Most couples spend so much time planning for their wedding day, but very little time planning for their marriage. I know, because several years ago that that young bride to be was me. I found myself lost in a world of wedding preparations pre-occupied with endless lists – like lock in the flowers, the dress, the guests. But, in hindsight put very little time and energy into really preparing myself for matrimony. Looking back, I realize the wedding day is just the beginning.
Marriage itself is the journey worth travelling, and one that requires far more thought, investment and attention. So, don’t miss the cake and simply settle for the icing.
Although you’ll never be completely ready for marriage (it’s a life-long learning curve) there are definitely a few practical things that you can do today, that will help you prepare for tomorrow!
So, here a five “travel essentials” that will equip you for the journey.
1. Define the expectations and qualities you want in your marriage.
As my Pastor, Jemima Varughese regularly says, “No one gets on a plane without knowing where it’s going.” That applies to a lot of things, but none more obvious than marriage. Don’t simply allow your relationship to just happen. Instead be intentional about what you want in your marriage and define expectations and qualities that will empower you to get there. My husband and I did this a few years into our relationship and it allowed us to map out the non-negotiables of our marriage. It became clear which markers would keep us headed in the right direction and which pitfalls would veer us off course. We regularly still take time to reassess the trajectory of our relationship. A little nudge here and there has an enormous impact on the final destination. Ultimately, marriage is a blank canvas, and we are the artists who hold the brush. So, don’t just go where the current leads you, direct the current to where you want it to run.
A few catalyst questions to discuss with your spouse to be
What does a good marriage look like to us?
What qualities do we believe will make this possible?
What are our expectations with finances, family and sex?
What values are non-negotiables for us?
What triggers or issues often cause us to argue?
How do I give and receive love? (And vice versa)
2. Develop the skills you need to apply them
Happiness in marriage has far less to do with finding the perfect person, and more to do with developing skills in important areas like communication, conflict resolution, and character maturation. Dr. Les & Leslie Parrott highlight the importance of communication in marriage.
“In an era of increasingly fragile marriages, a couple’s ability to communicate is the single most important contributor to a stable and satisfying marriage.” Author Scott Stanley goes on to say, “Learning constructive ways to handle your differences is one of the most powerful things you can do to protect the promise that your marriage holds.”
Conflict within marriage is inevitable, combat however is optional.
The good news is (like most abilities) these skills can be acquired. They are absorbed through reading, talking, practice, and experience. Do yourself a favour and invest in some good marriage material. There’s an abundance of practical wisdom that will set you up to enjoy (and endure) this grand adventure of love and commitment.
The 5 Love Language – Gary Chapman
His needs, her needs- Willard F. Harley
Laugh your way to a better marriage – Mark Gungor
Thea Meaning of Marriage – Timothy Keller
The seven Principles for Making Marriage work – John Gottman
Fight your way to a better marriage – Greg Smalley
3. Drop the excess baggage
The truth is we all carry baggage. Pain, trauma and other negative childhood and adult experiences can leave us wounded, weighed down and defensive (Or is that just me?). If you want to go the distance in this marathon called marriage you’ve gotta recognise the rubbish and dump it on the sidewalk. Otherwise, you’ll spend your whole married life blaming your spouse for your feelings, your failures and ultimately your dysfunction.
Don’t play that blame game and don’t wait for tomorrow. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge so start unpacking that baggage right now friend. If you need to, go and see a Christian counsellor, psychologist or Pastor. They’ll help you identify areas of brokenness and provide you with the tools to find healing and wholeness. The more emotionally stable and secure you are, the more you’ll be able to navigate the highs and lows of this journey. And the beautiful thing is, marriage isn’t a solo venture – you and your spouse get to unpack together.
“Then we sat on the edge of the earth, our feet dangling over the side, and marvelled that we had found each other.” – Unknown
4. Develop healthy habits
Ultimately, we are products of our habits and our marriages will be a reflection of the things we say and do regularly. So be deliberate about your daily habits. Start to develop healthy patterns now – like working through conflict, talking openly about finances and sex (seriously the sex thing is a big one) and prioritising intimacy and emotional connection.
Healthy roots, always produce healthy fruit.
There are many habits that undergird my marriage. Regularly deep and authentic conversations. Working through unresolved emotions left over from a disagreement. Constant (and I mean constant) reassessment of priorities, sharing dreams, lessons and vision for the future.
One of the most tangible things that we’ve put into practice is a regular date night. Almost every week since the day my husband and I became a couple he’s taken me out on a date. It’s often not fancy or expensive and to be honest as of recently has ended up at home with a cheeseboard on the couch no phones or distractions. It’s not about what you do, it’s about regularly and deliberately cultivating quality time to talk, eat, laugh, dream (and sometimes argue) together.
Love is friendship that has caught fire and this is one way we keep the flame burning bright.
Even with two small children we make time to be lovers, not just parents. Is it ok to say that? I think it should be. After all, I am his wife, not just their mother. May I encourage you – continually invest in habits that draw you closer together.
5. Keep God in the mix
Largely, my husband and I fell in love with each other because we were both passionate about God, the local Church and teenagers. We held the same core convictions and happened to be running in the same direction.
I’ve noticed the more in tune we are with God, the more in tune we are with each other (AND I HAPPEN TO BE a lot nicer, HA).
Often when we feel like we’re struggling or striving in our marriage it’s because we’ve taken our eyes off God and stopped tapping into His presence, power and grace. May I encourage you from the start of your relationship, put God in the mix (and keep Him there). He is after all the one who gives us strength, wisdom, purpose and hope.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
In the lead up to your marriage set a template that God will always be that third chord. Trust me, it will make all the differences to the atmosphere of your relationship and I guarantee it will set you up to create a marriage more beautiful than your wedding!
Sabrina Peters is a Christian writer, an avid Sex & Relationships blogger and part of the team at Kingdomcity. She is married to Ben and mother to Liberty & Lincoln. www.sabrinapeters.com.