Five Things You Must Know Before You Get Married

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By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW

Imagine getting behind the wheel of a car without ever taking a driving lesson.  Imagine showing up for a college exam without having read the material.  Now imagine making a lifetime commitment to someone without ever having prepared for it and without the necessary knowledge to make it successful.  The divorce rate in our society is currently over fifty percent.  The main reason?  Couples get married without the preparation and practice that is required to make it work.  The purpose of this article is to inform you of the most important ways you can prepare yourself and practice being married before actually getting married.  If you are already married, use these tools as soon as possible.  Take what works and is appropriate to your situation and apply immediately.  If you are divorced, learn these skills for yourself in current relationships and for possible future marriage.

  1. It has nothing to do with you.  If your partner is having a bad day or has a particular feeling, thought, belief, and/or reaction, it is not because of you or about you. Your partner has a history that helped him/her to develop into the person s/he is today. None of this has anything to do with you. Don Miguel Ruiz in his book “The Foor Agreements” says, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally.” People take things personally because they agree with what was said. Miguel explains, “If I see you on the street and I say, ‘Hey, you are so stupid,’ without knowing you, it’s not about you; it’s about me. If you take it personally, then perhaps you believe you are stupid.” Apply this to your relationship and you will find that you will avoid many conflicts and de-escalate other conflicts more quickly than if you were to be reactive.

  2. It is all about you.  Pretend you just put on a pair of red tinted sunglasses.  Everything you looked at through these glasses would be colored red.  In essence, this is what we all do every day.  We are a product of our own history and experiences.  Thus, we view the world around us based on our beliefs and perceptions.  Dr. Phil says, “There is no reality, just perceptions.”  Stop trying to win the argument and prove you are right.  Marriage is not a court of law.  There is your perception and your partner’s perception.  You may be wearing red glasses and your partner may be wearing blue glasses.  Neither is right, they are just different.

  3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  You don’t have to like what your partner feels, says, or does but you have to always respect each other.  Once couples get into name calling and other such fighting tactics, they have lost all respect for each other.  You can be angry with your partner but always respect him or her.  You, your partner and your marriage will benefit.  Aretha Franklin must have known what she was singing about!

  4. Weekly dates are a MUST!  You and your partner must go on a weekly date, every week no matter how busy your lives get.  The dates can be at night, in the morning or afternoon.  They can be elaborate and expensive or be simple and cost nothing.  Be creative and view them as mandatory for a healthy marriage.  (Even after kids are born, remember one of the keys to a healthy marriage is a good and reliable babysitter!)  Make your marriage a priority and you will feel the difference.

  5. Your spouse is not responsible for your happiness. You are! When we are single and searching for “the one” or “Mr. or Mrs. Right”, we often fool ourselves into believing that once we do find this person, we will forever be happy. Wrong! Finding a compatible partner with whom you can experience great passion and friendship is important but depending on that person to meet all of your needs is unrealistic and a setup for disaster. If you are not happy in your marriage, it is up to you to get yourself happy. Talk to your partner about what your concerns are, create a goal and begin to take action steps toward that goal. For instance, if you’re feeling unhappy about your weight, set a goal to get in shape and begin to walk daily for thirty minutes.

After looking through a bridal magazine recently, I noticed all the “assistance” for the brides and grooms to have the “perfect wedding day”.  There was no mention about how to have the “perfect marriage”.  If you apply the above to your marriage, you will be well prepared to drive down the road to marital success.

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