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Love Advice

Is It Normal to Have Doubts Before the Wedding?

Suppose your best friend is getting married next month, having spent the last six months planning a picturesque autumn wedding with the love of her life. As the two of you are catching up over a couple of chai lattes, she raises an unexpected and alarming concern.

“She has been on my nerves constantly”, your friend says with great emphasis, speaking of her future wife’s role in the wedding planning process. “She obsesses over the smallest, stupidest details no one would ever notice. And it’s not like she’s the one who has to pay for all this. She’s just become so…annoying.”

The trials and tribulations of planning the big event are often rife with emotions. Sometimes, it brings up behaviours someone has never seen in their future spouse before, giving rise to concerns about future marital issues may lie ahead.

“And that’s not all”, your friend continues, recounting an ever-expanding list of potential problems with her incoming marriage.

What would you tell your dear friend? Is it normal to sense marriage problems ahead of what’s supposed to be the happiest day of one’s life? Should people heed their doubts and call off the wedding?

A quick Google search on “doubts before wedding” reveals many contradictory viewpoints on this issue. Very few people seem to linger in the middle – either they say it’s totally normal or it undoubtedly spells doom for the future marriage. It offers little comfort for those who may be stewing in their own concerns in advance of their wedding.

In 2012, a UCLA study found that men and women who harboured doubts about marrying their partners have a higher divorce rate after the first four years of marriage than those who did not. Of the women interviewed for the study, 19% who expressed pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later, compared to 8% who didn’t. For men, the stats were similar, with 14% of doubting husbands divorcing compared to 9% who had no doubts.

This may not come as a surprise, but what is shocking is just how many of the participants did have doubt in the first place. Almost half of all men in the study (47%) and over a third of women (38%) had doubts about marrying their partner.

In summary, the lead author of the study wrote that premarital doubts are “common but not benign.”

That’s a lot of ambivalence.

Of course, to accept the findings means accepting that all the couples interviewed were honest about their feelings. However, as therapist Daniela Tempesta points out in this blog, people face enormous social pressure to feel confident and excited about their upcoming weddings no matter what. This casts doubt on whether people can truly and honestly express their fears in such a study.

Daniela goes on to argue that harbouring concerns about one’s future marriage is not only normal, but that people should feel ambivalent before their wedding day.

“This is a huge decision, perhaps one of the largest and most important you’ll ever make in your life”, she writes. “The presence of ambivalence shows that you fully grasp the momentousness of this change in your life. Additionally, given the current divorce rate and the pain and suffering that results from that process, you’d be naive not to think twice about this.”

She adds, however, that you should never ignore your feelings leading up to the wedding. If you have a nagging sense that something’s not right, there’s a reason for it. Instead, she says you should investigate the feelings and try to understand what’s behind them.

Regardless of the eventual outcome, the friend in the above scenario took the right step by airing her concerns with someone else. The only thing worse than ignoring the feelings would be to deal with them in darkness.

Love Advice

Is Going to Sleep Angry Really That Bad?

The science is split.

Never go to sleep angry.

It’s a classic wedding speech fodder. And like most wedding well-wishes, it comes from a good place. But is this really the best approach to conflict in relationships? Is it so essential to wrap up an argument before bedtime?

One study suggests that a good night’s sleep can reinforce negative memories, making them more difficult to get over. Sleep is known to affect how your brain stores and processes new information. That’s why they recommend studying the night before a test rather than cramming in the morning – the information will sink in better if you can sleep on it.

The same goes for negative feelings and information. If you and your partner have an argument before you sleep, the freshly-formed bad memory is more likely to stick in your brain.

A researcher in the study gives advice that echoes the age-old adage: resolve the argument before going to bed and you’ll feel better in the morning.

Going to bed angry can also impact the quality of sleep. Often, when two partners are angry at each other, one will avoid escalating by going to sleep. Meanwhile, the second partner is restless, stewing in their anger while the other snores away peacefully. Neither party is happy, the problem is no closer to resolution, and one or both of them gets a poor-night’s sleep for their trouble.

But that’s not the only perspective on the issue.

You may think it’s better to forego sleep in order to resolve an argument, but that could do more harm than good. One of the primary purposes of sleep is to replenish your energy stores. The longer you stay awake, the less efficiently your brain can process your depleting energy. That impacts different parts of your brain, including the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for your judgement and self-control.

Anyone who’s stayed late at work knows it’s hard to perform at your best when you’re tired. Your judgement and reasoning skills are the same. If you prolong an argument long into the late hours, you risk saying things you don’t mean. A simple argument can devolve into something much worse – one that definitely won’t go away with a good night’s rest.

There are benefits to resolving a conflict when it comes up, but if you’re already tired, it’s usually best to postpone. Explain to your partner that now’s not a good time to talk about this, and you’d rather revisit it with a clear mind tomorrow.

Love Advice

The Social Media Effect on Marriage

Researchers say it’s important to understand how jealousy can play out in the digital age.

Social media is everywhere. It’s hard to find a single aspect of our lives that is free from its influence. It can deeply impact our careers, friendships, politics, and, of course, our marriages.

It’s not to say that marriage and social media can’t get along. In fact, at least a third of new marriages start online. But it also adds a host of marital complexities and challenges we’re only beginning to understand.

The Filter Effect

For one, social media adds a lot of pressure to a marriage. People have always looked at their relationship by comparing it to those of their friends and family members, but social media skews this perception, as people can portray their marriage online however they wish. The difficulties and tensions that would slip through the cracks in a face-to-face meeting are easily concealed beneath the social media filter.

We understand that social media has this effect, but we can’t always avoid it. When social media portrays everyone else’s marriage as perfect, it’s hard not to see your own in a different light.

Infidelity in the Internet Age

Perhaps even more difficult is how social media complicates the definition of infidelity.

It used to be cut and dry. When a person has sex outside of their primary relationship, that’s cheating. And social media offers plenty of opportunity for would-be cheaters to engage in that behaviour, with former flames and available singles just a click away.

But social media has also changed how people communicate and connect, and that makes things complicated.

Can a webcam encounter that never leads to face-to-face interaction count as infidelity? Does flirting via Facebook or apps like Tindr? What a fosters a deep, emotional connection that lacks explicit sexual overtones?

Recently, two researchers from the Cardiff Metropolitan University published a study about jealously in relationships arising from social media. In the study, people were asked to look at messages revealing either a sexual or emotional relationship between their partner and someone else. The former messages showed an explicit physical relationship, while the latter revealed emotional infidelity (such as calling someone their soul mate).

The study showed that while men were most distressed by the messages showing a partner’s sexual infidelity, women took issue with the emotional infidelity more, perceiving it as much a form of cheating as much as the physical relationship.

In an article for Psychology Today, Dr. Robert Weiss, offers a new definition for cheating in the digital age.

“Sexual infidelity is the breaking of trust that occurs when sexual secrets are kept from an intimate partner,” he writes. “At the end of the day, sexual infidelity is not so much about the physical sex act – either in the real world or online – it’s about the fact that you are keeping it a secret from your partner, the one person in the world with whom you supposedly share everything.”

How Should Married Couples Cope?

Many corporations establish a policy when it comes to social media use. In the digital age, couples would be wise to do the same.

When two people decide to join together in marriage, they should discuss these issues before they even start planning the wedding. Make it clear from the start where the line between friendship and infidelity lies, and set clear boundaries for what each person is comfortable with when it comes to social media. Will you share each other’s passwords? Share messages with each other? How often will you talk about your respective social media activities? What will you include or leave out of those conversations?

Love Advice

How Often Do You Say “I Love You”?

Communication is one of the most important components of any relationship. Whether it is something as simple as letting the other person know you will be late for dinner or having a profound talk about your future, it is important for both partners to understand how the other feels.

You have probably watched movies where a girl browbeats a guy over the fact that he has a hard time saying “I love you” to her. According to an article in Metro News, most people first say “I love you” three months into a relationship. Some of us sweat about when it is appropriate to make the leap and express that sort of affection and commitment. If you say it too soon, it sounds empty, but if you wait too long, the other person might wonder why you have not expressed a deep sense of caring for them.

Some men have trouble communicating when it comes to subjects as serious as affection and longing. Sex is easy for most guys and some will mistake that as a way of getting the point across without having to actually say it. That certainly can be true, but there is not always love in sex and vice versa. Sometimes you really just have to hear the other person say it to know that the feeling is there.

Are you afraid to say “I love you”? This article in Psychology Today discusses some of the common reasons why people have trouble taking this step.

How often do you say “I love you” to your partner? Is this something you do everyday without thinking to the point where it does not have the same meaning anymore? Or do you save it for those occasions when you really feel indebted to her or him for the way they have positively changed your life?

Love Advice

Help Preserve Your Relationship Happiness

Even the most stable and longest lasting relationships can run into trouble every once in a while. If the couple cannot talk things out, it might be time to bring in a professionally trained third party. Counselling in a relationship is perfectly normal and a service used by millions throughout the world.

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Many people try to talk out problems and sometimes seek advice from friends. This is not really a good idea as many friends have specific people they may lean towards, taking that individual’s side and not seeing the whole picture. That’s why it’s best to talk problems through with a professional who has no stake in one side proving that the other is wrong.

Professional counselors see couples for a number of visits, asking questions and recording responses. From those meetings, they are able to formulate advice. In most cases, such advice is wholly optional, but if the couples do try it out, the therapist asks them to report back. Based on their success or failure, the counselor then asks them to try a different approach or move on to the next stage.

The ongoing success or failure of these different exercises provides the guide for the counselor to make his or her recommendations about whether the relationship is salvageable or best abandoned. If it turns out to be the latter, don’t feel bad. If anything, this news will save you from months or possibly even years more of unhappiness. Sometimes you just need permission from someone else to make the next move in improving your life.

If you do not wish to go this route, there are other options, including relationship advice speakers who address audiences about particular topics. These men and women can be highly informative, but the format they use will not provide specific answers to the problem you and your partner are facing.