Love is not enough.
The average length of courtship prior to making this lifelong commitment is approximately three years. Most would agree that during those years, the relationship is blissful and filled with beautiful moments of discovering each other and more importantly, coming to the belief that we were so suited to each other and we could easily live out the rest of our lives together.
In hindsight, despite believing I married the love of my life, I was completely naïve. Basing my promised vows with only love as a premise was simply inadequate. We didn’t look into the future and think about the big picture. We didn’t pre-empt the possible obstacles that could come our way or the what-ifs should our relationship start to dwindle. As a result of that, we were not prepared when things went awry. Divorce ensued and while I am wiser about relationships, I inherited a new title: Divorcee.
So newlyweds, should you wish to not only survive a marriage that lasts a lifetime but also enjoy the journey, here is some marital advice – painstakingly earned from a failed partnership:
1. Combatting the Tough Times
Until you have experienced some challenging times, it is a very difficult thing to imagine or empathise with. But if the marriage were to last the average life expectancy, that could potentially be a 50- to 60-year relationship. In that time, anything could happen and it is important to be prepared for those tough scenarios. Ask these questions of each other by using some examples such as business failures, illness or financial hardship:
- How would you react?
- Are you prepared to support those situations?
- How would your partner react? Do your perceptions of how he/she would react is what they believe they will do? Are your thoughts aligned?
- What are your expectations of each other?
2. Creating A Family
Having children has been a major contributor to divorce. Until you have a family, you have absolutely no idea how your life will change and what kind of parent you will be. No two families are the same and no two children are the same. You go from a happy couple with no serious responsibilities to losing the only lifestyle you have ever known together. Throw in a mortgage, car loans and one less income as someone has to stay at home with the baby, and suddenly you enter into a very serious time in your life. You may love someone with all your heart, but sleep deprivation, financial stress and dirty nappies can most definitely put a strain on any relationship. Ask yourselves these questions:
- Do you really know what it means to have a child? How will that change your lives and are you prepared to accept it?
- What are your expectations of each other as a parent and as a partner?
- On what values, beliefs and morals do you envisage your family unit to be based on?
- Do you both promise to support each other in this ever changing landscape and will you continue to embrace it despite being under so much stress?
- What if you can’t have children?
3. Make Time For Yourselves As A Couple
It is so easy to fall into a trap of leading extremely busy lives filled with work obligations and family commitments. Life is flying by so quickly, couples are making calendar appointments for date nights! Well, at least they are being proactive, but let’s not lose a little spontaneity to keep the flame alight. Making time doesn’t always have to involve elaborate plans and expensive ventures. Sometimes the little things count the most.
- Go for a stroll. Just hold hands and breathe.
- Sneak off for the occasional staycation just to rejuvenate the spark.
- Surprise each other constantly with unexpected gifts, messages or experiences.
- Take a day off work and just lie in bed all day while the kids are at school.
4. Attend Marriage Counselling
Attend marriage counselling even if there is nothing fundamentally wrong with your relationship. Look at it as an annual “marriage health check.”
- It fosters an open forum and encourages partners to be able to talk about their relationship.
- It could merely give you a peace of mind that all is well with one another.
- It could grab a hold of any problems early before it festers itself into a serious issue.
- It could help the marriage evolve as each partner changes over time and help deal with new life objectives and/or challenges.
5. Divorce Is Not An Option
The gravity of this lifelong commitment has diminished over the decades. Divorce is no longer taboo, is easy to enforce and the perfect solution to eliminating unhappiness. We must learn to enter into a marriage understanding that divorce is not negotiable.
- Be prepared that marriage is very hard work and there will be times you wondered why you got into it in the first place.
- Understand that yes, there will be times of unhappiness, loneliness and stress.
- Know that you will argue and you will cry.
- Know that you will be frustrated and you will want to give up.
Love is therefore not enough.
A successful marriage is also based on empathy, consideration, thoughtfulness, sympathy, tenacity, willingness to compromise, responsibility and keeping the biggest promise you will ever make in your life.
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