If you recently got engaged over the holidays, we want to be the first to say congratulations!!! We know you will find plenty of wedding inspiration on our site, but we also want to make sure you having those important conversations with your partner to ensure you have a healthy marriage! Today, relation expert and owner of owner xoxo Therapy Marissa Nelson, is sharing five enlightening conversations you should have with your mate about life after your wedding!! Let us know what you think in the comments below!!
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and for many couples – engaged! According to a recent survey, 33 percent of engagements take place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. So if you found yourself with a new sparkly little nugget of happiness on your ring finger, congrats! But before you start dress shopping and pinning wedding inspiration boards, you might want to have a heart to heart with your significant other about what lies beyond the alter.
As a Licensed Relationship Therapist, I see couples before and after their journey down the aisle, and many newlyweds were not having the conversations needed to bring about growth, mutual understanding and clarity around big relationship & life issues. To start your engagement (and married life) in the right direction, here are my top 5 topics that you should be discussing with your partner.
Vision of Marriage
What are both of your visions of marriage? It is important to understand what those vows really mean to you, and exploring what expectations you have of each other going into this. Also, reflect on what your parent’s relationship was like when you were growing up. Are they still married and going strong? Did you witness your parents go through a divorce? What are the elements of their relationship would you like to hold on to, and what are the negative aspects that you refuse to bring into your marriage?
Family of Origin
In order for us to move forward in wedded bliss, sometimes we often first need to look back at our families and experiences with them growing up that have shaped who we are. We adopt pieces of our upbringing and carry it into all aspects of our relationships, and it’s important to see what influences and family dynamics your bringing into your marriage. What are some relationships in your family that could use some growth? Are there any unresolved issues with mother, father, or siblings? What is it like growing up in a big family or small family, and how did they show affection and love? What are the best traditions and values that you would like to incorporate? What negative aspects or family patterns do you not want to repeat?
Conflict & Communication
Bumps in the road are to be expected, but how do you handle conflict as a couple? What are some of the ways that you could improve the way that you engage in conflict? Do you fight fair, or sometimes hit below the belt? Be introspective and talk to your partner about what you are accountable for when emotions get to a boiling point.
John Gottman, marital researcher and author of The Marriage Clinic, believes that four behaviors during an argument are corrosive to the foundation of any relationship and are predictive of divorce or separation with over 90% accuracy. These behaviors are criticism (“What kind of person are you?”)
Defensiveness (“Well what about what you did?”) Contempt (righteous indignation, sarcasm), and Stonewalling (shutting down & walking away during an argument.) Both of you identify which behavior(s) you typically reach for in times of conflict and talk about what gets triggered in you when you don’t feel understood or valued.
Most people have heard the mantra that many marriages fail over finances. Money may seem finite, measurable and emotionless, but throughout your life the presence, absence and/or sufficiency of money to meet your needs inevitably leads to a very personal and emotional relationship with it. Furthermore, unless there was an immediate crisis, many of us have never discussed our finances with people outside of our families (or anyone for that matter).
It is no wonder then that many couples get caught avoiding the discussion entirely, or feeling uncomfortable or defensive when talking about finances. However, it is supremely important for both of you to be brave and open up as to what your personal relationship with money is. Remember, the aim is not to judge your partner’s past or preference of managing finances, but rather to reach a common wavelength for your joint financial decision-making. Are you a spender and your mate is a saver? What are your joint financial goals in the medium and long-term and how do you plan to achieve them? How does your wedding vision (size and cost) play into your financial plan? What adjustments should be made to meet our individual needs?
Sex & Intimacy
Many couples often mistake sex and intimacy as interchangeable terms. While it is true that sex is the most physically intimate shared experience for couples, intimacy extends well beyond just the physical act. Many couples report having frequent sex yet still lacking intimacy, while others experience high levels of intimacy without frequent intercourse. The secret lies in connection and emotional safety. Sex is but one of the tools in your toolbox that you both use to express your desire, passion, vulnerability and love for each other. Beyond the wedding night, it is very important as a couple to nurture your connection both inside and outside of the bedroom. What makes us both feel close and how does it make us feel to be satisfied by each other? What frequency and quality of closeness, intimacy, and sex makes us both feel emotionally fulfilled? How can we maintain connection without sex when our levels of desire differ?
Open, honest and non-judgmental conversations on these five topics will open up the pathways to greater unity and understanding with your partner. Make sure that both you and your partner are emotionally ready to have these conversations when you decide to tackle them, and I would definitely not try to do them all at once. Your relationship is to last the test of time so take it slow and enjoy the ride.
About MarissaMarissa Nelson is a licensed graduate marriage and family therapist and owner of XoXo Therapy based in Washington DC. Specializing in romantic relationships, she holds a Master’s of Family Therapy (MFT) from the Couples and Family Therapy Department of Drexel University in Philadelphia and was the recipient of the Health Resources and Services Couples and Family Therapy Department Service Award. Marissa is currently a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and is serving as a private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients in the Greater Washington DC area.
Photo by Amy Anaiz Photography