“Til death do us part.” Powerful stuff, right? So many of us grow up dreaming of the day that we get to say that in front of our friends and family. We also know that, preceding that lovely line, is “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health.” Yet, so often, any of those challenges is what tears apart a marriage or, more accurately, the rift in communication that they cause.
Perhaps the classic vows should be rewritten to “for embraces, for cold shoulders, for long painful discussions and going to sleep happy…”
While yes, healthy communication really is the key to a happy marriage, it isn’t as simple as just “talk more,” though I wish it was. There are certain things that every couple considering getting married need to talk about - and it’s easier the sooner you start:
The common wisdom is that when you have enough money, finances are 10% of the relationship. When you don’t have enough, they’re 90%. While money isn’t the most important thing in life, it is the most common thing to break up relationships - so make sure to start talking about this early and often, well before you ever become legally bound.
Before you get married, make sure to talk about your financial backgrounds - especially when there’s something significant. If you can’t tell the person you’re dating about your debt, gambling habits or poor credit histories, then you aren’t ready to tie yourself to them in marriage.
Once you get married, resist the temptation to keep secrets - especially when they have to do with money. Hiding that you’re racking up debt or even made a big purchase without asking your spouse to agree to it can be just as damaging as cheating.
Even if you’re both financially healthy, still keep reviewing finances together. This doesn’t have to be all dull calculations; make budgeting part of planning all of the exciting things in your future, and you’ll help to ensure that it is a happy one.
I’m guessing that you probably think that gender roles and strict codes of behavior for men and women are archaic, but know that they existed for a reason. When you go to work, everyone has assignments and roles - this is to prevent chaos. Gender roles evolved for a reason: when there are many small tasks that need to get done, if you don’t know who’s responsible for doing each one, they just won’t happen.
When you get married, you’re agreeing to share a life together. While you’re probably thinking of the big picture - raising children, buying a home, going on vacation - you should make sure to figure out your roles. Unless you really like fighting over chores or who makes doctor appointments (hint: nobody does).
Yes, you’re right - this article is getting cheesier as you read it. But the funny thing about cheesy statements is that they’re the most true.
The term “love language” was coined recently, but the concept has existed as long as civilization. The short story is that you each need to understand what your spouse needs to feel loved and appreciated - because for most of us, life just gets busier, more complicated, and more challenging over time. If you don’t know how to effectively show the other person you care in between dashing kids to extracurriculars, throwing in a load of laundry and doing that overtime for work, you’re setting yourself (and your spouse) up to feel unappreciated and neglected.
It’s now agreed that there are five “languages,” one of which will strike a chord in your own heart, and one in your partner’s. More often than not? They won’t be the same:
● Words of affirmation: The actual act of saying “I love you,” “thank you,” and “you’re sexy.”
● Acts of service: doing things to make the other person feel better, without being asked - such as making sure coffee is ready for them when they wake up, even if you leave before they’re out of bed.
● Receiving gifts: purchasing items that show that you were thinking about them when they weren’t around, such as flowers or pastries for no reason.
● Quality time: clearing your schedule and giving them your undivided attention; this often manifests, in our busy life, as you choosing time with them over another tempting option that they can’t or don’t want to do with you.
● Physical touch: making sure to hug, kiss and cuddle them frequently.
If you read these and thought “Wait, I like many, or all, of those things and activities,” then you’re normal. It’s rare to find someone who is not fluent in several languages, but the important thing here is to know which one means the most to you. If you’re having a terrible day, and feeling lonely and needy, which language should your partner choose to make you feel best?
The core of a great marriage is communication, but communication is much more than just talking to each other a lot about anything. There are difficult topics that you’ll need to force yourself to discuss, and they may cause stress or even hurt to share, but it’s worth it. Let your partner in at the deepest level, and there’s no challenge your bond won’t survive.