Almost 18 years ago, I married my husband for love, acceptance, and companionship. Having both grown up in divorced families, we knew that marriage doesn’t always last and that problems can arise. Like any counselor-in-training, I tried to make sure we were prepared for marriage by talking about all the important topics. But there are many things I wish I would have known before we got married!
Most engaged couples spend a lot of time planning and budgeting for their wedding, and almost no time planning for their marriage. Set aside some time and money to invest in not only the celebration of marriage, but also in the invitation to grow yourselves while in this relationship.
Many engaged couples think as long as their mate keeps making them happy they will be satisfied and fulfilled. But over time, couples slowly starts to be less open in order to keep the peace and avoid feeling hurt. All marriages have emotional distance, but not all marriages grow emotional divorces.
What I Wish I Knew Before Marriage (and Now You Can Too)
It’s hard to be realistic and objective when you are falling in love, but the more you can view marriage without rose-colored glasses, the better you will start this life together. Take a look at the 9 things I wish I knew before I got married, and ask yourself how open you are to exploring each of these opportunities and obstacles:
- Conflicts Repeat: Many marriages have conflicts that recycle and don’t get resolved . The conflict can go underground, and ignite under stressful times. Negative reactions trigger more negative reactions, and couples can get really stuck in arguing about how they are arguing. For conflicts that are co-created, the quickest way to tone down marriage conflict is for each person to take responsibility for their part in the problem.
- Manage Your Own Emotions: If you want to communicate more openly or effectively, start with managing your emotions and reactions under the words you use. How you perceive the situation, yourself, and your partner will direct how you communicate.
- Listen More Than Pressure: If you communicate by trying to get your partner to hear your point, then you miss out on learning what you partner thinks. Represent your thinking but be open to also learning what your partner thinks. Pressing emotionally on your partner acts as anti-intimacy.
- Respect Differences: Many people want sameness when under stress, but different ideas can be helpful when trying to solve problems. Respect that your partner may have different ways of doing things, unless that difference is so great that it’s what I call a “marriage breaker.”
- Painful Feelings May Be Experienced: Don’t believe the myth, “if you love me, you would never hurt or leave me.” This is the risk you take when entering into a relationship. You may feel hurt or loss, so you have probably already decided it’s better to love than avoid loss. (The more you work on #8 and #2, the less you will feel like your partner’s behavior defines your value or happiness.)
- Marriage Has Changing Seasons: The marital relationship is always changing, so you are never done working on yourself. You probably won’t always feel “in love” like when you first start dating and courting. The more you can see your partner as separate from you, the more you will be able to connect without expectations and pressure on the other.
- Sexual Frequency Can Change Too: Sex is the bonus of being married, but the frequency of sex in a marriage can vary. Sometimes sex isn’t an option as one of the ways to connect, so make sure you are working on other ways to connect. Instead of more distance and pressure, work on your marital friendship and emotional intimacy.
- Be Responsible for Own Well-Being: It takes courage to take responsibility for your own well-being. View marriage as an invitation to grow yourself instead of trying to get your mate to make you happy. In doing so, you can stop thinking that your partner’s behavior defines your happiness or worth.
- Find Neutral Mentor/Coach: Friends and family will often take sides. It’s natural to turn to someone else when tension gets so great between two people. This can be calming or more problematic. If the person you turn to is neutral, then he or she can coach you when you are stuck or feel like giving up. It’s better to come in for a marriage checkup throughout marriage, then wait until someone is asking for a marriage separation.
While I wish I would’ve known all of this before I got married 18 years ago, you honestly can’t know until you are experiencing marriage on a daily basis. But if you are open to working and growing yourself more than growing your partner, you are starting your marriage on the right track.
What would you add to creating marriages that last?
Participate in a few premarital sessions before the wedding. If you feel comfortable with the counselor, then it will be easier to return when you need a little coaching after the wedding!
3 Premarital Counseling packages now available. Great gift idea for an engaged couple or for making an investment in creating a marriage together. For more information on what each package includes, visit my website here or contact Marci Payne, Licensed Professional Counselor at 816-373-6761 ext 2.
Photo Credit: “Engagement Photo in Somerset” by Bert Palmer