When two people come together in marriage, they often hope for a blissful and exciting journey ahead.
But sometimes, the experience disappoints, resulting in doubt, anger, disappointment, or even hopelessness.
What are the ingredients of a good marriage, one that will indeed be “till death do us part?” And more importantly, what are some things you should know as you prepare to take the leap of faith into marriage?
- Things will never be perfect
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that once we tie the knot, things will be smooth-sailing and that all our issues will work out magically. Perhaps the first thing we should adjust is our expectations on our better half, as well as on this crazy little thing called marriage.
It will take time, hard work, lots of patience and endurance to run the race well, and to learn to communicate our needs, quirks, likes and dislikes with this person whom we love but can also drive us up the wall. Acknowledging all these is a good first step toward building marital intimacy.
- Trust is key
We know trust and commitment are vital ingredients in every thriving marriage, but what exactly does this mean? As one writer puts it, “[Trust] is made up of the many small things we choose to do (or not do) each day.” It is found in the way we speak to each other, the way we appreciate the things our spouse does, and the way we honour our word.
Read more about trust here.
- Friendship is vital
The secret to a long-lasting marriage is friendship. It may sound obvious, but it is easy to take your spouse for granted, and to forget even basic manners like being kind and gracious.
Think about what your best friend would do for you - such as supporting you when you’re feeling down, cheering for you when you are facing a challenge - then strive to do the same for your spouse.
As friends do, make time to have fun and discover new things together. Build a treasure trove of great memories that you can revisit throughout your lifetime.
Men often value respect over everything else, and women, being loved.
- Men need respect; women need love
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, a New York Times bestselling author on marriage, points out that “men hear criticism as contempt [while] women feel silence as hostility.”
At the heart of lies the different emotional needs of a man and a woman. We may want to avoid gender stereotypes, but we cannot deny that men often value respect over everything else, and women, being loved. Once we can understand this fundamental aspect of our spouse’s need, we can set our minds to meeting those needs and creating a positive cycle of interaction, instead of a negative one.
Read more about love and respect here.
- Marriage is a team sport
Regardless of how you sometimes feel, it is vital to remember that you and your spouse are on the same team. Build up your team spirit, improve the way you work together, and seek to understand the innermost thoughts of your spouse. This way, when life hurls its worst challenges at you, you both can stand strong, and support each other well through the ups and downs.
- Financial discussions are a must
Money discussions are not always easy to have, especially when you’re caught in the tailwind of romance. However, money is one of the biggest sources of marital conflict, so it is worth diving into the topic early, and revisiting it intentionally.
Discuss how you’ll share your finances after marriage, who will pay for what, and the checks and balances that you wish to set in place. Learn more about managing finances here.
- Learn to give and take
In a healthy relationship, both parties need to learn to give and take, and there is a sense of balance and equity. When one partner is in need because of an illness or a demanding project at work, the other plays a supportive role without being asked, and without keeping score.
Of course, this cannot be to the detriment of one party all of the time, as it could lead to feelings of resentment or being overlooked.
We need not be overly afraid of conflict, as each fight could lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our partner.
- Seek to surprise, with chores
When the shower drain is clogged with hair, or the toilets need to be scrubbed, it shouldn’t always fall on the same person to handle.
For some couples, a set list of chores for each person helps, while others may split them based on their work schedules and competencies, rather than divvy them up equally.
Regardless of whether the chore falls into your domain, remember that it’s always nice to surprise your spouse by taking the initiative to do it.
- There are ways to fight well
Conflicts are part and parcel of married life. We need not be overly afraid of conflict, as each fight could lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our partner.
Set some ground rules in this arena, for example, no matter how bad the conflict, let's not say hurtful words or threaten to leave the marriage. Or, let's keep short accounts and not bring up past mistakes or failures to hurt the other person.
Even in the midst of a squabble, set your heart on understanding your spouse. Ask, what is important to him/her when it comes to this issue? Is there a deeper need that they're finding hard to share?
Remember – this is a journey of a lifetime, so give yourselves and each other the space and time to grow and learn!