6 Things You Need to Learn Before You Get Married
Why can’t she just be happy with how things are? I try to talk to him, but he doesn’t understand me! All she does is nag…I can’t do anything right!
From the time a child begins speaking, his parents and environment are teaching him how to behave appropriately and how to interact with others. Developing healthy relationships is one of the most life-giving, energizing, exhilarating facets of our lives. Yet, navigating through dating and marriage relationships can be complex, especially if we haven’t learned to do it properly.
It’s almost humorous to think that opposites attract, thus we question why we don’t understand each other after the “honeymoon” is over. What can we do to strengthen our ability to get along with the people we care about the most? How can we live in a healthy relationship with the opposite sex when we struggle to relate on so many levels? What can we do to prepare ourselves before marriage to succeed?
To begin with, we need a realistic view of relationships. We all need people who believe in us, make us laugh, encourage us and love us unconditionally. Why unconditionally? Let’s face it; there is not a perfect person on the planet. But, if, in our hopes for marriage, we are expecting perfection, or have certain preconceived ideals going into any type of relationship, disappointment and frustration await us.
As a newlywed, I had idealistic hopes and dreams about how our home would function:
1) My husband, who was a junior high and high school coach, would be home by 5:30 every night (Ha!).
2) His favorite dinner would be ready and warm when he arrived, and the house would look like it came right out of the pages of Southern Living. (Good luck with that on a coach’s salary, right?!)
3) Our children would be mannerly and obedient 24/7 with constant smiles and laughter. (In my opinion, conflict was something to be avoided.)
Obviously, I had totally unrealistic expectations! I was extremely blessed, but daily life wasn’t like in the movies – it was work. And things didn’t always play out like I envisioned.
As we prepare for a lifetime commitment to someone, learning to communicate and deal with unhealthy expectations is foundational. Here are some practices that those dating can incorporate into relationship building now:
- Before considering a future together, talk about your spiritual beliefs and listen closely to theirs. Does this person love the Lord and desire to grow in Him? Are you walking the same road? Headed to the same destination? The bible teaches that two can’t walk together unless they are in agreement. Agreement about where the relationship is headed spiritually is essential to its success.
- Discuss your thoughts on parenting. Will both parents work after the children arrive, or will one stay home with the children? Talk about how you were both raised – what do you want to replicate, and what needs to change? You will not see eye to eye on everything, but determine what you consider to be “the biggies” and make sure you and your future spouse agree.
- Learn to listen. Make it a priority now that you will keep those lines of communication open after marriage. Commit to tell your (future) spouse when they’ve said or done something that hurts you, and listen when they tell you they’re hurting. The ability to listen and try to understand your partner is just as important as telling them how you feel.
- Practice working through misunderstandings before you get married. Your attitudes and mannerisms before marriage, will typically not change when you say “I do.” Your personal habits will not change automatically after you meet Mr. or Mrs. Right. If your tendency is to put up walls during conflict, this won’t magically change once you’re married. The time to learn to open up, negotiate and talk through misunderstandings is now.
- Strive to live in purity and godliness before you start dating. Our selfish desires can be masked or even disappear temporarily when we are smitten or “in love.” In those early days of courtship, all you desire is to be together and make the other person happy. If your heart has hidden baggage or selfishness, I promise it will surface when life returns to normal after the dating high is over. You don’t want your responses and “go to” behavior to be destructive. Work on yourself before you bring another person into the picture. Healthy relationships require two healthy people. Not perfect, just healthy.
- Learn to live in an unselfish manner. As two people seek fulfillment and purpose in serving one another, they find more joy and less dissention. James 4:13 clearly addresses this; “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong you want only what will give you pleasure.” Our society emphasizes the desire to think of your needs first. The message, “If it feels good, do it,” permeates our world. But if this is the way we think, our marriages will never be what God intended. We may not physically kill to get what we want, but our words and actions can certainly kill a relationship or destroy a person.
As we move toward maturity, our focus needs to be on intentionally taking our thoughts and actions captive to make them obedient to God’s Word and in doing so, our relationships will also thrive. (2 Corinthians 10:5). We make choices every day that bring either life or death to our relationships. Unfortunately, we may not have been taught how to speak life into people. But spending time with the Lord can train us to be a better wife or husband, father and mother, and friend.
Spending time with God is what ultimately will bring about a heart change. And a heart change brings about a change in habits, attitudes and how we treat others. God is faithful to meet our needs, and to bring us to wholeness. Inviting him into our lives and personalities now, drawing near to him and learning from him will better prepare us for the wonderful relationships he is bringing us in the future.
Photo By: Agence Tophos