I still remember my “first date”. Isaac was building and designing race cars for GT American at the time (which of course I thought was super-hot!) and asked if I’d be interested in taking a mini road trip to go check out a race show that his cars were racing in. He made us dinner and asked one of his racing family friends if we could hang and eat in his racing trailer beforehand. He did everything possible to ensure that first date was memorable! Ultimately, what made it a great date was the 4-hour drive to our destination – a total make or break scenario… you either connect, or you don’t. It either fly’s by, or, an hour in, you regret going at all! Needless to say, it was a great first date, which ultimately led to marrying the man of my dreams (minus a few annoyances here and there, lol)! We talked about our childhood, what it was like growing up, our families, who we are, what we want in life… all conversations that are great to have early on! Each date after that built on the one before, as one by one we got to know each other more deeply. We asked the “tough” questions, the kind you really second guess you wanted to know answers too, lol. All in all, these conversations helped build a solid foundation, one that 11 years later, I can truly say is ROCK SOLID!
So, when thinking about what to gift my wedding clients, I thought about purchasing a marriage or relationship type book, or study, they could read and go through together before they walk down the aisle, but then I got to thinking, and felt it would be a better idea to write a blog post for easier access and quicker reading!
The top 5 conversation ideas below were taken from the book, “10 Great Dates Before You Say “I Do”” by David & Claudia Arp and Curt & Natelle Brown. Their book is filled with fun exercises and questions to help each couple think through each topic and includes your own personal dating guide, a step-by-step sort of speak to help navigate the conversations. I encourage you to purchase the book on Amazon if you are interested in learning more.
Otherwise, here’s a high-level summary (in checklist format, of course) of 5 great conversations to have before you say “I Do”!
While the sharing of hopes and dreams is a no brainer, how about having a conversation about what your expectations are: does your relationship come first before anything/anyone else? How about personnel growth? Do you expect your partner to continue to grow to be a better person every day? And finally, what about expectations about staying close as a couple? The idea with this date is to ensure you both are on the same page and heading in the same direction, and/or, figuring out where you differ and how you will/can make it work.
This date is more about learning how to appreciate your differences. I often laugh at all the little differences between Isaac and I: I like Colgate, he likes Aqua Fresh; I like white meat, he likes dark meat; I’m more public and he’s more private; I’m definitely more feeling’s orientated, he’s more facts-oriented; I’m not the morning person, he’s up at the crack of dawn. But I’ve learned over 11 years of marriage, that our differences are what truly makes us stronger! We definitely balance each other and don’t feel threatened by each other strengths.
I love this quote from the book “Your relationship will only be as intimate as the conversations you have with each other”. Words have the power to give life or bring damage to the relationship. This date focuses on the communication style not only of each other, but your family of origin – were feelings openly shared, did you come from a family of debaters, did you rarely talk? Another great resource you may want to check out is “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray.
On this date it should be all about how you will handle problems that WILL arise in your relationship. Do you struggle to stay positive? Do you attack each other, or the problem at hand? Can you commit to the “speaker/Listener” technique? For our engagement party we had mini index cards and a jar on a table for guests to give their best marriage advice and I’ll never forget a piece of advice given that night… “Tina, he can’t read your mind”. So simple, yet, so true; it’s always stuck with me. It’s important to understand each other’s perspective and express your feelings without “attacking” each other!
Isaac and I decided early on that we would not have separate accounts. We decided this for various reasons, you have to decide what works for you guys. The book talks about having a complete understanding of what each is bringing into the relationship (i.e. savings, 401k, credit cards, etc.). To do that, they offer four practical steps: evaluate your present debt, define your financials goals, develop a workable financial plan, and manage and monitor your money. According to marriage.com in the article “10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce”, money, is the #2 reason! All the more reason to include this date before you say “I-do”.
Like anything in life, that’s worthwhile anyway, preparing for marriage takes time. You will be glad you took the time to have these important conversations – I know I did! While I love shooting weddings, I love marriage EVEN MORE!
Lastly, I wanted to make sure I left you with some fun date night activities that you can enjoy either before, or after, your conversations, or even after you’ve completed all 5 dates above, that you guys can have fun with!
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