5 Ways to Plan For Your Marriage, Not Just Your Wedding
Wedding planning takes quite a lot of effort. The budgeting, the vendors, all the guests—there are quite a few details to manage, to say the least. But as it turns out, there's something just around the corner from your wedding which may be a tad more demanding than the planning of your wedding: Your marriage. While your wedding is important and certainly worth the stress, your marriage deserves priority. The good news is that there are practical, easy-to-implement ways you can plan for your marriage.
1. Surround Yourselves With Community
The key to a successful marriage is making sure you have close friends around you, friends who can provide support during the tough times.
And yes: there will be tough times. (More on that in a bit.) Age-old wisdom tells us to spend time with people who are further along in life; people who have been where you are. Implementing this wisdom can make the difference between a marriage that flourishes and one that doesn't.
Tackling marital issues on your own, while not impossible, does tend to be more difficult. This is true in any domain of life. But you don't have to take these issues on alone. Surround yourself with friends and family members who you can talk to in times of trouble.
2. Expect Some Difficulty
Many people are regularly blindsided by the difficulties that arise in marriage and there are a variety of reasons explaining why. But what do the facts say? They say that marriage is difficult. Doesn't matter who you are, how much therapy you've done, how incredible your spouse is—marriage will be challenging at times. Have you ever stopped to wonder why? It's all about vulnerability and intimacy.
Vulnerability is what happens when you honestly share your life with another. If things are going well, this is what's happening in your marriage. In general, this means that the parts of you that you may not be so fond of usually make their way into the spotlight of the relationship. That spotlight moment is vulnerability. Some people can tolerate it, others have a little more trouble with it.
Nearby to this experience of vulnerability is the experience of intimacy. Intimacy is usually the product of vulnerability. Once people share their lives honestly with another for long enough, they enter into intimacy.
So, why the difficulty? With vulnerability and intimacy comes risk.
When two people make themselves vulnerable to each other, they take a risk. They risk the other person hurting them. While it's good to do everything in your power to limit the hurt in your relationships, it's almost inevitable that hurt will occur. Perhaps you've heard the saying, "hurt people hurt people"? Well, it's true. Expect it. Plan for it. And in these ways, you can reduce how often it happens.
Failing to plan for the difficulty, on the other hand, usually leaves you exposed to more of it.
3. Consider Post-Marital Counseling
A common approach taken to plan for marriage includes pre-marital counseling. It's easy to see why this would be so helpful, right? A regular meeting given over to discuss the relationship, you and your partner's dynamics, and what to expect once you're married.
It's truly a good idea. But what about once you're married, once you're living in those dynamics every day and dealing with the reality of married life? What, then?
Post-marriage counseling can save the day. Engaging this practice is a wonderful preventative step toward securing a quality marriage. So be proactive, not reactive. Couples that are proactively working through their conflicts do much better than couples who are working through them reactively. Once again, this principle carries across multiple areas of life. For example, proactive communication with your boss will always bode well for you more than reactive communication will.
So you might consider post-marriage counseling. Afraid that people might suspect something is wrong with your marriage because of it? Honestly, who cares. This is your marriage. You'll be happy when you and your spouse will be flourishing years later.
4. Create One Year, Three Year, & Five Year Plans
Where would you like to be one year from your wedding day? How about in three years? Five years? Wherever you picture yourself, make it explicit to your significant other. Nothing is better in marriage than being aligned with your person. It's really easy to do. Make it fun and do it over a bottle of wine and some dinner!
Being able to dream together is one of the greatest gifts of marriage. Putting your imaginations together and creating an ideal future for yourselves will breathe life into your relationship. Talk about where you'd like to be a year from now. Think through the possibility of three years from now. And, if you're really a forward thinker, consider your lives five years from now.
The process of future planning has a way of bringing out your values. This is good. Talk about your values. They guide the way you live, think, and act. Best to make your values as clear as possible to your significant other.
5. Live Within Your Means
The data is in: one of the primary causes of divorce is finances. It's not surprising either—finances can be difficult. This tip for planning for your marriage is two-fold.
First, write out a budget. Plan some time to sit down with your spouse-to-be and list out all of your income, your expenses, and any debt you might have. (Remember the bit about vulnerability earlier? Get ready.) No need to shield the truth from each other on these points. Honesty is the best policy. This first step is listing everything out is admittedly the easier one.
Next, stay within your budget. This is what's meant by "live within your means." Agree on the expenses you have, set allowances for each other, and then stay within that range.
Plan weekly, monthly or, even quarterly check-ins with each other to review how the spending has gone and whether you've stayed within the budget as planned. No one likes having someone checking over their shoulder on their spending every single day, but no accountability at all could be dangerous as well. Figure out a frequency of check-ins that's comfortable for the both of you, and stick to that.
Doing so is sure to help you plan for your marriage, not just your wedding.
Looking for tips on building a flourishing marriage and the tools to make it work? Newlywed's Toolkit is the one-stop-shop for couples building their life together