Marriage is hard work. You hear this any time you speak to successful couples and it sounds just like something people say, but it really is true. There are key factors that go a long way towards a rewarding and fruitful relationship.
In the state of Tennessee a marriage license costs $107.50, however, if you have a "Certificate of Completion" completed and notarized by your marriage counselor the cost drops to only $45.00. Given that your unsigned marriage license is only valid for thirty days, including the day it is applied for, be sure to plan ahead for your counseling sessions.
Weddings and Events by Raina can assist you with this as we perform marriage counseling. Premarital counseling is available at $40 per 4 hour session. Ever wonder what you need to talk about before you get married? As your marriage counselor these are some of the important topics and questions we will explore together before you walk down the aisle.
The Meaning of Your Commitment
- Describe what commitment means to you as you plan to walk down the aisle?
- Of all of the people in your life that you have met and could have married, why are you choosing your partner?
- What attracted you to your partner initially and what do you believe your partner will help you become?
Your Life Long Goals
- What do you hope to achieve in the near future and the distant future in terms of your career?
- How do you plan to care for your community alone or separately?
- Do you hope to leave a legacy after you die?
3. Your Mutual Expectations
- What do you expect of a marital partner in terms of emotional support during exciting times, depressed times, periods of illness and job loss?
- Is it important that you set aside one night just to be together alone to catch up with each other and have fun?
- What size house is important and in what kind of neighborhood do you hope to live in both now and in the future?
- Are you both clear how much alone time the other needs?
- How much time does your partner need to spend with friends separately and together?
- Do you agree how much time is appropriate to give to work?
- Do you both expect to support the family financially and will that be different when kids arrive?
- Are you both comfortable with the salary differential between you?
- How will you deal with times when one or both of you has reached a midlife career point and you need to change some aspects about your life?
4. Your Living Arrangements
- How do you plan to live together?
- Where will you live after you have children?
- How do you determine if a new career path or job is reason enough to relocate?
- Do you hope to live in the same house or area for a long period of time?
- Will you need to be close to your parents either now or as they get older?
5. Will you have children and if so how many?
A. When do you plan to start a family?
B. How far apart in age would you want your kids to be?
C. Would abortion ever be acceptable before or after that?
D. What kinds of philosophies did your parents have about child raising and do you agree or disagree?
E. How do each of you intend to shape your children’s values?
F. What kinds of punishment are appropriate or not appropriate?
G. What kinds of expectations do you each have about money spent on toys, clothes etc.
- Will you have joint or separate checking accounts or both?
- If you do have separate accounts, who will be responsible for which expenses?
- Who will pay the bills?
- Do you agree to have full financial disclosure about each of your own personal financial situation at all times?
- How will strong disagreements about spending money be resolved?
- Is there any debt that either partner has incurred before the marriage (school loans or credit card debt)?
- What amount of available money does each of you need to have to feel comfortable?
- Will there be a savings plan for your first house?
- Do you plan to keep trading houses as you can afford it?
- How much credit card debt or home loan debt is acceptable?
- Agreement about taking care of financial needs of parents if likely?
- Do you plan to send your kids to private, public or religious school?
- What will be the plans for children’s college education?
- When do you hope to begin savings for retirement?
- Will you use of a financial planner?
- How will the taxes be completed?
7. Parents and In-laws
- How much time does each of you need to spend with your parents and how often do you expect your partner to join you?
- How do you plan to spend holidays?
- What will be the holiday expectations of each of your parents and how will you deal with those expectations?
- What kind of support do you expect from your partner when the parents are putting pressure on you?
- Is it OK for either of you to talk with parents about the problems of the relationship?
- What kind of relationship do you expect your kids to have with your parents?
- Do you anticipate that you will ever want a parent to live with the two of you when they grow old and infirm?
8. Gender Role Expectations
- What did your parents model for you in terms of family roles?
- Did you feel that it was fair or do you expect something different?
- Do each of you have some preferences that might be totally unrelated to gender?
- If both of you do not want to do something in terms of children, household or yard maintenance, how will you divvy up these responsibilities?
- Do both of you expect to work if you have children?
- When the children get sick, how do you decide who stays home with them?
9. Do you agree on issues regarding intimate moments together?
- How often do you want to enjoy an intimate evening with each other?
- How do you intend to resolve differences in sexual preferences?
- Can you work out an agreement about how to deal with differences in sexual desire in terms of frequency?
- Are there certain things that are clearly off limits?
- Can you agree to talk about your sexual concerns at a time when you both are feeling creative and relaxed and not during sex?
10. How will you resolve heated conflicts?
- How did your parents settle their differences?
- What feels comfortable to each of you, as your partner gets upset?
- Can either of you ask for a time out to calm down, regroup and be creative in your problem solving?
- How do you plan to reach out to each other after a big fight?
11. Spiritual Life
- What does spirituality mean to each of you?
- What kind of participation do you expect from each other with regards to your spiritual community?
- How will you share what means something to you with them?
- Will your children be expected to attend regular services or religious education?
- Will your children go through certain rituals like, baptism, christening, first communion, confirmation, bar or bat mitzvah?
12. Extramarital relationships
- Do you want to establish from the beginning that affairs are not an option?
- Do you agree that affairs of the heart are equal to a sexual affair and vise versa?
- Will you talk to your partner about someone that you feel drawn to as a colleague or erotically since this can build the bond between you and your partner rather than the outside person?
- Will you commit to never talking to a person of the opposite sex (except a therapist or clergy member) about your relationship with your partner since this builds a bond outside of your relationship?
In talking with your fiancee about any of these you may find some questions cause you to feel upset or concerned. Working out these issues before you get married is beneficial to both of you. When you are enveloped in that haze of love for one another you are always pretty sure you just know everything. Yes, marriage would be hard. Yes, you will have to make sacrifices and learn to work together rather than demanding your own way. Yes, there will be adjustments. But even if you are a pretty determined person you need to work together. Once you are married you are a team.
Premarital counseling can prepare you for arguments that might arise as marriage will reveal your selfishness. You will have arguments about finances, sex and parenthood and these were all helpful things to try and talk out in advance, but always know there are things that you can’t really ever prepare for and this is where you need to be strong for one another. Infertility. Disease. Job loss. Family trials. Don’t let squabbles over how to hang the toilet paper roll or whether the cup goes lip-up or lip-down in the cabinet take over for you trying to bury your feelings of frustration. You may feel that you prepared for everything that happens in a normal marriage when you tie the knot, but it is difficult to plan ahead for when things go awry.
Many couples plan everything—the five-year plan, the ten-year plan, kids at age twenty-nine, and so on—only to find their plans crumbling around them. The thing is, we can't really plan for the unknown. But we can plan that the unknown will occur. The secret is not in a chart or checklist, nor is it in most marriage books. With each trial, this truth is more real. As each aspect of the "plan" changes or is taken away, you need to just trust in each other, always communicate but even more importantly, listen to what your partner has to say. Have faith in the person beside you who has vows to love you through all trials and tribulations. The person who knows you better than anyone else in the world. If you stand together, always in support of one another, you can persevere through whatever life holds in store for you.
Honesty and truthfulness, which seems obvious, are usually a downfall with most couples. The tiniest lies will always catch up to you. When you catch your spouse in one of those tiny lies it destroys the trust. Loosing trust over the stupidest, smallest things really are not worth risking your entire relationship over. Keep yourself honest, keep them honest and always communicate. Speaking of communication, during an argument, never sit across from one another. Sit on the same side of the table or sit on the couch/bed facing the same way. This will transform your body language and communicate to your partner that you are collaborating. It's not one against the other, rather it is both of you against the problem, together. Always affirm that you are in this together.
Try not to hold onto the little things. When you do they grow and multiply in size and become so much bigger than they once were, in some cases, even taking on a life of their own leading you into a real fight. By addressing the smaller things right off the bat you can keep this from occurring. If your spouse doesn't know that there is a problem, how can he/she solve it? But also keep in mind that if you are going to raise an issue with them, always have examples to back it up. If you can't remember the specifics of why you are arguing, then it is not important enough to fight about.
As you plan and set goals together be sure to encourage each other as you work towards them. Be ready to compromise, and be sure you handle it tactfully. Also realize that together time is wonderful, but also learn to have time away from each other as well. Learn who you are both together as well as apart. While it is nice to invite your loved one to join you in all activities, but it really isn't necessary for them to always accompany you, particularly when it comes to hobbies. Not having your own friends is a big mistake. You really should have hobbies and relationships apart from your spouse to allow for productive time apart.
Love your partner as a whole person. They are someone with lovable flaws. Try not to idealize them or your relationship. This is an impossible thing to live up to or to expect someone to try to live up to, but despite those small flaws, always be affectionate. show your partner that you love them. Tell them every day, hug them, hold hands, laugh together and always kiss them before you leave for work or before you go to bed. Its the smallest things that go a long way towards maintaining a loving bond and most importantly of all, get two blankets! It will cut down on 90% of the fights related to sleeping.