By Jon L. Ten Haagen, CFP ®
I hate to start off on a negative note, but statistics state that more than 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce. I suspect that marriage-minded people spend more time preparing for the proposal than the wedding and life together after. You plan the perfect time and place for your proposal, and she says yes! Now what?
With some planning and effort, you can start your marriage off on a strong platform and hopefully some of the following thoughts can help you.
You start off on this wonderful journey with hopes, dreams and high expectations. How much time and thought and effort goes into planning for the marriage after and life together really begins? You say “I do” and then comes the “Now what?”
If you give a lot of thought to the marriage itself now then the future can start on a strong foundation. Here are a few things which can help you be in the minority of those marriages that survive. What are you glad you did to prepare before the wedding? What do you wish you had done prior?
Communication is the main ingredient of a strong marriage. You have now become a team and there is no “I” in team. Talk, talk, talk – about open communication between each other – about children, parents, in-laws, finances, household chores, religion and so much more.
What about finances? What are your goals – IRAs, 401ks, emergency monies, Long-Term investing for your future, and…? Should you have individual accounts or joint account, or both? Is one of you a saver and the other a spender? How do you balance this?
Intimacy conversation. Do you have boundaries when it comes to intimacy? How often is intimacy comfortable to you? What in a marriage do you consider to be ‘cheating?’ What if for some reason the physical attraction were gone? What is left of the relationship? These are a few of the questions for you both to answer.
Expectations within the marriage. What are each of your roles in the marriage? How does religion play into your relationship? Is one of you going to ‘have to’ convert? Household chores – who is doing what? What are your feelings about maintaining relationships with friend of the opposite sex? Do you plan to spend equal time with both sides of the family?
Your future together. Do you plan to start a family? When? How many kids? What kind of a parent do you envision yourself to be? Are you both ready to be the ’good cop bad cop’ and vice-versa? Which one of you will be the stay at home parent or will you get help and both continue to work? How do you afford day care? How do you handle the holidays with both families?
There is a lot to think about. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Make lists of topics to discuss and then start talking and listening. Remember why the Lord gave us two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk and all will work out.
There are lots of websites and publications and books to look into. Reach out to your house of worship and get some counseling before so you don’t have to later. The very best of fortune to you all and your future happiness. Talk with those you trust and respect. No one has all the answers and not all answers are right for you. Life and marriage is a long learning curve – the more you study now, the more likely you will have success.