There are a lot of things couples wish they probably knew before they got married, but here are six important principles that I think that would have saved a lot of couples from pain and heartbreak.
1) It takes work to make a marriage work.
- Marriage is not a picnic. It isn’t the cherry on top. It is a start of a new way of life. A new way of really living. You will find out more things about yourself and your spouse that will challenge both of you, but if you want to be happy, do what it takes to make the changes YOU need to make. Don’t rely on your partner to do the work.
2) Any couple can make it work as long as you’re both willing to do the work.
- I don’t believe in falling out of love. I don’t believe in “we are just not right for each other.” I believe in a foundation of love and a whole lot of resentment and unmet expectations that gets built on top of love that leads to these statements.
3) Sometimes divorce is warranted, but it’s used more often in relationships than it should be.
- There are some relationships that are better off apart. (e.g. abuse, infidelity, no change or personal growth from one person after years of patience). However, I think that couples often pull the trigger on divorce sooner than they should because of consistent heartbreak and let-downs, and they want to be free from it. They put all the effort they feel like they had in the relationship, but they didn’t have the skills and guidance to make it work. Achieving a successful marriage is like trying to open a door to your partner’s world. However, in many cases of divorce, couples will spend all their energy trying to kick the door down instead of using the doorknob. Unfortunately, they just end up hurting themselves and accepting failure that the door just won’t open. When actually, they don’t understand how a doorknob works or realize it was there in the first place.
4) You don’t have to do it alone.
- Many people think that they need to work on their problems themselves, and they don’t want to bother people or are afraid of what others might think of their current situation. It doesn’t have to be that way! Don’t do it alone. There are many people that are willing and able to help (family, friends, church leaders, therapy, etc.). Just make sure that you are both doing it together and not against each other. Therapy is a common thing people don’t want to admit they need. I think everybody could benefit from therapy. I have two daughters. The first thing I will do when they get engaged to their partners is to send them to a therapist to work on their relationship. It is better to work on their issues at the beginning and learn to talk to each other rather than waiting till the relationship hangs by a thread, and you have already spend years trying to kick the door down and don’t feel like turning a doorknob.
5) Ninety percent of the time, right and wrong is irrelevant in relationships.
- Many times couples get so caught up in their view of the world and expect their partners to see things the way that they see it, they forget that they are often the only ones in their world and that their partners live in a entirely different world. There is no “right” world. There are just differences on how we view the world. Spend time understanding and validating how your partner sees things. You will learn something and your partner will too. The greatest thing that they will learn is that you love and care for them and the things that are important to them. How often do we wish to serve and care about others once we feel cared about ourselves? Your partner is much more likely to hear you if you hear them first. Don’t get caught up in right and wrong views. You will just end up going in circles with each other and it doesn’t get anywhere.
6) Spend less time and effort on being loved and more effort on loving.
- People always think that the best way to feel loved by their partners is by spending all their energy on making sure that they get their needs met by their partner. You would be surprised at how much time people spend on trying to do this. Unfortunately, It just results in self-absorption, unmet expectations, and feeling more disconnected and unloved. The best way to be cared for and loved by your partner is to make sure they are being cared for and loved by you. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to be able to express your feelings and the needs that are important for you. If you don’t, you are just taking the opposite end of failure and caring too much for your partners needs and not getting your own met. However, people often spend too much time focusing on what they don’t have and not enough time on what they do have and what they should be giving to their partners. You will be happier and more fulfilled as a person if you spend less time worrying about yourself and more time making sure you are loving your partner enough and building them up.