So You're Getting Married...
If you're reading this you're most likely engaged, and to be honest that is AWESOME! But, the real work is just ahead as you enter a little thing called marriage. We have all seen the statistics that 50% of married couples will end up in divorce, which in all honesty, is pretty damn frightening. I'm sure you've had those moments with your significant other questioning if you've made the right decision.....I mean none of us are perfect and we alllllll have our flaws. A couple months ago Time Magazine released a special edition on The Science of Marriage and being a newlywed myself, I HAD to buy it.
This edition is ALL ABOUT MARRIAGE, nothing else, no politics, no celebrities, just marriage. They break it up into three parts: Love and Romance, A Sacred Bond, and Happily Ever After. Today, I will be focusing on Chapter 2, Part 1: 9 Signs Your Marriage Will Last.
Anyone in a relationship knows it is not rainbows and butterflies ALL THE TIME. It's not, nor should it be. But, marriage is a completely different bond than just being "in a relationship". Marriage really is a full-time job. You really have to work through those tough times, and you can't run away-- or shouldn't.
First. You dated for a while & had your own place. Research shows that couples who dated for three years or more were 39% less likely to get divorced over couples that were engaged after a year or less. If you did get engaged earlier than a year, I'm not saying your marriage is doomed! I have seen many marriages succeed after the couple only knew each other for 6 months! However, I believe the reason they are saying 3 years is a golden number is due to really being able to learn about the person you are dating. In the beginning, we all experience the "honeymoon phase". Everything about your significant other is wonderful and amazing and they could never do wrong, but just wait a little longer and you'll quickly realize that they too have their flaws. My husband and I dated for 5 years prior to getting married, and I do have to say that I am glad we did. I can truly say I knew my husband better than anyone before we got married. I knew exactly what I was getting into, what his flaws were, my pet peeves and I still knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Not only did we meet early in college and go through finding ourselves while still being in a relationship (which is hard enough), but we really got to know each other inside and out. Within a year, you are still learning about each other, their quirks, likes/dislikes, pet peeves, character traits, personality, etc. My advice to you (if you are one of these couples) is to look into opportunities for Pre-Marital Counseling to ask those tough questions.
Two. You Keep Mmmmhmmmms to a Minimum. Time states that that way you respond to your spouse can greatly impact your relationship and communication skills. When your partner is speaking, do you stop what you are doing and give them your undivided attention or do you answer with an mmmhm? If you're an mhhmmmm-er, STOP! Although it seems irrelevant, this response says to your partner how supportive and important you find what they are saying.
Three. You Amplify Your Partner's Positive. How do you react to your partner's good news? Are you passive or active (quiet or enthusiastic) and either constructive or destructive (supportive or demeaning)? IF you want to stay married, you should aim for an active-constructive response to the good news your partner brings you. This will leave a lasting impression, opportunity for bonding, and a sense of genuine interest.
Four. You Talk. Like, Really Talk. At this point in your relationship you probably find that your communication with your partner is *stellar*. You could talk to each other all day long and never get sick of it. But, research has found that once you are married for over 10 years, throw kids into the mix, and then some....communication gets clouded and overlooked by every other responsibility needing to be handled. If you allow your communication to laps, you will likely end up in divorce because after all of the years you neglected, by the time you are "alone" again.....you won't even know your partner. Make it a habit to check in with each other nightly after work, share your day over dinner, take part in a hobby that you both enjoy doing that will get you some alone time. You'll thank me later.
Five. You had Warm Feet on Your Wedding Day. Research finds that "women who had reported having cold feet before they got hitched were more than twice as likely to be divorced four years later than brides who didn't experience those last minute doubts" (p. 33). Ya'll, this is huge. Why? Because everyone knows the typical 'men get cold feet' thing. But women, sheesh....ladies you better be well aware of your emotions leading up to the day of your wedding. If you know their are MAJOR red flags waving in your face, then there really may be a reason for the way you are feeling. It's better to turn away from the situation than pour thousands and thousands of dollars into a "glamorized" day that will potentially leave you in divorce and debt.
Six. You Fight Fair. People, this is where I say it is KEY to take part in a Marriage Encounters Weekend Retreat (you can take part even if you're not Catholic) or Pre-Marital Counseling. Time states that, "Contempt is the No.1 predictor of divorce" (p.33). I think we can all agree that no one is perfect when it comes to an argument. If you are in a heated disagreement with your partner, is your goal to win and be right or find a common ground? Engaging in contempt, defensiveness, criticism, and stonewalling are not only abusive to your partner, but can make your marriage problematic. Before you attack, excuse yourself from the situation for a quick breath of fresh air outside to reignite your mindfulness of the situation at hand. You will find that it will allow you to come back from the adrenaline rush and discuss your issues in a healthier way.
Seven. You've Got Demographics on Your Side. Research has found that being a college educated graduate and having the "right" age are important factors in determining the longevity of your future marriage. College educated women have a 78% higher chance of being married for over 20 years than those without. Although research has shown that 26 is the golden number for marriage, it also shows that once couples hit their mid-30s divorce is at a higher rate.
Eight. You Both Carve Out "Me Time". I think this is one of the most important aspects of the relationship, and believe me I was not gung-ho for it all the time either. But, personal care is critical in order to ensure sanity and sense of self. I find it so sad when I see couples that have to do EVERYTHING together. Whether it is out of insecurities, or something else, you feel as though you need to maintain a sense of control--this goes for both men and women. Each individual still needs to be an "individual", that's what makes you so unique and why your partner fell in love with you. If you lose that, then you will end up losing yourself, your happiness, and relationship. If you allow the opportunity to have your individual hobbies, just think of the new and intriguing conversations you cultivate with your partner!
Lastly, Nine. You Cultivate a Culture of Mutual Appreciation. After you have been with your partner for a long period of time, those moments you used to appreciate tend to become clouded as being taken for granted. How many of you have every felt that your partner was taking you for granted? Or your partner has told you they feel this way? If you stop appreciating your significant other and sharing this frequently, it can lead to other "feel-good interactions". If your wife makes you coffee in the morning, thank her. If your husband makes the bed and actually puts his dirty clothes in the hamper, appreciate the gesture. Even though these are little things that you think should be "given", you can really change the mood and opportunities for love in your relationship. Even if you have a rough and tough husband, he still needs words of affirmation and appreciation. Studies show that "men have an even greater need for affirmation than women [...[ Those who didn't feel affirmed by their wives were twice as likely to divorce as those who did" (p.35).
I know this post isn't rainbows and unicorns, and I didn't want it to be because there is a whole other angle to this marriage "thing". The journey you have ahead of you as a couple will be filled with joy, happiness, obstacles, and loads of love but it will also take a lot of work. When you get home, share this with your partner and reaffirm your love and appreciation. Sit down with them and tell them again why you are so deeply in love with them and why you want to marry and be married to them for the rest of your life. That simple conversation will bring so much love to the center of your relationship.