I always say “Come to couples’ therapy when there is something to work on. It is an easier road than when you wait until you are injured and broken and looking for salvation and healing.” One of the gratifying aspects of being a couples and sex therapist is when a couple decides to come see me when they are building their future rather than when they come to me in distress. Premarital therapy is one of those opportunities where both partners are looking to learn more, grow together and find some open curiosity. However, this can also be a time of great stress and challenging relationships.

Families, friends and social media all are quick to offer opinions about how to plan your wedding down to every detail from the invitation list, the flowers, the food, the seating chart and all of it is wrapped in the pressure to be unique, special, memorable and perfect. The cost, the politics, the feelings and amount of work and focus it takes to pull of such a perfect event can add deep stress and conflict to a couple.

It is not rare that an engaged couple will sit on my couch on tell me that they are struggling with each other since they got engaged. They expected it to be a period of love and joy, full of celebration and are dismayed that what they find is something else instead. Meeting with these couples, we start with two core messages: The healthiest relationships have the clearest boundaries; and, always choose the marriage over the wedding.

Healthy boundaries will allow you to maintain the relationships that matter to you as you go through this happy and stressful time. Set limits for others that informs them what help, information and advice you find helpful. Make the wedding about you and not everyone else.  When you are feeling pressured to respond to everyone’s forward etsy post for you to start crafting, to the inclusion of rituals that everyone thinks you should have, to the directives on food, guests and scale of grandeur, it is important to be able to insulate yourself – because the wedding is about you and your partner. You can remain gracious and firm. Support each other in holding those boundaries. Limit the amount of time you spend with magazines, social medial and the wedding industry. Each of them will attempt to pressure you to do more, do bigger, and listen to everyone else’s opinion but your own.

Choosing the marriage over the wedding is a reminder that the wedding lasts a few hours. It is a wonderfully important and meaningful few hours. But, if you are not careful, you will spend months and resources while challenging important relationships to create something that is perfect. Five years after the wedding, your guests won’t remember your flowers, your food or the music. They will remember you – so focus on you.  The marriage will have a lifetime impact. Staying connected and intimate with your partner during the wedding process is far more valuable. Getting through the wedding with all your extended relationships in good order and starting without a tremendous debt is the outcome of a successful wedding. Focus on strengthening the marriage while you plan for a lovely day.  In 30 years, as you reflect on your special day, doing it with your spouse because you have built a solid and deeply committed relationship is the greatest gift you give yourself at your wedding.

If you are in the midst of wedding planning and feeling the stress, or want to start some premarital work to strengthen your relationship, contact Elliott at elliott@insightbrookline.com