There are less than three months until my wedding and I just found my dress and I still have not sent out save the dates, or wedding invitations. Like many brides, I have become overwhelmed in the swirl of dress shopping, fine tuning the guest list, selecting a caterer and finding a D.J. (This is a truncated list, of course.) When I feel inadequate to make decisions on flowers, color schemes and cake decorations, I find confidence in knowing that I’m at least taking the right steps to ensure that Mathias (my fiancé) and I will still have a healthy relationship after the wedding.
So, while I envy the women who seem to be the perfect wedding planners, I’ve tasked myself with being a diligent marriage planner. I won’t attempt to offer expert relationship advice, or claim to know the keys to having a perfect anything, let alone a perfect marriage. However, I do know that being successful at anything requires a plan. Here are the tactics I’m using to make sure that Mathias and I get a healthy start to our marriage.
When Mathias and I got engaged our first priority was mapping out our lives together. Questions like, which city will we settle down in? How many children will we have? Should I go to graduate school? All came up as we focused on planning our future. A good place to start with this planning process is goal setting. Everything starts to come together when you ask yourself what you really want and work toward that. For example, if what you really want is to be a stay at home mom in five years, then that might impact your decision to pay for graduate school right now.
The time to start planning your financial future with your partner is now. Both parties need to lay out what they bring to the table in terms of assets and debt. Just like life planning, it’s important to set goals. Are you the couple who wants to go on a big vacation every year, or is your biggest priority saving for a down payment on a house? Is eliminating student loan debt or investing one of your goals? Determine where you want to be financially and it will become easier to create a plan on how to get there together.
I like to think of pre-marital counseling as preventative maintenance for your relationship. You can pinpoint trouble areas that currently exist, develop a strategy for dealing with future pitfalls and cultivate deeper intimacy with your partner. There are several options for counseling, so explore what works for you. It could be seeking advice from an older couple who you respect, group sessions with a religious guidance counselor, or private sessions with a professional counselor. Mathias and I are currently taking six sessions with a professional counselor who is helping us prepare for the three issues that cause the most conflict in marriage: sex, money and in-laws.
Learning how to fight fair, financial planning and deciding whose family to spend Christmas with may not seem romantic. However, these things are essential to having a healthy relationship. The details of wedding planning are important and I'll get the invitations out, hire the caterer and try to remember to smile and breathe through the ceremony. More important than the wedding is what will happen after we say “I do,” cut the cake and ride off into the sunset. I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest of my life committed to Mathias and happy to know that we’ve got a plan.