A 6-Minute Read
As the weather starts changing here in Georgia, it is more than fall you’re noticing in the air. It’s time for wedding season. That’s right! September and October are on record as the second and first most popular months for weddings, respectively.1 And while engaged couples and their families have spent countless hours stressing over every detail, I have received many calls from concerned parents looking for advice on how to help their soon-to-be newlyweds have more than just a beautiful wedding.
In this post, I want to share with you six questions I give parents to help their pre-engaged and engaged children set the best foundation possible for a wonderful marriage. I also use these questions (and several more) in my first sessions with pre-marriage and first year married couples. As a counselor who works with couples in different life stages and relationship conditions I see what can happen years later when a couple doesn’t have a solid foundation. I am convinced that investing time going through these questions and concepts in pre and first-year marriage counseling is vital for setting every couple up for long-term success.
So, while mother nature supplies the crisp air, cozy vibe, and amazing colors that set up the wedding backdrop, here are six questions your engaged couple can use to lay a foundation for a solid marriage.
a. Why are we getting married? While this may seem like an odd question, it is the most important question. The fact is a long-lasting marriage is made up of two individuals working hard on something, together. Research shows a rise in 20-and-30 somethings focusing on individual careers, financial independence and personal interests rather than choosing to marry. A couple who can explore this question separately and together can increase the levels of connection, security, and enjoyment in their relationship.
b. How much do we value time together versus time apart? Okay, so we just talked about choosing to get together…and now we need to talk about time apart. Too much of a good thing is still too much. Couples need to know if one expects to do everything together as a married unit, especially if the other needs a lot of “me-time.” When a couple is dating, spending a ton of time together is fun and expected. Before couples settle into a married routine it is best to have open dialogue around hang out time and how each will pursue shared and independent friends and interests Otherwise, unmet expectations can lead to stress and one spouse pulling back as the other tries to engage.
c. How do we see kids fitting into our life? This question is more than just how many kids a couple wants (and no, this is not about pets). Couples need to explore when they want to have a child and how much time as spouses they will have before trying. Also, given the marriage connection can decline after kids, couples need to talk about how they will protect time as husband and wife, rather than just drifting into the sole identity of mom and dad. Couples should also discuss what it was like growing up and how kids fit into their family. We are a product of our families and our parents modeled how we may or may not want to act as parents. Did one parent stay home with the kids or did both work? And what did each future spouse notice from their parents that either helped the marriage and family thrive or ended up in a decline?
d. How will we cope with ebbs and flows in our desire and intimacy? Since we talked about having kids, we also need to talk about sex. Particularly, couples need to know what they’ll do when sexual desires and frequency fluctuate. This can be such an amazing part of marriage. Couples need to talk about what they will do when life gets in the way. It is also important for couples to know how and when to raise any concerns, especially in ways that increase connection and limit accusations or judgments.
e. Do we want separate bank accounts, or to share all assets? Every married couple’s financial setup will be unique to their relationship. One good strategy for a lot of people is to have a shared bank account for the big bills and expenses. Then, they can choose an amount to put into a personal account for daily needs or for bigger joint goals and dreams. Other couples choose to keep their income separate, divide expenses, and then have each contribute for bigger purchases together. Since finances are one of the top three contributors to marital distress, every couple needs to know going in how they’ll stay in-synch on the flow of money. The key is to go in with a plan and be open to adjusting. This can be helpful in limiting power struggles each time one spouse wants to spend, save, or give.
f. Do either of us have any major secrets we haven’t yet shared? As Dr. Alice Hoag mentions in her blog post, “Secrets Destroy,” privacy is different than secrecy. We all need and deserve to have certain things in our life kept private. This question gets more to how a couple handles secrets. A secret is something someone wants to share, but there is the urge to keep it in the dark and away from the other spouse. A secret could involve an undisclosed addiction, debt, past infidelity, or any other behavior that would be helpful to share now before it comes out and ends up hurtful later. Many times, pre-marriage counseling is where I can help carefully and therapeutically work on disclosing secrets. This process can bring future spouses even closer together rather than having the secret tear them apart.
I believe these six questions are a must for any pre-engagement or engaged couple. If you have a son or a daughter about to get married, take a minute and send this post to them. Also, either I or one of our Summit therapists trained in pre-marriage counseling would love the opportunity to provide pre-marriage or first-year marriage counseling. This is an exciting time and I have heard from so many couples that counseling was one of the best investments they made. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call the front office at 678-893-5300 or visit us at www.summitcounseling.org.