Preparing for Marriage
How To Be Married
Arranging your wedding usually takes priority, but don’t underestimate the importance of preparation for your marriage too
We spend an average of 36 days planning a wedding. But what about the actual marriage? How many of us spend even a fraction of that time plotting out how we want our marriage to be? In our bid for a Pinterest-perfect wedding, it’s often easy to forget the point of it all.
“People who are getting married are so focused on the actual day that they don’t really stop and think about what being married is all about,” says Crystal Pearce, Chief Executive at Relate Cornwall, which offers a range of relationship counselling services including a marriage preparation course. “And once the big day and the honeymoon are over, it can feel like a bit of a letdown because they’ve spent all this money and sometimes they see it as nothing to look forward to.”
The point of prep
The point of marriage preparation is to shift some of the focus from the wedding to the marriage, as that’s (hopefully!) the long-lasting aspect. “It’s about looking at various parts of the marriage that are important to see eye to eye about, or at least agreeing that there is a difference in how you see those parts,” says Crystal. “The issues that cause marriage trouble are largely the same ones generation to generation. It’s just that now we don’t expect to stay in a relationship that is making us unhappy. We have now got permission to move on.”
An estimated 42 percent of marriages end in divorce, with “communication problems” cited as the most common factor in divorces, closely followed by an inability to resolve conflict. This isn’t surprising when you consider the context: two completely individual people with different backgrounds, experiences and expectations trying to forge a life together.
“We’re all the product of our upbringing and when we get together with someone who we want to spend the rest of our lives with, they are a product of their upbringing as well,” explains Crystal. “And so they come with these preconceived ideas of how a marriage is going to be organised. Some will say ‘I never want to do what my parents did; I’m going to do things differently.’ Others will say they expect it to be exactly like their parents’ marriage.” All things considered, it seems like preparing for marriage is a sensible step! Relate Cornwall recommends five to six sessions of marriage preparation and suggests that you start around a year to nine months before the wedding.
What to expect
For couples interested in attending a marriage preparation course, it begins by each building what Maurice, one of Relate Cornwall’s counsellors, calls a ‘selfish list of relationship expectations’. Your lists will differ, because, as Maurice points out: “You are two different people with two different backgrounds.” In your own time, you’ll work through both lists together and discuss.
At the next session you will assess how it went, and Maurice points out that everyone will experience some difficulties or block. One common issue that arises is when people perceive items on the list quite differently. For example, one person might put ‘to feel loved’ on their list, but how we give and receive love differs enormously. For one person, it could mean an even division of chores and picking up the slack when necessary, while to another it could be frequent physical intimacy. This is where the discussion part comes in, so couples can begin to realise and accept their differences.
During the next session you’ll look to the future and talk about some of the big topics such as money and children. “It’s too late to discuss these things two years into the marriage,” says Maurice. Deciding how your future together is going to look is incredible important. “Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t actually talk about whether they want a family. For some people, it’s accepted they’re going to have a family, it’s just assumed. Then they marry someone who assumes that they don’t want a family,” says Crystal. So it’s far better to have everything out in the open before making a lifelong commitment.
Next, you’ll bring together your list and future plans to co-create a relationship. “This will avoid one party saying ‘I didn’t want this anyway and now it’s all gone wrong,’” says Maurice. The idea here is that you are both buying into it and you’re both equally invested in its success.
During your final session, you will cement all the work you have done and discover how to stay on top of issues. “Conflict isn’t the problem, it’s how you deal with it that matters,” says Maurice. “You need to keep working at it – it’s continual maintenance.”
Why it works
Of course it’s perfectly possible to have these big discussions at home and you might have already covered some of the issues. But, as Crystal points out, there is a real benefit to attending a specific course. “It’s quite nice to be outside of your own home environment, where you might be thinking, ‘Oh, I need to turn the TV on, ‘EastEnders’ is starting,’ and actually have a room where you can sit down and concentrate on the relationship,” says Crystal. “Because it isn’t about you, it isn’t about your fiancé; it’s about your relationship. Your relationship is the actual client and you two are part of it.”
For more information visit relatecornwall.org
words Abby Driver
opening image Emma Stoner
Copyright Wed magazine 2017