Articles_Engaged

Articles for Engaged Couples

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    Getting Engaged During the Holidays?

    Christie and Jim celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with both of their families. Just before the meal, Jim began to tell Christie how thankful he was for her. He also shared what he appreciated about her. A bit embarrassed, she asked him if he realized he was talking to her in front of their entire family. With a smile on his face, he responded, “Yes.”

    After a few more moments of sharing, Jim asked Christie to marry him. She said yes, and everyone broke out in applause.

    According to WeddingWire, almost 33 percent of marriage proposals occur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

    “There is something special about celebrating the big moment with family and friends who are gathered together during this special time,” says Dr. Greg Smalley, co-author of Before You Plan Your Wedding…Plan Your Marriage. “However, the memories of the ‘moment’ are often shoved to the backseat as many of these couples hurriedly launch into planning for a June wedding. Since they only have six months to get ready, they spend all their time planning for the ‘day’ instead of doing things that will help them stay married for a lifetime.”

    Smalley contends that many couples make this common mistake: They think they have all the answers for marital bliss. Then they find out they were wrong.

    “We see so many couples who clearly want to have successful marriages,” Smalley says. “The good news is most of them can be successful as long as they get the right knowledge and skills. Research shows that couples who succeed gain the knowledge they need before they settle into destructive patterns that often lead to divorce.”

    A study conducted by Dr. David Olson indicates that 80 percent of couples who participate in premarital preparation report higher marital satisfaction. Additionally, studies show that couples who participate in premarital preparation are 31 percent less likely to divorce.

    “Most newlywed couples are clueless that they are getting ready to face enormous adjustments like managing expectations, dealing with disagreement and disappointment, household issues, financial decisions, intimacy in their relationship, in-laws, how to spend free time, personality differences, re-orienting old friendships and more,” Smalley says. “The key to successfully navigating these adjustments is: A) attacking the problem and not each other, and B) feeling emotionally safe with your spouse.”

    Two people who feel emotionally safe in their marriage are much more likely to reveal their deepest thoughts, feelings and desires because they know their partner will still love, accept and value them. When couples can share at this level, they're much more likely to get to the heart of issues and work through them. Interestingly, communicating at this level actually increases intimacy in the marriage relationship. The skills to do this are what couples learn through premarital preparation.

    “You can have a 'perfect' wedding day and a safe marriage relationship. It just takes some additional effort,” Smalley shares. “Building a safe relationship is key to a strong foundation for your marriage. Ideally, your marriage should feel like the safest place on earth.”

    Are you planning for the day, or are you planning for a lifetime?

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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    Tips from Newlyweds for a Happy, Healthy Marriage

    The bride-to-be shared that it was only two weeks, four days and six hours until the wedding. Her eyes sparkled as she talked, and everyone could tell she was head over heels in love.

    Many brides who have gone before her know that feeling so well. They also know that starry-eyed love is not all you need to carry you through the marriage journey.

    What kind of advice would newlyweds give to engaged couples?

    One bride shared that she and her husband didn’t talk about finances before walking down the aisle. Even though they were set up for automatic deposit and bill payment, she was clueless about what was in their checking account.

    “Not too long after we married, I decided to spend a little extra on payday,” said the bride. “I almost caused us to bounce checks because it was the first of the month, when many of our largest bills are paid. To this day, we still haven’t established a budget.”

    Research shows that money is one of the least important factors couples consider when preparing for marriage. However, it is the number one thing that creates distress in marriage. Many newlyweds create massive debt furnishing their home, driving nice cars, and generally “keeping up with the Joneses.” Instead of trying to immediately have what your parents accumulated over many years, attend a money management seminar to learn how to budget your money. Most money experts agree there are three cardinal rules to follow when it comes to managing your money: Spend less than you make, avoid going into long-term debt, and put away a little bit for a rainy day.

    One couple shared that even though they love each other, adjusting to having someone else around and having to consider their thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes is a huge change. Everything from getting ready with only one bathroom and bedtime when one person is a night owl and the other isn’t - to spending habits, how to do the laundry, a clean bathroom, in-laws/extended family, visitors and time for date nights - are now up for discussion and negotiation.

    Learning how to do the marriage dance without stepping on each other’s toes is a skill that takes time to master. The best thing you can do is talk about all of these issues as they arise. Keeping your frustration to yourself will only create friction in your relationship. This is where you learn it isn’t all about you and your wants and desires. It is learning how to let another person be a part of your life. You have to figure out how to give and receive and compromise.

    One bride said she wished she had known she'd have to sacrifice who she was for the sake of her marriage. Healthy marriage isn’t about sacrificing who you are when you come together as one. Coming together should make you better as an individual and better as a team. Talking about career expectations, children, individual and collective goals before you marry will be helpful. There are seasons in marriage when you choose to make sacrifices because it honors your relationship. This doesn’t mean that only one person makes sacrifices.

    Finally, keep expectations realistic. The person you marry cannot meet your every need, make you happy and always be perfect. You will disagree. You will make mistakes. And believe it or not, there will be times when you don’t feel head over heels in love. That doesn’t mean you married the wrong person - nobody is perfect. We all have needs and growth opportunities. Don't focus on your needs and your mate's weaknesses. Instead, focus on their needs and strengths, and on your own opportunities for growth.

    A great start for your marriage takes at least as much prep time as you put into your wedding day. These couples have high hopes for a long lasting, healthy marriage. If that is your goal, make it a point to start investing now in your relationship.

    The return on your investment will be worth it!

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    How to Deal With Unspoken Expectations

    In his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, Dr. Gary Chapman tells about the frustration he and his wife felt in the early years of their marriage. At one point, he shares that they went for weeks without cleaning the toilet. 

    He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t cleaning the toilet because that was something his mom always did. Carolyn couldn’t understand why Gary wasn’t cleaning the toilet because that was her father’s chore in her childhood home. Unfortunately, neither told the other about their expectation.

    When Chapman worked up enough nerve to ask his wife why she hadn’t cleaned their toilet, he finally learned she was waiting for him to do it. Needless to say, that became an interesting and eye-opening moment in their marriage.

    Truth be told, every married couple probably has a similar story. They walked into marriage thinking they knew and understood each other only to discover there were numerous unspoken expectations that each person assumed the other understood - little things like how to spend money, how many children to have (if any), where to spend the holidays, whether to buy new or used cars and how much to spend on them, who cleans the house and who handles yard work.

    Looking back, even the happiest of couples will acknowledge that these “little” unspoken expectations have created tension in their marriage. And, if they had it to do over again, they would discuss them ahead of time.

    So, what are some of the most common unspoken expectations? You can probably guess many of them. Many expectations revolve around: house cleaning and maintenance, money management, frequency of lovemaking, boundaries with the in-laws, work and marriage, childcare responsibilities, punctuality, celebrations, conflict management, meal prep and meal times. The list could go on, but you get the gist. There is lots of room for hurt feelings, misunderstandings and assumptions with unspoken expectations.

    Whether you are preparing for marriage or already married, having a conversation about unspoken expectations could be very enlightening.

    Where do you begin? 

    First, it’s helpful to write down your expectations, even if you think you have shared them before. Then ask yourself, where did these expectations come from? Many unspoken expectations are based on family traditions and values, past relationships, life experience and friends. 

    Next, share your unspoken expectations. As you walk through them, keep an open mind. Differing opinions don’t mean one is right and the other is wrong. The question is, how can you make that expectation work for your relationship? If you aren’t married yet, it is important to know your non-negotiables when it comes to expectations for your marriage. 

    If you are clearly on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to managing money, whether or not to have children, what a career path looks like, etc., do not expect things to change once you walk down the aisle. Many have led themselves to believe things will be different after marriage, thinking they would be able to change the other person’s mind. Not only did they not change their mind, each person can end up feeling angry and empty.

    Unspoken expectations can be the silent killer of relationships. Do yourself and your loved one a favor: be honest about your expectations and ask yourself if they are realistic. Just because your family did it that way doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do it the same way in your marriage. Talking about your expectations ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches and heartache down the road.

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    Potential Boundary Issues

    Before you take that walk down the aisle, sit down with each set of in-laws and talk about boundaries within your relationship.

    For example, when a couple considered purchasing a house close to his mother, the mother-in-law said, "I am okay with you living close to me, but you will call before you come to visit and I will do the same." That was one smart mother-in-law!

    Things To Consider

    • If your in-laws have a key to your home, how will they use that? Are you okay with them dropping in whenever or is the key for emergencies only? AND, how do you define an emergency?

    • Is there an unspoken expectation that you would come over for dinner once a week?

    • How do you feel about your spouse talking with his/her parents about issues within your marriage?

    • Do they expect to talk with you every day?

    • How will you handle unsolicited advice?

    • What are your in-laws' expectations surrounding holidays?

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    Building a Strong Marriage

    Each year, more than 2 million couples marry in the U.S. While most couples say they are madly in love, some really wonder if they have what it takes to make their marriage last over time.

    Whether you're married now or planning to, you'll want to know about a Life Innovations survey of 21,501 married couples from every state. It identified not only the top 10 strengths of happy marriages, but also the top 10 problems in marriage.

    The top 10 strengths are as follows:

    • Partners are satisfied with communication.

    • Partners handle their differences creatively.

    • They feel very close to each other.

    • Spouses are not controlling.

    • Partners discuss their problems well.

    • They are satisfied with the affection they show and receive.

    • There is a good balance of time alone and together.

    • Family and friends rarely interfere.

    • Partners agree on how to spend money.

    • Partners agree on spiritual beliefs.

    Additionally, the research found that the strongest couples have strong communication skills, a clear sense of closeness as a couple, flexibility, personal compatibility and good conflict resolution skills.

    Strong marriages have a balance between separateness and togetherness. These couples prioritize togetherness, ask each other for help, enjoy doing things together and spend most of their free time together.

    Also, some of the common factors in the relationship roles in strong marriages include both parties:

    • Are equally willing to make necessary adjustments in their roles,

    • Reporting satisfaction with the division of housework,

    • Working hard to have an equal relationship, and

    • Making most decisions jointly.

    The happiest couples said they were happy with the way they communicate, it was easy to express their feelings and found their partner to be a good listener. They especially noted that their partner doesn’t use put-downs.

    Obviously, conflict management/resolution skills are crucial. In strong marriages, both partners say that their partner understands their positions. They feel free to share their feelings and ideas; they take disagreements seriously and they work cooperatively to resolve conflicts.

    According to the survey, the top 10 problems in marriage are:

    • Problems sharing leadership.

    • One partner is too stubborn.

    • Stress created by child-rearing differences.

    • One partner is too negative or critical.

    • Feeling responsible for issues.

    • One partner wishes the other had more time.

    • Avoiding conflict with partner.

    • One partner wishes the other was more willing to share their feelings.

    • Difficulty completing tasks.

    • Differences never get resolved.

    For example, some common stumbling blocks are when one person feels most responsible for the problem, avoiding conflict and having serious disputes over minor issues. Sadly, relationships with unresolved differences can get into trouble. As a result, stumbling blocks become walls instead of stepping stones to build up the marriage.

    Finally, no matter how in love you feel, bringing two personalities and their families together and learning how to dance can be challenging. So don’t just prepare for your wedding - take time to prepare for your marriage. Learn how to build on your strengths, creatively address differences and work together for the best interests of your marriage. It will probably be the best wedding present you can give to each other.

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    What's My Risk for Divorce?

    I was in my late 20s and Jay was 30 when we decided to marry. Both of us are children of divorce. I also had a lot of debt from putting myself through college, and I loved Jay and totally thought he was “the one.” But, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t have some anxiety about what might happen to us in the future. I had heard the statistics about the chances of divorce and felt like we were entering into marriage with the odds stacked against us in some ways.

    At the time, I worked in mental health care. I remember asking one of my colleagues if he would consider doing some premarital work with us. With eyebrows raised, he said, “What for? Are you having problems already?” Even Jay looked at me quizzically when I mentioned we should sit down with someone who could help us prepare for the journey.

    I didn’t know it then, but although we had risk factors for divorce, we actually had a lot more going for us than against us.

    Experts studying marriage and divorce through the years found there are some factors that significantly decrease your chances of divorce. For example:

    • Those who marry after age 18 have a 24 percent reduced risk of divorce.
    • Only 27 percent of college graduates will divorce by middle age.
    • Having still-married parents reduces divorce risk by 14 percent.
    • Having a combined income of $50,000 or more is associated with a 30 percent lower divorce risk.
    • Those with a strong shared faith who attend services regularly are 47 percent less likely to divorce.
    • Couples who participate in premarital preparation are generally up to 30 percent less likely to divorce.
    • Having one’s first child after marriage can reduce one’s divorce risk by 24 to 66 percent.

    There are some factors that place couples at higher risk for divorce. For instance:

    • Couples who disagree on whether or not to have children are at considerably higher risk of divorce.
    • Being previously divorced markedly increases one’s risk for divorce.
    • Having divorced parents.

    Looking back over our 27 years of marriage, neither one of us would say it has been challenge-free. From raising a precocious, strong-willed child to brain surgery, job transitions, death of parents, financial concerns and more, the struggle is real. But, realizing that we've endured all of those things together has made us stronger.

    If you asked us how we did it, we would say that the premarital preparation definitely helped us look at our potential areas of risk and talk about them instead of putting our heads in the sand. That was a good thing.

    Our faith has certainly played a role. Surrounding ourselves with people who believed in our marriage has been helpful. Honestly, choosing intentionality and commitment to the relationship has also been huge. It gives us freedom to be angry, scared, sad, or hurt, and to know that our married is a safe place where we can be real with each other. That makes all the difference.

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    What Americans Think About Marriage

    A January 2017 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair poll asked Americans about their views about marriage, and what they found may surprise you.

    In 1960, 78 percent of American households were married. Compare that to 48 percent of today’s households. Why such a dramatic drop?

    These days, many factors contribute to a decreasing marriage rate. Some say the stigma of divorce is not what it used to be. More women are working and are more independent. The number of couples living together outside of marriage has increased by more than 1000 percent. And, 40 percent of 18- to 34-year-old Americans are moving back in with their parents.

    Despite all of these factors, this poll shows that marriage remains a goal and a dream for many.

    For starters, the majority of respondents say the main purpose of marriage is to mark a commitment between two people in love. Nearly 1 in 4 sees it as providing the best environment for raising children. Interestingly, 1 in 5 does not think marriage has much purpose today.

    A U.S. Census Bureau study found that only 6 percent of married couples make it to their 50th wedding anniversary. However, more than 90 percent of Americans say it's an inspiring accomplishment to stay the course together for more than half a century. Those who reach this milestone cite good communication, supporting each other no matter what, having a sense of humor, and loving, respecting and being kind to each other as the keys to their success.

    Threats to Marriage?

    One out of 4 says jealousy poses the greatest threat to marriage. Other perceived threats are poverty (19 percent), boredom (18 percent), narcissism (15 percent) and the internet (15 percent).

    Does being an adult child of divorce make people more likely to work harder at their marriage?

    This poll found that 28 percent of Americans think that children of divorce generally work harder on their own marriages than most other people do. And, only 12 percent felt they tended to not work as hard. But get this - a full 52 percent from every walk of life felt that being a child of divorce makes no real difference when it comes to working on your marriage.

    We've all heard that sex sells. But only 17 percent those surveyed say they would be more entertained by an affair than by a beautiful love story that ends in marriage.

    When it comes to monogamy, 2 out of 3 Americans feel that monogamous relationships are still essential for most of today's romantic relationships. However, 1 out of 4 believes that monogamy is not realistic.

    If you're considering marriage, respondents definitely have some advice.

    Their top three items on the list are to:

    • Make sure you are compatible,
    • Communicate, listen well and be committed to your marriage, and
    • Don't give up.

    Other suggestions are to:

    • Be honest and truthful,
    • Make sure you are ready for marriage,
    • Trust and support each other,
    • Work out your issues,
    • Show your love,
    • Work hard at it,
    • Pray and hope for good luck.

    This poll came out just in time for National Marriage Week 2017, February 7-14. The week encourages people to celebrate marriages everywhere. Even though many believe marriage is out of style, it's interesting to see how many Americans still hope to marry and want to do married well.

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    Things I Wish I Had Known Before We Got Married

    More than 2 million marriages take place annually in America.

    “Almost all couples anticipate ‘living happily ever after,’” according to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. “No one gets married hoping to be miserable or to make their spouse miserable, yet the highest percentage of divorce occurs within the first seven years of marriage.”

    When you consider the fact that most people spend more time planning and training for their vocation than they do for their wedding, is it any surprise that the divorce rate is so high?

    “What is ironic is that we recognize the need for education in all other pursuits of life and fail to recognize that need when it comes to marriage,” Chapman says. “It should not be surprising that they are more successful in their vocational pursuits than they are in reaching the goal of marital happiness.”

    Chapman’s book provides a marriage blueprint for people. It's also useful for engaged couples or those preparing for marriage.

    “As I look back over the early years of my marriage, I wish someone had told me what I am about to tell you,” Chapman says.

    The book addresses 12 areas of potential stress for couples, including money, in-laws and personality. Here are a few of the 12.

    I wish I had known…

    • Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage. Research indicates that the average life span of the “in love” obsession is two years. Then differences become apparent and people start to question if they married the right person.
    • Romantic love has two stages. Chapman describes the first stage of love as a time when couples expend lots of energy doing things for each other, but they don’t consider it work. The second stage of love is more intentional. It requires work in order to keep emotional love alive.
    • The saying, “like mother, like daughter” and “like father, like son” is not a myth. While Chapman does not suggest that the person you marry will become exactly like their mother or father, parents do greatly influence children.
    • How to solve disagreements without arguing. It never crossed Chapman's mind that he and his wife would have any major disagreements. No one ever told them that conflicts are a normal part of marriage.
    • That apologizing is a sign of strength. Apologizing is often something people find difficult to do. Some people perceive admitting wrong as a sign of weakness. In reality, it takes a strong person to say “I was wrong, please forgive me.”
    • Mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic. Many couples never anticipate that this would be a problem area. Dr. Chapman shares that while men focus on sex, women focus on relationship. In a fractured relationship, the wife will have less, and more difficult, interest in sex.

    When not discussed beforehand, these issues (and more) can create a marriage filled with conflict, misunderstandings and frustration. Investing time and effort to learn these things in advance could save you a lot of heartache and pain in the long run.

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    Myths About Living Together

    No one wants to suffer the heartache of a broken relationship, whether it is a divorce or the dissolution of a cohabiting situation. While living together may have short-term advantages, it comes at a high long-term cost.

    MYTH: Living together is an easy way to "try out" the relationship before committing to marriage.

    Truth: While the idea of "test driving" a car before you buy it is a good idea, it doesn't apply to marriage. Living together is basically a "pretend marriage" and nothing like the real thing. Couples who live together often have attitudes like: "I can leave any time," and "My money vs. your money" that married couples don't typically have. Married couples often have a stronger bond to each other because of their vow of permanence. Married couples also tend to have less volatile relationships.

    MYTH: Living together will give us a stronger marriage.

    Truth: Although many couples think that moving in together can give them a great head start in their marriage, living together can actually harm your marriage. Couples who live together before they marry have a divorce rate that is 50 percent higher than those who don't.

    MYTH: Sharing finances and expenses will make things easier on our relationship.

    Truth: While sharing finances and expenses seems like the easy thing to do in the beginning, problems do arise. Just like any couple, disputes often center around money. Couples who live together have more financial issues to resolve. Conflicts arise over who is responsible for which bill, and the rights that one partner has to tell the other how to spend "their" money.

    MYTH: Your sex life goes downhill when you get married.

    Truth: The level of sexual satisfaction is higher among married couples than for couples who live together. Couples who live together tend to be less faithful to their partners than married couples.

    MYTH: Marriage is just a piece of paper.

    Truth: Emotionally, physically and spiritually, marriage is so much more than a piece of paper. It is a commitment. Viewing marriage as only a legal arrangement strips it of its meaning and sets the relationship up for failure. If couples do not view marriage as a loving, committed relationship, divorce is almost inevitable.

    MYTH: It's only temporary.

    Truth: Many people enter a cohabiting relationship hoping they will be married soon. However, living together isn't always a stepping-stone to marriage. Statistics report that 60 percent of couples who live together will not go on to get married either because they break up (39 percent) or just continue to live together (21 percent).

    MYTH: Living together is best if children are involved.

    Truth: The effects of cohabitation on children is significant. Children in these situations are at risk of emotional and social difficulties, performing poorly in school, having early premarital sex and having difficulty forming permanent emotional attachments in adulthood. If the man in the household is not the biological father, children are at greater risk of experiencing physical and sexual abuse.

    How to have a healthy, long-lasting relationship

    If your goal is to have a stable, healthy and fulfilling relationship, here are some tips.

    TIME. This is the only surefire way to find out if a couple is compatible. Time gives you the opportunity to see how your partner handles different situations that life throws at you: the hard stressful times, the joyous and rewarding times, and the humdrum of everyday. If you can survive these life events with someone and still love them then there is an excellent chance your relationship will last.

    COMMUNICATION. Relationships aren't always wine and roses. Know that your partner will disappoint and frustrate you at times. Knowing how to communicate increases your chances of being able to resolve and even prevent conflict.

    CONSIDER MARRIAGE. What makes marriage unique from simply living together is a "vow of permanence." Partners publicly promise they will no longer be alone and no matter what happens down the road someone will be there to take care of you and support you.

    PREMARITAL EDUCATION. Couples who attend premarital programs experience a 30 percent increase in marital success over those who do not. They report greater communication, sharpened conflict management skills, a strong dedication to one's spouse and overall improved relationship quality.

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    Do You Believe in Marriage?

    Distinguished professor and author Dr. Pat Love challenges each of us to consider our beliefs about the permanence of marriage.

    “According to research, 95 percent of young people still want marriage and children as an ideal, but more people are living single than ever before,” says Love. “The median length of marriage today is eight years.

    “Three out of four people say that marriage isn’t about family, it’s about me. Twenty-nine percent of married people say they are lonely. Just listening to these statistics can be extremely discouraging. Perhaps we need to change the way we think about marriage. Maybe marriage isn’t for everybody.”

    For just a moment, think about the day you said, “I do.” When you were ready to make a commitment, what did you believe about your fiancé, yourself and marriage?

    While looking at this research, Love found that there are four beliefs that couples must have that significantly impact the chances of having a long-lasting marriage.

    • You have to believe in the permanence and purpose of your marriage. “One study showed an increasing number of people no longer believed in the permanence of marriage as an ideal,” Love says. “This shocked me. Participants didn’t believe it could or would happen, and didn’t feel a commitment or obligation to make it happen. Another study showed that in 45-plus year marriages, the happiness level is like a U-curve. It bottoms out around the 20th year. If you hang in there, believe, hold the image that it will happen and are committed to making it happen, your happiness quotient then starts going up and keeps going up.” Additionally, Love asserts that you need to have purpose for your marriage. “We make goals for our weight, grades, work, etc. We need goals for marriage too.”
    • You must have romance AND realism in your marriage. “The criteria for dating is different than mating,” Love says. “When you focus more on romance, you miss an important part of marriage. If you focus on the ‘Hollywood love’ you will miss the challenges. Marriage is harder to maintain than ever before due to greater expectations and stressors. Part of the realism is believing in the romance, and the reality that investing in home improvement may not be a new bathroom; it might mean a trip somewhere fun. If the couple isn’t happy, it is unlikely the family will stay together.”
    • You have to believe in health and wealth. “Healthily married people live longer – it doesn’t just feel like it, they do,” Love says. “Married people recover from illness and diseases quicker. You have to believe that a good marriage is part of good mental health and physical healthcare.” And, research shows that money habits predict stability in marriage. How you manage budgets and work together is vital to the health of a marriage.
    • You have to believe in sacrifice and sanctity. When you are selfless and willing to sacrifice at your own cost, you become happier and more committed to your marriage. It’s not enough to have the wealth. There must be generosity also, and a belief that sacrifice is sacred, never to be dishonored.

    So, marriage may not be for everybody. Perhaps it is just for those who believe.

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