Excerpt: Rules for Marriage

The following is an excerpt from the book The Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets for Making Your Marriage Work by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider.

Read the transcript from our chat with Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider . Also, buy your copy of their new book here.

RULE #1

Relax During the Engagement and Wedding

Ideally, The Rules for Marriage begin before your wedding day. We believe once you get engaged, a wedding date should be set — no endless engagements. When a man proposes, it should be with a ring and a wedding date within one year, not longer, unless you are young (under 25 years old), in which case a two-year engagement is fine. If your fiancé is stalling on a wedding date, you may have to give him back the ring and move on.

Assuming you have a ring and a reasonable wedding date, what are the rules for the engagement period and wedding?

Every month we receive calls, letters, and e-mail saying, "Thanks. I'm so happy!" But we also get letters like this one: "Now that I'm engaged, we're fighting all the time. I feel him pulling back. I'm acting needy. What should I do?" Or like this one: "How often should I see him now that I'm engaged? Do I stick to the three-day-a-week rule and 10-minute phone calls?"

These concerns are fairly common. The dynamics of a relationship can change dramatically when you go from dating to being engaged and planning the wedding. It is tempting to change your behavior — to call him all the time, to lose interest in yourself, your work, your friends, and just about everything else — because, after all, you are practically married. All of a sudden, you think The Rules are over. This is a mistake. A man may get overwhelmed if he suddenly sees and/or hears from you morning, noon, and night. It's not like he's going to break the engagement, but he starts to miss his freedom and wants space (going out with the guys, working late) and then you get hurt.

If you continue to do The Rules, this will not happen. We don't recommend living together, as we said in The Rules, but if you are and you are planning the wedding, continue to be "a creature unlike any other" (confident, easygoing), remain focused on making your life full and meaningful, and try not to nag him about the wedding plans or anything else.

However, the initial rigid rules of catching a husband no longer apply now. He already pursued you, told you he loves you, and wants to marry you. You're a couple now, so you can relax in the knowledge that you don't need to stick to the original "don't see him more than three times a week or talk for more than 10 minutes on the phone" rules. You will be seeing him more often since you are planning the wedding and your future or even living together. Obviously, you will need to call him to discuss things. The key here is how you conduct yourself — you're calm, fun, pleasant, you still have your own life, you're not suddenly demanding or clingy — that will make all the difference between a happy engagement and a stressful one. You don't have to be a constant challenge. He enjoys just being with you. Also, you can call him at work more often than when you were dating. Just try to make sure the calls are quick and to the point, not an excuse to speak to him or to have marathon discussions. A sample conversation about the wedding: "Hi hon, the flowers are in, my fitting is Tuesday, talk to you later, love you...."

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