Recently an old friend asked me what were some things she should think about and do before getting married. She thinks her long-term boyfriend is preparing to ask THE question. Her biggest fear is not a lack of trust or love – it is a lack of positive relationship role models in her life. She comes from a family that has a history of divorces, settling, adulterous relationships and just plain unhappy couples.
While I do not consider myself a “veteran” wife, after (almost) nine years of marriage, I can honestly say that communication (ie – listening AND saying what you mean in a clear way), sacrifices on both parts, and a clear understanding on finances makes a world of a difference.
Yes, I recall the advice to never go to bed angry (has anyone successfully done this?) or have date nights monthly when we were celebrating our reception and my bridal shower, but as we got seriously serious it would have been great to have someone share things to think about before even saying “I will” when the man of your dreams gets down on one knee.
I decided to reach out to some family and friends that were both single, engaged, married and divorced to get their views on what someone should do before getting married.
The first response I got was “Make sure there’s no one else that you may want.” – at first glance it seems simple enough. Why would someone even consider marriage if they weren’t 100% sure, right? Wrong!
One of my male friends quickly chimed in with “As far as men are concerned, say good-bye to your own opinion.” Of course, that got a few chuckles, but it rang some truth. A relationship should be give and take. As the years have passed, I have found myself automatically “thinking like” my husband – from dinner choices to vacation getaways. It’s important to really know your partner and be willing to appreciate and accept their opinions – even if it’s different from yours.
Have a weekend to reflect on the person you are. Write about the person you want to become and learn that saying “I do” doesn’t mean the end of life but the beginning of a journey that you are taking with someone that you love. This takes me to one of my favorite pieces of advice…
Before saying “I Do” be comfortable with your own company. Your future spouse is not responsible for curing boredom or providing you with constant entertainment. Please don’t get married because you feel it’s time, your biological clock is ticking or everyone else you know has – settling or rushing to the aisle will not bring you the happily ever after you’re wanting. Make sure you love yourself 100% and know that this person is not coming in your life to complete you but to compliment you. You must already be complete within!
Make sure you actually know the person you are about to marry – ask lots of questions before hand. If he wants children and you don’t – guess what? He’ll most likely still want kids when you become Mr. and Mrs.
Get to know your in-laws – it makes a big difference. They are now your relatives – people you’ll be sharing holidays, special occasions and family dinners with. They are, also, your children or future children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – they have the potential to make a huge impact on their futures. Make sure there’s clear understanding on how you’ll spend your holidays – I have seen some serious marital issues stem from this seemingly simple request.
Take a long distance road trip together – just the two of you. If you can’t handle each other in a car for 18 hours, you may want to evaluate spending the rest of your lives together. I can personally attest to this. Right before we got married, my husband and I traveled from Fort Hood, Texas to Columbia, South Carolina. That was one of the longest road trips ever and I learned just how “forgetful” my husband was. Something I had never truly paid attention to before. He lost my debit card while pumping gas – seriously, he got out the car, pumped gas, walked in the store, got back in the car – no debit card and later left his wallet in a restaurant we stopped in for a quick bite. He learned that I am no help when it comes to road trips if someone else is driving – I either get engrossed in a book or fall asleep – and when I am driving I sing loudly and will have random, off-the-wall conversations in between choruses. Were there some heated conversations during that trip? Oh yes! But at the end of the day, we still found ways to make each other laugh and enjoy the situations. I knew he was a keeper!
Give yourself an opportunity to miss them. Their absence reminds you how much of you and your life is impacted by them. More than just another step in a logical progression, marriage becomes a heartfelt, even craved state. I’ll let you marinate on that one for a moment.
Chime in below with your suggestions or experiences.
Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM
Thursday 28th of May 2015
Love your question about going to bed angry. I have not been perfect at this suggestion either! Wait... it is a commandment, isn't it? Yikes! It's a journey indeed and I strive to teach my girls about relationships and partnerships at an early age so they can learn as much from my mistakes as possible. Oh... and I also want to say I love you!
Sunday 31st of May 2015
It is definitely a journey! Thank you for sharing and your transparency. Yes - one of my goals is to be open with my children and provide a blueprint for them to follow as they get older. It's amazing how much we get from our parents and don't realize until you're in the thick of it and have an "AH-HA" moment! I recently realized some traits of my husband's mother that I had and I tell him frequently that he's turning into my Daddy before my eyes! I love you, too!!!!
Thursday 28th of May 2015
I enjoyed reading your article and found it to be full of good advice. I have been happily married for 25 years. My biggest and best piece of advice is for the couple to think of themselves as a team. The team is the husband and wife, everyone else is not on the team and should not be privy to team meetings, team perks and team business. Marriage works much better when there is a clear understanding of who is supposed to be on the team and who is supposed to be sitting on the benches.
Thursday 28th of May 2015
I love it!!! Thank you so much for sharing Janeane! Your marriage advice is golden. I truly admire the relationship you and your husband have and your willingness to impart knowledge on us "newbies".
Pamela Kay Noble Brown
Wednesday 27th of May 2015
Hi Michelle, I really enjoyed your article. I would encourage all of your readers to especially heed the advice of traveling together or at least discussing what kinds of vacations you like. I love to travel whether by car, plane, on a cruise, etc. However, my husband refuses to get on an airplane or boat. That means all of our trips have to be by car. That is fine when it's two or three hours away. But a trip to Vegas would take four days of a 5-day vacation, leaving one day to relax in Vegas. It would be much better to fly. Also cruises are so beautiful and romantic, but he doesn't like being at the mercy of large bodies of water because he got seasick on a cruise long ago. I keep trying to tell him that now they have all kinds of meds that can tame, or even alleviate, motion sickness. And he hates planes because years ago his college football team was on a plane, and the plane hit a storm and dipped. They didn't crash, but he hasn't set foot on a plane since.
Now why does this matter to folk thinking about marriage? It is impactful because it raises the question of should you have to give up something you dearly love the rest of your life because the other person is fearful of them. Now he doesn't try to forbid me from doing something I enjoy. For example, we take our road trip vacations and he fine with me going on cruises with my girlfriends, but honestly I sometimes want to have a romantic dance with my hubby on the upper deck of a cruise, as we dance under the moonlight. Girlfriends can't help with that. Or sometimes I long to fly to an all-inclusive resort and explore the ancient ruins as we steal a kiss in the shadows under the waterfalls. Girlfriends, though I enjoy their company, can't help with that.
Is it really that much of a deal? Yes, apparently so. Because even though I have tried to put it out of my mind over the years, it came spilling out in a much longer comment than I had intended. Lol. So yes, do travel together so you can know if you are compatible travel wise. All of the other advice was great too.
P.S. If you and/or any of your readers have any suggestions how I might encourage (not nag...teeheehee) my husband to fly or cruise with me just once, I would be forever grateful. :)
Wednesday 27th of May 2015
Hi Pamela! Thank you so much for chiming in and giving your perspective and personal experiences. Yes - from travel to different hobbies and excursions, one has to really determine if it's something they're willing to forego without their spouse if they are adamantly not interested. I'll be putting on my thinking cap to see how we can get hubby to go cruising at least once!