There are five things about getting married that I tell every couple who sees me for pre-marital counseling. Here they are in no particular order.
1. What you fight about when you’re dating is what you’ll fight about when you’re married.
Most couples think that the things they fight about while dating or engaged will just disappear once they get married. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. In fact, conflicts that show up before marriage usually intensify once you tie the knot. That’s because the stuff you fight about early in your relationship is typically linked to very specific ways that each of you thinks about your time and priorities. And getting married, for all its wonderful aspects, won’t suddenly change your fundamental thinking.
So couples need to be prepared for the reality that they’ll probably always fight (or at least disagree) about the same sorts of things during the course of their relationship. The good news is it’s not really about whether you fight, but how you manage the conflict over the years that really matters.
2. Love is a drug and its effects will wear off.
Couples in the throes of new love are under the influence of a powerful set of hormones and neurotransmitters that scramble their brains and blind them to one another’s flaws and imperfections. So even when they fight during the dating / courting phase, they tend to be extremely forgiving and understanding of one another. This is a good thing, because it increases the likelihood that people will couple up.
But, the feelings of new love will eventually wear off, and that’s when the flaws and imperfections of the “in love” phase that were thought of as “quirks” begin to turn into real problems that bother both partners. Couples who aren’t prepared to come down off the “in love” drug will end up suffering a serious hangover in their relationship.
3. Commitment is as important as chemistry.
Most people put a lot of emphasis on the physical chemistry in their relationship, and that is undoubtedly important. But if all you have is chemistry, that tends to fizzle out fairly quickly once the love drugs wear off. Couples that recognize the equal importance of commitment are more likely to keep the passion alive for the long-term.
4. Compassion and grace will take you further than criticism and gripes.
So sure, your partner’s flaws and foibles have really started to come out, and it’s hard to ignore them. But here’s the deal: If you address those issues by griping about them or criticizing your partner, you’re setting yourself up for relationship failure.
The fact is, you’ve got your own flaws and foibles as well. Both of you bring great stuff to the table, and both of you bring annoying things, too. If you can learn to meet those issues with a bit of grace and a lot of compassion, you’re more likely to have a happy, healthy relationship over time.
5. If you intend to keep a record of wrongs, you might as well drop the idea of marriage all together.
You cannot have a relationship work well if one or both of you is hanging on to past offenses — unwilling to let them go. Some offenses are obviously more serious than others, and some things may take longer to get over, but eventually you have to get over them and let them go. If you don’t, there’s no way your relationship can thrive. It will be smothered by that record of offenses, and it will leave no room for any sort of renewal in your relationship.
Marriage is not for the faint-of-heart. It requires a lot of personal resilience, willingness to listen and understand, and a commitment to doing everything possible to sustain the relationship. I believe, however, if couples know these five facts up front, their chances for relationship success increase significantly.
If you’re considering marriage and concerned about what that means give me a call. If you’re already married and some of these points are hitting home for you, let’s talk. I can help you figure out the next steps to take.