Five Things to Discuss with Your Fiance Before Walking Down the Aisle

Five Things to Discuss with Your Fiancé Before Walking Down the Aisle
by Evie Shafner, LMFT

Five Things to Discuss with Your Fiancee Before Walking Down the Aisle
During the starry-eyed romantic beginnings of relationships, we don't always want to talk about more sober issues; they can highlight differences, bring up disagreements and be painful discussions. However, we know that the ability to talk about the (maybe) hard things is part of a sign we're with a good partner.

There are many articles that talk about WHAT to talk about - the obvious ones, like, how do you deal with money, how many kids do you want, how important is sex to you- but here are a few more esoteric topics that can be even more illuminating to discuss when picking a partner:

1) How did your family deal with conflict? The "movie" we watched growing up of how conflicts were dealt with have a big impact on how we solve issues. We unconsciously revert to those same behaviors- so if your partner grew up with reactivity, drama, abuse etc. are they committed to being a conscious communicator? And are they willing to go get help with you if needed?

2) Can you each give up the need to be right? Or do you fight to the end to get your point across? Answering this takes some honest self-reflection. It takes a mature partner who can contain, let go, and be willing to admit they are wrong. In Imago relationship therapy, we having a saying, "you can be right, or you can be in a relationship- you choose." If you can give up holding on to a POV, all the issues to be discussed will be elicit much better discussions.

3) Do you like each other's parents? As a therapist specializing in couples, I can't tell you how often this issue becomes a very painful one. So discussing how to navigate these relationships in a way that honors each person in the couple, with love and empathy, can prevent a lot of heartache. Some differences that are cultural show up here; an example would be a couple where the wife comes from a Jewish family that likes a lot of togetherness, they like to help, be involved etc. The wife experiences this as normal, loving, and helpful. The husband, who grew up in a much more hands-off family, experiences this as smothering. It's important for the wife to understand that her partner might need a little more space, and to have his back around that, and yet for the husband not to criticize her family, but see it as one way loving families operate.

4) How much togetherness are you picturing as normal? How much autonomy? Holding on to ourselves as individuals who can stand on their own two feet, maintain their own sense of being a good person, have separate interests, is what can lead to a much happier marriage. But sometimes our partners have a vision of more togetherness than we might want. For example, some partners feel hurt if the other partner wants to see friends separately, say on a fri night, and end up feeling jealous or hurt . Discussing these scenarios ahead of time, where we can give our partner reassurance - "you're my number 1, but sometimes I want a weekend night with my girl/guy friends is important to me" can avoid a defensive fight later.

5) In Imago therapy, we have a wonderful excercise called the Relationship Vision, where each of you writes in the present tense, as if it were so, all the things you see for your future together - emotional things, like "we solve conflicts peacefully" to practical things like "we are good at saving money" - any and all things. Then compare your list with your partner's, and co-create a single list from there, putting at the top the things that are the same or similar on both lists, and then continuing to work on the others as you go through your many happy years together!
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