How often in your relationship has your partner responded differently than you anticipated? Couples who have been together a long time often expect that their partner can somehow read their mind; this is a bad assumption. No matter how long you've been together it is imperative that you share your thoughts and feelings directly so that you eliminate any guessing. Another problem that often occurs is when one person thinks they verbalized something but never did and expects the other person to know what they were thinking. Some people hold back on expressing feelings because they fear their partner's reaction. Regardless of the reason for avoiding straight forward communication, the importance of sharing directly cannot be overemphasized.
Many of the couples that I work with are getting ready to enter a committed relationship and are looking to work out issues before forging ahead. For these couples especially, writing out their expectations is crucial. What do you expect the marriage to look like and what role will each of you play? Discussing responsibilities and expectations, almost like a job description for being married, is often helpful. Who will be the primary breadwinner and who will be the primary caretaker of any children? Who will manage the finances? Be sure you know each others debts and assets and devise a plan for saving and spending. Even though you will share many of these roles, it often helps to have a lead person for each area. How about your expression of faith? Do you attend religious services and how involved do you hope your spouse will be? Talk about expectations related to time together, affection, intimacy, and communication. Discuss whether you want a family and parenting styles. It might even be helpful to talk about relationships with friends, and extended family so that you and your spouse are on the same page. Even though it is impossible to predict how these roles may change over time and with circumstances, these conversations need to be detailed enough to give a clear picture of what your marriage will look like.
Don't fall in to the trap that your partner is a mind reader and should know what your expectations and needs are for the relationship. Ask the questions, especially the difficult ones that are personal, intimate, and challenging. Go into the relationship fully committed with your eyes open and the questions answered. If you need a professional to help facilitate this conversation then make that happen. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and your partner. Decide what's important and stick to your needs so you can avoid anger and resentment in the future. Discuss what you bring to the marriage and what you need in order for the relationship to flourish. Marriage is like being on a tandem bike where both parties need to be pedaling in-sync. That requires communication, cooperation, and compromise. Work together as a team and your life together will be more rewarding, peaceful, and joy-filled.