Articles_Engaged

Articles for Engaged Couples

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    Engaged Couples and Expectations

    Are you headed down the aisle soon? If you are, whether this is your first marriage or not, you probably have some thoughts rolling around in your brain in terms of what you expect from your soon-to-be spouse. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

    Almost everyone comes to marriage with some pretty specific ideas about how things will be, whether they realize it or not. These expectations might be based on what people have experienced in their own family (things they liked or didn’t like and don’t want to repeat), a romantic movie, a previous relationship or even the Hallmark Channel.

    Here’s the thing: Whether it’s how you plan to handle money, accepting support from family and in-laws, how often you will make love, being on time, handling conflict, career aspirations, helping with chores or cleanliness, if you don’t talk about your expectations ahead of time, there’s a really good chance it could lead to some disappointing and frustrating moments in the future.

    People often don’t voice their expectations because they fear the other person won’t live up to them. If you do talk about them and your spouse-to-be doesn’t see these expectations as a big deal or doesn’t plan to change their approach to these issues, you may try to convince yourself that once you have a ring on your finger and things are more final, things will be different. Don’t be fooled, though: There are plenty of studies indicating the best time to look for behavior change is before the wedding, not after.

    Unspoken expectations can silently kill relationships. Do yourself and your fiancé a favor: Be honest about your expectations. Just because your family did something a certain way doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do it the same way. It could be that in the midst of discussing what is important to you both, you realize your expectations aren’t realistic or that you want to tweak them a bit to better fit your relationship. 

    One thing you want to guard against is sacrificing who you are in the name of your relationship. If your faith is very important to you and you strongly expect your fiancé to one day share your faith values, realize that change is possible, but it could place a hefty load of tension on your relationship if your faith is in conflict with what they believe.

    It’s totally possible that you and your fiancé have expectations of each other that you don’t even realize you have. Taking the time to go through a premarital education experience either in person or online could help you both identify things you feel strongly about and help you to work through those issues before you get married. Talking about your expectations ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches and heartache down the road.

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    Money and Marriage

    Solomon and Deona married with $90,000 in student loans and consumer debts. For the first two years of marriage, they struggled to find common ground when it came to handling their finances.

    “This couple’s story is not unique,” said Howard Dayton, co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries and Christian author of Money and Marriage God's Way. “Over time, I have noticed that a significant number of people calling into our money management radio program were married and dealing with financial issues concerning their spouse. Add the intensity of the financial crisis we have been in the middle of and you have a recipe for major league problems for many marriages. It's why I decided to write this book.”

    Dayton has now been happily married for more than 45 years. But as Dayton conducted research for Money and Marriage God's Way, he realized that while he had the money thing down, he needed to focus on the marital side of his own house.

    “We put a focus group together of marriage experts, including those who deal with stepfamilies and people recovering from divorce,” Dayton said. “For me personally, the experience of writing this book has had a huge impact on my own marriage. It helped me in many different ways to enhance our marriage relationship on top of what is said about money. I am convinced that many people totally miss the boat when it comes to money and marriage. God wants to use money to bring couples closer together instead of dividing them.”

    If you are considering marriage, Dayton believes you should think about these key factors.

    • Honesty tops the list. Research indicates that 55 percent of married couples are dishonest about what they do with their money. This clearly has the potential to destroy trust, so it is really important to start out your relationship with financial honesty.

    • Have a weekly money date to keep the lines of communication open. “While this may not sound very romantic, this exercise does have the potential to greatly enhance your marriage relationship. Start out your money date by praying and inviting God to be a part of the process. Review what happened last week in terms of income and expenditures, and make plans for upcoming bills. This is not a time to fight and nag. The goal is to make sure both of you are on the same page. I find in many marriages one person knows what is going on with the finances. And, the other doesn’t,” Dayton said.

    • Celebrate victories in your financial journey. More often than not, discussing money equates to a negative experience for couples. “Very few couples celebrate their financial accomplishments,” Dayton said. “I encourage them to be intentional about celebrating, encouraging one another, and expressing gratitude when they reach financial milestones.”

    Despite feeling like they were drowning in debt, Solomon and Deona decided to try these principles. Thus far, they have significantly reduced their debt. They attribute this accomplishment to creating a financial plan, sticking to it and learning how to make wise money choices.

    Check out Crown Financial Ministries, Financial Peace University and MagnifyMoney.com for information regarding budgets, reducing credit card interest and debt. You'll also learn more about eliminating unnecessary fees, maximizing cash back on everyday spending, and earning savings account interest.

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    Prepare for Marriage, Not Just the Wedding

    Looking for ways to strengthen your marriage before it starts? Try these tips to help you prepare for life after the wedding day.

    First, attend a premarital education class or premarital counseling. Eighty-nine percent of married couples who attended premarital education BEFORE marriage found it to be helpful down the road. Worthwhile classes will teach you communication skills and conflict management tools, along with addressing appropriate expectations.

    Find a mentor couple. Seek out an older, more experienced, happily married couple to provide wisdom and support to you as you begin your adventure together.

    Start thinking "We" instead of "Me." Marriage is a partnership. It will serve you well to remember you are on the same team. Make time to pursue activities together and explore common interests.

    Talk about your expectations for marriage. What are your goals for your marriage? How will you decide who does what around the house? Who will manage the money? Discuss your goals to help ensure a successful marriage. Unrealistic and unmet expectations often lead to resentment.

    Be committed. Since commitment is a choice, believing in the permanence of your marriage will actually help your relationship over the long haul.

    Talk about money. Save yourselves a lot of future headaches by discussing your spending habits and spending plans and goals. Always spend less than you make, save a little for a rainy day and try to avoid debt.

    Talk about children. Will you have children? If so, how many children would you like to have? When would you like to have kids? Will both of you work or will one of you stay home?

    How will work/friends/family/social activities affect your marriage? Also, discuss boundaries for your marriage.

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    How to Plan a Great Wedding Experience

    When you dreamed about your wedding, did you ever think so many people would participate in the process? 

    Your mother is hurt because you aren't wearing her wedding dress. The maid-of-honor has forgotten it is your wedding - not hers. Your fiance’s family thinks the wedding plans are too formal. How will you choose two flower girls when you have six cousins who are the right age?

    “These are the landmines that often hit brides out of left field,” says Elizabeth Thomas, co-founder of The First Dance. “After planning our wedding and finding out the hard way that lots of people had strong feelings about certain aspects of 'our' day, I wondered if there were other brides out there feeling the same way. I found out there were tons of them. My father and I decided to build this website to help engaged couples manage the people stress of wedding planning and have more wisdom to carry over to their marriage.”

    Checklists can’t predict which wedding tasks or people in your life have an emotion, opinion, or stake in how to complete a task. To make matters worse, sometimes the person with the emotion or opinion doesn’t even know it until it's already final or it’s too late. Thomas discovered this when her wedding invitations arrived.

    “I was so excited!” Thomas says. “I went into the living room to show my dad. Keep in mind that up to this point he had not seen nor expressed any interest in the invitations. He took one look at the wedding invitation and panicked! He started moving from room to room, but no matter what lighting he was in they were too difficult to read. They were unique invitations with red ink on red paper, orange ink on orange paper and yellow ink on yellow paper. We have a ton of middle-aged and older guests who will have similar eyesight to my father. Reprinting the invitations was out of the question. Needless to say, it was an emotional moment!”

    Ask any bride what they are experiencing. You'll find that underneath the “it’s my day, my way” mentality is the desire to have a joyous wedding planning experience. Nobody enjoys making their mom angry, stressing their dad about invitations or frustrating their groom. Some brides stress so much trying to maintain their ground that they just give up and let someone else have the final say.

    After surviving her own wedding, Thomas believes that couples can intentionally make the wedding planning experience pleasant for everyone involved. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

    To the bride: Over-communicate about wedding plans that involve your groom. Whether you two agree that he'll do a few tasks or you want his opinion on something, if he has no clue then he will have no idea what the decision is about. He needs to know who is impacted by it, the work involved and the timing of the task. Huge breakdowns happen when grooms are not given specifics around tasks. Then, the bride invariably believes he doesn't care or is not being supportive enough.

    To the parents: Keep your cool when others lose theirs. It’s not your wedding, but you do have a stake in it. Don’t be passive or pushy, but recognize that this is about more than money. It’s about emotion, relationships, loyalty, obligation, influence, control and competition. Money should not trump relationships. Don’t use it to blackmail, threaten, or manipulate - or you will pay a big price.

    Know your role in decisions. There are three general roles:

    • enthusiast

    • adviser

    • partner

    Roles will vary issue by issue and family by family, but should be as clear as possible to avoid problems. Sometimes clarity only comes after a disagreement or conflict.

    “I think the best wedding day is when the people you care about most feel loved, heard and valued,” Thomas says. “Every wedding checklist item is ultimately about your values, communicating those values with your spouse and about, well, married life!

    "Weddings, like marriage, involve hundreds of routine decisions, big and small. They involve small and large sums of money, and require a lot of work. The outcome of the planning and wedding day itself will stay with you and your loved ones forever. It can change your relationships for better or worse and set the stage for how you go through life in the future.”

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    10 Great Dates Before You Say "I Do"

    David and Claudia Arp and Curt and Natelle Brown found that many seriously dating and engaged couples had questions. Turns out, many couples wonder the same thing.

    “In many of our seminars, couples told us they were in love and wanted to feel confident that they could make their relationship work,” say David and Claudia Arp, co-authors of the marriage preparation book, 10 Great Dates Before You Say “I Do.”

    “While there are no total guarantees, there are certain areas couples can look at ahead of time that will give them a good indication about the potential longevity of their relationship. We wrote this book with seriously dating couples and engaged couples in mind. For seriously dating couples, the dates give them specific focus areas to help them determine if they should take the next step in their relationship. For engaged couples, it is great preparation for marriage.”

    When you are in love it is hard to imagine that any differences in opinion could really cause a rift in your relationship. After the Arps married, the honeymoon was over and their hormones settled, they discovered something. Marriage didn't quite meet their expectations, and little things irritated them.

    Surprisingly, after going through the 10 Dates, couples discovered a number of things they had not discussed that could be cause for irritation. For example, one couple discovered they didn’t agree on how to decorate their house. Another couple didn’t believe it was important to talk about how they will handle their combined income.

    “We looked for fun and creative ways to cover topics such as sharing hopes, dreams and expectations and appreciating your differences to managing your money and celebrating intimacy in your relationship,” the Arps say. “It was important to us to help couples talk about things they might not otherwise discuss.”

    Marriage preparation can help couples better decide whether or not they are ready to marry each other at this time. The 10 Great Dates give couples a road map to help them get to know each other better.

    What are your expectations for your marriage? Couples contemplating marriage shared a few of their expectations with the Arps:

    • I expect my partner to always understand and encourage me.

    • Our marriage will always make us happy.

    • We will talk about everything, and therefore we will avoid serious disputes.

    • With two incomes, we will be financially secure – especially since two can live almost as cheaply as one.

    • Our love life will always be exciting and satisfying.

    • I expect my mate to meet my needs—to be a lot like me.

    “Obviously, these people were shocked when their mates were unable to live up to their expectations,” David Arp says. “It is hard enough to meet expectations when we know what they are, but it is impossible when we don’t.”

    Even in the best of relationships, these expectations would be hard to live up to. Marriage is a choice.

    If you want to get your marriage off to a great start, do yourself a favor - get 10 Great Dates and go through it and/or participate in marriage education classes. Hopefully, these activities will help you understand each other better. Then, you can make wise relationship choices now and in your marriage in the future.

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    Wedding Expenses and Marriage Stability

    A friend's Facebook post that said expensive wedding rings lead to more divorce caught Randal Olson’s eye.

    “My girlfriend and I had recently talked about wedding rings,” says Olson. “She said she did not want a big wedding ring. After reading the study, I was thankful. I am one semester away from graduating with a doctorate in computer science. My focus is on research so I don’t take things at face value. As I read the study (A Diamond is Forever and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration), I ran across this huge table of many different factors that play a role in long-term marriage.”

    Some of the findings make perfect sense to Olson, such as:

    • Couples who date three years or more before their engagement are 39 percent less likely to divorce.

    • The more money you and your spouse make, the less likely you are to ultimately file for divorce.

    • Couples who never go to church are two times more likely to divorce than regular churchgoers.

    Other findings, however, took Olson by surprise.

    “I was pretty shocked to see that the number of people who attend your wedding actually has a huge impact on long-term marital stability,” Olson says. “Couples who elope are 12.5 times more likely to divorce than couples who get married at a wedding with 200 plus people. The more I thought about this, the more it actually made sense. Having a large group of family and friends who are supportive of your marriage is vitally important to the long-term stability of your marriage.”

    These findings surprised Olson, too:

    • There is a relationship between how much people spent on their wedding and their likelihood of divorcing. The findings suggest that perhaps the financial burden incurred by a lavish wedding leads to financial stress for the couple. Women who spent $20,000 or more on their wedding were 3.5 times more likely to divorce than their counterparts who spent less than half that.

    • The honeymoon matters! Couples who went on a honeymoon were 41 percent less likely to divorce.

    • A big difference in educational levels could lead to a higher hazard of divorce.

    • If looks and wealth are an important factor in your decision to marry a person, you are more likely to divorce down the road.

    “Some of my friends read these findings and commented that they were in the bad categories. They asked me if their marriage was doomed,” Olson says. “The answer to that is no, but according to this research, statistically they are more likely to run into challenges. I believe the biggest takeaway for someone considering marriage like myself, is this isn’t a list of do's and don’ts. However, this was a very large study and the findings are worthy of consideration to help couples have a more stable marriage."

    “I think planning is the key,” he shares. "It takes a lot of work to plan a wedding. Put that same amount of effort into planning for your marriage.”

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    7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Divorce Before Marriage

    Engaged couples spend endless amounts of time planning for their special day. In the excitement of wedding showers, choosing the flowers and the cake, and finding the perfect dress, some wonder if they can make it work. They don't necessarily question their love for each other, although some actually do. It’s more about wondering if they can defy the odds of divorce.

    Most scholars agree that couples marrying today face a substantial risk of divorce. Many couples, however, don’t realize that certain factors increase their risk.

    “While there are academic arguments about how great the average risk is, there is a lot less argument among scholars about the relative risks,” says Dr. Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Relationships at the University of Denver. “Some people face a higher risk of divorce and others a very low risk. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but it will hit the highlights.”

    Individual Characteristics Linked with Higher Rates of Divorce:

    • Marrying at a young age (younger than 22)

    • Getting less education

    • Having parents who divorced or never married

    • Being a more reactive personality to stress and emotion

    • Having a prior marriage that ended

    • Prior to marrying, having sex with or cohabiting with someone other than your mate

    • Having a very low income or being in poverty

    “While some people face a higher risk of divorce than others, many people who have a very low risk nevertheless worry about divorce happening to them,” Stanley asserts. “Some people avoid marriage because of their fear of divorce, but avoiding marriage won’t really reduce one’s chances of experiencing heartache and family instability.

    "To really avoid the possibility of such pain, one would need to avoid love, sex and children altogether. For some, avoiding marriage may actually increase their likelihood of experiencing the very thing they fear—heartache and break-up—because marriage can be a potent force for clarifying and reinforcing commitment between two people.”

    Stanley contends that BEFORE MARRIAGE is when you have the most power to affect your eventual likelihood of divorce. He suggests the following 7 tips as you proceed.

    • Take it slow. Waiting allows you to see a person’s behavior over time versus a snapshot in time.

    • Don’t ignore red flags. Bad behavior will likely not get better once you walk the aisle.

    • Look for someone who shares your beliefs and values. Chemistry is great, but it is not the binding glue in a relationship. Love does not conquer all.

    • Look for mutual dedication to the relationship. Both people should be willing to make sacrifices.

    • Establish mutual commitment to be together. Avoid sliding into staying in a relationship because of constraints such as signing a rent agreement or purchasing furniture together.

    • Get premarital training. There is solid evidence that completing premarital preparation together can improve your odds in marriage.

    • Be realistic about potential mates. There are no perfect people, but two imperfect people can walk the road together and be transformed by a life of loving commitment.

    “Marriage involves a choice to risk loving another for life, but that is different from gambling with your love life,” Stanley says. “Just make sure you are deciding rather than sliding your way into your future.”

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    Getting Your Marriage Off to a Great Start

    What makes a marriage really work?

    Is there any way to guarantee that love can last forever?

    It has been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Many people are in love with the idea of marriage. However, many couples fail to prepare for inevitable bumps in the road ahead. Some are just not ready to handle the tough times. Before you take a walk down the aisle, consider making some wise choices that will help ensure a successful marriage.

    Get premarital educationEducation allows couples to identify potential areas of conflict and discuss them before saying "I do." Experts say that some premarital inventories can predict with 80 percent accuracy which couples have the potential for divorce. These inventories can give couples an idea of what issues to work on, therefore avoiding the divorce pitfall. Premarital education can resolve some important issues before they get out of hand and make it easier to seek help down the road. Some of the most hotly debated issues among couples are finances, in-laws, sex, employment, expectations and children.

    Learn how to resolve conflict and communicate effectively. How you manage conflict is a strong predictor of marital success or failure. Danger signs include withdrawing or leaving during an argument, attacking the other person's character instead of focusing on the problem, and escalation. When you listen to each other and talk as friends, you can learn a great deal about your partner and what is important to them. Resolving problems together is a win/win situation that encourages intimacy in the relationship.

    Learn what your partner expects from marriage. Knowing what you expect from each other can prepare you for the years ahead. Unrealistic and unmet expectations often lead to resentment. Knowing what to expect and how to meet each other's needs can be the glue that holds your marriage together.

    Be committed to the permanence of marriage. Commitment, as well as love, is a choice. Couples who believe that divorce is not an option are less likely to take steps toward ending their relationship. In addition, older, more experienced couples can provide much wisdom and support through the years. Sometimes, mentor couples can give insight on handling difficulties constructively within the marital relationship. Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship, as we often hear. It requires 100 percent from both partners. If you want to make your marriage last, it must be a top priority for both of you.

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    Are You a Keeper?

    FIVE areas a person should know about another person before marrying them:

    1. Make sure you have taken the time to get to know the person you are marrying.

    Get to know them, their family, what their conscience is like, compatibility potential, relationship skills and previous relationship patterns.

    2. How do you know you can trust them? 

    As you get to know a person based on the areas above, you shape a picture in your mind of what this person is like. From that picture comes trust. 

    3. Are they reliable? 

    As you really get to know a person, you look to them to meet certain needs that you have. People prove they are reliable over a period of time.

    4. What is their level of commitment? 

    As a relationship grows, it goes through different definitions. Each definition is a level of commitment. Friends have a low level of commitment, whereas best friends have a higher level of commitment to each other and soul mates have the highest level of commitment.

    5. What role does physical touch play in your relationship? 

    If you base your relationship solely on physical touch, you can easily deceive yourself into believing there is more to the relationship. Ask yourself: If physical touch was not part of your relationship, what would your relationship be like?

    Read more about this in How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk or Jerkette by Dr. John Van Epp or visit www.lovethinks.com.

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    10 Potentially Irreconcilable Differences

    The University of Washington has more than 35 years of marital research by Dr. John Gottman that determines with greater than a 90 percent accuracy rate what's going to happen to a relationship over a three-year period.

    In a national telephone survey, there were two issues that couples were most likely to report arguing about. What would you guess those two areas are?

    ANSWER: Money and Children

    Examples of common differences might include:

    • In-Laws & Extended Family Involvement

    • Balance Between Home & Work

    • Communication Patterns

    • Sexual Intimacy

    • Personal Habits & Idiosyncrasies

    • Sharing Household Responsibilities

    • Outside Friendships

    • Political Views

    • Debt Difficulties

    • Disciplining Children

    Here is the important takeaway: Differences are inevitable. It's how you manage the differences that matters. Discuss potential differences in your relationship.

    For example: Money

    1. Discuss how money was managed in your family.

    2. How would you want money managed in your marriage?

    3. Discuss: “What does money mean to you?”

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    Getting Engaged During the Holidays?

    Christie and Jim celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with both of their families. Just before the meal, Jim began to tell Christie how thankful he was for her. He also shared what he appreciated about her. A bit embarrassed, she asked him if he realized he was talking to her in front of their entire family. With a smile on his face, he responded, “Yes.”

    After a few more moments of sharing, Jim asked Christie to marry him. She said yes, and everyone broke out in applause.

    According to WeddingWire, almost 33 percent of marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

    “There is something special about celebrating the big moment with family and friends who are gathered together during this special time,” says Dr. Greg Smalley, co-author of Before You Plan Your Wedding…Plan Your Marriage. “However, the memories of the ‘moment’ are often shoved to the backseat as many of these couples hurriedly launch into planning for a June wedding. Since they only have six months to get ready, they spend all their time planning for the ‘day’ instead of doing things that will help them stay married for a lifetime.”

    Smalley contends that many couples make this common mistake: They think they have all the answers for marital bliss. Then they find out they were wrong.

    “We see so many couples who clearly want to have successful marriages,” Smalley says. “The good news is most of them can be successful as long as they get the right knowledge and skills. Research shows that couples who succeed gain the knowledge they need before they settle into destructive patterns that often lead to divorce.”

    A study conducted by Dr. David Olson indicates that 80 percent of couples who participate in premarital preparation report higher marital satisfaction. Additionally, studies show that couples who participate in premarital preparation are 31 percent less likely to divorce.

    “Most newlywed couples are clueless that they are getting ready to face enormous adjustments like managing expectations, dealing with disagreement and disappointment, household issues, financial decisions, intimacy in their relationship, in-laws, how to spend free time, personality differences, re-orienting old friendships and more,” Smalley says. “The key to successfully navigating these adjustments is: A) attacking the problem and not each other, and B) feeling emotionally safe with your spouse.”

    Two people who feel emotionally safe in their marriage are much more likely to reveal their deepest thoughts, feelings and desires because they know their partner will still love, accept and value them. When couples can share at this level, they're much more likely to get to the heart of issues and work through them. Interestingly, communicating at this level actually increases intimacy in the marriage relationship. The skills to do this are what couples learn through premarital preparation.

    “You can have a 'perfect' wedding day and a safe marriage relationship. It just takes some additional effort,” Smalley shares. “Building a safe relationship is key to a strong foundation for your marriage. Ideally, your marriage should feel like the safest place on earth.”

    Are you planning for the day, or are you planning for a lifetime?

    For more information on becoming a Newlywed get our E-Book "10 Things Every Newlywed Needs to Know" Download Here

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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