In Western cultures especially, individuals may choose who they wish to marry – a big decision with a lot to consider! Not uncommonly, dating couples thinking about getting married ask married couples for advice.
Having worked with thousands of couples in our Denver Tech Center couples counseling practice, here are our top tips to consider before marriage.
Although it’s great to hear about couples putting serious thought into this decision, there are a few pieces that aren’t taken into consideration enough by partners who are considering marriage. Here are five things that are important for you and your partner to reflect on before marriage – hopefully a lifetime partnership:
Have the big talks BEFORE you say, “I do.”
Make sure you’re not just talking about venues and floral arrangements. Couples often get so caught up in “wedding talk” that they forget to have “marriage talk.”
What goals do you want to accomplish in your life?
How do you feel about spending money?
Do you want kids? Why or why not?
How do you want to raise them?
Do you expect your spouse to participate in any religious practices with you?
How do you want to spend the holidays and vacation time?
Do your potential spouse’s answers line up with yours? It’s surprising how many spouses never talk about these things before they got married.
Even if your answers change in the future, talk about these important things with your potential spouse before marriage or deciding to tie the knot. Couples have divorced because they learned later in their relationship that one partner wanted kids and the other didn’t – a heartache that could have been minimized with a prior conversation!
Your families play a HUGE part in your relationship.
Have you ever heard the expression, “You don’t just marry the person, you marry their family”? This expression couldn’t be more true! But maybe not in the way that you think…
Sure, when you marry someone, their family becomes yours and visa versa. And it is a blessing when spouses get along with each other’s families. But you may not realize how ingrained your spouse’s family is in who they are.
“The toilet paper story” – a great and silly example
Let’s say that Casey hangs the toilet paper roll with the paper-side out. On the other hand, Sam hangs the toilet paper roll so that the paper is hanging towards the wall. Neither of them could say why this is so important, but it’s just the way they’ve always done it. Casey and Sam will bicker about this and always re-adjust the roll when they notice it’s hanging “the wrong way.”
In Casey’s house, his family always had the toilet paper facing outwards. At Sam’s house, the roll faced the wall. They simply want things to be the way they’re used to having it. But neither of them realized it was such a big deal until they lived with someone who did it the opposite way – it was just the way their families always did it.
Family influence goes much deeper than this story, though. Our families influence our attachment style. Though attachment styles can change, they will show up in EVERY. SINGLE. CONVERSATION you have. It can be incredibly helpful to know each other’s attachment history and style before marriage.
Even when people develop opposite habits in rejection of their families, these habits become deeply rooted within us and can be hard to shake! It is important to make sure that you know about your partner’s family before marrying them because it helps partners be a lot more empathetic towards one another.
Marriage isn’t a magic wand that will make your relationship better.
It is not uncommon to hear partners say something the lines of: “I know everything will get better once we are married!”
Marriage can be a lovely entity of safety, acceptance, love, and support. However, it is not a magic wand that will cure any relationship ailment that a couple may have. In fact, marriage often highlights the things we don’t like about our partner or about ourselves.
If there’s something about your partner or your relationship that you aren’t comfortable with long-term, be sure to talk about it before you get married. See a premarital counselor.
Do not assume that the problem will go away. Most likely, it won’t go away without open, honest, direct communication about the problem, your feelings, and your fears.
The point of marriage is NOT happiness.
If the objective of marriage was happiness, all marriages would be failures. When people get married thinking that the other person will make them happy for the rest of their life, the marriage is doomed. Rather, we have to look to ourselves for happiness. No one can make you happy but you.
So if that is the case, what is the point of marriage?
In short, the point of marriage is growth.
As a relationship progresses, each individual should be working toward becoming a more whole, self-reflective, and aware person.
Being in a relationship gives both partner the chance to become better communicators and better friends, while also having new experiences and discovering new ideas.
In essence, members of a couple should push each other to be better versions of themselves through personal and interpersonal growth.
One couples psychologist, Dr. David Schnarch, called marriage a “human growth machine.” That is because it should promote things like self-discovery and self-esteem.
Relationships are not always about pleasing each other (although this can be a fun component!). Instead, relationships are about supporting each other and giving people the chance to ask themselves, “How can I be better for my partner?”
Above all else, be friends.
Friendship is the key to successful relationship. When people are friends, they enjoy each other’s company, respect each other’s ideas, know so much about each other, and still accept the other for who they are.
Couples who are friends above all else are better able to survive and forgive. This is because they genuinely enjoy each other’s company and still want to be together, even after someone messes up or the couple gets caught in a negative cycle.
According to Dr. John Gottman, “long-term vitality and connection is maintained through moments of intentional friendship.” Lots of things can fade over time, but hopefully the friendship behind the marriage remains.
It isn’t surprising that couples who are friends are able to go the distance. Friends are the people you want to laugh with, cry with, and tell stories to. Friendships brings people closer together.
Life stress can also diminish friendship if it’s not tended to. It is so easy for couples to get caught in a rhythm of simply living together, without doing things that maintain their friendship.
- Have fun together.
- Call your partner with big news or small news.
- Think of them when you’re away and then tell them.
- Do things for each other that let the other person know you care.
Whether you and your partner have been married for decades, are newly engaged, or are premarital and just beginning to consider the possibility of marriage, our Greenwood Village couples therapists are here to support you in your journey. Schedule an appointment at 303-513-8975 or online: