Earlier this month my wife and I celebrated 17 years of marriage, and despite some ups and downs, we’re still very much in love.
Having grown up in a culture so sadly overrun with news of marital breakup, it’s almost surprising that a 17-year marriage, which began with people saying we ‘wouldn’t last 6 months’, is still going strong.
I wonder whether it’s down to us having survived the first turbulent 10 years, which recent studies have found, make us more likely to have as strong a marriage as those in generations past?
Regardless, our marriage, like countless others, has been marked with tears and laughter. While not being easy, bereavement, separation, and a range of other obstacles, all proved to be great opportunities for relational growth.
So, as we’re still smiling, I thought I’d share five things we’ve identified as pillars to our marriage – there are more, but too many for a single post. As you give thought to preparing for married life, I hope you’ll find them helpful. Equally, those already married may also find them useful.
#1. Shared vision
As a child you had a picture of what marriage looked like. Depending on what you observed from parents, family, close friends, and the media, your view would’ve either been positive or less optimistic.
Had you witnessed healthy relationships marked by affirmation, compromise, and honesty, then you’ll find it easier to envision a bright future with your spouse. Conversely, if you observed neglect, aggression, and emotional or physical abuse, you’re prone to have a bleaker outlook.
If you have a clear vision in your own mind of your desired marriage, neither one need determine your future. Once you’re clear about the characteristics of marriage that are important to you, it’ll be easier to work towards aligning them with those of your spouse.
#2. Realistic expectations
You and your future spouse will have contrasting views on what constitutes a good relationship. If left unchecked, these perceptions will cause tension if used as a gauge to determine how happy, satisfied and content you are, or to measure your marital success.
As expectations are so powerful, if the gap between your reality and your ideals is too big, you’ll be dissatisfied and find things extremely hard. Ask yourself the question, ‘What does my ideal marriage relationship look like?‘ Then ask your future spouse to do the same.
Having done that, sit down over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and discuss how they measure up. Doing so could save you future disappointment.
#3. Transparent communication
Communication is at its best when authentic, and authentic communication is seen when you and your spouse are willing to address the elephants in the room.
People have different views on this, but I think there shouldn’t be any hesitation in sharing your deepest fears, vulnerabilities or insecurities with a spouse. As you learn to be transparent with one another, all the while growing in confidence that your openness will be met with acceptance, you’ll build trust – another pillar in your relationship.
Scott Peck says,
“When we choose peace-keeping over truth-telling, we end up in marriages that are strictly surface level. We never discuss misunderstandings, reveal hurt feelings, or frustrations, or ask difficult questions. The underlying message is: Don’t rock the boat. Don’t disturb the peace.”
To move your relationship beyond the superficial, learn to cross the barriers of pain and discomfort. The result will be deep, meaningful, connective, and heartfelt exchange.
Let’s be clear, though I did it, I don’t encourage sex before marriage.
I agree with Bill Hybels who says,
“Only when a man and wife relate to one another at the level of heart, mind and soul, in a permanent, trust-filled, open, safe, vulnerable, loving, passionate kind of way, does sexual intercourse represent what is was meant to represent: ultimate unity.”
That said, as the act of sex will provide you with opportunity to communicate love for one another through physical intimacy, its important that you give it some consideration.
Being aware of the different ways you and your spouse will approach and respond to sex, and, again, taking time to discuss expectations and needs, will go a long way in saving you problems down the road.
Your marriage, like any other relationship, will have a greater chance of success if you’re not isolated. A network of trusted people including an experienced married couple, and others to laugh (and cry) with, will serve you well.
It’s also good to have friends who share your history – those who know where you’ve come from and what you’ve experienced. In brief, you need a trusted group of friends with whom to be yourselves.
More marriage considerations
Of course, from the practical to the emotional, there are many other things to consider before tying the knot, but the five shared in this post, if given thought, will go a long way in preparing you for one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life.
Over to you…
Which of the considerations most resonates with you? If married, what would you add to the list?
Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below!
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