Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deadlines

I am both a goal-oriented and deadline-oriented person.  My daydreams are lofty and I hold myself to exceedingly strict standards, primarily because I know am capable of greatness.*  Counterbalancing my potential, however, is the unfortunate lack of self-directive abilities.  I need deadlines.  In fact, I crave deadlines in order to force myself slightly closer to realizing my full potential.  This odd mix of driven neuroticism and an inability to self-motivate would be a dangerous combination in wedding planning if it weren't for one thing: we have a deadline, and it's April 2011.

Apart from any logistical or budgetary reasons to have a long engagement, I'm really thankful for this prescribed time period that we can devote to marriage planning.  Although we've long been committed to lofty marriage and life goals, our deadline focuses me on making these goals manageable and realistic. Fourteen months from now, I intend to stand with Jason, not just committed to our marriage, but sure that we are jointly committed to the difficult actions of everyday respect and love, even when we disagree.  Although we entered this engagement secure in our joint values, temperament and general goals, the process of truly interweaving our lives is different.  It's about taking time to build that boring foundation that can help guide us when we're too tired to think after an evening with the newborn.  It's about planning now so that our marriage doesn't slowly crumble on the weight of unspoken resentments or poorly resolved arguments.  In part, we chose a long engagement to get done with the seating charts and therefore give us time to learn about Us - not Jason, not Becca, but Us. What Our joint financial goals and processes are.  Which synagogue meets Our needs.  How we respond as a Family when life throws us a health-related curveball or job loss. Who We are when facing our families as a Unit. Who We are when facing the world as a Unit.

Starting now, I have a fourteen month path between here and the wedding, and I have implemented a strict plan for tackling my to-do list.  Instead of checklists about color schemes and bridesmaids invitations, my to-do list is filled with the marriage planning aspects associated with this wedding period, and each task gives me the warm fuzzies just thinking about it.  We've started working our way through 1001 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married, a great, secular workbook that tackles the hard issues underlying communication, compromise, and decision making.  It's exhausting stuff, but manageable and worthwhile when approached in one-hour chunks, over a glass of wine. I'm excited to next talk through the nitty gritty of joint finances, beyond the starting point-knowledge that we both have some savings and we're both risk-averse.  It's harder to pin down how much we each want to devote to retirement, versus the wedding, versus vacations, etc and even harder to begin talking about these issues regularly and effectively as a team.

I know that marriage is a process: prior to the engagement, leading up to the wedding, and every day thereafter.  But for me, it's nice to have a deadline.  It's nice to have a prescribed time-frame in which to fully delve into my neuroticism and overanalyze every possibility, together, while we're full of excitement about the future.  It's nice to have a goal, something I'm actively working towards, besides this amorphous "forever" thing.  And it's equally nice to know that once the wedding planning is done, we can put a lot of the hard, draining, questions behind us, ready to just be.  I have no intention of sitting up at 5am the morning of our wedding, editing my vows, wondering how the ceremony got away from me due to making ipod playlists and wondering what the next step for us is.  Because this is too important.  And I'm approaching both the wedding and the vows as a process of marriage, one with a clear deadline, but as a process that is best savored.


*of course, there are areas where greatness most definitely eludes me. That's when I set the bar low, such as aiming to dance without tripping over my second left foot. Give me an excel analysis however, and I'll come back with genius.  I swear.

9 comments:

  1. I really love this post. Mr B & I had a 19 month engagement. It really made us focus on us and work on things before we were married. I felt very different at the start of the 19 months as apposed to the end. I think if we had rushed it I might have freaked out once we were married. But having the time to think about everything and settle into those feelings was great.

    I think it's wonderful that you are working on your relationship.

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  2. I LOVE that you're taking the time to work on building a great marriage and not just a pretty party! So smart and so awesome! :)

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  3. I think this post is great also! No matter what you deal with in life, you can use it to learn about and work on your relationship. We will have been engaged for 21 months by the time we are married and a lot of changed have taken place over this time frame, including living together. I feel like working on things on a consistent basis will help produce a healthier relationship in the long run.

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  4. Hands in the air for the long engagement plan. We are also more than a year out from our wedding (which will be sometime in summer 2011...details details). I want to approach this whole thing slowly and, savor — which really is the perfect word — it.

    We were given "The 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married." We haven't cracked it, but discussing it over glasses of wine sounds great. How do you like "1001 Questions?"

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  5. @Ms. Bunny - we really like the book, particularly because it was hard to find quality secular options (for some odd reason.) Despite everything I already knew about Jason, it's definitely giving us the chance to learn more and to see it from a slightly different perspective (and in the context of Us). You should be warned, however, that it's dense. We probably make it though half a page of questions before we've emotionally exhausted ourselves (in a good way.) So I'd definitely recommend that glass of wine, and perhaps a light-hearted tv show to follow.

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  6. I totally needed this today, now I am grateful I have ignored my reader all week. This is amazing and totally the right approach to marriage so many get caught up in planning its worth the time and investment in the relationship to discuss these things so you have a foundation. Eric and I are tackling a lot of this now after the wedding but at the same time the relationship issues and goals for our marriage issues were discussed prior to the wedding. Keep up the good work you are building an amazing partnership.

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  7. This is really great to hear.
    Bryan and I attended a marriage preparation workshop that really helped us think about relationships and how we interact. It was Stay Hitched www.stayhitched.com.

    The couple who runs the class covered a lot of John Gottman's research about successful couples and how they interact. I found that to be helpful to understand how most of our interactions are neutral, but successful couples are able to turn neutral ones into postitive. They also have a ratio of at least 5 postive interactions for every negative; the goal being a high ratio!

    They gave us a whole binder of things to talk about, a lot we had already done. Some with that book 1001 Questions, though I didn't think it was the best for us. Some questions we found silly, like what color are you sexually? But it did serve it's purpose as a primer to get the conversation started.

    I do recommend the outside counseling aspect. It can be hard to talk about some topics, or even bring them up and a third party mediator can really help faciliate those conversations.

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  8. You always share such thoughtful and introspective posts about your feelings, processes and just working through life as an engaged couple. I truly enjoy reading your blog and gaining insight into your honest experiences along the way to your wedding. This was again, a great post focused on what truly matters.

    I also love deadlines, they help keep me focused and on track...because God knows I am slug when it comes to self motivation. As we are getting closer to the big deadline (just over 2 months away now), I find that the stress of finalizing details does not affect me as much as the anxiety of the huge life change we are about to endure. Though I am truly excited, I just don't think there's any way you can ever be fully prepared for what will come at you next as a husband and wife. It might be a bit different for those that already live together pre-marriage. But for us, having been together for 6 years and now taking the next step to move in together as husband and wife is becoming overwhelming to me. Posts like these help remind me what I need to focus on and what I can accomplish.

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  9. We've been looking at pre-marital counselling but if you're not getting married in a church the options are A: limited and B: frigging expensive!! The book sounds like a good starting point but I think we (specifically me and my partner--not the general "we") need that outside person to facilitate.

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