Ten years ago, I published an article containing advice I would give to couples contemplating marriage based on my own personal experience with marriage and what I had learned after ten years of practicing family law. With an additional ten years under my belt and my own children planning to take the plunge, I thought an update would be timely.
Here are seven things I wish people knew before they get married:
- Marriage is hard. There are no “happily ever afters.” It takes work, effort, and dedication to have a healthy marriage. You have to invest in the relationship, which requires you to give time and attention to it. Marriage is not for the faint of heart, but a healthy marriage is worth it.
- Communication. It is so important to communicate; it is even better to communicate well. Take time to talk with each other about the business of the marriage as well as other things. Talking with each other can pay huge dividends.
- Counseling can help. If you are struggling to talk with each other or find that certain topics always create problems, get help. A professional can help set up some rules and be a neutral place to discuss the stickier topics. Avoiding the hard subjects does not solve problems, so tackle them with help.
- Set expectations. Even after 24 years of marriage, I am learning about our different expectations. When I was first married, my wife assumed that I would fix the cars because that is how it worked in her home. She didn’t know that I knew nothing about cars. Talk about the expectations, like who takes out the garbage, who mows the lawn, who puts away the laundry, etc. There is no right or wrong answer; do what works best in your situation.
- Make a financial plan. Everyone getting married should know what a budget is and how to use it. Financial issues can quickly lead to divorce. Knowing what comes in each month and spending less than that amount is a sure-fire way to avoid those issues. An ounce of budgeting can be worth a pound of marriage counseling.
- Take time for yourself. It is okay to develop a hobby or pursue your own interest. It is not necessary to do everything together all the time. Having separate activities can improve the quality of your marriage. But, remember to keep it in balance. You cannot neglect your spouse in the pursuit of your hobbies and expect to have a happy home.
- Be patient. All good things take time, and a healthy marriage can be a very good thing. You can expect to have cloudy days, bumpy roads, and challenges in marriage. Don’t let a bad day ruin a hundred good ones.