By Mary T. Carty, Contributing writer
In vintage romantic movies, there is often the final image of the groom carrying the bride over the threshold into their new home to live “happily ever after,” and the audience never gets a chance to see what their life will be like on a normal day after they move in together.
Today’s modern couple is more likely to cross the threshold exhausted from the honeymoon carrying their own luggage and asking, “What’s for dinner?”
This simple question opens up a whole series of responding questions such as: “Is there any food?; Who is cooking, setting the table, serving the meal, and/or doing the dishes?; What time do you want to eat?”
These seemingly small and insignificant decisions concerning their first meal in their new home shows the number of never-ending details that require the choices and actions that will define the marriage.
Most Catholic couples are required to go through pre-Cana classes that include discussions about some typical marriage situations and help prepare them for this first 24 hours of marriage when they will be forced to face issues related to household space, food, rest, intimacy, chores and possibly even money.
It is impossible to be prepared for all of situations in any marriage, and it may be helpful for engaged couples to take a look at the following questions before the wedding and begin to work together to decide and acknowledge who is doing what.
Who is doing the cooking, grocery list and menu for the week?
What might intimacy look like?
How and when will the laundry get done?
What time will the alarm be set for weekdays?
What parish to belong to and which Mass will be attended?
How and who will pay the bills?
Will there be specific times for meals, and will thanks be given?
How can love be kept alive, and is there room for fun in marriage?
How will household space for personal things like books and DVDs be determined?
Will there be a special time set aside each week to talk about schedules, dreams, goals and responsibilities?
The list seems a bit overwhelming, but there will be a lot of time after the wedding to cooperatively find answers.
Here are some general suggestions that might help couples begin to navigate through some of these daily trials and tribulations:
- Household issues: First write a list of household tasks that need to be taken care of and then decide who does what for the first few weeks and then revisit the list. Having a written list is both a reference and a reminder.
- Finance: Estimate monthly expenses, discuss how and when bills will be paid and decide how money will be budgeted. The challenge is to pay the bills and set aside a bit of money for fun and entertainment.
- Food: Enjoying delicious food is cause to celebrate, and there are many opportunities from romantic dinners to picnics to holiday feasts. Keeping an ongoing grocery list and meal plan for the week and deciding when to eat, what to eat, where to eat and who will cook may be helpful tools to deal with the daily food/meal tasks.
- Friends and Family: Spending time with new and old friends and two families is important and enriching. The challenge is how to balance both spouses’ schedules. A calendar is a helpful tool to keep track of and plan for upcoming events and holidays.
- Intimacy: Intimacy is a new way of showing and sharing love and it may take time and patience for both partners to feel comfortable talking about their physical relationship. Since this is new territory, it may be helpful for each of the individuals to read about intimacy in marriage and then compare notes.
- Communication guidelines: Last, but not least, setting up some guidelines concerning discussions sets a positive tone from the beginning of the marriage.
A few basic communication considerations are: Treat the other person with respect. Keep an open mind. Clearly state thoughts. Listen, really listen. Use a pleasant tone of voice. Remember the terms collaboration, cooperation and an occasional compromise.
Mary T. Carty is a New Orleans-based writer-photographer and author of “The PMAT: The Perfect Marriage Aptitude Test” (Glitterati Incorporated, 2009).