Talks To Have Before Getting Married: Conflict Styles and Common Interests

If you are presently engaged to be married, we send you our warmest congratulations! The time of dating and engagement is exciting and promising-- a time where couples dream of a future together and feel the promise of a great future with their soon-to-be spouse.  Unfortunately, many of us don't learn the "in's and out's" of what it takes to make a marriage work, which can end up in feelings of great disappointment once the "I do's" have taken place.  This week, Imagine Hope is discussing the different things you should discuss before you walk down the aisle.  Remember that it's important to really know who you are marrying and vice versa!  These areas help you better understand the things needed to make your marriage work: Conflict Styles:  Do you know how to fight fair?

Many couples learned destructive patterns of conflict from their family growing up (e.g., attacking, yelling, blaming, avoiding conflict entirely), and as much as they want to change things, they begin repeating the same way of handling negative emotions.

Before marriage, be sure to discuss how you would like to handle conflict. What feels uncomfortable to you? What feels safest for both people to continue sharing their feelings? Maybe your future spouse needs time to cool off and some space before coming back to resolve differences, but you need to hash things out right away.  When you are chasing him/her around trying to pull information out of your significant other, you can imagine that it might not end up well.  These are all important things to talk about before you get married.

If you are struggling with destructive patterns of learned conflict, relationship counseling can be a great tool to help you understand your past and find new ways of relating in your present.

Similar interests and commonalities

Do you have things in common and what do you share as a couple (e.g., values, beliefs, interests and hobbies)?

It’s extremely important to discuss up-front what your beliefs and value systems are. Do you want children? How many? How would you like to handle child-rearing and discipline? Do you share the same faith and spiritual beliefs and how do you want that to blend into your marriage?

In order to have these deep conversations, they must be built upon safe and effective communication, which (as Natalie discussed earlier this week) is why the communication part is so important! If you can't discuss your similarities and differences in a healthy way, you won't ever learn who your future spouse really is!

It’s also important to discuss your expectations for interests and hobbies both in the marriage as a couple, as well as time spent apart with friends and extended family. Coming to an agreement about things shared as a couple helps each person feel like a respected and valued member of the relationship. It isn’t as important as what the interest or shared hobby is, but rather the willingness to enter the other person’s internal world by sharing that activity and interest with them. At the same time, couples need a balance of what they do outside of the marriage as well. Not every activity may be something you are willing to share. Learn to compromise for the benefit of the marriage.

We hope this week's blog topic has been  helpful for you.  Remember that it's never too late to discuss these things-- just because you are already married doesn't mean you can't go back and "re-learn" your spouse! 

Resources: Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts by Dr. Les Parrott & Dr. Leslie Parrott The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.