As time goes on, you and your spouse encounter some challenges and you find yourself wondering what happened and maybe even questioning how you will work through them in the future.
I often hear couples talk about unexpected issues and arguments that arise with each other and with me in session. We talk about each specific challenge and strategize from there. Let’s consider the following commonly brought up challenges:
Banking. Each person likely has his or her own perspective on their own personal banking needs. Some want to keep individual accounts while others want to merge everything together. Some might even want a combination of individual and joint accounts. This can often be a difficult subject to bring up in the first place, let alone one that is easy to talk about. One way to consider which option is best for your situation is to think about when you will use an individual account vs. a joint account. Then, decide whether it is beneficial to keep an individual account, open a joint account, and/or have a combination of the two.
Expenses. If you’re living together, chances are you will have some standard expenses, including: rent/mortgage, electricity, gas, cable and internet, and insurance. Do an inventory of what your expenses were before marriage, taking into account personal, health, and social expenses. Discuss your inventories so that you have a standard from which to go by. Writing out a list of all of your anticipated expenses is also a good start to opening up a conversation about how to plan a budget. Doing a quick internet search for sample budgets can help get you started as you sort out your basic expenses. Then, consider some of the more flexible expenses, such as eating out, entertainment, clothing, and hobbies.
Living Arrangements. If you’ve decided to live together before marriage, it’s likely that you’ve already started to work out some of the challenges of having two rentals or two properties. This can be an area of contention especially if home ownership is involved, so it is important to think about the advantages and disadvantages of keeping the properties, selling one, or selling both. The same approach applies for rentals. I understand how emotions can get involved in this type of conversation and tell clients to take breaks when discussing if needed and reconvene later.
Mixing your personal styles. If you’re buying furniture or combining what you already have, it’s very likely that there will be some items you like and dislike. Accepting that you will have to compromise is essential here, so pick out one or two items that you like that your partner doesn’t and have your partner do the same. Incorporate those items into the décor and then decide on the rest together.
Personal time. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that you have to completely morph your life into your partner’s. Striking a good balance in personal time and together time ensures that you have time to do what you like to do so that you can recharge and be present in your relationship. Girls or guys night out, taking up a hobby, or playing on an intramural sports team are some ideas of how to spend personal time. Communicate your needs for personal time early on in the marriage so that you can set expectations moving forward for a happy, less stressful first year.
The above categories are just a selection of common issues and there are many more that might come up. We have to remember that the first year of marriage is a time when you are going to be learning a lot more about yourself and your spouse. Because of this, couples may decide to enter into couples counseling for short-term guidance on how to deal with issues that come up as they come up as a way of avoiding some of the common relationship challenges that arise later on in marriage.