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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    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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    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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    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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    How to Deal With Unspoken Expectations

    In his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, Dr. Gary Chapman tells about the frustration he and his wife felt in the early years of their marriage. At one point, he shares that they went for weeks without cleaning the toilet. 

    He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t cleaning the toilet because that was something his mom always did. Carolyn couldn’t understand why Gary wasn’t cleaning the toilet because that was her father’s chore in her childhood home. Unfortunately, neither told the other about their expectation.

    When Chapman worked up enough nerve to ask his wife why she hadn’t cleaned their toilet, he finally learned she was waiting for him to do it. Needless to say, that became an interesting and eye-opening moment in their marriage.

    Truth be told, every married couple probably has a similar story. They walked into marriage thinking they knew and understood each other only to discover there were numerous unspoken expectations that each person assumed the other understood - little things like how to spend money, how many children to have (if any), where to spend the holidays, whether to buy new or used cars and how much to spend on them, who cleans the house and who handles yard work.

    Looking back, even the happiest of couples will acknowledge that these “little” unspoken expectations have created tension in their marriage. And, if they had it to do over again, they would discuss them ahead of time.

    So, what are some of the most common unspoken expectations? You can probably guess many of them. Many expectations revolve around: house cleaning and maintenance, money management, frequency of lovemaking, boundaries with the in-laws, work and marriage, childcare responsibilities, punctuality, celebrations, conflict management, meal prep and meal times. The list could go on, but you get the gist. There is lots of room for hurt feelings, misunderstandings and assumptions with unspoken expectations.

    Whether you are preparing for marriage or already married, having a conversation about unspoken expectations could be very enlightening.

    Where do you begin? 

    First, it’s helpful to write down your expectations, even if you think you have shared them before. Then ask yourself, where did these expectations come from? Many unspoken expectations are based on family traditions and values, past relationships, life experience and friends. 

    Next, share your unspoken expectations. As you walk through them, keep an open mind. Differing opinions don’t mean one is right and the other is wrong. The question is, how can you make that expectation work for your relationship? If you aren’t married yet, it is important to know your non-negotiables when it comes to expectations for your marriage. 

    If you are clearly on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to managing money, whether or not to have children, what a career path looks like, etc., do not expect things to change once you walk down the aisle. Many have led themselves to believe things will be different after marriage, thinking they would be able to change the other person’s mind. Not only did they not change their mind, each person can end up feeling angry and empty.

    Unspoken expectations can be the silent killer of relationships. Do yourself and your loved one a favor: be honest about your expectations and ask yourself if they are realistic. Just because your family did it that way doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do it the same way in your marriage. Talking about your expectations ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches and heartache down the road.

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

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    Potential Boundary Issues

    Before you take that walk down the aisle, sit down with each set of in-laws and talk about boundaries within your relationship.

    For example, when a couple considered purchasing a house close to his mother, the mother-in-law said, "I am okay with you living close to me, but you will call before you come to visit and I will do the same." That was one smart mother-in-law!

    Things To Consider

    • If your in-laws have a key to your home, how will they use that? Are you okay with them dropping in whenever or is the key for emergencies only? AND, how do you define an emergency?

    • Is there an unspoken expectation that you would come over for dinner once a week?

    • How do you feel about your spouse talking with his/her parents about issues within your marriage?

    • Do they expect to talk with you every day?

    • How will you handle unsolicited advice?

    • What are your in-laws' expectations surrounding holidays?

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

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    Things I Wish I Had Known Before We Got Married

    More than 2 million marriages take place annually in America.

    “Almost all couples anticipate ‘living happily ever after,’” according to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. “No one gets married hoping to be miserable or to make their spouse miserable, yet the highest percentage of divorce occurs within the first seven years of marriage.”

    When you consider the fact that most people spend more time planning and training for their vocation than they do for their wedding, is it any surprise that the divorce rate is so high?

    “What is ironic is that we recognize the need for education in all other pursuits of life and fail to recognize that need when it comes to marriage,” Chapman says. “It should not be surprising that they are more successful in their vocational pursuits than they are in reaching the goal of marital happiness.”

    Chapman’s book provides a marriage blueprint for people. It's also useful for engaged couples or those preparing for marriage.

    “As I look back over the early years of my marriage, I wish someone had told me what I am about to tell you,” Chapman says.

    The book addresses 12 areas of potential stress for couples, including money, in-laws and personality. Here are a few of the 12.

    I wish I had known…

    • Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage. Research indicates that the average life span of the “in love” obsession is two years. Then differences become apparent and people start to question if they married the right person.
    • Romantic love has two stages. Chapman describes the first stage of love as a time when couples expend lots of energy doing things for each other, but they don’t consider it work. The second stage of love is more intentional. It requires work in order to keep emotional love alive.
    • The saying, “like mother, like daughter” and “like father, like son” is not a myth. While Chapman does not suggest that the person you marry will become exactly like their mother or father, parents do greatly influence children.
    • How to solve disagreements without arguing. It never crossed Chapman's mind that he and his wife would have any major disagreements. No one ever told them that conflicts are a normal part of marriage.
    • That apologizing is a sign of strength. Apologizing is often something people find difficult to do. Some people perceive admitting wrong as a sign of weakness. In reality, it takes a strong person to say “I was wrong, please forgive me.”
    • Mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic. Many couples never anticipate that this would be a problem area. Dr. Chapman shares that while men focus on sex, women focus on relationship. In a fractured relationship, the wife will have less, and more difficult, interest in sex.

    When not discussed beforehand, these issues (and more) can create a marriage filled with conflict, misunderstandings and frustration. Investing time and effort to learn these things in advance could save you a lot of heartache and pain in the long run.

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