If you spend much time around Brian and me, you know that we have a passion for seeing young couples succeed in marriage – especially engaged couples. This is due in large part to the fact that our engagement period was a critical time of preparation that we believe rooted our marriage in a firm foundation that’s helped us weather the storms of the first 5 years.
Last month the New York Times posted an article about divorce, based on a National Center for Health Statistics study using data from the National Survey of Family Growth. The study unveiled some saddening statistics:
- 1 in 5 marriages will dissolve within 5 years.
- 1 in 3 will last less than 10 years.
That is a not good news folks.
However, I do have some thoughts on how to avoid this depressing fate. And it starts with building a firm foundation.
If you are already married, it’s never too late to build or rebuild your foundation. If you are engaged, or you plan to be married someday please consider this advice.
Prepare for Marriage. After she says yes and after you tell all your family and friends the news, the weight and stress of wedding planning will descend upon you. Don’t let the details drive a wedge between your wedding and your marriage. Taking time to prepare for life after “I Do” is likely to save your marriage before it even begins.
For Brian and me, we took preparing for marriage seriously and enrolled in a preparing for marriage course offered at our church. Additionally, the pastor who performed our ceremony met with us one on one to counsel us through the engagement period. Newly engaged couples are rightfully excited about starting a new life together, planning an amazing celebration and a romantic honeymoon. So it feels awkward to talk about serious stuff during a time of great joy. But trust me, taking time to talk through the tough stuff before marriage will help you stay married.
Here are some things we discussed before marriage:
What is God’s Design for Marriage?
For Christians, it is critical that you know the answer to this question. Through our preparing for marriage class at the church we were able to do Bible study specifically about the roles of a husband and wife in marriage. We talked very specifically about what that would look like in our marriage, which would be responsible for what and clearly communicated and agreed on our expectations of one another. I am so thankful that we took the time necessary to learn and understand how we are wired as husband and wife and the roles of equal importance we were designed to fulfill.
Some may disagree, but unless you are throwing a surprise party, there should be NO SECRETS in your marriage. Before you get married, its critical that you come clean about anything in your past that could come back later in life to hurt your marriage. I think this is the toughest part of preparing for marriage, but trust us because we went through this ourselves, sharing sensitive, shameful, embarrassing, hurtful information about your past with your future spouse is MUCH easier before your are married. If you wait to tell that stuff until after you are married, it will feel like betrayal to your spouse. Can you just hear them say, “Why have you never told me this?” Don’t let this happen to you. Tell the truth before you say “I Do” as a first step in protecting your marriage and remember that when you bury hurt, you bury it alive. It will come back to haunt and hurt you.
As a side note to this topic, I want to acknowledge that everybody hurts (thanks REM) but seriously, some of our past hurts are severe and need to be dealt with on a deeper level. I know because this was the case for me. If you have some serious hurt that you have not yet healed from please seek out the help you need to find healing and wholeness. If this applies to you, please trust me that your unresolved hurt and issues WILL have an impact on your marriage. The sooner you do what it takes to deal with it the sooner you can experience freedom from that hurt and really live life to the fullest.
How to Meet Each Other’s Needs
There is a book called “His Needs, Her Needs” by William F. Harley Jr. that claims to help couples “build and affair-proof marriage.” From sex to conversation, this book speaks to the top 10 primary needs of men and women in relationship and what happens when those needs are and are not met. Brian and I learned SO much from this book. We learned to communicate our needs clearly and check in with each other on if our needs are being met. In our opinion, this book is critical reading for all married couples, no matter what faith you follow. We have practiced what we learned from the book and we can testify that it works!! http://www.amazon.com/His-Needs-Her-Building-Affair-Proof/dp/0800717880
How to Fight Fair and Ask for Forgiveness
Guess what kids, you are going to have some knockdown drag out fights with the person you are goo goo for today. It was certainly true for us. No matter how much preparing we did, we still had to overcome communication failures, disagreements and the discomfort of becoming “one flesh.” Learning practical ways to defuse heated moments and validate each other’s feelings was not easy but essential to helping us escape the “crazy cycle.” Also, learning the value of asking forgiveness verses only saying “I’m sorry” has helped us fight fair. One of the best books we can recommend to help couples communicate effectively, understand each other and fight fair is “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggrichs. The basic principal of this book is that. By design, physically, mentally and emotionally men desperately need to feel respected by their wives, and women desperately need to feel loved by their husbands. Unfortunately, women respecting men and men loving women, the “right way” is next to impossible without understand WHY this is true. Read the book to find out.
If you want a healthy marriage that really lasts, “till death do us part,” you HAVE to protect it. We didn’t read a book to learn about boundaries, but in our time spent with couples that have been married much longer than we have, without fail, they always urge us to know our boundaries and respect them – both within the marriage, and around the marriage. There are so many subtle ways the evil seeds of alienation can be planted in the hearts and minds of married folk. Learning and keeping your boundaries will help you keep those negative factors out of your marriage. A good book on the matter of boundaries is “Hedges” by Jerry B. Jenkins. I have not read this book, but I heard an interview by the author and believe that it thoroughly addresses the importance of boundaries in and around marriage that we have learned from our mentor couples. http://www.amazon.com/Hedges-Loving-Marriage-Enough-Protect/dp/1581346646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272643783&sr=1-1
Staying in Community
The thing I love the most about my church is that there are married folk older and wiser than we are who are willing to invest their time and lives in us to help us stay on track. We have good marriage folk friends who will ask us hard questions and keep us accountable. If you do not have this I urge you to pray for God to bring a couple into your life with more “marriage mileage” than you to pour into you and help you run the race together with confidence. We also are in a small group Bible study for married couples where we meet regularly to study the Bible together and discuss how we apply the truths of Scripture to our daily lives. We discuss what it looks like to walk in the truth and encourage each other in our pursuit of knowing God and making him known. We basically “do life together” with other believers and this helps us stay focused on what’s most important in life.
The Power of a Praying Wife
My dear friend Amanda gave me this book when I was engaged and I have got to tell you that it helped me through the first year of marriage more than any of the books I’ve already listed. As Christian women, we must learn to pray for our men. They are out there on the front lines day in and day out and they need our prayers more than ever. This book teaches you how to pray for your man in everything from fleeing temptation to finding favor at his place of work. There is also a power of a praying husband too which I am sure is good for the men folk, but as women we can be tempted to nag our men. This book teaches you to take those cares and concerns to God instead of nagging your man and let God work in his heart. It helps you to remember that God created your man and knows everything about him so who better to ask for help them the God who made him! I have seen this work in my own life and marriage. And don’t be surprised that Chapter 1 is all about working on YOURSELF (get the plank out your own eye) before you move on to praying for your husband. It’s a great book. I encourage all women to read it. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_13?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=power+of+a+praying+wife&sprefix=power+of+a+pr
OK this has turned out to be an extremely long post! But since I told the wonderful love story of how Brian and I came to be man and wife, I couldn’t just stop there. That was only the beginning! I am here to tell you that marriage CAN get better with time, and for us, it keeps getting better because we prepared and continue to invest in learning how to be married. I hope this is helpful to someone who actually reads to the bottom of this post. God loves marriage and wants marriage to succeed. Ask him to help you in these things and I promise you that in his perfect timing he always answers prayers.