Aren’t weddings wonderful? There is so much excitement in the air. People travel from hundreds of miles away, sometimes it is someone you haven’t seen for years. There is the dress, the tuxedos, the cute kids, the flowers, the cake, the music, the dancing, and on and on. It truly is a glorious day. It should be glorious, considering the amount of time and money poured into that one day. The average wedding in the United States is somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000. I haven’t seen a study on the time spent, but it would have to be hundreds of hours on average.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this. But, how does the money and hours spent on the marriage compare? That is where there is a problem. If you go to a church that has a really good pre-marriage program, you probably spend thirty to forty hours at most working on the marriage itself. That is the exceptionally good ones. My guess is it averages closer to eight to ten hours spent on the marriage. The amount of money spent on planning for the marriage is most likely somewhere around $0. Let’s compare then. $20,000 and 150 hours spent on ONE DAY; $0 and ten hours spent on the rest of your life. Sounds like an interesting plan to me.
That is why the first five years of marriage are so crucial. Since couples are not spending adequate time before the marriage planning for it, the first several years create the foundation. It sets the pattern for the future. For example, if you do not work together on money and continue to keep your finances separate when you first get married, chances are money is going to be a problem in year seven or ten or fifteen. Researchers have found that the first years of marriage predict which marriages will thrive and which marriages will falter. You need to choose now, are the first five years of your marriage going to be a time of huge growth and deep love or of disappointment and broken hearts? It really is up to you. If you have been married much longer than five years, then what is the next five years going to be like?
Take some time to reflect on the following aspects of your marriage. If you are newly married, how do you plan to handle each of these areas? If you have been married a long time, then how are you doing in each of these areas?
1.) Money. Money is the #1 cause of divorce in the United States. Having a budget, discussing your goals and dreams, and viewing everything as “ours” can make money one of the best aspects of your marriage.
2.) In-laws. Choosing your family of origin over your spouse can have dire consequences. You must learn that you have a new family now. Hopefully, your in-laws are such that they bless and enhance your marriage. If they are toxic to it, you must learn to minimize their effect.
3.) Conflict management. How do you handle conflict? Does the cussing and yelling start, do the walls get punched, or do things go flying? If this is how conflict is handled, eventually something is going to give.
4.) Sex. This should be one of the most rewarding and fun parts of your marriage. Unfortunately, some use it as a tool to control or demean.
5.) Parenting. You and your spouse were most likely raised very differently. This will lead to many different ways to handle the children. These differences can lead to conflict. Your kids must be presented a united front from Mom and Dad or they will run the roost for sure!
6.) Religion. One of the biggest hot-button issues for marriage is religion. If you are not of the same religion or denomination, trouble can rear its ugly head. It could be that one of you is very spiritual and the other is not. Either of these scenarios can be a major problem. As with money, it can also be one of the best aspects of your marriage if handled correctly.
You may be asking if or how most of these things have anything to do with money. Since financial coaching is what I do, I can easily argue that money issues are interwoven through each of these aspects. Over the next few weeks, that is exactly what we’ll do. Use this as a check for your marriage. If you are engaged or newly married, then start discussing these things now. If you have been married for a long time, then take some time discussing how you have been doing in all of these areas. Celebrate the ones you have been doing well and improve upon the ones you have not been doing well. It is time to start giving your marriage the time and possibly money for any needed retreat, classes, or counseling that it deserves.