There’s something wistful about seeing newly weds. Their relationship is fresh and new–their whole future is before them. I wouldn’t go back to those days, but I do wish we had known some things that we learned the hard way. It’s hard to give advice to engaged or newly married couples, because they are convinced that THEIR relationship will never struggle. They love each other….how could it ever be different?
For those that might take at least one of these suggestions, I’ll share a few thoughts here anyway…just for grins.
Say what you need/want
1. Learn to communicate your wants/needs. Being in love is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t make your partner a mind reader. Many young women (women seem to have far more expectations in marriage than most men) have convinced themselves that their partner doesn’t love them if he doesn’t read her mind and know her every need. “How could he not know that I really wanted to be surprised for my birthday”? Oh, the angst that can be saved if you just say what you want.
Make a financial plan
2. Talk about money & create a financial plan that you both agree to–wholeheartedly. No fudging here–be brutally honest about hopes, expectations, habits. Nothing says “we’re in this together” than combining your finances. I realized a few months into marriage that I had an expectation which was totally unrealistic. We were both in college, yet I somehow expected that my husband would magically be making an income–just like my dad had. It was TOTALLY unrealistic, and I’m a little embarrassed even admitting this, but it was real then. I wish someone had talked with us about money and all the expectations that hinge on it.
Find a mentor couple
3. Find a couple that appears to have a healthy relationship and is farther down the road than you. Ask to spend time with them–it doesn’t need to be anything formal. I really, really wish we had done this. They don’t have to be a generation older, though there can be great wisdom from a couple that is still loving their spouse after 20 or 30 years. Spend enough time with this couple that when (not if, WHEN) a difficult time comes, you trust them enough to be real and discuss openly what each of you are feeling. Having a safe place to talk through issues is like taking care of your car (this analogy is for the men folk, who often dislike talking about feelings!). You don’t wait until your car’s at 100,000 miles before you change the oil. Regular maintenance helps keep bad things from happening. Ignoring that screeching sound when you brake does not make it go away. You get the idea.
Learn how to fight
4. Learn how to fight fair. Conflict will come–no matter how much 2 people love each other, You have come from different backgrounds, experience different hormones, and have different expectations. There WILL be discussions that leave you reeling because you just didn’t know your partner felt this way. There are many good books/seminars/webinars/counselors that can give you a framework for working through conflict in a way that deepens your relationship. Conflict, when handled in a way that seeks the best for the relationship, has the potential to create more trust and understanding between a couple.
“And they lived happily ever after” really is a possibility when couples decide early on to build a healthy foundation.
I love how forward you are, Kathy, and that you’re always willing to share where the pitfalls of your relationship were so that you might help others avoid them. I wish we didn’t live so far away so that you could be our mentor couple! We are fortunate to have a handful of friends who are slightly further down the road, my parents, and some other older couples that we see. The more the merrier though, because each one offers different wisdom!
Gabby, I wish we lived closer, too! So glad you have some people in your life that are there in good times, and especially the hard times.