Marriage is one of the biggest commitments you’ll make in a lifetime.
As with any big commitment, it’s best to prepare as fully and completely as possible. Here’s what experts suggest you do before tying the knot to ensure the union lasts.
1. Work together to become skilled communicators.
“When you can both share your feelings honestly and clearly ask for what you need, the marriage is more likely to last. When you have something difficult to say, being adept at healthy confrontation is a must. You need to be able to express your anger, frustration, disappointment or dissatisfaction in a way that doesn’t put your partner on the defensive or make them feel attacked. When you can do all this, you’re setting yourself up for a long and happy marriage. ― Marcia Sirota, psychiatrist and the founder of the Ruthless Compassion Institute
2. Discuss family planning.
“Don’t assume you are on the same page about important decisions such as children. Talk about if and when you want to have children, how many you want and if both parents will work once you do. Having a child changes your life. Making sure you are in agreement ahead of time will save a lot of potential problems down the road.” ― Leslie Petruk, the director of The Stone Center for Counseling & Leadership in Charlotte, North Carolina
3. Acknowledge your shortcomings.
“None of us are the perfect partner. Many of us didn’t have the best role models growing up for how to have a happy and successful marriage, either. So acknowledge to your fiancée where you fall a little short or could improve as a partner. Then make a commitment to work at getting better in this area.” ― Kurt Smith, counselor and director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching
4. Make peace with each other’s friends and families.
“Marriage is one of life’s most challenging relationships. It’s important to have a network of supportive family and friends with whom you can share marital joys and challenges. That being said, if you have not already, try to make peace with your partner’s friends and family ― at least as much as is within your control. You are not marrying them, but your partner finds them to be important. It is a gift to your partner for you to encourage their relationships and for you to be interested and involved with the other people in their life.” ― Nari Jeter, marriage and family therapist and instructor at Florida State University
5. Set weekly marriage meetings even before the wedding.
“Start having weekly marriage meetings while you’re still engaged. Weekly marriage meetings are short, gentle conversations with a simple, loosely structured agenda that includes expressing appreciation, coordinating responsibilities, planning for dates and other fun times and discussing concerns. The meetings foster more intimacy, romance, teamwork and a smoother handling of issues. Instead of holding grudges or drifting apart, couples who hold marriage meetings get to reconnect every week and prevent small concerns from growing into crises.” ― Marcia Naomi Berger, clinical social worker, psychotherapist and author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted
6. Address the hot-button topic that is finances.
“Establishing a plan and agreeing on money management can prevent a lot of potential disagreements down the road. Many couples join their finances once married, while others keep individual accounts. Transparency is critical when it comes to money in a marriage. It can be helpful to establish a maximum amount that either party can spend without consulting the other. If secrecy around purchases exists, that’s an indicator that some trust issues need to be addressed up front. If you plan to save, discuss how much and what your immediate and long-term goals are in regard to your finances. Financial health is a reflection of the health of your relationship and how well you communicate and function as a team.” ― Leslie Petruk
7. Don’t ignore the difficult issues.
“All couples have challenges and problems they have to face. Happy marriages aren’t any different, but what makes these couples different is that they address their issues as opposed to ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist. ― Kurt Smith
8. Go to premarital counseling.
“Some couples are hesitant to go because they think they do not have issues, or are afraid that counseling will dredge up issues that they didn’t know existed. By going to premarital counseling, you can clarify, with the help of a trained professional, the expectations for the marriage and agreements on when to seek outside help. Also, by establishing a relationship with a marriage therapist before saying “I do,” you are making it easier to return if you need additional support in the future. Think of premarital counseling as a preventative ‘check-up’ for your marriage, where you can return in the future if the relationship needs attention.” ― Nari Jeter