Preparing your relationship for a lifetime of marriageWritten by Wendy Kittlitz
Couples preparing to get married spend an enormous amount of time, money and emotional energy planning their wedding. Many couples, however, give little thought to preparing for their marriage.
Every individual and every couple who decides to marry has expectations. We anticipate that the person we marry will fill all of our needs for intimacy, security, significance, affection and so on. Larry Crabb likens couples, on their wedding day, to ticks looking for a dog to feed off. The problem with this, he says, is that "there are two ticks and no dog" (The Marriage Builder).
The disappointment that sets in when marriage fails to meet each partner’s expectations sets the stage for trouble in the relationship. Whether it occurs quickly or gradually, most marriages will experience these disappointments. How well the relationship succeeds in the long term will depend on the degree to which the couple can be open with one another and communicate maturely about their expectations.
Invest in your relationship
Here are some important reasons why couples should invest time building a foundation for their marriages:
- To examine and develop reasonable expectations. Identifying expectations is the first step in dealing with them appropriately. In the early months of your marriage for example, you will encounter many tasks, both large and small, that need to be divided between you. Whether it’s grocery shopping, car maintenance or remembering parents’ and siblings’ birthdays, you will likely have preconceived ideas over who should be responsible for a particular task. You need to articulate those expectations clearly to your spouse and then be prepared to negotiate an equitable solution. It requires maturity to accept that another person is not able or willing to do everything we think they should. And spiritual maturity means recognizing that some needs can only be met in our relationship with God.
- To understand how your past will impact your marriage. We enter marriages as products of a previous family system where we learned many things, some beneficial and some not. It can be very helpful to identify some of these things (communications styles, roles, habits, values, etc.) and understand how they may impact your relationship as you build your new family system. God said that "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Leaving occurs physically (in most cases) but emotionally and psychologically, we often remain tied to our families of origin in ways we are not aware of until conflict arises.
- To learn skills that will help you weather the challenges. When troubles come, you need skills to work through them. Good communication, including the ability to hear your spouse’s perspective in the midst of our own defensiveness or frustration, does not usually come naturally. Willingness to ask for help from a pastor, counsellor or mentor requires humility but can make all the difference in building or even saving your marriage. Investment in marriage enrichment opportunities will pay off in a stronger, healthier relationship.
Your marriage needs at least the same care and attention that you have lavished on your wedding. The pay back is not just a memorable day, but a memorable lifetime! Get some great books and read them together. Find a couple whose marriage you admire and ask them to coach you. Or find a counsellor who does premarital work (especially if you are entering marriage with any sort of emotional baggage from your past). Ask your pastor to spend some quality time not just preparing for your ceremony, but asking you the hard questions about your relationship.
The effort you put into building your marriage from the beginning will be time well spent – I promise!
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