6 Things To Know Before You Get Married
My wife and I often get asked a common question: “What do you wish you’d known before you got married?”
Our marriage isn’t perfect by any means. We’ve had our ups and downs. But according to recent statistics, the average length of marriage in the U.S. is just over 8 years. So, it makes sense to ask questions of a couple who’s been married longer than that.
Most couples anticipate having a long, happy marriage. And they should! But if you’ve been married any amount of time, you probably recognize it’s not always smooth sailing. Your marriage is going to get rocked by waves. Sure, there will be times when the sun is shining and the seas are calm. Just know before you get married, there will be storms ahead. But you can navigate the storms and make it through.
In his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, Dr. Gary Chapman says, “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.”
Chapman’s book provides a marriage blueprint. He lays out 12 potential areas of stress for married couples – they’re great to think about before you get married.
Here are six of the areas he addresses:
1. Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage.
The “honeymoon phase” of marriage typically lasts for up to two years. This phase usually is idealistic and romantic. Don’t get me wrong, this stage is fantastic; it just needs to be treated realistically. This is a time to learn and adjust to each other. Differences will become apparent, but that’s OK. A healthy marriage requires commitment, trust, and communication. You need more than just that loving feeling.
2. 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 to keep emotional love alive.
3. The saying, “like mother, like daughter” and “like father, like son” is not a myth.
Chapman doesn’t suggest that your spouse will become their mother or father. But parents do greatly influence who we become. You will see some traits of your spouse’s parents in them. Be aware of this.
4. How to solve disagreements without arguing.
Conflict is a normal part of marriage. When two people spend lots of time together and grow closer, they won’t agree on everything. That’s OK. Not every conflict has to end in an argument. You can handle disagreements through healthy conversation and compromise.
5. Apologizing is a sign of strength.
Apologizing isn’t always easy. Some even see apologizing as a sign of weakness. It takes a strong person to say, “I was wrong; please forgive me.”
6. Mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic.
Many newlywed couples don’t anticipate this being an issue. Dr. Chapman shares that while men focus on sex, women focus on relationship. We’re all built differently and have different sexual drives. Those drives change with varying stages of marriage as well. So, what do you do when you feel like sexual fulfillment is lacking? Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Couples who have been married for a long time talk about these issues and more. Marriage takes open, honest communication and flexibility from both people. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but you can navigate the storms together and enjoy those smooth seas. There is beauty in every phase of a relationship.
5 Tips For Newly Engaged Couples – First Things First
5 Things You Should Have In Common With Your Spouse
Can A Marriage Survive Without Intimacy? – First Things First
5 Do’s And Don’ts Every Engaged Couple Should Know About Preparing For Marriage
You said, “Yes!” Congrats! Now, the planning begins. Where to start? The venue, music, big or small wedding, indoor or outdoor, caterer, DJ or band, wedding cake, dress, tux, bridesmaids, groomsmen… OH MY!
Lots of preparation for the big day, but what about preparation for the marriage?
What can you do to focus on the lifetime together after you say, “I do?”
These do’s and don’ts for engaged couples can help you think about preparing for #marriedlife:
- Do take a premarital course. We accept driver’s ed and hours of supervised practice as part of the responsibility of operating an automobile. Marriage has more curves than any road you’ll ever drive. A premarital course will cover topics you may not have discussed yet, such as children, in-laws, finances, and intimacy. You may not get all your questions answered, but you’ll start the conversation. Check out our Preparing for Marriage Online Course.
- Do seek out a mentor couple. Seek out a couple who has the marriage you want. Couples who’ve been married at least 10 years have experienced ups and downs and have navigated some tough topics. You may quickly learn their “perfect marriage” has taken lots of dings and isn’t as perfect as you perceive, but it is healthy and thriving. Learn from experienced couples that share your values.
- Do talk about expectations for your marriage. A giant pothole for couples is unmet expectations. These are often unmet because couples never discuss them. Don’t assume your soon-to-be spouse can read your mind. I hate to tell you, but they can’t—and never will. Communicate your expectations clearly and often.
- Do evaluate your habits. Ask yourself the question, “Am I ready to be a spouse?” Are there bad habits you have that you need to ditch before the big day? If you’re unsure whether you have any habits to address, ask those closest to you for honest feedback. Check out this blog for more info on preparing yourself for marriage.
- Do look for ways to care for one another. Marriage requires a mindset shift. It’s no longer about me; it’s about we. I’m not saying you lose yourself. I’m just saying there’s a bigger picture in play now that you’re married. By helping your significant other, you are focusing on “we.” When we put the needs of our spouse above our own, intimacy and connection grow.
- Don’t forget to make the relationship a priority. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the wedding. Don’t let your connection get lost in the busyness. Once the guests have gone, the relationship remains.
- Don’t just plan for the wedding; plan for the marriage. You’re working hard to prepare for the wedding; make time to talk about your dreams and expectations for your marriage. Grab some coffee and have some marriage-centric conversations.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. My wife and I laugh a lot and sometimes at each other. You both are gonna have quirks that you’ll find funny– and sometimes not. Marriage requires a sense of humor. Have fun with each other! Laughter makes the heart grow fonder.
- Don’t stop working on your marriage. A healthy marriage takes effort. Always look for ways to pour into each other and your relationship. Just like a car requires maintenance, so does your marriage. Easy maintenance is to keep dating your spouse. Put a regular date night on the calendar and make it a priority.
- Don’t forget marriage is a partnership. You aren’t partners in a small business named, “Family, Inc.” You are life partners. You are each bringing different backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, perspectives, opinions, and quirks into this partnership. Allow those differences to complement, not compete.
Marriage is exciting and fun, but it’s even better when you are intentional about investing in each other and your relationship. These do’s and don’ts for engaged couples will help you both avoid problems before they start as well as build a strong foundation for the issues you can’t even foresee. As you prepare for the wedding, don’t forget to invest today in your marriage.
“I had no idea how much planning was involved in getting married,” remembers Amy Carter. “On top of surviving wedding planing, my fiancé and I were trying to sell my condo so I could move to Nashville. Fortunately, both of our families were very supportive of us as we planned for our big day. I was surprised how much my mother and I agreed on details of the wedding.”
Carter is lucky. Many couples preparing for their wedding day find themselves between a rock and a hard place by trying to please their parents, siblings, friends, grandparents and others who have an opinion on how the wedding should go. One bride’s mother refused to help because her daughter preferred a small and intimate wedding instead of a large formal affair.
Most experts agree that planning for a wedding is something most brides and their moms look forward to. Things can get a bit sticky, though. But don’t fear; there are some things you can do to help avert bitter feelings.
First and foremost, this is your day. Others may give their opinion about how things should go, but ultimately the bride and groom get to have the final say.
“We are probably different than most couples because we were more concerned about doing it the way that made us comfortable instead of being so concerned with stepping on toes,” says Rebecca Smith. “We set the rules early.
“There were certain things that I really didn’t care about, like the flowers. When my mom asked me what I wanted, I told her whatever she picked out would be fine. For us the overriding theme was we are incredibly excited about being married. We don’t want our focus on the wedding to be more than our focus on our marriage.”
At some point during the planning process, Rebecca and her fiancé acknowledged that something could go wrong. They eventually realized it really didn’t matter because they would still be married. They didn’t pursue a perfect production.
According to the experts, the Smiths would get an “A” in wedding planning.
Here are some additional tips to help you survive wedding planning:
- Decide what matters most to you. You can’t give 100 percent of your attention to everything, so decide where you want to focus and delegate the other things. This is a great way to involve family members without feeling like they are trying to control your day.
- Decide on a realistic budget. Although the average wedding today costs between $20,000 – $25,000, couples can have a beautiful wedding for significantly less money. Since money is the top area of conflict for couples, one way to begin your marriage well is to be realistic about your finances. Know what you and your family can comfortably afford. The amount of money spent is not a determining factor in the success of your marriage.
- Plan for your marriage. It is easy to get so caught up in your wedding planning that you neglect to plan for your marriage – all those days after the wedding. Take time out to attend premarital education classes or a marriage seminar. Read a good book together, like Fighting for Your Marriage: A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce or Before “I Do”: Preparing for the Full Marriage Experience. Your marriage will be stronger if go into it with your eyes wide open.
- Enjoy this time. Even though the preparation may be a bit stressful, schedule your time so you can truly enjoy these special moments. For many, this is a once in a lifetime experience. Instead of looking back at a whirlwind of activity that you really don’t remember, take non-essential things off the calendar. Rest adequately, eat well and don’t let others steal your joy.
Engaged Couples and Expectations
Headed down the aisle soon? You probably have some thoughts rolling around in your brain about being engaged and your expectations. Don’t worry! You aren’t alone.
Almost everyone comes to marriage with some pretty specific ideas about how things will be. These expectations might be based on what people have experienced in their own family (things they liked or didn’t like and don’t want to repeat), a romantic movie, a previous relationship… or even the Hallmark Channel.
Here’s the thing: Whether it’s how you plan to handle money, accepting support from family and in-laws, how often you will make love, being on time, handling conflict, career aspirations, helping with chores or cleanliness, if you don’t talk about your expectations ahead of time, there’s a good chance it could lead to some disappointing and frustrating moments in the future.
People often don’t voice their expectations when they’re engaged. Sometimes they fear the other person won’t live up to them.
If you do talk about them and your spouse-to-be doesn’t see these expectations as a big deal or doesn’t plan to change their approach to these issues, you may try to convince yourself that things will change once you have a ring on your finger and things are more final. Don’t let that idea fool you, though. Lots of studies indicate that the best time to look for behavior change is before the wedding, not after.
Unspoken expectations can silently kill relationships. Do yourself and your fiancé a favor: Be honest about what you expect. Just because your family did something a certain way doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do it the same way. It could be that while discussing what is important to you both, you realize your expectations aren’t realistic.
One thing you want to guard against is sacrificing who you are in the name of your relationship. If your faith is very important to you and you strongly expect your fiancé to one day share your faith values, realize that change is possible. But it could place a hefty load of tension on your relationship.
It’s totally possible that you and your fiancé have engaged expectations of each other that you don’t even realize you have. Taking the time to go through a premarital education experience either in person or online could help you both identify things you feel strongly about. It can also help you work through those issues before marriage. Talking about your expectations ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches and heartache down the road.
Image form Unsplash.com
David and Claudia Arp and Curt and Natelle Brown found that many seriously dating and engaged couples had questions. Turns out, many couples wonder the same thing.
“In many of our seminars, couples told us they were in love and wanted to feel confident that they could make their relationship work,” say David and Claudia Arp, co-authors of the marriage preparation book, 10 Great Dates Before You Say “I Do.”
“While there are no total guarantees, there are certain areas couples can look at ahead of time that will give them a good indication about the potential longevity of their relationship. We wrote this book with seriously dating couples and engaged couples in mind. For seriously dating couples, the dates give them specific focus areas to help them determine if they should take the next step in their relationship. For engaged couples, it is great preparation for marriage.”
When you are in love it is hard to imagine that any differences in opinion could really cause a rift in your relationship. After the Arps married, the honeymoon was over and their hormones settled, they discovered something. Marriage didn’t quite meet their expectations, and little things irritated them.
Surprisingly, after going through the 10 Dates, couples discovered a number of things they had not discussed that could be cause for irritation. For example, one couple discovered they didn’t agree on how to decorate their house. Another couple didn’t believe it was important to talk about how they will handle their combined income.
“We looked for fun and creative ways to cover topics such as sharing hopes, dreams and expectations and appreciating your differences to managing your money and celebrating intimacy in your relationship,” the Arps say. “It was important to us to help couples talk about things they might not otherwise discuss.”
Marriage preparation can help couples better decide whether or not they are ready to marry each other at this time. The 10 Great Dates give couples a road map to help them get to know each other better.
What are your expectations for your marriage?
Couples contemplating marriage shared a few of their expectations with the Arps:
I expect my partner to always understand and encourage me.
Our marriage will always make us happy.
We will talk about everything, and therefore we will avoid serious disputes.
With two incomes, we will be financially secure – especially since two can live almost as cheaply as one.
Our love life will always be exciting and satisfying.
I expect my mate to meet my needs—to be a lot like me.
“Obviously, these people were shocked when their mates were unable to live up to their expectations,” David Arp says. “It is hard enough to meet expectations when we know what they are, but it is impossible when we don’t.”
Even in the best of relationships, these expectations would be hard to live up to. Marriage is a choice.
If you want to get your marriage off to a great start, do yourself a favor – get 10 Great Dates and go through it and/or participate in marriage education classes. Hopefully, these activities will help you understand each other better. Then, you can make wise relationship choices now and in your marriage in the future.
7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Divorce Before Marriage
Engaged couples spend endless amounts of time planning for their special day. In the excitement of wedding showers, choosing the flowers and the cake, and finding the perfect dress, some wonder if they can make it work. They don’t necessarily question their love for each other, although some actually do. It’s more about wondering if they can reduce their risk for divorce.
Most scholars agree that couples marrying today face a substantial risk of divorce. Many couples, however, don’t realize that certain factors increase their risk.
“While there are academic arguments about how great the average risk is, there is a lot less argument among scholars about the relative risks,” says Dr. Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Relationships at the University of Denver. “Some people face a higher risk of divorce and others a very low risk. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but it will hit the highlights.”
Individual Characteristics Linked with Higher Rates of Divorce:
- Marrying at a young age (younger than 22)
- Getting less education
- Having parents who divorced or never married
- Being a more reactive personality to stress and emotion
- Having a prior marriage that ended
- Prior to marrying, having sex with or cohabiting with someone other than your mate
- Having a very low income or being in poverty
“While some people face a higher risk of divorce than others, many people who have a very low risk nevertheless worry about divorce happening to them,” Stanley asserts. “Some people avoid marriage because of their fear of divorce, but avoiding marriage won’t really reduce one’s chances of experiencing heartache and family instability.
“To really avoid the possibility of such pain, one would need to avoid love, sex and children altogether. For some, avoiding marriage may actually increase their likelihood of experiencing the very thing they fear—heartache and break-up—because marriage can be a potent force for clarifying and reinforcing commitment between two people.”
Stanley contends that BEFORE MARRIAGE is when you have the most power to reduce your risk for divorce. He suggests the following 7 tips as you proceed.
- Take it slow. Waiting allows you to see a person’s behavior over time versus a snapshot in time.
- Don’t ignore red flags. Bad behavior will likely not get better once you walk the aisle.
- Look for someone who shares your beliefs and values. Chemistry is great, but it is not the binding glue in a relationship. Love does not conquer all.
- Look for mutual dedication to the relationship. Both people should be willing to make sacrifices.
- Establish mutual commitment to be together. Avoid sliding into staying in a relationship because of constraints such as signing a rent agreement or purchasing furniture together.
- Get premarital training. There is solid evidence that completing premarital preparation together can improve your odds in marriage.
- Be realistic about potential mates. There are no perfect people, but two imperfect people can walk the road together and be transformed by a life of loving commitment.
“Marriage involves a choice to risk loving another for life, but that is different from gambling with your love life,” Stanley says. “Just make sure you are deciding rather than sliding your way into your future.”
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
Getting Your Marriage Off to a Great Start
What makes a marriage really work? Is there any way to guarantee that love can last forever? Here’s how you can get your marriage off to a great start.
It has been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
Many people are in love with the idea of marriage. However, many couples fail to prepare for inevitable bumps in the road ahead. Some are just not ready to handle the tough times. Before you take a walk down the aisle, consider making some wise choices that will help ensure a successful marriage.
Get premarital education.
Education allows couples to identify potential areas of conflict and discuss them before saying “I do.” Experts say that some premarital inventories can predict with 80 percent accuracy which couples have the potential for divorce. These inventories can give couples an idea of what issues to work on, therefore avoiding the divorce pitfall. Premarital education can resolve some important issues before they get out of hand and make it easier to seek help down the road. Some of the most hotly debated issues among couples are finances, in-laws, sex, employment, expectations and children.
Learn how to resolve conflict and communicate effectively.
How you manage conflict is a strong predictor of marital success or failure. Danger signs include withdrawing or leaving during an argument, attacking the other person’s character instead of focusing on the problem, and escalation. When you listen to each other and talk as friends, you can learn a great deal about your partner and what is important to them. Resolving problems together is a win/win situation that encourages intimacy in the relationship.
Learn what your partner expects from marriage.
Knowing what you expect from each other can prepare you for the years ahead. Unrealistic and unmet expectations often lead to resentment. Knowing what to expect and how to meet each other’s needs can be the glue that holds your marriage together.
Be committed to the permanence of marriage.
Commitment, as well as love, is a choice. Couples who believe that divorce is not an option are less likely to take steps toward ending their relationship. In addition, older, more experienced couples can provide much wisdom and support through the years. Sometimes, mentor couples can give insight on handling difficulties constructively within the marital relationship. Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship, as we often hear. It requires 100 percent from both partners. If you want to make your marriage last, it must be a top priority for both of you.
How to Deal With Unspoken Expectations
Things aren’t always what you expect them to be, especially in marriage.
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.
It’s not always easy to figure out how to deal with unspoken expectations as a couple.
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’s lots of room for hurt feelings, misunderstandings and assumptions with unspoken expectations.
Whether you’re preparing for marriage or already married, you can probably learn a lot by having a conversation about unspoken expectations.
How do you deal with unspoken expectations? And where do you begin?
First, it’s helpful to write down your expectations, even if you think you’ve 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’s important to know your non-negotiables when it comes to what you expect for your marriage.
If you’re 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., don’t expect things to change once you walk down the aisle. I repeat, DO NOT EXPECT MARRIAGE TO CHANGE THESE THINGS. 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, but each person can also end up feeling angry and empty. And that can cause major problems.
Unspoken expectations can be the silent killer of relationships (so deal with them sooner instead of later).
Do yourself and your loved one a favor: be honest about your expectations and ask yourself if they’re 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 heartaches down the road.
Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***