Kathi Whitten, LCSW - Individual, Couple & Family Psychotherapy
To Have and To Hold: Can You Improve Your Marriage Before the Wedding?June is the traditional month for weddings, which are joyful occasions. What helps marriages endure long after the ceremony? Before the wedding, it is often useful to have some honest discussions about compatibility and areas of agreement or disagreement on important life values..
How well do you really know each other? Is one of you an introvert, while the other is an extrovert? Is one of you private while the other is very open about things? What about emotional vs. logical? Is one of you frugal while the other a spender? Are you in agreement about how close or distant to be from your families? What about having children? Do you have similar ideas about religious practices, or social activities? What about exercise, food, alcohol use, even sleep schedules? How do you plan to keep alive the holiday traditions you each grew up with? Do you understand and support each other’s careers and interests that are separate from what you do as a couple? Is one of you neat while the other more casual?

Those contrasts between people can become points of growth for a couple and enrich your relationship if you learn about and appreciate each other’s point of view, values and traditions. But they could also be a source of irritation and misunderstanding as the partnership becomes more complicated by many life situations that will inevitably arise over the years. Openness to knowing more about each other, flexibility, valuing differences, and seeing how each contributes to the wholeness of your relationship is key to keeping things positive.

When people are wrapped up in new love, wedding festivities and high expectations, it can be very challenging to foresee how these things might actually work out in the future. It can be easy to overlook things going on between you that are already present, but don’t seem very important at this time.

Good communication is essential— before and after becoming life partners. It is critical to be able to speak to each other in non-judgmental ways. It’s even more important that couples be able to resolve disputes respectfully. Some of this occurs with good listening skills. Another part is understanding that no matter how devoted you are to each other, you will each always view the world in a unique way, and neither is more “right” than the other, just different.

It’s also important to consider how your respective backgrounds influence the way you are likely to handle future decisions together. You bring to adult experiences many of the expectations about relationships that were created over the course of your lifetimes before knowing each other.

As you are ordering flowers, choosing music, inviting guests—don’t forget to plan for how you will work together in the future to keep the love alive that you are feeling now. Most couples engage in some form of pre-marital counseling, to explore these sorts of issues before the wedding. If there are concerns in areas such as these, it is better to have worked on them before the marriage than have them turn into problems later.

Kathi Whitten, LCSW copyright 2009