The question has been popped, the ring is on your finger, and now you’re engaged. Congratulations! You just made the most important decision of your relationship. However, the initial joy and excitement about the engagement will soon fade (though not vanish) and the practicalities of a planning a wedding will take over. During the course of your engagement you’ll have to find new ways to communicate, compromise about family differences, follow a budget, and make dozens of decisions about things big and small. In other words, being engaged is just like being married. I like to think of it as a mini-marriage.
If anyone tells you that planning a wedding is easy, they’re pulling your leg. A day that is so loaded with emotions, traditions, and personalities is bound to present some drama. Just take a look at reality TV–“Bridezilla,” and “Say Yes to the Dress” document the ups and downs (and craziness) of all that’s involved weddings. Besides all the vendors–venue, caterer, band, florist, photographer, videographer, hair and make-up artists–there are all your friends and family that are involved. You might find yourself wondering how a day that is supposed to be just about you and your future spouse has turned into such a production. When you dreamed about your wedding did you ever think that so many people would have an opinion? Are there ways to avoid having family conflicts turn into relationship problems?
The saying goes that the only way to make sure your wedding truly feel like your day is to elope. That may be true in a purely technical sense, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Being engaged can very rewarding–a time to really think about and nurture your relationship. And at the end of it is a wonderful day and then your life together. Yes, there are a million logistics and the thoughts and feelings of your spouse and both of your families. But once you accept those things as necessary, your engagement can be a very satisfying experience. Here are five suggestions to help guide you and your fiancé through the process as you develop a foundation that will help your marriage remain strong through the years.
It is no longer “me” but “we”.
Becoming engaged solidifies your commitment to your partner and that means looking out not only for the needs of you and your spouse, but also the needs of your relationship. The decisions in your life now directly impact another person and their input needs to be part of your thinking. Think of your relationship as a three-legged stool. Two of the three legs are represented by the two individuals in the relationship and the third leg is the relationship itself. The stool cannot sustain any significant weight if either of the legs is weak or shaky. Both you and your partner generate the energy and passion to keep the relationship fresh and vibrant while also providing rules and expectations for how the relationship is to function.
Discuss your expectations of the engagement and the marriage.
Unrealistic and unmet expectations often lead to resentment and conflict in a marriage. The engagement is a good time to communicate to each other your expectations of how the relationship should work. Take responsibility for the roles and responsibilities you commit to in the relationship. It’s important, though, to be willing to compromise and be flexible.
Learn how to communicate effectively and resolve conflict.
Not being able to communicate effectively is a primary factor in marriages failing. Your partner and the relationship should always be protected when you are communicating your feelings about an issue. When you disagree, look for solutions that resolve the problem while still maintaining your integrity as well as that of the relationship. Of course, it never hurts to apologize if you are wrong.
Talk about money.
Money is the number one issue that causes conflict in most relationships. Planning a wedding is the first major joint financial decision in your relationship, so it is important to discuss how you will deal with the challenges of planning what is usually a very expensive day. Develop a budget early on to ensure so that both of you have clear ideas of what is possible for the actual wedding.
Attend a premarital preparation class.
Couples who participate in premarital preparation classes experience a 30% increase in marital satisfaction than couples with no education. These couples are able to communicate more effectively, have stronger conflict management skills, enjoy a more intimate relationship, and improve their ability to have a stable and satisfying marriage.
Is your engagement causing stress between you and your fiancé? Contact Miles Wagman, MSW, LCSW, LMFT, Director of The Relationship Center in Red Bank, NJ at (732) 345-1399 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn strategies to resolve conflicts and build a strong foundation for your marriage.