Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: expectations

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    Make Holiday Memories, Not Misery

    Although it has been many years ago, Deanna Brann, clinical psychologist and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, has no problem recalling "The Thanksgiving from Hell."

    It was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband spent with her son, new daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Although looking forward to seeing them, Deanna was quite uneasy. Her daughter-in-law was apprehensive, too. The stress and tension on both sides caused a huge explosion. That's why that particular holiday is remembered as hellish by both women.

    There have probably already been a few interesting discussions about this year’s holiday gatherings with the in-laws. While a first holiday together can be awkward for everyone, you may also be dealing with the stress from annual pressure from both sides of the family. Maybe each side wants you to be there because, “It just won’t be the same if you aren’t here.” Yet trying to please everyone can make the whole season miserable.

    If you are the in-laws, remember what holidays were like when you were newlyweds or raising children. What would happen if you backed off on the pressure to be at your home on a certain day? Everybody might enjoy celebrating the holidays more when there's a little flexibility.

    For couples trying to navigate the holidays with in-laws, Brann offers tips to help you create great memories instead of misery.

    • Have realistic expectations. Hope for the best, but be realistic. Families are families - and they are going to act how they act.

    • Don’t take it personally. Stressful times and tension can cause behavior to be exaggerated.  Remember that your in-laws’ indiscretions are more about them than they are about you. And your mother-in-law is probably not trying to get on your nerves. Keeping this in mind can help maintain the peace.

    • Be a team player. Remember you really aren’t on opposing teams. Different opinions about certain aspects of the holiday are okay. Find ways to share the workload. Plan fun outings that can help keep people out of trouble.

    • Hunt for humor. Finding humor in situations can help maintain your sanity by helping you create enough emotional distance so you won't take people’s words and actions so personally. Plus, you'll have some great stories to tell your friends.

    • It's just one day. You can make it through one day of just about anything. Knowing that there is an end to the evening - and that soon you'll be seeing their taillights (buckling your seat belt) - can make all the difference. If you or your guests are staying overnight, you can close the guestroom door soon enough.

    • Plan your exit strategy in advance. Visiting couples should agree beforehand how long to stay - and then leave at the predetermined time. If you're traveling, getting a hotel room or staying elsewhere can lessen the stress.

    Don’t let others steal your joy. A little advance planning, along with a good attitude, can make for a pleasant holiday season.

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    3 Tips for Satisfaction in Love and Marriage

    Before marriage, engaged couples usually have a few expectations about their day-to-day roles. Who will manage the money? Who should initiate romance? What will the arrangements be if or when children arrive? Who will be responsible for housework, laundry and such?

    If someone warned you before marriage or in its early stages about some real tension-causing issues most couples face, you may have dismissed any such idea. You probably thought your relationship was different than any other.

    After the wedding, things do change, but not always the way anyone thinks it will. When conflict arises, some couples may even question whether they have what it takes to keep the marriage afloat. Add unmet expectations, misunderstandings and hurt feelings to the mix and things can get messy. What can couples do when this happens?

    “Though people are trained from an early age to analyze problems and create solutions, we must be careful to remember that marriage is a relationship to be nurtured, not a project to complete or a problem to be solved,” says Dr. Gary Chapman, relationship counselor and author of The Five Love Languages.

    Chapman wants couples to understand that love is not the only foundation for marriage. “The tingles,” as he calls it, is that early-stage feeling of euphoric love which only lasts for about two years. When that feeling is gone, couples enter the stage of marriage where they must intentionally nurture their love and grow together as a couple. Additionally, they must be prepared for common stumbling blocks that occur.

    Chapman offers some guidance to help all couples intentionally move toward a healthy, long-lasting marriage.

    • Understand that allegiances change after marriage, even as you are marrying into a family. When two people become one, they become each other’s priority. Let the in-laws know this as you make your own decisions together, but honor them in the process. And in-laws – it’s best not to give advice unless someone asks you.

    • Learn your mate’s love language and speak it often. If you don’t know if their love language is gifts, physical touch, acts of service, quality time or words of affirmation, watch them around others or listen to their complaints and their requests for some clues. Complaining about something or asking for something repeatedly can usually indicate what they need from you.

    • Realize that all couples have conflict and struggle with selfishness. Make sure you understand what you expect from each other, before marriage if possible. Be a good listener. Try to understand your mate when you disagree, then affirm what your mate says and share with one another. Don't try to prove you are right and he/she is wrong. The relationship loses when one person has to win. “Two people arguing goes downhill fast,” Chapman says, “But two listeners build each other up.”

    According to Chapman, two selfish, demanding people cannot have a good marriage. It takes time to master the art of loving each other well and learn how to give each other pleasure in a relationship. In the end, the most satisfied couples make an effort to serve each other, not themselves.

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    The First Year of Marriage

    Scene 1: The Big Day

    The day has finally arrived. You walk down the aisle taking in all of the people who have come to witness this momentous occasion. You and your fiancé enthusiastically say “I do!” There is a great celebration and finally you leave. Now, the two of you begin your journey of happily ever after.


    Scene 2: Beyond the Honeymoon

    Reality sets in. Sometimes it happens on Day One of the honeymoon. Others experience it when they arrive home and are trying to settle into a routine. You both realize it is just the two of you and you have to figure out how to do life together as a team. While this is something you have been looking forward to, it can create some difficult moments.


    Scene 3: What Nobody Tells You  

    Regardless of how long you have been together as a couple, being married is different. The first couple of years can actually be very challenging, but nobody really talks about that for fear that people will judge them.

    Learning how to live with your spouse is an adventure. In most marriages, each person has unspoken expectations based on what they experienced in their own home. Things like:

    • Who cleans the toilets, pays the bills, mows the lawn, does the laundry, shops for groceries?

    • How will you deal with the in-laws?

    • Will you eat dinner together every night?

    • Who does the cooking?

    • What about sleep? Do you go to bed at the same time?

    • When you experience conflict (and you will) how will you handle it?

    All of these things tend to trip couples up because each person comes to the marriage with assumptions about how things will be.


    Scene 4: What Might be Helpful to Know

    As you navigate the first years of marriage, here are some things to consider that can help make the transition smoother.

    • Get prepared. You probably spent a lot of time and energy preparing for the wedding, but don't forget to prepare for the health of your marriage. Getting married without preparation is like planning to compete in the Iron Man and hoping you have what it takes to finish the race. Couples who take the time to learn the skills needed for successful marriage are 30 percent less likely to divorce. Make the time to attend a premarital education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

    • You are a team. Before marriage you only had to be concerned about yourself. Adding someone else into the mix, even when you love them, can be tough. It isn’t all about you anymore. It is about two individuals coming together with the goal of helping each other grow. This requires give and take, thinking through priorities and being totally invested in making the relationship work.

    • Love isn’t all you need. Many couples believe that because they love each other they will agree on most things. This is when things can get really dicey. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. An advantage of marriage is you have someone who cares so much about you they are willing to disagree and weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. Couples who understand these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas of their life do better.

    Happily-married couples rarely describe their marriage as challenge-free, even after decades of marriage. In fact, many of them describe the hard times as those that refined them and made their marriage stronger.

    Whether you are preparing for marriage or you are a newlywed, remember you are building something new together. You may come to marriage with a blueprint of how you always thought it should be, but as you hammer it out you both realize you need something different. No matter who you marry, there will be challenges. It’s how you handle them that makes the difference.