Have you done everything you can to give yourself the best chance for having a successful marriage? Do you wonder if there is more you can do or could have done?
While couples spend countless hours planning for their “big day” they usually forget to plan for the day after and the years ahead. Whether you’re single, married, or anywhere in-between, I’ve created a series of posts just for you. The first of “The Best Ways to Prepare for Marriage” series will give you insight into how to improve and strengthen your relationship. I’ll explain the best ways to prepare for the long-haul so that you can confidently walk down that isle and enjoy life with your beloved.
Create a “Must Have” List (even if you are married)
This was a piece advice my husband and I received when planning for our own wedding. Someone told us to individually take a sheet of paper and create 3 separate columns. In the first column, we were to write down the things that we absolutely must have for the wedding and cannot live without. Some of those items might include people whom you want to attend or having a cigar or dessert bar. It doesn’t matter what you write down as long as it is important and particular to you.
The second column was for the things we would like to have at the wedding but could live without. In other words, it wouldn’t matter whether those items were present or not, though you would think it was nice. Maybe a specific food item or a glittery wedding invitation.
Finally, the third column was for the items you do not want included as a part of the wedding for any reason whatsoever. These are the things that you definitely do not want in any way, shape, or form to be present. Perhaps a song that reminds you of an Ex or a wedding tradition you aren’t fond of such as the garter toss.
After completing the lists individually, sit down with your fiancé and share your lists. See what you have in common and what you don’t. While you are exchanging ideas, begin to create a new list with 3 separate columns. This time, it will represent the “Must Haves” “Could Haves” and “Never Haves” that you both desire and agree on. (Doing this exercise could be one of your first big compromises as a couple!). Practice effective communication. Crossing out your partner’s ideas and keeping your own is NOT an example of effective communication.
What to do if you don’t like your partner’s Must Haves
If you find your fiancé’s Must Haves completely tacky do your best to hear them out. Let him explain the reasons why acid-washed denim ties on the groomsmen are a tribute to his late grandfather. Or listen to her share why she wants a crane embroidered on the alter cloth to connect with her Asian heritage. Though you may agree to pay tribute to heritage and late relatives another way in the ceremony, the point is to have an overall discussion about what is most important to each of you and why. After all, it is a special day for you both.
You’d be surprised how many items end up in your first column. The Must Have List puts things into perspective and helps you remember what is most important when times get stressful.
All of those moments when you consider bailing on the big wedding and eloping is a great time to remind yourself of your Must Haves. For example, a couple I knew only had 2 points on their Must Have List. One of those items was “To get married.” Whenever they became stressed during wedding planning, all they had to do was remind themselves that at the end of the day, as long as they were married, they would be happy and that was most important to them. They were not intimidated by the thought of a wedding day disaster because they knew that, no matter what, they would end the day as husband and wife, and that meant more than any color, place setting, or photographer.
If wedding planning is driving you nuts (a sign might be gaining or losing a lot of weight), review your lists. Are you putting too much energy into a “Could Have?” Has a “Must Have” become too demanding?
Maybe you initially thought releasing 3000 doves at your ceremony was a “Must” but now you’re thinking it might not be worth the hassle. That’s ok! Change dove releasing into a “Could” and focus on another “Must.”
What to do if you’re already married or not married
If you are already married, or not yet engaged, you can use this strategy when making any big decision or when trying to find a compromise with your partner. Deciding about a job change? Searching for a new home? Create a Must-Could-Never-Have list.
What parts about a new work environment are non-negotiable? What must the minimum salary be? What parts of a new home would you like to have but can live without? What will never be included in your new home? Stairs, a leaky roof, or a yard too small for the dogs?
All you have to do is remember the basic format. Start by writing individually and then together discuss what is most important to each of you. Not so that one person can “win” but so that you can have insight into your partner’s deepest desires of their heart. When you have a clear articulation about what your beloved desires most, you can’t help but do your best to accommodate. When you do this, it will solidify and strengthen your relationship because the communication pathways are open.
That concludes Part 1 of “The Best Ways to Prepare for Marriage.” You now have 1 useful way to get started. The Must Have list will help anyone whether single, dating, or married, make better decisions. Remember, before you begin the marriage preparation process, be sure you have determined you are ready to get married. Once you are confident that marriage is the life-long commitment for you, jump right in and invest in preparing for a rewarding experience. Stay tuned there’s more to come!
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