Making a Commitment - Understanding Each Others Goals and Dreams
Take time to think about ‘why’ you'd like to achieve certain things. What do you think is the underlying need that underpins each of your goals and dreams? Think about your need for stability, excitement, popularity or self fulfilment. With some goals it may be more about being true to the things that matter for you such as caring for friends and family, working in a job that makes a difference or your political beliefs. Sharing what drives you with your partner will help you to feel closer and build intimacy.
Hopes and expectations
As well as sharing your dreams it is important to look at what each of you expects from married life. It is only by being open about your hopes and expectations that you can work together to achieve what you both want. If you’re not clear about what you are hoping for, you run the risk of misleading each other and then it is likely that you will both be disappointed.
Your hopes and expectations will be influenced by many things, including previous relationships, your friends, family members, the media, your age, and some of your significant life experiences.
The most significant influence will probably be watching how your parents managed their relationship as you were growing up.
Some behaviour learnt from our parents’ relationship doesn’t show itself until we marry or become parents ourselves. It can have a much more powerful influence than we realise. Finding ourselves behaving as parents can shock us especially if it is behaviour that we have tried to avoid repeating in our own relationship. It's perfectly normal to have doubts or feel scared about getting married – hence the term ‘cold feet’. Getting married is one of the biggest decisions we’ll make in our lives. But if you can share your feelings, support and reassure each other, then you're on the right track.
The average age for a first marriage is now 32 for men and 30 for women so most couples have been financially independent for some time before they tie the knot. Marriage is like a merger - couples struggle to work out how they will balance holding on to some financial independence with new shared responsibilities.
Because money is such a sensitive and personal issue, in the early days couples often avoid bringing up any concerns. We hope things will sort themselves out and don’t discuss money issues until they become a problem.
There are clues as to whether money will be a problem between you in the early stages of your relationship. Differences in what you earn, what you like to spend money on, how you split paying for going out and holidays etc. With the average cost of a wedding being so high you’ll probably have argued about how your wedding is being paid for. Getting married often means getting into debt - a shaky start to married life; particularly if one of you was pushing the other to spend more than you could really afford. Resentments can easily build up so it is important to discuss money concerns when they first arise.
Having a monthly planner can help. Together you can work out a budget – include all items that you will have to cover as a couple but keep your individual spending separate. Work out what being together will cost you each month and which of you will take responsibility for what. A joint account can be a good way of dealing with your shared outgoings – mortgage, shopping, bills, etc. If you don’t agree early on in married life, this may come back to bite you.
Working out your budget will probably trigger important conversations about what will change once you are married. Again be honest with each other about worries and expectations. Discuss where your attitudes to money come from. With the current recession most of us have fears about financial security - take a good look at your individual hopes and fears – and see where there are differences and similarities?
In addition to the monthly planner you might want to look longer term – to have a plan for the next few years. This plan doesn’t need to be set in stone – you can revisit it every year to see how things are going and whether you both still agree with it. Remember even when you don’t agree you’ll help reduce the tension by explaining where you are coming from to your partner and get to understand each other better.
For more help why not look at:
- Introduction to Money
- Budget Planner
- Has your relationship been hit by credit crunch
- Postcards from the edge – when the money runs out
- Relationships Insight – Hidden Issues
- Relationship Insight - Journey to Shared Goals
- Exercise – Finding a compromise
- Relationships Insight - Changes and Stages of a Relationship
- Exercise Personal Goals
- The Planner in Work it Out
Listed below are the other articles in the Making a Commitment series: