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Dear Dr. Batya,
Our wedding is just six weeks away. My fiancee and I are constantly arguing. We can't even decide whose apartment to live in. I'm starting to panic and wonder if we are making a mistake in getting married. Can you give us some advice? - A.R. Kfar Saba
Your letter endorses my belief that a few sessions of premarital counseling are a great gift to a couple thinking of marriage. Often the problems you face now will be those you revisit years later if they are not resolved. These problems are often exacerbated by poor or complete breakdown in communication around a variety of issues. If possible, it is best to sort these issues out before tying the knot.
. Some days, months and years are certainly harder than others. The first year is often one of the more difficult ones as you both learn the art of give and take while negotiating what works best for each of you as individuals and as a couple.
Kindness and forgiveness are two essential ingredients in a relationship. Ask yourself, "Will what I say be helpful?" If the answer is yes, then say it; if not, don't. You not only have to think about your partner and do for him what you'd like done for yourself, but you have to be willing to forgive, move on and not get stuck in holding on to pain and anger when your partner is anything less than perfect.
None of these are easy but they are the keys to a good marriage. Remember, marriage is not about winning but about working together on the same team. Marriage is about each partner giving at least 100 percent. You must be able to ask yourself, "What can I do for my partner?" and not just, "What is my partner doing for me?" You must be able to make changes within yourself and not expect your partner to change. This is essential.
I see many singles who are having difficulty finding a suitable partner. For some, they just have not been in the right place at the right time; for others, they have unrealistic expectations or are unable to truly give within the demands of a relationship. With time people become more set in their ways and have less desire to give of themselves. Making a marriage work is something that must be worked on every day of your coupled lives. Assuming that maybe you have found that right person but just are not sure, here are a few general and specific questions to address before saying yes.
1) What is your relationship like? Is there lots of give and take? Are you able to be there for each other and can you listen and empathize? Do you accept and respect each other for who you are, faults and all? Do you spend time together without distraction and are you committed to each other? Do you laugh and have a good time together?
2) Do you share similar beliefs? Are you spiritually and religiously in close to the same place? Do you have similar parenting goals? How do you envision your career and other goals? Will you share chores, have a more traditional role? Will one make space for the other's career? Is there respect and understanding for the other's view?
3) How well do you know your partner? Is he/she caring, affectionate, supportive and understanding? Are you comfortable in discussing your needs and are you able to ask for what you want? Do you feel loved?
4) Have you openly discussed finances and how you'll make ends meet? Do you share similar goals with regard to saving and spending? Do you both want the same things?
5) Have you openly discussed past and present health and psychological issues? Have you kept anything hidden from one another? Are there any secrets between you? Have there been any emotional crises in the past that your partner should be aware of?
6) Do you share the same friends and activities? If not is there room in the relationship for others and how will they fit in? Are you comfortable with how you both spend your leisure time?
7) How do you get along with each other's parents and siblings? Are they warm and caring or do they see you as interfering and competitive with respect to their needs?
8) What issues do you disagree on and can't reach a compromise? How committed to making the relationship work are you both? Are your short- and long-term goals compatible? Do you fight appropriately and can you work out issues together? Are you able to be flexible?
There are no easy answers. It is not uncommon to argue as the big day approaches. There is no shortage of stressors. With love and caring, however, these differences don't have to be insurmountable. If you feel you are not on the same page, get counseling now before you begin your married life together.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana. [email protected]