Q: If you’re dating and things are getting serious - how do you prepare yourselves for marriage?
A: The best way to prepare for marriage is to begin now, in your dating relationship, to be the best-future spouse you can be and to learn how to work together on the inevitable conflicts that will arise. How do you treat each other now? How do you deal with differences of opinion? How do you handle each other’s ups and downs?
A wedding lasts for only a few hours; marriage is for the rest of your life. As you look past what you hope will be a beautiful wedding day, are you looking into spending the rest of your life with this person? If not, then you may need to spend some time doing serious thinking about this potential spouse. Do you have some doubts or reservations? If so, what are these? How important are they to you? Talk to someone who can give you an objective opinion. If your potential spouse has addiction or anger issues, obviously these are going to come into play across the years of your marriage. Are you thinking you’ll be able to change this person once you get married? Better think again—it’s not going to happen. Can you see this person becoming an irritant in years to come? Are you barreling toward a wedding without real thought about how the marriage is going to work out? If so, then you need to put on the brakes and slow down.
There are 10 issues you should watch for - and resolve - before you walk down the aisle.
1. A critical spirit. Admit your frustrations. Affirm each other, listen, and encourage. Be teachable. Say you’re sorry.
2. Lack of skill in resolving conflict. Too often, people in conflict refuse to move toward each other in humility. Choose to forgive, accept responsibility for your mistakes, and ask for forgiveness.
3. Not dealing with fatigue and burnout. Learn to say no; learn how to encourage each other to say no. Decide what is really important, choose your priorities, and live for them. Remember your limits.
4. Lacking boundaries with in-laws. How are you getting along with your future spouse’s parents? How is he or she getting along with yours? How does your future spouse relate to his/her parents? How involved are those parents in your day-to-day lives? Sons and daughters seek counsel from parents and in-laws, not control.
5. Keeping secrets. To combat secrets, confess issues that you think might damage your marriage. Practice honesty and ask for honesty.
6. Having a relationship of two, not three. Invite God into your dating relationship. When you build your marriage on the words and promises of God, your marriage will withstand the strongest storm. Begin the practice of praying together. Thank God for each other. Worship together. Serve together.
7. Not supporting each other in the face of daily living. After the wedding and the honeymoon comes—well—life. You’ll both go back to your jobs and feel financial pressures. Keep each other on your radar. Prioritize your married life—and put your relationship first. Stay in touch during the day with phone calls or e-mail. Give and receive support.
8. Allowing excesses to overwhelm. Recognize two kinds of excesses: first is the drive to have more; the second reveals itself in destructive behaviors or addictions. Deal with excessive behaviors now. Be willing to get help for addictions.
9. Being selfish—are you a giver or a taker? To combat selfishness, you’ll need to ask Jesus to teach you how to sacrifice and serve. You can learn to be a giver by learning to walk as Jesus did. Learning to serve now will carry you through many a dry time ahead.
10. Carrying unrealistic expectations. Ask yourself, what expectations do I have, and which ones are unrealistic? Which ones do I need to get rid of in order to learn to work with my future spouse and build our marriage together?
Admittedly, it’s extremely tough to be objective—especially when you’re already in love; even worse when the wedding invitations are already printed. But far better to think about this now than to spend your life sorry for that vow you made at that beautiful wedding. Marriage is tough enough; plan to start it with as much going for you both as possible.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!