You got engaged over the holidays! Congratulations! That is so exciting! I am very happy for you both.
What’s next? Wedding planning! Yay! Or is it, Yay?
Turning to a pop culture reference I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Bride Wars. The focus finally turns away from the battling bffs and toward the couples about to be married. The wedding planner, played by Candice Bergen, explains the dynamics underlying how an engaged couple weathers wedding preparation. She says something like: In wedding planning, there is an infinite number of decisions to make which require compromises to reach, priorities to establish. How the couple deals with the time leading up to the wedding is a good predictor of how they will confront controversy in their marriage: together on the same team, like two horses pulling the same cart, or on opposite sides, like boxers.
In other words, the quality of your relationship is forged during the engagement period.
She has a great point. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together, there’s something unique about the time between saying “Yes!” to the proposal and actually getting married.
So here are some tips to make this time a healthy reflection of your future together.
Four Rules of Engagement
- Forget the “Perfect Day” edict. Take the pressure off. One of my favorite Sex and the City episodes was when Charlotte got married to the bald lawyer (sorry, can’t remember his name) and everything was going wrong. Miranda saved the day by re-framing the situation. She said, “The more disastrous the wedding the better the marriage.” She was paraphrasing a proven theatrical proverb: ‘The more the dress rehearsal sucks the better the show.’ What a great save!
- Lighten up. Take the big view. Laugh at yourselves and anyone else trying to stress you out. Imagine yourselves telling the story of your engagement to your grandkids.
- Do not let the in-laws get between you. If their mother says you have to get married in a church by a priest when your plan is to have your best pal marry you in a gorgeous old barn on Halloween, listen to her politely and say you’ll think about it. Do not get in a discussion with her when what you need to do is get your story straight with your partner, in private.
- When conflicts do arise… and they will…
Make each other the priority. In some families that can be a huge issue (see #3). Your parents or his will go through their own transition. That’s their job. Yours is to nurture your couple-ness.
Move the problem from between you. Learn how to have a good argument. Resist letting anyone or anything come between you. Take the issue outside your relationship, as if it’s an obstacle in your path that the two of you need to tackle, together, to get to the other side of it and move on. Remember you are on the same team, learning to have each other’s backs.
Brainstorm solutions. Nurture an environment where you both are emotionally safe and truly free to toss ideas around without fear of being shut down or shamed. In that safe zone creativity thrives and will serve you well all the rest of your days together.
Do a lot of listening. Is there something that’s not being said? Did you truly get what your partner is trying to tell you? Did they hear your concerns or do they need a little help with that? Learn to reflect to one another what you think you heard: This is what I think you want me to hear. Did I get it? Is there more?
If you and your partner could use a helping hand negotiating some of these issues during your engagement, please call us at Explore What’s Next. We’re great believers in couples counseling as a way to learn communication and problem-solving skills that will serve you now and into your fabulous future together.
Cool Photo by Scott Webb
Wise Words by
Elvira G. Aletta, PhD, Founder & CEO
Life gave Dr. Aletta the opportunity to know what it’s like to hurt physically and emotionally. After an episode of serious depression in her mid-twenties, Dr. Aletta was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that relapsed throughout her adulthood. While treatable, the cure was often as hard to bear as the disease. Later she was diagnosed with scleroderma, another chronic illness.
Throughout, Dr. Aletta battled with anxiety. Despite all this, Dr. Aletta wants you to know, you can learn to engage in life again on your terms.
Good therapy helped Dr. Aletta. She knows good therapy can help you. That’s why she created Explore What’s Next.
Today Dr. Aletta enjoys mentoring the EWN therapists, focusing on coaching and psychotherapy clients, writing and speaking. She is proud and confident that Explore What’s Next can provide you with therapists who will help you regain a sense of safety, control and joy.
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