Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Marriage Checklist

I've seen enough Wedding Checklists in my life. Although my modus operandi is list-making, I can't help but get a little overwhelmed when I look at such lists. They are so extensive and detailed! They remind me of something NASA must have created when they were trying to figure out how to put a man on the moon.

My intention is not to add yet another overwhelming list to the internet ethos. However, I do want to take a few minutes to shift the focus away from the details of party-planning and instead highlight the stuff that helps us prepare for the marriage.

Of course this isn't a you-must-do-this list. There's no such thing. Rather, these are a few ideas of ways to prioritize our relationships alongside our weddings:
  1. Figure out how to fight in constructive rather than destructive ways: Disagreeing is inevitable, and reaching compromise and shared understanding takes work. When we fight, though, we have to do it in ways that build our relationships rather than tear them down. After a fight, we should have new insight into our partners that will prevent a fight later on. Or we should have a new strategy for dealing with conflict. Or we should be able to look at each other and say, "That was really cathartic. I feel a lot better. I love you." We should fight in ways that don't leave us bitter or festering or armed with ammunition that we will use against our partners later on down the road.
  2. Create a shared budget: Money is a huge source of tension in a lot of relationships. It's important to figure out what your individual spending styles are and decide how to mesh them. Also, it's good to come up with an action plan for paying off debt.
  3. Discuss how to share tasks equitably: A lot of work goes into running a household (doing dishes, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, cleaning the toilet, calling the repairperson when something breaks, paying bills, mowing the lawn, finding fun things to do on Friday nights, sending holiday and thank you cards, etc.). Figuring how to share these tasks equitably can help lay a foundation for equality and mutual respect.
  4. Delineate your needs and wants: It takes a lot of self-work to bring healthy selves into a relationship. An important piece of introspection is figuring out what we each need and want and to share those needs and wants with our partners. Sometimes we have needs that aren't being met while we're dating but we think they will magically start being met after we're married.
  5. Reach agreement about the state-of-our-home: Different partners tolerate and crave different levels of cleanliness and order. It's important to discuss these differences and find ways to deal with them.
  6. Agree on a sketch of your life together: I'm not suggesting you set your life path in stone, but I do think it's wise to talk about the big rocks: how many kids you think you might want to have, what kind of place you want to live in, how you want to spend your vacation time, how you want to balance work/family/hobbies/friends/exercise.
What other suggestions do you have for each other about ways to prepare for marriage?

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megan said...

my fiance and i have a hard and fast rule: if we fight, and the tiff is resolved, we're not allowed to bring it up again. we can bring it up as a discussion/reference to our problem solving skills...but we are not to bring it up as ammunition in a fight down the road.

what's the point of solving a disagreement if we're still so working up over it that we can bring it up whenever?

A Los Angeles Love said...

I love this post, but for us, it's finding ways to talk about this and come to understandings that's so difficult!

We've started having "admin" nights at home, where we go over everything that we need to accomplish in our house over the next week and talk about anything that's been nagging either of us; laundry frustrations (etc) don't creep into everyday interactions because we already have a way to discuss them. I think it's really important for us to have a system in place to deal with discussions of good and bad things.

We're trying to do the same with setting aside time for marriage planning. We're working through some books right now and hoping to come to some conclusions about our life together via that planning.

Geezees Custom Canvas Art said...

I love #4
My advice: Love each other through the good times and the bad.

Gretchen said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I just got married and it feels surreal to be reading the blogs that i love and realize that they no longer apply to me. While i've tried really hard to focus on the marriage instead of the wedding, but don't quite know how to do that. I love hearing real advice about marriage.

SingColleen said...

When we got engaged, my aunt sent me a book called "The Hard Questions - 100 questions to ask each other before you get married." It basically went over a lot of the same stuff as you mentioned, but in more minute detail.

FH and I had already talked casually about a lot of the topics, but he's the strong silent type, so it was important to me that we have some dedicated time to really focus on the important stuff.

Anonymous said...

I just can't help but feel like the idea of a "marriage checklist" is not realistic when dealing withe real, complicated, messy things that is life and marriage itself. Sure, it's helpful to communicate well and to set some shared goals and ideals, but do we have to categorize everything? It seem the opposite of what I want my marriage to be: an organic, evolving, fun, difficult, exciting thing. Perhaps you are just much more organized and checklists are your tool of choice. Then again, perhaps organization and checklists shut off other avenues of hard but real LIVING.

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