With such a popular response from the last week's post about healthy choices to make before the wedding, I decided to expand on the most important one. After all, your future spouse loves you just as you are and the people coming to celebrate your love do too. All the health conscious choices that give you clearer skin, a thinner waist or brighter smile won't guarantee that your marriage will stand the test of time and trials.
A.J. and I have offered pre-marital counseling to several couples over the years, some while we were only a year into it ourselves, but it's something we knew we would do before we even walked down the aisle. I'm not sure how to explain it, we just get each other. We trust each other completely and have learned excellent communication skills over the years from our own marriage trials as well as owning different businesses together, attending 7 years of school (almost all the same classes) together, and leading a small church together.
Poor communication or lack of communication, we would insist, is the number one reason marriages (and really any relationships) fall apart. There may ultimately be financial issues, adultery, or abuse but it all stems from communication. We believe that communication needs to begin before you walk down the aisle and preferably even before your "just said yes" moment.
There are several questions that should at least be discussed before you agree to give your lives to each other. Questions that are obvious and questions that are not so obvious that can be surprisingly detrimental. I'll expand on two I mentioned last week:
An example of a not-so obvious one is holidays. When you're dating and so in love you can't bare the thoughts of being separated for more than a minute, holidays are no problem. Both your families "understand" and are more than willing to accommodate the extra person, or allow their son or daughter to be with their love this year...after all, they'll probably be getting married. Even your first married holiday season together is understandable, everyone is willing to let you do your thing. But after that, lifelong expectations, traditions and rituals come into play and if your families are both unwilling to budge, the pull can be catastrophic. Add long distance and grandchildren to that mix and it's over.
UNLESS you've been communicating well all along the way. There is no right answer; you have to do what works for you, but you need to communicate with each other what you want individually and what you're willing to budge on, then communicate that clearly and sincerely to your families. Being able to do this before the big day makes the transition that much smoother.
Most couples broach the topic while they're still dating. One wants 3 kids, one thinks they want 1, but they assume they'll figure it out along the way. They say "I do." All of the sudden the one who wanted 3 realizes they're ready to begin trying right away, "why not?" they ask, "it'd be fun to still be young as the kids grow up." Panicked, the one who "thinks" they wanted 1 suddenly isn't so sure. "Right now? Like, now? I thought we'd wait at least 5 years before we got there...what about our jobs? What about money? What about living our lives while we're still young?" Reluctantly they agree to start trying. Five years, a surgery, ovulation regimens and fertility pills later, it's actually not possible. Now what? Devastated, do we foster? Adopt? Locally? Over seas? How will we pay for that? Four failed adoptions after that you find yourselves in the middle of mine and A.J.'s story. :)
If we had not discussed from the very beginning whether or not we'd be willing to adopt, he might have second guessed marrying me when we discovered we couldn't have our own. I was open from the beginning that my "system" was a little tricky, so we had discussed that it might be a possibility. He was open from the very beginning that he really wanted 3 kids. Had I not known that I would have been totally freaked out when he wanted to start trying right away, but I knew his heart and I knew he'd make a great dad. I was terrified, but I knew we'd figure it out together. Eleven years later we're still figuring it out. I've changed my mind a dozen times and he's been the most patient husband anyone could ever hope for; I don't deserve him. For now we have an awesome pup and more than a couple businesses to run so we're content, but it's important to keep the communication open.
These are just two of the questions we go over when we're sitting in front of a couple and you can see how complicated they alone can be. There are dozens of things to consider. You owe yourselves and your marriage a fighting chance. Pre-marital counseling isn't going to solve all your problems, it doesn't make it divorce-proof, but it definitely shows you the value of communication and what you can accomplish together if you're willing to put in the work and stay humble.
Many officiants require it as a part of their services, most at least offer it, you should definitely choose it if you get the chance. It's worth every penny. After all, you're spending thousands of dollars on this one day of your marriage, if it falls apart in 2 years those thousands were a total waste. If you're officiant doesn't offer it, talk to me, I'll be happy to make some recommendations.