Preparing for Marriage: Loving For the Long Haul
Prior to marriage, it’s common to envision a perfect relationship filled with endless days and nights of wedded bliss. How many bride’s and groom’s anticipate a “less than perfect” relationship, filled with stony silence, bitterness, disconnection and feelings of loneliness?
None! If that were the case, no one would get married! Prior to marriage, it’s important to keep several things in mind in order to love your partner over the long haul—not just through the honeymoon.
Talk about your expectations beforehand.
Many problems in marriage come from not having discussed expectations prior to marriage. What are your expectations for division of labor in the house? Who will stay home with the kids? How many kids do you want? How will you handle holidays? How much time together and apart do you need/want? How do you feel most nurtured by the other person and what are your expectations for how he/she will do this?
You get the idea…The more you discuss your expectations, the more you will be on the same page—which means less disappointment over the long haul.
Create and maintain good relationship boundaries.
Our boundaries are what protect and safeguard our relationships, so it’s important that your relationship has good boundaries.
Examples of this might include limiting the relationships of opposite sex friendships that aren’t friendships of the marriage, choosing to not discuss marital issues in a negative light with people outside of the marriage (unless it’s your therapist or a marriage mentor), limits around work hours, limits around the use of cell phones and technology in the relationship (perhaps a designated time each day where technology of any kind is “off limits”), or limits to how conflict will be handled.
Plan ahead for connection—date night is so very important!
It’s easy to allow life to get in the way of our relationship if we don’t make the commitment to keep our connection alive. Date night is a great way to do this. It can actually be a “date lunch” or simply date time, regardless of the time of day. Plan ahead for this time. Put it on your calendar and make a rule that unless there is a true emergency (someone is sick, hurt or injured), you NEVER EVER cancel your date time!
Figure out your communication styles and make a commitment to NEVER use the silent treatment.
It’s not realistic to say you will never go to bed with all of your conflicts resolved, but at least learn how to set aside conflict and return to it later. Use your words! Silent treatment can be worse than having someone screaming at you, so learn how to communicate when you are hurt, sad, afraid, or disappointed.
Come to terms with the fact that things are never 50/50, but constantly shifting.
Many conflicts arise from what we call “scorekeeping”. It’s natural to want things (or need things) to be equal in a marriage, but not always realistic. When life situations happen, it’s important for BOTH partners to be willing to pick up a bit of the slack in the relationship.
Perhaps one of you just started a new job that requires more hours for the first month and the other one picks up the kids from school to help out. Or maybe your husband has a sick parent that needs help with medical care and as a result, you take care of the yard work for a while.
More realistically, recognize that things may shift to 60/40, or even 70/30 for awhile, in support of the relationship. Don’t allow things to go beyond this for very long if possible, and if it does, make sure you are talking about it without scorekeeping. If one person is doing the majority of the work in the relationship, eventually they will feel resentful of you.
Relationships go through different developmental stages, just like individuals go through different developmental stages from the time we are born. Prepare for this! Every time a big change happens to a couple, the relationship roles and rules need re-negotiated.
Work on perfectionism.
Recognize if and when you are expecting your partner to be perfect, or if you are expecting yourself to be perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect person, and your partner needs to feel loved for who they are, not who you want them to be.
Don’t keep toxic secrets.
Some “mystery” can be exciting and healthy in a relationship, but if you find yourself keeping secrets that can cause harm to your partner—or hiding things from them because you are afraid of what their reaction might be, you are causing harm to the marriage over the long run.
About the Author:
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.
Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides marriage, couples, individual and family counseling for adults, children and adolescents. Imagine Hope is based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Imagine Hope’s desire is to inspire hope for life and relationships, understanding that Hope is one of the most important things a person needs in order to keep pressing on when life gets tough. Joleen has specialized experience in helping others in the areas of depression, anxiety, infidelity, communication, addictions and self-esteem.
Having a passion for guiding people towards healthy, fulfilling relationships is Imagine Hope’s mission. To learn more about Imagine Hope please visit www.ImagineHopeCounseling.com or read our blog at www.Inspire.ImagineHopeCounseling.com