Popular wisdom on what the answer to the problem of divorce in our society these days is to make it harder to get divorced. I’ve always said and emphatically believe that it shouldn’t be harder to get divorced. It should be harder to get married.
Men and women are looking for “the one” and hoping for a relationship that will last a lifetime. This is precisely what marriage is all about, and it’s a great thing when this happens.
But preparing for marriage is so much more than planning the wedding, choosing a place to live, talking about natural family planning and discussing how to blend financial situations. It is understanding what kind of foundation makes a relationship last. It’s not all about how he or she can make me happy.
Life is good, but it’s not always happy and there’s no perfect marriage no matter how blissful the dating and engagement are. We are not perfect human beings and we all have our faults.
I can think of some great questions that don’t get attention in marriage preparation like they should, such as this:
“How can you have arguments and discuss topics that make you angry and emotional in such a way that you both can still emerge from the debate as a loving couple, a united front?”
Or, “When there’s no money, no job, hungry children and pressure from creditors, how will you work together to maintain peace and love in the family?”
Here’s one I’d love to see as a standard marriage prep point of discussion: “Write down five things you will commit to doing on a daily basis to make your spouse feel loved and why you think he/she will feel loved by it.”
It’s so important to know as much as you can about the person you are in a serious relationship with or engaged to – OK, even in the early stages of a relationship it’s important – because knowledge of each other and the ability to see if you are a good fit for each other greatly decreases the chances of divorce. (Unfortunately, many couples out there believe you must live together first to have that kind of visibility, but I disagree.)
Discussion – intimate discussion and lots of it – about who you are and what you’re about is key because it’s a habit you’re going to need to nurture and continue in order to have a strong and lasting relationship in the future, no matter what your age, background, or whether this is your first marriage or third.
Something else to consider is what kind of upbringing the person you are dating has had and did they have a realistic model of a good marriage from his or her parents?
I remember filling out my annulment questionnaire and reading some of the questions that made me say to myself in dismay, “Why didn’t anyone point these things out to me before? I never would have gotten married to him!”
These questions really made me stop and think about what little consideration I gave to some very big clues that indicated we were not prepared as a couple for marriage. One big warning sign was that my ex-husband came from a broken home and saw a very twisted version of what marriage is. This didn’t make him entirely unsuitable for marriage, but it did make us both unsuitable for marrying at that time.
He needed counseling to talk through his family hurts and understand what he would be committing to when we married, while I needed to understand that I couldn’t fix him. There was also so much important discussion about our own expectations of what our marriage would be that never happened. I was more concerned about the “show” that would take place and he was more concerned about the “party” that would take place.
I offer these suggestions to you out of love, simply because I know you hold great hope in your heart for a happy and lasting relationship. I do hope that is what you find, and when you do, that you will spend many hours discussing the things that are most important so when you stand on the altar, you will experience a happiness and a joy you never thought possible. Count on my prayers for your success.