It’s that time of year…Its warming up outside, flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and people are walking down the aisle and saying “I Do” which is why it is the perfect time to talk about the things that every couple needs in order to build their relationship on the proper foundation.
Marriage is beautiful and marvelous…and hard work. Intimacy and relationship isn’t built up without purpose. If we don’t know what we’re doing we will too easily careen towards regret and isolation. Unfortunately, this is happening to too many couples these days. We believe it is because couples are walking into marriage too casually and making some very specific errors along the way.
1) Forgoing quality pre-marital counseling. Since we started this blog, Clint and I have stated over and over that one of the biggest things that impedes the health and longevity of a marriage is sub par pre-marital counseling or worse yet no pre-marital counseling at all.
Taking the time to sit down with your pastor or a professional counselor before tying the knot and going through a litany of things that you most assuredly aren’t thinking about when you are googly-eyed, tongue tied and super duper in love is so important. Its one of the most important things you can do. You need to talk over things like budget and child rearing and expectations with an impartial third party. And too many people aren’t getting good counseling. Many people are bowing out of it altogether. Unfortunately, its coming back to bite them down the road.
2) Mistaking Love for Commitment. When Clint and I were getting ready to get married we had someone ask us to list the reasons we wanted to get married. At the top for both of us was “ I love him/her.” This counselor told us straight up, “That’s not good enough.” And he was right. The emotional state that you are in as you prepare for a wedding is so surreal that its hard to wrap your brain around the fact that a few years down the road your “love” is going to look and feel very different. Being “in love” with someone is completely different than being able to look someone in the eye and tell them that no matter what life throws at you, you are willing to stick with them and work on it together…for life. It’s important to be able to be objective about the person you have feelings for and make sure that they are someone you can also commit to. Because there will be days when you aren’t really feelin’ the love. Those are the days (weeks, months, seasons) when you’ll need to be able to rest in your commitment.
3) Not heeding advice. I know, some people are far too quick to throw advice at engaged couples, newly married couples, couples who are pregnant…the list goes on and on. People can be a little too free with the info (aka personal opinions) at times. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that some people really do know what they are talking about. I think the biggest reason why we fail to take the advice of couples who have gone before us is because we fail to realize that we aren’t the exception to the rule.
4) Thinking marriage will be the cure-all. We know too many couples who thought getting married was going to be this magic potion that would automatically change their spouse or change their circumstances. They mistakenly believed that those vows and that little piece of paper would give them what they wanted. The truth is, that if while you are dating, your spouse told you they didn’t want kids and you told them (or yourself) that as soon as you got married their heart would soften and their mind would change…you’re in for a world of hurt. The truth is, if your husband treats you like a jerk before you’re married he more than likely will after as well. The truth is, if your wife treats you more like a child than a husband she will continue to do that after you get married.
Marriage doesn’t change people. It just changes perspective. It opens the door on reality. Sometimes we rely so much on our feelings that the reality of our situation lags behind and doesn’t catch up until its too late. That initial stage of love (the honeymoon stage) that clouds our judgment doesn’t last that long. (For more on this, see #2). You will never change your spouse. You will never have control over your spouse and their choices. You will only ever have control over your choices and your response to theirs. That’s a lesson best learned before walking down the aisle.
5) Planning for the wedding and not the marriage. This one is a bit cliché but it is true none the less. We wrote more about this here and here. The average couple spends a little over $25,000 on their wedding. They want it to be everything they dreamed of. They want it to be the biggest party ever. They want it to be the best day of their lives. They get the perfect caterer, photographer, location, dress… Obviously you can do it for less (we did) and you can have a beautiful wedding on a budget. But it’s not just about the budget. It’s about the fantasy. The day. Too many couples put so much emphasis on this ONE day that they forget about the fact that they are about to embark on a lifetime of days with this other person. They walk into this thing called marriage with the mentality that “I have the rest of my life to get to know my spouse.” Ummm…yes. But, no. You have the rest of your life to live life together. And things will change. And you will discover new things about each other as you go along. But to spend that much time and money on ONE day and failing to spend any time or money on the really important stuff (see #1 for more) is a scary proposition.
If you are getting married, take a look at this list and make sure you’re putting your priorities in the right order. Your marriage will thank you.
If you’re already married and you made some of these mistakes…hey, it happens…you can still have a wonderful marriage if you’re willing to be honest about what it takes.
Your thoughts? What is the biggest mistake you think couples make when they’re getting married?
We are linking up with some great marriage and relationship sites throughout the week. Please check them out!