Building a house requires careful thought and planning. Land must be purchased and the building plan drawn up, foundation is laid, block work is done, and then roofing and finishing. What is true of constructing a building also applies to constructing a successful marriage. A lot of planning also goes into a wedding event. There are guest lists to be made, invitations to be sent, venues to be selected, food, cake, flowers, a dress and much more. We hear a lot about those items. We hear far less about the planning that goes into a successful marriage… the planning that leads to happily ever after. And how about the wedding vows? What does the marriage commitment mean to you? Did you ever talk to your partner about that? Are you committed until death do us part? or until things get difficult? Do you plan to be there through thick and thin? in sickness and in health?
Without a clear understanding of marital vows and your commitment to one another, there cannot be a firm foundation for a marriage. Making a commitment clarifies your intention. A friend explained it this way: “for me, it removed the burden of making decisions alone. All important decisions that affect my relationship are made with my wife. Also, it removed the option of leaving. Even in the worst situations, it is never a matter of whether or not the marriage will last. The question becomes: how do we work this out together?”
When wedding plans start, discussions about relationship questions and concerns usually take a back seat. Those all important talks about how to handle money, how often to visit family and friends, child rearing, splitting of the chores… all fades in the background compared to the big event. Don’t let this happen. Before the wedding, plan an evening where you sit down with your partner (and maybe some chips and drinks), google pre-marital questions, and answer those questions with one another. It’s a good beginning to a successful marriage and it builds a framework for future discussions.
Here are our top five tips to happily ever after:
- Know yourselves well – Do you find it easy to list the qualities you want in a mate? Most do. However, what about your own qualities? What traits do you have that will help you contribute to a successful marriage? What type of husband or wife will you be? Have long and careful examination of your thoughts and feelings. Be realistic however, remembering that marriage will not change your personality. If you are proud, oversensitive, or overly pessimistic when single, you will be the same when married. Since it is difficult to see ourselves the way others see us, why not ask a trusted friend for frank comments and suggestions? If you learn of changes that could be made, work on these before taking steps to marry.
- Commitment to the relationship – Getting married seems challenging enough; however, maintaining a marital relationship year after year must also be considered. What does maintaining such a relationship entail? A vital factor is a wholehearted commitment. You want to know that you and your partner are on the same team and that he/she will be there for you, no matter what.
- Communication skills – Poor communication is the number one reason that couples come into therapy. Either they do not know how to talk to one another, do not feel heard, or have no conflict resolution skills. Learn how to talk to one another with love and respect, letting go of the need to be right. Let the relationship win.
- Laughter… a good sense of humor – The ability to laugh will get you through many difficult situations. There are some arguments that cannot be resolved. Your love for one another and a good sense of humor are a must in those situations.
- Create a vision for your marriage – What is your dream? What are your expectations for this union? Write them down and share them with one another. In times of distress, take out your vision and remember the fun you had creating it together. At the very least it will ease the tension.
LOOKING BEYOND THE WEDDING
During the final months before the marriage, both of you will likely be very busy with arranging for the wedding. You can alleviate much of the tension by being moderate. An elaborate wedding may please relatives and the community, but it may leave newlyweds and their families physically exhausted and financially drained. Some adherence to local customs is reasonable, but slavish and perhaps competitive conformity can overshadow the meaning of the occasion and may rob you of the joy that you should have. While the feelings of others must be considered, the groom is primarily responsible for deciding what will go on at the wedding feast.
When you marry you are creating a union that you and your partner get to define. Make sure you spend as much time and effort ensuring the success of your relationship as you do planning the wedding. The wedding is just a day but the marriage lifelong.