This is a guest post by our friend and couples coach Kira Asatryan!
As a couples coach who specializes in pre-marital coaching, I love to encourage brides – in between dress fittings & mimosa brunches, of course! – to make time during their engagement to discuss the marriage. This is a once-in-a-lifetime stage in your relationship, where you’re completely committed but not yet set-in-your-ways, that you’ll never get back. Make the most of it!
One of the main topics I urge couples to address during their engagement is marriage expectations. If you only have time to discuss one topic with your fiancé before you wed, make it this one. Expectations are the aspects of your future you strongly believe will happen, and this is exactly why they’re important to share with your partner – they are reflections of your closely-held beliefs.
Below are some tips for getting the expectation conversation started, and for getting it back on track if you stumble upon something unexpected…
1. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Most engaged couples have discussed the nut-and-bolts of their future – where they want to live, what they want their jobs to be, how many kids they want – but many gloss over the more subtle expectations embedded in these topics. Get at the underlying expectations by asking open-ended questions, such as:
- How do you think we should raise our kids?
- What roles do you want me to take on after we’re married?
- How do you want me to support you when you’re going through a hard time?
If you pose one of these questions to your fiancé, you’ll probably get a resounding “Huh?” That’s because it’s going to be weird at first. But not only is weird healthy, weird is what you’re going for! Weird means you’re covering territory you haven’t before. And the beauty of weird conversations is: your partner really doesn’t know what the “right” answer is. They won’t know what you want to hear, so they’ll have no choice but to speak their truth.
2. Put a Weight on It
If you like it then you shoulda put a weight on it….
Sorry I had to.
Once you start asking open-ended questions, you’ll discover you and your fiancé have some differing expectations about the future. Hopefully you won’t be replete with polar opposite opinions, but some variance is inevitable. So what should you do if your partner expects something from the future you disagree with? Put a weight on it.
Put a weight on it means: identify how much that expectation really matters to you (and to them). This is the perfect moment for a little coaching exercise (YAY!). Rate on a scale of 1-10 how much you really care that this expectation works out the way you envisioned it – 1 meaning you actually don’t care at all and 10 meaning it’s of essential importance to you. Have your fiancé do the same. Then share your ratings & discuss.
You’ll find that it’s actually very rare for both partners to find the same expectation essentially important. Take, for example, a husband’s expectation that his wife will quit her job after she gets pregnant, but she’d rather keep working. He may rate this a 7 in importance because he feels it’s more financially responsible. She may rate this a 10 because she considers her job part of her identity. Basically, this matters a lot more to her than to him, so her vision needs to take precedence.
3. Find the Overlap
If you find that you both really do care strongly about a certain expectation, it’s time for a bit of compromise, or what I call “finding the overlap.” Finding the overlap means shelving the aspects where you disagree for the moment and building upon the aspects where you do agree. There’s almost always some aspect of an issue that two people can agree on.
You’re probably already familiar with finding the overlap, as it’s often a vital part of planning a wedding. Maybe you want a straight-up rustic wedding and he envisions more simple elegance. These may seem contradictory at first, but start digging into what they have in common. You picture “rustic” meaning outside , and he imagines “simple elegance” as a starry sky. You guys just stumbled upon the perfect “Night Under the Stars” theme… by finding the overlap.
4. Get it in Writing
Once you’ve identified the areas you can agree on, write them down. What’s that? Is that groaning I hear? Are you going “Do I really have to wriiiiiite theemm dooooowwwnnnn?”
Yes, you really have to write them down! Writing your agreements down has manifold benefits, not least of which is that they’re now in a document you can reference when one or both of you conveniently forgets what was agreed to. Also, writing stuff down helps your brain retain it, and the simple act of articulating something in writing forces you to not be vague.
If you want to be really good (EXTRA CREDIT!), write your agreements down and then sign the document. As if it’s a binding contract. Nobody’s about to forget the agreements then!
5. Shift to Dreams
If you find yourselves at a major stand-still in regards to expectations, shift the conversation to dreams. Expectations are about what you believe will happen, but dreams are about what you want to happen. Shifting the focus to dreams can provide great perspective. For example, if you’ve both always had a dream of sailing all seven seas of the world – and can recognize the deep emotional bond you two share over this dream – it doesn’t matter too much who’s expected to do the dishes, does it?
Try out these simple tips and you’ll find that the conversations that flow from them are always valuable. You may discover something you definitely need to know before walking down the aisle. Or (as more often happens) you’ll find even more evidence that you’re a perfect fit!
About Kira: Kira is a San Francisco-based couples coach who specializes in helping newlywed & engaged couples lay the foundation for a fantastic marriage. Her mission is to build upon the stellar aspects of a relationship while improving any less-than-satisfying parts. She received her training from the pre-eminent life coaching school – The Coaches Training Institute – and her reason for doing this work is simple: she just loves love! Visit her website to learn more about her coaching programs and pre-marital courses!