Newlyweds' 5 Biggest Pitfalls
Experts say unrealistic expectations, avoiding conflict after marriage can lead to disaster.
Love and marriage may "go together like a horse and
carriage," but most newlyweds set off without a shared road map. Each
partner comes to the journey with their own set of directions including --
assumptions about roles, expectations about how to spend time and money, and
deeply held beliefs about children. Then there's also -- baggage. Experts say
it takes desire, honest communication, and hard work to move a relationship
from the romantic stage through the power struggles to a loving marriage based
on shared meaning. Get off to a good start by avoiding these five major
- My family does it this way.
- Marriage will make me happy.
- My partner will change once we're married.
- Talking about issues like his rowdy friends, her credit card debt, when to
have kids, and who should clean the toilet, will take the bloom off
- We should avoid conflict at all costs.
My Family Does It This Way
His family sits down together around the dining room table for
dinner every night. Her family scatters and grabs dinner on the run.
Couples often underestimate the influence of their families.
"People go into marriage with expectations that are engrained almost
subconsciously," says Addie Leibin, MS, LMHC, a private mental health
counselor in Winter Park, Fla. "They think, I'll get married, and I'll do
it like my family did it. But you can't build a house with two sets of
blueprints. The whole object is to come up with your own set of plans. It's not
your mom and dad's house."
Mark Freeman, PhD, agrees with Leibin that families operate on
both conscious and subconscious levels. He counsels couples and teaches a class
called "Marriage and the Family" in his roles as director of personal
counseling and instructor at Rollins College, also in Winter Park. On a
conscious level, he says, when there's interference from one of the spouse's
family members or a person doesn't have total allegiance to his or her spouse
that creates problems within a person's marriage.
On a subconscious level, families provide the
frame-of-reference that individuals bring to the marriage regarding money,
gender roles, and other important issues. "Know each other well enough to
find out what the stated expectations are, and recognize sometimes there are
unconscious expectations. For example, you could say 'I'm open and like to deal
with things,' but in your own family when conflict arose, you shut down. So
it's the stated vs. the unconscious. Sometimes we have the best intentions to
be one way, but then a coping strategy from our own family comes up and
violates the thing we are. We're human, not perfect."