You know how everyone says your first year of marriage is challenging?
Before I was married, I thought, “yea right! How could the first year be challenging?” I assumed since I loved my fiancé I would love marriage, after all, marriage just meant more time together. If some is good more is better, right? It’s true the first year is filled with great experiences, but it’s also true the first year is filled with challenges. How could it not be, God said two people would become one person, but he never said it would be easy.
One of the biggest challenges for all married couples, especially newly married couples is managing expectations. When I say the word, “marriage” everyone sees a different picture in their mind. Some people see a minivan filled with kids and a house in a new neighborhood. Some people see a stay at home mom and a dad who works. Some people see traveling the world together; whatever you imagine when you think of marriage is your expectations.
Frustration happens when your expectations are unmet. You expected one thing, but your spouse expected another so now your committed “till death do you part, ” and you have two different visions for what your marriage is supposed to look like.
Your partner can’t read your mind. If you haven’t made your expectations clear, how are they supposed to know what you want? I’m not suggesting marriage is about making lists of demands, because great marriages are built on sacrifice and humility, but practically speaking, you’re setting your spouse up to fail if you assume they can read your mind and meet your expectations without communicating them.
I’ve provided a free PDF with 25 questions every nearlywed and newlywed needs to answer together, but let me give 5 questions just to get you started.
DISCLAIMER: These conversations will probably start an argument. That’s ok. Part of marriage is communication and compromise, so even though you may disagree on these answers the important part is you are communicating expectation and working on them together.
1. How/Where will we spend the holidays?
This is something my wife and I didn’t talk about much before we got married. It never crossed my mind we wouldn’t spend Christmas and Thanksgiving with my family, it’s all I had ever known. While we dated, we decided to spend the holidays apart so we could be with our families, but when the first holiday rolled around as a married couple, we had a huge fight because both of us felt our families should be the priority. Neither of our families lives in town, so each trip lasts multiple days; it was impossible for both of us to get our way.
Have you discussed how you will manage the holiday schedule? In case you need a solution here’s what we decided to do. We alternated every holiday every year, in other words, my family got Thanksgiving Day this year, and her family got Christmas morning, but next year her family got Thanksgiving day, and my family got Christmas morning. It’s worth noting that we have had to adjust our plans over the years once grandkids and other in-laws enter the picture. The key is making sure we communicate with each other, and each person feels the other has compromised.
2. How important is money to you?
This may seem like an odd question but in all my years doing pre-marital counseling, whenever the issue of money comes up, usually both parties are surprised at how different their expectations are. Usually, one person has just wants enough money to have a nice home, while the other person imagines a big home, nice cars, and fancy vacations. The reason this is crucial is that if having nice things is important to someone in the relationship they will probably work longer hours, save less money, or buy more stuff. None of those things are wrong, but it can stress out their spouse who would prefer a simpler life or more margin.
My wife and I talked about money before marriage because we knew choosing to be a pastor meant we would probably never make a large salary. We both had similar goals like helping pay for kids college or taking one vacation each year, but we also agreed we would drive older cars and avoid debt. There’s no wrong answer; it’s just important you are on the same page when it comes to finances. You might be surprised what expectations your spouse has, especially if they were raised in a home with money.
3. Do you want kids?
It’s easy to assume everyone wants children, but you might be surprised at the growing number of people who don’t see themselves as parents. It’s always heartbreaking when this topic isn’t discussed before marriage and then becomes a major problem in the relationship. In the event someone doesn’t want to have children, it doesn’t make them wrong or a bad person, they just have different expectations for their life than you do. Better you know now than before it’s too late.
There are several questions about raising kids that are important to answer for nearlyweds and newlyweds. I’ve provided them in the free PDF 25 questions every couple needs to have before they get married.
4. How important is God in your life?
You HAVE to have this conversation. It’s so important because while in this season of life you may not feel church or religion is important to you, at some point you probably will and if your spouse has no interest in participating with you in spiritual practices, it becomes a wedge in the relationship. I’ve seen it 1000 times, trust me. There’s nothing more discouraging for a wife who wants to raise her family in church than not having the support of her husband. Just because the person you’re dating attends church with you, you still need to have this conversation because they may just be coming to appease you.
I know you love them, but in my experience, if you are planning on marrying someone who has no interest in a relationship with Jesus or religious practice my advice is to end the relationship (unless you’re already married.) It’s important both people are headed the same direction in life and religion is a foundational piece of any relationships. Two people with different expectations going in different directions are doomed to fail. I‘m not saying they have to be perfect, but don’t assume you will influence them to change, that rarely happens, usually, the opposite happens, and the person who was enthusiastic about being involved in church or having a relationship with Christ ends up settling out of discouragement.
5. How involved will your family be in our marriage?
This is a question that usually depends heavily on how someone was raised. If you were raised in a home where you ate lunch every Sunday at your grandparent’s house, or always did everything together, you probably bring an expectation of heavy family involvement into your relationship. That’s not a bad thing, but it can be suffocating if your spouse who wants boundaries and space. Will your mom and dad be consistently stopping by the house? Will they know everything that’s happening in your marriage? Is your spouse supposed to be best friends with your parents? If you had to choose between your spouse and your parents and you knew choosing your spouse would make your parents angry, who would you choose? Sometimes, well-meaning parents can be a problem for marriage because healthy boundaries were never put in place. Again, there’s not a wrong way or right way to do it, what’s important is that you talk about it, so each party knows what to expect.
These five questions can help you get started communicating your expectations as a couple, but I would encourage you to download the full list of 25 questions. It’s free, just click on the link below and we’ll send it to you,
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