If you and your partner seem to be bickering and arguing more often now that you're engaged, don't immediately jump to conclusions. While it might seem like the engagement period, in all its sureness and excitement, would only make things even better between the two of you, especially now that you're both committed to spending the rest of your lives together, an increased number of fights is incredibly common. "Up until the point that the two of you are officially engaged, you operate as individuals, with your own bank accounts, your own car and apartment, or own spending habits," explains Amanda Ruiz, licensed professional counselor and founder of The Counseling Collective. "Being engaged opens up the very intense and energy-consuming discussion of how you will merge your lives together, which leads to several topics of conversation that were not relevant to your relationship before, or perhaps you even avoided talking about or postponed until it was absolutely necessary."
Are you going to move in with him, or is he moving in with you? Will you buy a house together? Will you merge your bank accounts into one? How will we spend the holidays with our multiple families? Are we going to have children, and if so, how soon? These are just some of the topics that Ruiz says will now be on the table for discussion. "When you are dating, you might have talked about these things, but when you become engaged, you have to start to face these topics and have potentially tough conversations," she adds.
Because more couples today are dating longer and living together before they get engaged, Ivanna Colangelo, a licensed marriage family therapist, explains that they tend to have the assumption that getting engaged won't change their relationship much. As a result, many newly engaged couples are surprised by the fact that they're arguing with each other more during a time when they feel like "should" be excited and blissfully in love. "One reason for this is because, even though you're not yet married, everything that comes with being a family unit and being with each other forever suddenly becomes more serious," she says. "Another reason is that planning a wedding is stressful—coordinating all the little details can be like a full-time job, and this kind of stress can put even a good relationship to the test." As a result of all of the stress, not to mention the lack of free time and uninterrupted evenings and weekends, you might find that you're both too distracted and busy to pay attention to each other in the important ways—neglecting some of the TLC aspects of your relationship that help maintain it.
Family and friends can also add an enormous amount of pressure on engaged couples, Colangelo explains. "Some family members can forget that this your wedding day and be overly involved in decision-making, or make you feel guilty for not doing things in the way they expected you to," she says. "One or both partners may feel like the other partner is not supporting them, instead siding with their family-of-origin in an attempt to keep the peace with them." Familial issues involving the wedding such as finances, the guest list, who does what role, and so forth also come into play and can subsequently cause disdain and disagreement between an engaged couple.
Although unpleasant, experts agree that fighting and arguing in the engagement period is not something to be ashamed of or too worried about. In fact, it can be a normal and healthy part of being in any relationship, explains Colangelo. The important thing is managing it well. "Instead of using criticism, blame, or personal attacks, bring up your thoughts and feelings in a respectful way, using 'I' language whenever possible," she says. "When your partner is bringing up their concerns, truly listen to your them and try to understand their perspective—even if you don't agree with it, be curious about it and try to understand what the deeper meaning is."
Try your hardest to act as the team that you now have become. "You are going to marry this person, and that means you will be doing most of the things in your life with them," says Kati Morton, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of Are u ok? A Guide to Caring for Your Mental Health. "Having a joined message and being a team will ensure that no one comes between you."
Even though you're so busy with your big-day to-do list, make a point to carve out some time with your partner that doesn't involve wedding planning. "The wedding will come and go, but your marriage will be around for a while so make sure you're still investing time and energy into feeding the relationship," says Diana Sadat, a couples counselor. "At the very least, take 10 minutes every evening to make some tea and talk about your days and what's going on without stressing about the wedding."
Last, but certainly not least, remember why you said yes. "Planning a wedding and dealing with family issues can make us forget why we are even getting married," says Morton. "Prevent that by turning off your phones at night and connecting with your fiancé and reminding them of why you love them and how you knew you wanted to marry them."