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Group Therapy Thursday – Marriage. That’s it.

22 Sep

Hi there! Did you pop in for Group Therapy Thursday? Awesome! Guess what though? I only got one submission this week. One single, solitary, lonely question. That’s all I’ve got for you today.

So let’s jump into to our one question, shall we?

Dear Mo and the Group,

What sorts of things are important in planning, not a wedding, but a marriage?  What conversations MUST you have with your partner before saying “I do”?  What can you do to keep your relationship thriving, even during times that are less for-better and more for-worse? 

Thanks!

Rapier

Yes, I did it! No nickname, and you will be Rapier! I loves me some HP references. Now, to your question: This sounds cheesy, but I think the secret is not just in pre-marital conversations, but also in making sure the conversations continue constantly throughout the marriage.  I think that the basis of a marriage is not love, sex, or anything like that. At the end of the day, by getting married, you are creating your own independent family unit. Remember when you were 5, 6, 7 years old? Your whole world was your parents. Everyone else were bit players. The main characters were you, your parents, and any siblings you had. By getting married, you’re making a brand new film, where you and your husband are the main characters. That means that your priorities shift. Everyone else, including your parents, now become supporting characters. (I’m stretching the movie metaphor a bit thin here I know. Sorry).

So first thing’s first – are you ready for that? Is he ready to put you first in his life?

The main pre-marital conversations I think have to do with the basics.

First: How will you be handling your money? Do you want to go back to school, or be a Stay-at-Home mom? Does he? Would he be ok with either of these options? How will you be handling your finances? How will you decide on where to spend your money? What happens if one of you wants to buy an expensive luxury item for themselves- do they have to run it by you? What are the big-ticket items that are important to you? A house? A yearly vacation? Finances are always a point of contention, so better to hash out as much as possible ahead of time.

Second: Children (and of course the issue of IF). How many do you want? If you know that you may be facing IF treatments, how far are both of you willing to go? How much money are you willing to spend? How will you handle disagreements on the subject? Beyond that – knowing how to raise your children. If you’re both from different religious backgrounds, I truly believe that is something that needs to be hashed out in advance. It can cause a lot of unwanted conflict. How do you think you’d handle discipline? This is another major cause of conflict.

Third: Infidelity. The fact is that research says that a large percentage (can’t find the number right now – but I know it’s more than 60%) of married couples face infidelity. There’s no point in mincing words about this. I’m not saying to give him permission ahead of time. What I am saying is to think to yourself – if he or you are tempted to be unfaithful, how would you want that situation handled? For example, I made it very clear to Shmerson from day one that for me, the thing I can’t stand about infidelity is the lying. If sometime in the future, he feels like he’s crushing on someone and may be tempted, I’d much rather he just be honest with me ahead of time so we can hash it out. If he has a drunk night where he loses control, I’d want to know about it immediately. Being lied to for me is far more important than the infidelity itself. So what about you? What is your priority and how would you like it to be handled?

Fourth: The in-laws. Do you get along with his parents? Does he with yours? If not, how will you resolve these conflicts? How will you split up holiday visits? What will you do if you need financial assistance from them?

Finally: Divorce. I know, I know. You’re just getting married, why the hell do you want to talk about divorce? Well, 50% of all marriages end in one. So it’s better to set some ground rules just in case. Do you feel like a pre-nup would be a good option in your case? Would you consider couples counseling? For example – Shmerson and I have a set rule: if we ever get in trouble, we take one year of couples counseling before even uttering the D-word. We’ve both committed to that, so we can make a fair attempt to solve our problems if they arise, and not run away from them.

As for the marriage itself – in my opinion, the key is communicating openly and honestly about your relationship, always. Dishonesty, or hiding your feelings, leads to bottled up emotion, which can explode in hurtful ways when you least expect it. If something bothers you, make an effort to point it out immediately. Don’t keep it in to use as ammunition later. There is nothing worse than pent up aggression. Even if it scares you to say it. This is a stupid metaphor – but I like those so bear with me – let’s say you were walking around with spinach in your teeth, and your partner didn’t say anything for fear of making you uncomfortable. Then you come home and find out that you’ve been walking around like that all day. Wouldn’t you be mad at him for NOT telling you? If you keep things to yourself for a long time, and it comes out in a huge explosion out of nowhere, your partner will be more hurt than he/she would have been had you just said something in the first place. A small moment of discomfort trumps months or years of pent up frustration.

There are two more issues I want to talk about:

Flaws: Some people walk into a relationship wanting to “change” someone. They think he or she will get better. Or that bad habits will go away with enough time, nagging, or work. This is not always the case. When you jump into marriage, you’re marrying the whole person – flaws and all. Yes, he or she may change. But they may not. Of course, people evolve with time, but sometimes certain things just don’t go away. If there’s something about your partner that you have a hard time with, don’t go in expecting that to be any different 5, 10 years down the line. It may, and it may not be. Expecting it to be will just lead to disappointment. You “buy” your partner “as-is”. If you can’t accept his or her flaws, then seriously consider whether you want to stay with him/her. Sure they will change, but their inherent character most likely will not. And if you can’t live in peace with who they are, perhaps there is no way for the two of you to live in peace in the long term.

Fun: This is so incredibly important! Life gets serious. Mortgages need to be paid. Cars need to be serviced. Jobs, medical issues, insurance… The list goes on and on. Things can get dull. They can get heavy. They can get hard. As hard as it gets, don’t forget to have some fun once in a while. Be silly. Throw whipped cream at each other while cooking dessert. Go out for cotton candy. Sing a stupid song. Do a stupid dance. Make each other laugh. Always hold on to that. Because sometimes shit gets heavy. And if you forget how to make each other smile, then you’ve forgotten how to love each other.

That’s my take. What do you ladies think makes a good marriage?

So. It’s lucky the ONE question I got is a complex one. Ladies, don’t let me down! For GTT to go on you must bare all!

Here, I’ll even put up a brand spanking new submission form right here in this post.

Look at that! With new options and everything!

Have at it, chicas.

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26 Responses to “Group Therapy Thursday – Marriage. That’s it.”

  1. bodegabliss September 22, 2011 at 23:47 #

    You seriously need your own advice column somewhere. I mean, you have it here, but I think this is your calling.

    And GREAT advice, lady. I have nothing to add because that was awesome! Also? I just feel like you and Shmerson must be so rock solid. And I love that.

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 16:00 #

      aww thanks hon!

  2. April September 23, 2011 at 00:07 #

    Wow. Amazing post. You really summed up the essentials fantastically. You definitely struck a chord with me.

    Today we are two years, one week, and three days (but who’s counting anyway?) past infidelity. Okay, past the revelation of infidelity, still working on the rest. And it’s exactly as you said. Open and honest communication is an absolute necessity. If we had been able to just talk to each other before, this would never have happened. It’s hard. It’s really hard. But worth it. So worth it.

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 16:01 #

      Thanks for your honest insight April!

  3. eggsinarow September 23, 2011 at 00:08 #

    Ok, I am not a cat fan but that picture was hilarious and adorable.

    I agree with all of what you said. Let me add this to the flaws thing: You would never marry a man who was missing an arm and say, “I’m just hoping he grows an arm.” Because arms don’t grow. (Unless you are marrying a lizard. I think they grow tails back. But whatever.)

    Also, religion. I know a lot of people who don’t think of themselves as religious people. Therefore, they marry someone with a different religion, and then, voila. They have kids, and all of a sudden, they realize that while they thought it wasn’t a big deal, they CAN’T live without (Christmas, Hanukkah, Dwali, etc) and that they can’t handle the idea that their child will (eat ham, not believe in Jesus, etc). So that is a big thing to think about.

    Another thing to know is that your spouse CAN NOT read your mind. So communicating is really important. People say that, but I don’t know if they understand what that means. It means that you have to say things like, “It really bothers me when you come home from work and go straight upstairs and play video games” (hypothetically…hahaha) rather than sitting outside their door and sighing dramatically.

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 16:05 #

      Oh, that last point was really great.

  4. AFM September 23, 2011 at 00:30 #

    here from icomleawe. What a great thought provoking question and answer, i might need to take a look at where I am standing and get myself back on track. thanks again

  5. eggsinarow September 23, 2011 at 00:58 #

    OH! And I learned this on Oprah. Always try to look happy when he walks into the room, rather than right away asking him why he didn’t take out the trash, blah blah. First off, always say hi, how are you, etc. It will make him not dread walking in the door. 🙂

    • Marie September 23, 2011 at 05:47 #

      I love this.

      • eggsinarow September 23, 2011 at 07:27 #

        I’m really working on it!

  6. jjiraffe September 23, 2011 at 01:29 #

    Wow, great thorough answer, lady!

    I just want to add that I hate the focus that our culture/movies/books put on WEDDINGS, not marriages. I really spent way too much time focusing on/planning my wedding and barely thought about what a marriage is. I don’t think I’m alone. Marriages are really hard, especially if you go through illnesses, infertility and then parenting. The hardest thing post-kids for when you all get there, and I know you will, is the fun part. The responsibilities are so intense that it’s not difficult to get your head stuck in the nitty-gritty and never have fun. I don’t even know that date nights are the answers because too many expectations get put on the event. So, yeah. I don’t have any advice for that. And actually could USE some advice there. 😉

    • Flowergirl September 23, 2011 at 09:23 #

      So agree with you, we decided to get married, not to have a wedding, as such, as we had already been living together, the engagement thing was really played down by us, as we knew it was just going to be short. I have a thing against those who get engaged early doors, and stay engaged for a long time because they are saving for a wedding. The Marriage is so much more important.

      Re getting kids, one couple we are friends with have really got their kids brought up to fit their lifestyle (not saying that what they do isn’t kid friendly), so last year they filled their campervan and toured Europe with a 4 and 5 year old – how cool is that, compared to others who have never allowed their child to spend the night with their grandparents and have no freedom at all, which makes everyone stressed and grumpy. I think on that front, have a routine, but not so strict that it stops you having fun and being spontaneous, your kids will be so inflexible and used to things centreing on them.

  7. Infertile Days September 23, 2011 at 01:54 #

    Mo, I don’t really have much to add to this, you covered EVERYTHING. Love the film analogy! I agree with bodega bliss, you need your own column!

    Here’s a few to add:
    Marriage – DON’T rush into it.
    Bank accounts – will you have joint accounts, or keep them separate, and do you get your own accounts as well for spending money on whatever you want?
    The future – retirement – what will you do then? I know its far away, but you will have to save for it your whole life. What will you do when you are retired, will you travel, get a motor home, move somewhere?
    Communication – I agree with what Mo said, especially that part about bottling stuff up. What about arguments – how do you handle them with your partner now? If its not good, it will be even harder when married!

    How to keep the relationship thriving… that’s a tough one, I bet most of us are struggling with it at times (especially when trying for years to have a baby).
    i will have to say spending time together communicating feelings in a calm way instead of yelling is a good start.
    Some other stuff: getting away for vacation, date nights, playing board games – just enjoy spending time with each other I guess – maybe you should remember back to why you wanted to be with this person in the first place.

    Mo – I thought you would have tons of questions! I will have to remember to email you some this week sometime.

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 15:48 #

      Yes, do! And thanks for the comments

  8. alexmmr September 23, 2011 at 03:59 #

    You’ve pretty much covered it.

    Money is the big one. But not just who’s money is who’s and how will it be split, but also the logistics of it. When K and I moved in together, I already knew that he was fairly frugal and generally responsible, but he told me that he’s a little disorganized and doesn’t always remember to pay his bills on time. I am organized in that way. So I take care of the bills every month and look over the bank accounts. I let him know about how much money we have in which account and inform him of any big expenses coming up. That way, we don’t have to check in every time we want to buy coffee, but we both have a clue as to where we stand.

    I would encourage people to figure out what the power dynamic is in the relationship. It’s never exactly 50/50, it’s a fluid balance. For us, I take charge of the day to day things and on the rare occasion that K speaks up with a preference about something, I generally defer to him. So I have the day to day power, but he has the big stuff power. Knowing this, I’m always sure to check in with him about decisions to make sure that I didn’t present him with the final decision before he got a chance to think about it and weigh in. When we were filling out adoption paperwork and I said that maybe we should check out fertility treatments first, he said “well yeah, that’s kind of what I always thought we should do”. WTF??? Why didn’t you say that! Ever since then, I make sure that double check that he’s stated his opinion on the big things.

    Talk about how rooted you are in the area you live in. Do you picture living in one house until the day you die while he imagines being able to pick up and move across country at a moments notice if some opportunity comes along?

    And make sure that you’re on the same page about dirt and clutter tolerance. If one is much neater than the other, than the other needs to be given a more organized set of tasks to do on a schedule. Otherwise, the neater one will do all of the work and really resent it while the messier one won’t understand what the problem is since in their eyes the place never seems dirty or cluttered.

    Advice from my parents who just celebrated 45 years of wedded bliss – hire someone else to put up wallpaper. Sometimes the money you save isn’t worth the arguments it causes.

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 15:45 #

      Fantastic points all.

  9. slcurwin September 23, 2011 at 04:48 #

    I’m big on the “do you love them how they are?” point. People are not going to change (for the most part)/ get better with time. We can’t fix our spouces (and they can’t fix us). So take a really good look, try and think of it from outside the relationship even. But over all, are you happy with who they are and will you stay happy with them this way down the road. Not who you think they will become, but who they are now.

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 15:45 #

      Wait – did El Jefe quit?

  10. Lise September 23, 2011 at 10:03 #

    This is off topic, but I just needed to say it. Thank you so much for your blog! Two weeks ago I went through my second miscarriage in 6 months (or so I thought). On Sunday it was discovered that it was an ectopic pregnancy and I ended up with emergency surgery and lost my right tube. This has been one of the worst weeks in my life but your blog is so helpful, thank you!

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 15:44 #

      Wow Lise, I’m so sorry for your loss. And you just totally made me blush. Thank you and I hope things start to look up soon!

  11. Cattiz J September 23, 2011 at 13:18 #

    I got stuck on one of the last sentences: ‘And if you forget how to make each other smile, then you’ve forgotten how to love each other.’

    That is so important, to be able to pick each other up when it’s getting tough. And just have a good laugh as often as you can =)

  12. St. Elsewhere September 23, 2011 at 15:17 #

    I submitted a question, I think last week…I did. Or maybe my internet got the sad.

    You have summarised it well. Having ears open for the other person, really helps to get through the days. One may or may not agree, but atleast listen well to what the other person has to say.

    • Mo September 23, 2011 at 15:42 #

      I think the internet got the sad 😦 never got it. Stoopid internet. Can you re-submit?

      • St. Elsewhere September 26, 2011 at 14:14 #

        Tried again…

  13. alexmmr September 24, 2011 at 01:34 #

    Oh, one more point. It’s a bit morbid, but it has to be discussed.

    Make sure your partner knows your wishes in terms of a living will. If something should happen to either of you, it comes down to the spouse to make the final decisions regarding life support. Discuss this with each other, put something in writing, even if you just email each other and file that away, and make sure that your family members understand that you have made your final wishes known to your spouse. That will save your spouse so much pain and arguing with your family if the horrible ever happens.

  14. LisaB September 24, 2011 at 17:12 #

    This is awesome! I have been missing out, since I’ve been so busy at my new job. You are doing wonderfully with this.
    I don’t have much more to add….My hubby and I dated for 5 years before we got engaged and then married a year later. We felt it was important to take our time. We were only 19 when we met. I am a strong believer in communication, of course! Also, we are best friends.

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