You are probably thinking that this Blogger has lost it. How can you have two of your most serious marital problems BEFORE you're married? Now you're also probably worried. After all, there are so many problems in a marriage, it's very difficult to have a successful one, especially if you really are looking for ever after. Now there's something else to worry about?
Of course, there are all the usual suspects. Everyone seems to have lots of problems communicating, especially out loud, with their partner. I'm basing this on personal observation as a psychotherapist for over 30 years. I also see this on an even more personal basis, by just observing young couples sitting together on a park bench, or at a table at the Mall, or at the beach, and instead of talking to each other, they are busy texting, usually to someone else. Sometimes they're texting each other, even though they're sitting side by side. In my opinion, this doesn't bode well for a long-term relationship.
There are the difficulties of developing relationships with your new in-laws and learning how to handling fighting with your soon-to-be spouse. The list goes on and on but I want to get back to my 2 concerns.
The first, and to me as a Marriage and Family Therapist for many years, the most serious, is about expectations. If I had a dollar for every time a young woman or man or an older woman or man said to me, "My wedding is going to be the best day of my life" I'd have an awful lot of dollars.
I'd like to break this sentence down. "My wedding (a single event) is going to be the best day of my life." If that were to turn out to be true, and based on what couples tell me after their weddings are over, it almost never is true even at the time, then what does that say about your hopes of happiness for the rest of your life? Apparently, these people think it's all downhill from the wedding. Putting such pressure on a single day, a single event causes tremendous stress on everyone to try and make everything perfect, and we all know nothing is ever perfect.
According to GoodTherapy.org, quoting a book by R.S. Miller (2011) called Intimate Relationships, couples site constant pressure, criticism and opinions from others as sources of substantial stress when planning a wedding. They also indicate that finances, and expectations for perfection (unattainable) are equally stress-producing per H.T. Reis, Rusbult, C.E. (2004) in his work "Close Relationships: Key Readings. N.Y. Psychology Press
Why does this concern me? Because when perfection is not achieved, depression and self-criticism often sets in. I see couples come in and feel deflated. They had such high expectations for their wedding day and then there were problems. The band wasn't as great as they'd thought. The food was too cold. The flowers were wilted. The guests didn't seem to have much fun. And even when all these things went really well, many couples feel let down after the day itself. I believe this is because reality has now set in and the real work of being married and learning to live with someone else and be committed to that person forever feels overwhelming. So many brides and grooms feel doubt. Did they pick the right person? Why aren't they feeling all tingly and excited anymore? Can they really stay with only one person for the rest of their lives? Coming from such a high as the perfect wedding expectation back to the real world is a roller coaster ride and can be quite devastating. If couples had realistic expectations for their wedding day it would make for a much smoother transition.
I also often see newly married people, particularly women, who feel angry at their grooms for not making the day perfect. This is setting up a potentially dangerous pattern of looking outside oneself for happiness instead of focusing on finding your happiness for yourself. "Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant " by zenhabits.net/self-reliance posted on 3-12-2014 stresses how important it is for all of us to recognize and accept responsibility for our own happiness. If you expect someone else to make you happy, you have turned over control for your life to another and then no longer can make yourself happy. So take a second look at how you want to plan your wedding and give yourself space and permission to make it just another day in your life, albeit an important one.
The second serious problem I see in marriages (before they even happen) has to do with the cost.
The current average cost of a wedding (in California as that's where I live) is $36,890! ValuePenguin, a company bringing high quality resources to help consumers understand various topics gathered information from WeddingStats.com and CostofWedding.com as well as TheKnot. Remember, this is the average, so many are much more. Keep in mind that this is for one day, which most likely will not be perfect and may be downright upsetting. Now what if you decided to have a small family affair and take most of that money to set aside toward the down payment on a home?
According to Zillow, which considers itself to be the leading real estate and rental marketplace to empower consumers, the current median value of a home in Los Angeles County is a whopping $495,000. Remember that median means there are half of the homes that are less expensive and half that are more. That's still a pretty scary number.
In Los Angeles, down payments are often 20 percent, meaning that you'd need to put down close to $100,000 for your down payment. If you had set aside that $36,000 you'd be almost a third of the way there the day after your wedding. That's certainly something that would make you both smile.
There are so many expenses in life and getting married often multiplies them as you need a larger place to live, more furniture, often children, and so it goes.
I recommend re-thinking your wedding day plans, and what that day means to both of you, as well as how much you really want to spend on one day versus saving some or most of that money to put toward something more substantial and lasting. It might just solve 2 serious problems in your marriage before they begin.