Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married
Northfield Publishing, Chicago, 2010, 166 pp. ISBN 978-0-8024-8183-2
Gary Chapman is the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants and author of the highly popular Five Love Languages. This book provides a blueprint for moving from singleness to marriage. For additional information see Startmarriageright.com.
Almost all couples expect to live happily ever after. Divorce comes from a lack of preparation for marriage and a failure to work together as teammates. Many couples prepare more for the wedding than they do for marriage.
1. I Wish I Had Known … That being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage. The average life span of the "in love" obsession is about two years. After that our differences begin to emerge and we discover that our spouse is not perfect. "The primary purpose of dating is to get to know each other and to examine the intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical foundations for marriage." (19)
2. …That Romantic Love has two Stages. In the first stage we are pushed along by euphoric feelings. The second stage is much more intentional and requires work to keep emotional love alive. To keep romance alive, you must successfully make the transition. One big help is to master your spouse's love language. In another book Chapman describes the five love languages as 1) Words of affirmation, 2) Acts of service, 3) Receiving gifts, 4) Quality time, and 5) Physical touch.
3. …That "Like Mother, Like Daughter" and "Like Father, Like Son" is not a myth. You are both far more like your parents than you realize. You are not destined to repeat a defective lifestyle; you can break the chain, but you can't simply assume.
Communication patterns are an area where we resemble our parents. If the way her mother chatters incessantly drives you nuts, you had better talk about it now. "Because we have grown up with our parents, we don't recognize their patterns of communication as being unhealthy." (36) Today's dating couples often spend little time with their prospective in-laws and enter marriage with little idea of their parental models. Get exposure to each other's parents. Get to know their personalities, communication patterns, values, and how they relate to each other.
4. …How to solve disagreements without arguing. "It was not that I wanted to be harsh; it's just that I knew that my idea was the best idea." (42) Conflicts simply confirm that you are human. Conflicts have the potential to teach us how to love, support and encourage each other. The real need is to listen. Instead of saying, "We need to talk," - which often puts him in a bad mood -- say, "At your convenience, I would like to request a time that I can listen to you." Set a time for listening. Discuss only one topic at a time. Allow him to share what he wants about the topic. Genuinely try to understand not only what he wants but why. Ask questions to clarify. Then show that you understand that what he wants makes sense. Then it is his turn to ask, "Now that you know what's on my mind, I would like to have a listening time to hear your perspective on the topic." So she shares her perspective while he listens. After both have clearly explained their position and been clearly understood and understood, the two are ready to look for a solution. Compromise means to find a meeting place. It requires both to give up something rather than insisting on having their own way. The two may meet on one side or the other or in the middle.
5. …That apologizing is a sign of strength. "I found great personal solace in confessing my sins to God. To be totally honest, it was much more difficult to learn to confess my failures to Karolyn." (53) "I am convinced that there are no healthy marriages without apology and forgiveness." (53) In this chapter Chapman draws on the material in his book, The Five Languages of Apology.
6. …that Forgiveness is not a feeling. There are minor offenses and major offenses but the process is always the same. When one of us offends the other, an emotional barrier is erected between us. The passing of time will never remove the barrier. Barriers are removed by sincere apologies and genuine forgiveness." (67) Forgiveness does not destroy our memories or remove all the consequences. It does not rebuild trust and it does not always result in reconciliation (bring back the harmony). But "healing requires the decision to forgive. And forgiveness opens the door to the possibility of growth." (71)
7. …that Toilets are not self-cleaning. When you get married, who do you think will clean the toilets in your house? Three weeks into the marriage you will discover that they do not clean themselves. Many couples enter marriage without having discussed who will do what. They grew up with different models of who vacuumed the floors and washed the cars. His expectations make no sense to her and vice versa. Confusion over roles is a highly stressful aspect of marriage.
Prior to marriage, make a list of everything you can think of that needs to be done. Combine your lists into one. Copy it and each one take a copy and mark each item with who you think will do it. Examine your lists and work it out. Your philosophy of maleness and femaleness comes into play. What does a man do in a marriage? What does a woman do? Even educational background influences these expectations. So does skills and abilities. What do you each like to do?
8. …that we needed a plan for handling our money. With no plan finances become a battlefield. The foundation stone is to commit that it will no longer be "my money" and "your money," but "our money." Then agree on what percentage of income you will save, give away, and spend. Chapman suggests 10-10-80. "The most common mistake young couples make is to purchase a house that is beyond their income." (87) Discuss credit buying. Wave the red flag here. If you buy now, pay later, you pay much more later. If you have a credit card, use it only for emergencies such as medical treatment or car repairs. Never use it for non-essentials. The temptation is to buy what we want now but cannot pay for now. This is generally not wise. Why do young couples think they have to purchase in their first year of marriage what it took their parents 30 years to accumulate? Agree that you will never make a major purchase without consulting your spouse.
9. …That mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic.
10. …that I was marrying into a family. "Traditions are often undergirded by deep emotions and should never be treated lightly." (104) Build a positive relationship with your in-laws by learning to listen empathetically, listening with a view to understanding what they think, how they came to that conclusion and how strongly they feel about it. Withhold judgment until you are sure you understand. You don't have to agree but you must treat them and their ideas with respect. Then learn to negotiate the differences. When they feel loved, there is a positive climate for negotiation. One way is to make a proposal and let them respond.
11. …that spirituality is not to be equated with "going to church." When contemplating marriage, religion is a top drawer item for discussion. Few things cause more marital conflict than divergent spiritual views. Are our spiritual beliefs compatible? Are we marching to the beat of the same drummer? Do we have the same concept and understanding of God? Many people come to adulthood never having explored their own spiritual belief system. It is simply immature to ignore the implications of spiritual differences. If you and your spouse are both Christian, what kind of Christian are you? What impact does it have on your life?
12. …That Personality profoundly influences behavior. A morning person will never be a night person. Optimists will be adventurous and risk takers. Pessimists will shudder. There are tensions among all the opposites: neatniks and slobs, babblers and silents, painters and pointers (He paints a picture; she gets right to the point.), passives and aggressives, professors (logical) and dancers (intuitive), organizers and free spirits. Those contemplating marriage should take a personality profile to prepare for the inevitable conflicts. Take a Prepare/Enrich assessment. (See the 1-10 rating scale on p. 143.)
Appendix. Developing a Healthy Dating Relationship. See Learning Exercises pp. 158 ff.
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