Photo by Golden Birch Photography
In the photo above, you will see two people who love each other deeply, who know each other better than anyone else in the world, and share an amazing life together, rich with blessings. But, I would be lying if I told you that those are the expressions on our face every day, every moment we are together.
Let's face it. Being in a committed, healthy relationship is one of the most beautiful things that a person can experience. But on the same hand, it is also complicated and can be incredibly difficult. Getting married will not fix the things that are complicated or make your life simpler. It is not 'Happily Ever After' (yes, I said it). It means getting down to hard work (yes, work!).
So many times, I have spoken to a couple who has gotten every detail of their wedding down and is preparing for their fairy tale wedding (do it, you should!) but they forget to prepare for marriage. Some feel that not a lot will change once they get married. However, you are committing yourself to someone, putting your trust in them. You are committing to build something special together, whether it be a family or a mission together. You are making a vow before God (if that is what you believe), your family and friends that you are going to respect, honour and cherish this person for the rest of your life. It is a public declaration that you are not going to abuse this relationship and that you have a desire to put this person before yourself. This is a whole lot different than just living with your partner.
I feel there are some things you can do to prepare for marriage that worked for my husband and I or maybe a few things that we wish we would have done.
1. Premariatal Counselling
Doing this was the single most important thing I did before we got married. I can not tell you how much we needed to do this and did not even realize it. The couple we were paired with were thoughtful, gentle and respectful of our baggage that we going to bring into marriage as well as pushed us to talk about the unspoken expectations of marriage. It was incredibly insightful and practical. We had about 6 sessions over a few months.
I know that many local churches offer this for free and have couples willing to disciple that have years of marriage experience. Even if you don't count yourself as exceptionally religious, it is a great resource. I know that the couple we worked with had no "religious agenda," they just wanted to help prepare you for this beautiful adventure you are about to embark on!
2. Discover each other's 'Love Language'
Many people have read or have heard of Gary Chapman's book, "The 5 Love Languages." It goes over 5 main love languages that will allow you to discover how you can best serve your spouse. I have the DVD (based on the book) and he touches on each love language and some practical ways you can love and feel loved.
This video gives a great summary of the ideas of the book => Check it out!
3. Talk about the unspoken expectations.
Honestly talk about your expectations of your marriage. What your expectations of having children, your living situation, roles and responsibilities within the marriage, finances or even sex after marriage? Do you have a realistic plan for when expectations are not met? There are so many things to consider and the list is endless but do your research and have the hard conversations before you walk down the aisle. You do not have to agree on everything to get married but you should at least know what some potential conflicts could be about.
4. Learn how to fight!
Call me crazy, but this is one of the most important things that you can learn how to do well. Conflict is going to happen, in fact you have probably already experienced it. If you haven't, someone is not being honest.
In my own relationship, we fight very differently! I want to hash it out NOW. Not five minutes from now. I want to be heard and I want Caleb to respond, showing me he is listening. Caleb likes space and to think about the way he is going to respond so that he doesn't say something to hurt me. Neither are wrong necessarily, but we have had to learn to have conflict that is respectful, not emotional or irrational and that does not have the outcome of 'winning.' No one wins in a fair fight without damaging the other person. And remember, you made a vow to respect your partner, not to hurt them to win an argument.
5. Be prepared to put yourself second.
Many people shudder at the word 'submission' because they think it means oppression. Quite honestly, I will openly admit that I try very hard to submit to my husband and he does to me as well. But if you can not get to that word (because let's face it, it has become an abused term), remember that your relationship is not about yourself. Your partner is not there to be a product for consumption. Marriage is not about fulfilling a need or to live out a fairy tale. This might mean that you are going to have to honour your spouse above yourself sometimes and not hold bitterness against them when you do not get your way.
In the same way, do not idolize your spouse. They can not replace God as they are human, full of imperfections and are going to hurt you. Think about it, you are going to be the most vulnerable with your partner
6. Start learning how to check in with your spouse.
This may look different for everyone, but something that I wish I started doing earlier is checking in with the status of my husband's heart, mind and soul. After a while, "How was your day?" will not be enough to really dig into how they are doing on the inside. A few ways you can start to check in is by asking, "What have you been struggling with lately?" (be prepared to listen to their honesty with grace) or "Is there anything I can pray for you for today?" I can not stress enough how important it is to pray for your spouse! If you are the praying type, this has been one of the most transformative pieces of our relationship.
Another awesome idea we came upon that we love is a "Check-in Journal." We have written in ours a little bit throughout the year. In this journal, you can reflect on 3 things that have been challenging lately and 3 things that you are thankful for.
I have so much more I could say, but I felt like it was a topic that was really pressing on my heart as I have spoken to so many of my couples. The wedding day is incredible and will be one of the best days of your life. BUT it is one day. Ask yourselves how you can prepare for the grand adventure ahead! Preparing now will mean less heartache in the future.