Life can change on a dime, but few decisions affect your long-term future as much as the choice to get married. “Till death do us part” is a serious commitment—one that compels savvy engaged couples not only to think about how they want to live today, but how they want their lives to look 5, 10, and 50 years from now. Reflective contemplation, lots of discussion, and careful planning now can all help you get off to the right start. Moreover, taking the right preparation steps now can set you up for a lifetime of wedded bliss.
Ask the right questions
You can’t go into marriage blind. You need to know everything you can about the person you’ve chosen—their values, beliefs, goals, dreams, and fears. If you feel uncomfortable asking your partner about himself or sharing about yourself, this is a glaring red flag. Read our piece on questions to ask before you get married to get a better idea of what to say.
Get your finances in order
Your finances don’t have to perfect or even stable, to get married. But you do need to know how much money you each make, where that money is going now, and where you eventually want it to end up. Money remains the leading cause of conflict in most marriages, but by lovingly and openly discussing financial issues now, you can ward off painful conflicts in the future.
Get better at resolving conflicts
Everyone has baggage. Whether it’s the unhealthy fighting style you learned from your parents or the tendency to panic that you developed in previous relationships, there’s no shame in occasionally fighting unfairly. Doing so, though, can steadily erode your bond. Now is the time to perfect your fighting technique. Fights really don’t have to be damaging. Indeed, with a healthy fighting style, fights don’t have to feel like fights at all, and can even bring you closer together.
Commit to premarital joint premarital counseling, and then begin an ongoing dialogue about how you want to fight with one another. If there are particular words or actions that are especially painful to you, be sure to mention these. Ask the same of your partner, since everyone is unique and that which is painful and terrible to you might be little more than a blip on the radar to your partner.
Establish new traditions
Traditions have a way of making the mundane feel special. The ability to make everyday life special will serve you well for the life of your marriage. Don’t just adopt your family’s traditions; start making some of your own. Whether it’s writing a love letter to one another once a month, Friday night massages, or a special dinner on Monday evenings, having something to look forward to can keep you going when your marriage is imperfect—as all marriages are.
Keep your eye on the prize
In the haze that is wedding planning, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason you’re participating in the madness of endless dress shopping, note writing, and wedding planning: your partner. Don’t allow yourself to get so distracted by the stress of planning your wedding that you forget about the person you’re marrying. When your wedding is over, you’ll be spending the rest of your lives together. Make sure you create an environment where you’re both excited about—not terrified of—this commitment.