Here's Why Fighting While Engaged Is Totally Normal
If you and your partner fight, you're totally in the norm. Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship, especially a romantic one. After all, you're sharing so many facets of your life together, potentially even living together, and are trying to balance an even share of life experiences all while keeping the romance alive—that's not an easy feat!
Despite misconceptions that the engagement period is reserved for nothing but date nights, sweet sentiments back and forth and fun wedding-planning experiences, fighting while engaged is actually super commonplace. "We are all different people with different lived experiences, meaning we have different viewpoints," explains Marisa Cohen, Ph.D., M.F.T., relationship researcher, psychology professor and therapist. "While each couple is different, this can be exacerbated during the engagement period as partners may be dealing with things that they may not have had to deal with before (i.e., moving in together, combining finances, etc.)."
In this article:
Is It Normal For Couples To Fight During Their Engagement?
Yes—as with any other time frame of your relationship, it is normal to fight during your engagement. In fact, fighting may even be more likely to occur during the engagement period due to the increase in pressure and the introduction of new things into the relationship such as wedding planning, explains Jennifer Teplin, L.C.S.W, Manhattan Wellness's founder and clinical director at Manhattan Wellness. "The engagement period is a time of transition and while it is romantic to decide to spend the rest of your life with someone, that concept is extremely scary—even if you know you're making the right decision," she says. "Individuals look at this time with rose-colored glasses when in reality you're beginning to plan a wedding as well as the rest of your life and blending loads of people and conversations that have never happened before—it is extremely stressful which absolutely leads to more disagreements."
Common Things Engaged Couples Argue About
Most of the things that engaged couples argue about are the same topics as couples in other stages of their relationships, with a few minor differences revolving around planning for the big day. Here, relationship experts share the most common things engaged couples fight about.
Perhaps the most common topic to fight about at any stage of your relationship, but especially during the engagement period is money. While tradition dictated that the parents of the bride pay for the wedding, society's expectations in that regard have shifted dramatically. "Many times parents of the engaged couple are in charge of financing a wedding so the disagreements and discomfort can go beyond the engaged couple, and this added layer can cause a rift between families or the engaged couple themselves," says Teplin.
Here's another topic that is commonplace for many couples to argue over—whether or not they're in the engagement phase of life. That said, Dr. Cohen points out that communication may feel more high stakes or become contentious when making important wedding-related and life decisions. "Topics people fight about related to communication include the way in which they communicate (direct versus passive aggressive) and/or misunderstandings that result from communication efforts," she says.
Even though you've both decided that you want to be engaged, there are many other topics along your relationship timeline that are left to be decided, including your wedding, honeymoon and when to move in together if you haven't already. These timing-related topics can become unfortunate bones of contention during the engagement period.
Family Members Involvement
When couples get engaged, it's quite common for family members to start poking in with suggestions or questions that place pressure on a certain "to do," be it booking a venue, hiring a wedding planner or setting a date. "Humans are selfish in nature and throughout most scenarios they experience they are identifying where they belong or where they want to fit in," says Teplin. "This can lead to many uncomfortable conversations as well as potential compromises no one expected to make."
Expectations vs. Reality
The engagement period is often seen in movies and on social media as this uber-romantic period of time where couples revel in nothing but sunshine and rainbows, but this is not real life. "Once an engagement takes place couples often begin to identify a time frame, location, vision amongst other big elements—all of which can bring conflict or confusion," says Teplin. "It's common to see the end point of a vision, but to rarely consider the ins and outs of getting there and that's where conflict arises."
Customs and Traditions
Depending on your family background in regards to religion or ethnicity, you may have differences in how you'd prefer to carry out certain customs or traditions. "Each partner may have different ideas of what they want to incorporate, which can be tied to religion and/or family traditions, or something else," adds Dr. Cohen.
How To Stop Bickering With Your Partner During Your Engagement
No one wants to spend their engagement period arguing with the love of their life. Follow these tips to keep bickering to a minimum so you can enjoy the pre-marital bliss.
1. Focus on being on the same team.
"During wedding planning, it can be easy to feel like you and your partners are on different teams or have different priorities," explains Teplin. She recommends identifying the occasions where you feel that you're going head to head or are more focused on family preferences than couple preferences. When you get to this point, be sure to call it out. "The engagement process and wedding planning are with the goal of your union in mind and by making sure you feel that you're on the same team and moving towards the same goals in tandem is key in reducing arguments," she adds.
2. Communicate your feelings at all times.
One of the biggest reasons couples argue is due to lack of communication—or when one partner isn't being open and honest with their wants or needs. "By getting comfortable sharing what is not working for you rather than getting into an argument the couple can work out the problem before the disagreement escalates," says Teplin. "This skill is important during the engagement period, but more important throughout your life together, as couples with great communication have less arguments and report overall greater satisfaction within their partnership."
3. Consider the impact of the strategy you use to "win".
"Certain people may lash out, because they are feeling hurt, which temporarily may make them feel better, which may be because they are able to elicit a response from their partner or make their partner feel the emotion (such as pain) they are feeling," says Dr. Cohen. Not only will what you say during this intense lash-out session be remembered long after the argument is over, but you may not effectively communicate the actual reasons why you were hurt at the time, she explains. "This can potentially lead to future misunderstandings."
4. Use "I language".
"'I language' relates a situation back to you and your feelings, which enables you to fully express how you are being affected and focuses on the behavior rather than on the person," explains Dr. Cohen. "Replacing 'Why did you do that?' which may be accompanied by an eye roll, with 'When you make plans without me, I feel left out' is much more effective." She also adds that, by doing this, you're not actually attacking the character of your partner, but rather you're better able to explain why you're upset, angry, hurt or frustrated.
5. Practice a new way of relating to each other.
If you find yourself arguing during your engagement, Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., certified sex therapist and author of Getting the Sex You Want, recommends using this time to practice a new way of relating to each other. "Our expectations have to shift and change when we are with a new partner, as there are conditions to mature loving relationships between partners," she says. "It's best to have an explicit discussion now about your individual conditions and what your monogamy agreement is and what it will look like going forward, as anything implicitly assumed will put you both at risk for betrayal and disappointment in the future."