Preparing for Happily Ever After
Director of Program Operations
Women’s Resource Center has been serving the Radnor community and surrounding areas for 41 years. Our mission is to help girls and women successfully navigate life’s transitions, and a common transition that prompts a woman to call us is divorce. We help women navigate this complex time by providing legal consultation, divorce resource events, support groups, counseling, and referrals to other necessary services. Our interventions can inform and empower women to land on their feet through the transition of divorce.
But… what about the transition into marriage?
Our Helpline rings about 170 times each month, and it is never from women asking for help through the transition of becoming married. Marriage brings with it so many complex nuances around changing roles, finances, legal implications, emotional responses, and social changes. Yet, no one calls for help.
The answer is usually two-fold.
- “I have a wedding to plan!” Impending nuptials can overwhelm even the savviest woman, and the details can be consuming.
- “I know what I’m doing.” Gulp. Do you? Based on calls to WRC, most women whose marriages end – whether through divorce or death of a spouse- come to that end so abruptly, under devastating circumstances, and they have no concept of the legal and financial implications of that union, or the ramifications of its dissolution. Among happily-married couples, many newlyweds bemoan the social and emotional challenges of entering into this partnership and negotiating in-laws and family expectations. Women report high levels of stress as they navigate decisions such as whether or not to change their last name and, if so, how to manage the logistics of that decision!
Marriage is an exciting milestone, but not a simple one. We hope that if you’re getting married, you get your “happily ever after’ and all that entails. In the years that we’ve been operating, we’ve noticed a few trends in marriage (and divorce) that we’d like to share with you.
Below is our list of FIVE THINGS TO LEARN BEFORE YOU TIE THE KNOT:
- Finances. Oof, right? No one wants to hear this. But for the sake of the relationship, it is essential that each party’s financial history and standing be fully disclosed and on the table before you marry. Insist on it. You may choose to meet with a financial advisor or other third party to hash this out, but you need to know the whole picture so you can plan your life together. Some basic essentials to bring to the table? Credit check for both parties, a full list of outstanding debts (including minimum payments), current expenses, savings, investments and income. If your partner refuses to disclose this information, they are not truly committed to entering into the legally binding contract of marriage. * Radnor women, listen up: The most common call we receive from Radnor residents is from women who discover upon their divorce that they in fact have no access to the accounts or funds that they have been relying on for years.
- Your career plans (short-term and long-term). Do they mesh? If you plan to stay at home with kids, how will you earn a living if tragedy strikes? Do you have savings? Will you keep your skills up to date and your resume ready? Do you want to go to graduate school? Will your partner agree to incur that debt? What time frame would be best for you as a couple? Does your partner have aspirations that you are willing to support?
- Whether you want children (and if so, when/how). People can’t be swayed- decide your bottom line and don’t convince yourself you can live with kids if you can’t, or vice-versa. If your partner is on the fence about having children and you know you want kids, don’t assume they will come around one day. When you have children with someone who doesn’t want children, they generally aren’t the amazing parent you had dreamed they would be. Also, prepare for the reality that not everyone can conceive easily – how do you and your partner feel about fertility treatments? Adoption? Then again, some people do conceive easily- and unintentionally. How do you both feel about an unplanned pregnancy?
- Who is in your corner? Look at some couples whose relationship you admire, and turn to them for support and guidance if things are bumpy. They may have “been there, done that” and have some great advice for you. Your own friends, coworkers and family are essential to the health of any relationship. Do not let them go. Do not neglect those relationships. If your partner is not supportive of your friendships, run-don’t walk- away. This is a huge red flag for an unhealthy relationship, often dismissed or explained away. You will need your network in good times and in bad.
- Your legal rights. If your partner leaves you five years from now, what are your rights? To your home? Children? Health benefits? Retirement account? Does your partner have rights to those treasures as well? You may consider meeting with a family law attorney preemptively to understand how assets and custody are determined if one day things suddenly change.
A strong marriage rests on a foundation of love, with mutual respect, honesty and transparency behind it. If you are approaching this transition and would like some guidance navigating the complexities, Women’s Resource Center can provide brief counseling or can connect you with legal and financial services that can assist you. Phone our Helpline at 610-687-6391 for more information.
Best wishes for a happily ever after!