curiosity and connection during engagement
Although it is important to spend energy on the type of wedding venue or who is going to be in the wedding party, type of flowers, invitations and seating charts, the most important reason is to prepare for a satisfying life together. The planning needs to go beyond “getting married” to “being married” which means looking at what issues and conversations need to be addressed. All the optimism and excitement of the wedding day can often push couples to believe that challenges will work out after being married. A ceremony or huge wedding reception will not change your spouses' personality and that first year can often be rough at times and that's okay. Preparing for married life can make this first year, and those that follow, more successful.
A committed relationship needs to have a solid foundation to sustain a healthy relationship for a lifetime. This foundation can be first established through curiosity and communication with your partner on many topics they may not have yet considered. Below, is a "starter set" of topics to review and discuss during the “Engagement Phase”.
Here are some questions to ask each other during your valuable time of Engagement:
FinancesHow much debt do you have?What is the amount one of us can spend without having to consult the other?If we want children and cannot conceive how much are we willing to spend on fertility?Do we have equal say on how we spend our money regardless of who earns what?
Children/ParentingWhen do you want to start having a family?How many children? Open to adoption if conceiving is a problem?What form of childcare will you want? One parent stay at home or daycare?Raising kids according to specific faith?School- private or public?Parenting utilizing a "united front" and what does that mean?Parenting styles; activities, discipline; all of these are priorities to discuss as there can be profound differences and histories here that can strongly impact your relationship.
Happiness and SatisfactionTalk about what makes each of you happy or even what makes up a satisfying day. This seems so simple but learning whatever it is that makes your spouse feel excited and joyful should become a priority to you.
CareerHow do you work through the issue of one wanting to quit working or change careers?Do you want to be a 1 or 2-income family?What are each other's expectations regarding chores/division of labor especially if both work full time?Is going back to school an option?
SexualitySexual intimacy is an incredible force and there is not other area in which we are so vulnerable so start communicating first outside the bedroom so you can ask questions to each other likeHow did you first learn about sex?What were the prevailing attitudes about sex in your home?Decide on birth control plan, if any.What are your needs for physical affection? They are likely not the same.How will you respond and deal with it if another person is attracted to you and approaches you?
In-lawsYou are about to become an in-law here are some good questions to go overWhat are some things about your partner's parents do you really appreciate?What one thing about your partner's parents do you dislike?What customs in your home differ from those in your partner's home?How do you want to handle the holidays?
Decision MakingThis is an important topic to discuss in terms of who makes the decisions in the marital relationship some of these are shared and some are made by just one person.Here are some examples to considerChoice of new car (used, low/high mileage, new)Do we have pets?Choice of vacation spots f(luxury, all-inclusive, camping,Choice of furniture (high end, long term, style upgrades)Choice of church (family value, independent, participation level high/low)Choice of where we live (city, suburbs, large/small home, diversity of neighborhood)
Other questions to discuss:Who made most of the decisions in your family?Have you established guidelines to distinguish between major and minor decisions?What procedures will you follow when there is an impasse and a decision must be made?Share why you love each other, speak to all the ways you love your partner.
Dealing with ConflictWhen a couple is engaged, they are full of good energy and just see the greatness if their partner but that will dissipate and conflict will happen so you need a plan so here are some ideas to help you.When you feel misunderstood or mistreated by your partner it is important to:Avoid a judgmental attitudeStand up for yourself without putting your partner downFind the understandable/relatable part of what your partner is sayingBe curious about your partner's worldWhen in conflict with your partner instead of waiting your turn for rebuttal, the very first thing to do is try to hear them through validating their perspective so they can feel heard.Have a general discussion about what bothers you. When done correctly, your conflict will help you feel closer to one another.
Some other things to consider when developing good habits when starting a marriage include:Keeping an eye out for the positive: Research studies have shown successful couples have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive interactions/comments to negative interactions/comments: so develop the habit of noticing, thinking about, and talking about the small, positive things that happen. You'll also spend more time remembering and talking about positive things that have happened in the past.Making "Bids for Connection”; people who initiate small acts of caring without strings attached are more likely to end up in more satisfying marriages than those people who neglect small acts of kindness. It is also important to learn how to receive and be open to your partner's bid for connection. So, if you are an engaged couple or interested in couples therapy, we have specialized certified couples' therapists that can help you navigate through this very important time of engagement. Dr. Joseph RippLicensed Clinical PsychologistCertified Imago Relationship Therapist