one of you changes your mind?
- Family. Do you have any idea who your in-laws are and how you’ll get along with them? How will you share holidays and special occasions with them? Have you spent time with each other’s family? Are you aware of any family obligations, deep-seated traditions of your betrothed?
- Culture. If you come from different cultures and want children or already have young children, how will that culture affect how they are raised? If you are of different religions how will those religions be practiced? How might cultural and religious differences affect your marriage, the children you raise, your extended family? Cultural differences between those living in the North and South within the U.S. can even require a major adjustment.
Unless you’re a clone, there are always going to be issues. You may think that because the sex is good between you, everything else will fall into place. It doesn’t work that way.
Don’t get me wrong. Please don’t think I’m trying to talk you out of getting married. Marriage can be a wonderful thing, everything you hoped for. It’s my job as a counselor to remove the rose-colored glasses and prepare you for that beautiful life together.