Many romantic movies end with the lead couple getting married and living their “happily ever after.” The realities of living together as a married couple as opposed to time spent together during dating can be a shock if you are unprepared. But did you know, mismatched expectations are more common than you might think?
We did a poll to find out the top 6 things couples should discuss before marriage and invited marriage educators, Boaz and Claire Nazar, to share their tips and advice.
1. Managing Unexpected Habits
When asked what are some of the common unexpected habits they’ve heard of couples they’ve worked with, Claire brought up some of these common culprits:
- Light sleeper vs heavy sleeper: Snoring could be a long-term problem especially when the other spouse is a light sleeper.
- Spending habits: Buying for needs or wants? Neither may approve of each other’s way of spending money.
- Standard of cleanliness: Leaving your clothes lying around, whose responsibility is it to clean what.
Surprised by how common these habits are? You are not alone; many couples did not expect the unique quirks of their daily routines could even be perceived as an annoying habit.
One couple shared their before and after marriage experience, and it’s clear that communication and acceptance was their way to go:
“During our dating days, he was a gentleman. After marriage, he is still a gentleman but with extra “accessories”, the farts and nose digging. I would jokingly mention “you wouldn’t be caught doing this during our dating days” and his epic reply would be “too late, we are already married, no turning back”. I love how comfortable he is with me.” ~ Roxanna married for 7 years
2. Finding the balance between Personal and Couple-time
Then it comes to finding the right balance between personal and couple time. How much time away from family for personal space after marriage is reasonable?
“One’s priorities in life can be seen by the way time is spent. Firstly, a couple should do a personal exercise where they list out what they consider to be priorities in their life and rate them in order of importance.” shares Claire.
She adds, “See where your priorities line up with each other and schedule in the time you can agree upon for family time, couple time as well as working out each other’s responsibilities when it comes to home and work fronts.
As for personal space, it is important to discuss and agree as to one another’s expectations regarding personal space, balancing that with couple time, as well as time to be spent doing the household duties or chores.”
3. Managing conflicts
“As much as possible, I don’t like to argue with my husband because I fear getting the cold shoulders which can last for days and sometimes, weeks.” ~ Diana, married for 6 years.
Couple conflicts are inevitable, but is there a better way to resolve a conflict? Should one concede to their spouse to keep the peace, or to hit the nail on its head and talk it out?
Claire points out, “There is a difference between peace-keeping and peace-making. Keeping peace means you are simply postponing the issues, simply sweeping things under the carpet so to speak whereas if you are interested in having real peace in the home, you will need to resolve those issues before they become a hindrance to your intimacy.”
And would couples with opposite or similar temperaments fare better?
Claire says: “There is no difference. The important thing is that you are attracted to your spouse for a variety of reasons and it is important to remember why and what drew you to him/her.”
4. Housing Arrangements
Some argue it is best not to stay with or too near the parents or in-laws, whilst others might counter that it is great to have the support and even regular family meals together. Is there a better option out of the two?
Boaz shares, “It depends on the individual couple’s circumstances. Relationship dynamics between the couple can be tricky after marriage and it takes some time to adjust. Living with parents or in-laws means there are more adjustments to be made. If the couple is staying on their own, there is some space for them to adjust to living together as husband and wife, but they must remember to spend time with their parents and in-laws, and they have to be intentional about it.”
This brings us to the next point…
5. Relationship with in-laws
“My relationship with my in-laws was great until we had disagreements on my way of bringing up our child. I did not expect this to have happened since as we’ve always had a good relationship.” ~ Lee Na married for 8 years.
Boaz pointed out the importance of having a good relationship with the in-laws, “On the whole, family is an important aspect of community and having a good relationship is beneficial to the couple. If relationships are strained, it will only add stress to the couple and can have an impact whether directly or indirectly on the marriage. Having a good relationship with your in-laws and parents means that there will also be a good support network when the couple has children.”
He also shared some examples of how to maintain a happy relationship with in-laws, “Make the effort to meet with the in-laws regularly; do not neglect financial support for them; do not complain to your inlaws about your spouse when you are having disagreements with your spouse. It will end up that your parents or in-laws will take to offense on your behalf and this will put a strain on the marriage.”
6. Growing your family
Ever talked about how many children you would both be comfortable having? Claire shares that family planning and parenting are not issues that you can choose to decide on your own, without taking into account your spouse’s views.
She added, “After all, children are a big responsibility and require selfless and sacrificial attitude from their parents. The last thing you want is to engage in conflict over unspoken or unmet expectations.”
Infertility is yet another topic that is rarely addressed in the initial part of a marriage, so if the couple does face a fertility challenge, Claire advises, “They should accept and expect the stress and potential disappointment as part and parcel of the whole fertility treatment process, even before they start the process so that they do not carry unrealistic expectations or end up blaming one another for their disappointment.
Treasure and nurture your relationship by looking out for the positives in your spouse, working together as a team, and finding creative ways to deal with the stress and disappointment together as a couple. Perhaps, you could arrange a staycation or do a fun activity, to help each other get over the disappointment or pain.”
Did you know, you can join I Love Children’s Fertility Support Group Singapore on Facebook for the much-needed peer support while trying to conceive.
Boaz & Claire Nazar are lawyers and directors in the law firm, Kalco Law LLC. They have been married for about 25 years and they have 2 children, aged 22 and 17 years. They are Master Trainers in the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme (PREP®), an evidence-based marriage education course and they have been conducting PREP classes at Cornerstone Community Services since 2006.
More information on PREP® by Boaz & Claire can be found here.