A Stitch In Time...
All said and done, there is only one effective tool in relationships for both preventing the build-up of tensions and the release of them.
There are, of course, other factors that play a big part in the health and relative success of marriage and de facto relationships, including respect, equality (chores, work, finances, etc), alignment of goals, meeting expectations, to name a few. But, when one or more of these is off-balance or simply non-existent, there is only one mechanism, one process, that can keep couples together, even bring them back from the brink and that is open and honest communication.
No doubt, you have heard this before and it plays a part in maintaining your relationship. But let me suggest that, as you head towards your wedding and enter matrimony, you pay particular attention to those things that make up your personal history - both as individuals and as a couple - those events that we too often gloss over, put in the ‘icky’ or ‘too hard’ basket. The fact is, though, they never go away and have the very real potential to become toxic and cancerous, even fatal to your relationship years later.
There are any number of examples of this syndrome but a few might be a questionable relationship with another person (flirting/infidelity), issues with each other’s family members (‘Your mother hates me!’), money issues (e.g. ‘borrowed’ money that never got repaid), the assumption that one or the other will become the stay-at-home parent, the time(s) s/he ‘forgot’ to invite the other for an outing or even holiday and many more.
My experience is that there is always at least one event-related scenario that lies dormant, often for years, that refuses to ever go fully away, instead growing rather than diminishing in potency, raising its ugly head whenever a related topic surfaces. Then that gnawing starts, the tension rises and it can blow up out of all proportion to the current situation.
And the problem becomes even harder to deal with because, in our all-too human way, we are disinclined to ever address these issues when things aren’t going so well with our partner - and that’s probably not a good time to raise other matters, anyway. But we’re equally disinclined to engage in these sorts of discussions when things are going well (see my other blog on this topic: Do You Believe in Life After Marriage?) because, well, we’re just going so well.
The key, in my experience, is to plan it. Make a meal of it, head away somewhere for a couple of days and know that you are going to talk, really talk, and it’s probably a good idea, too, to give each other a head’s up about what the topic(s) will be.
The problem with human nature, as the myriad of ‘road rage’ Youtube videos will testify, is that we can get blindsided on occasions and, before we know it, we’re in the Red Zone, blazing hate and rage consuming us before the frontal lobe can kick in with some reason and a sense of proportion. Do we really want to kill someone because they stole our park? Of course not.
But, in our relationships, the same primeval response can take over, pushing all else to the bottom, the desire to win and dominate the only goal. Needless to say, this can be fatal to love and respect and, ultimately, our relationship.
Planning it, though, removes the possibility of being blindsided - you know it’s coming, you’ve thought about it and you agreed to it. It still may get ‘icky’, every fibre in your being doesn’t want to engage in it but, like any infection, the poison needs to come out.
Finally, think about it in these terms: how much time and energy and resources are you committing to your Big Day? A lot, I’ll bet. So why wouldn’t you go away for a night or two and talk through those tripwires that are there waiting for us with the potential to explode?
One thing is certain: it will be the quality of your communication and not the lavishness of your wedding day which will give you your best chance to achieve the very thing you both clearly want: to stay together forever in a loving marriage.