It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a wedding, honeymoon, and newlywed bliss and forget that marriage isn't always easy. Relationships take work, and if you want to ensure you'll have a lasting and happy marriage, you'll have to consistently nurture your relationship. If you're newly married or are considering taking the next step with your partner, we created a marriage 101 guide to help you create a successful and long-lasting relationship.
Read on for our marriage guide for a happy and healthy relationship.
Before You Set a Wedding Date
Before you tie the knot, it's helpful to think about what marriage means and how it will affect your life.
- Know why you're getting married. If your motives are unrealistic, you may find yourself having unfulfilled expectations.
- Make sure you are really ready for marriage by taking an honest self-inventory. Are you financially independent? Are you over your past relationships? Have you been able to resolve conflicts with your current partner? Have you gotten positive feedback about this relationship from loved ones? Do your long-term goals match?
- Accept that living together and being married are different. Marriage is more than sharing a home, going on dates, and being intimate. You should consider your long-term goals such as where you see yourself living and whether or not you want to have kids to make sure you and your S.O.'s future goals are aligned. Talk with one another about important issues before you walk down the aisle.
- Find out how to get married. Different locales have different marriage licensing regulations.
Premarital counseling is a great idea if you're having doubts about taking the next time, or if you just want some extra help to make sure you start your new life together off the right way.
Understand the Importance of Communication in Your Marriage
As with any relationship, clear and open communication is essential. "Show continuous curiosity and interest in your partner’s life so that you have a detailed map in your mind. By communicating in this way, you demonstrate that you are present, interested, and that they matter most," says Dan Pollets Ph.D.
- Keep your lines of communication open with one another. Talk frequently and make sure you're sharing your feelings and making yourself vulnerable.
- Accept that all marriages go through stages. Maintaining a healthy marriage is a life long process.
- Learn about your relationship fighting style and how to fight fairly. Happily married couples don't avoid arguments. They know how to handle conflict in healthy ways.
- Avoid the main "marriage killers": criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
- Be willing to seek help through couples' therapy if you find yourselves starting to be defensive, critical, or distant from one another. Don't wait too long to get help. Couples who postpone seeking professional advice often find that the damage to their marriage is too extensive to save it.
Common Issues Among Married Couples
No marriage is perfect. It's inevitable you'll run into problems, both big and small, and you have to be able to work through them with your spouse so your relationship doesn't suffer.
- Finances are one of the most common sources of conflict in relationships. Regularly discuss money to avoid any discord.
- Conflict over chores around the house is another common conflict in a marriage. Make sure you both have a share in the household responsibilities.
- A fulfilling sex life doesn't just happen. You need to stay intimate with one another and show your love and passion for one another on a regular basis. "Sex in a long-term relationship is not something you do to each other per se, but a space and time, a container you co-create," Pollets says.
- Although children are a tremendous joy, they do have an impact on a marriage. Your relationship will change after you bring a baby into the picture. You don't want to develop a solely child-centered marriage—remember to prioritize your relationship, too!
- Realize that your in-laws will be a part of your marriage whether you like it or not. Learn how to set boundaries with your in-laws and how to enjoy them.
- Interfaith, interracial, and intercultural marriages have their own set of unique challenges to face. Make sure to discuss your differences before you get married.
Celebrating Your Marriage
It's not uncommon to hear married couples complain about losing the spark in their relationship. Don't let that happen to you—instead, find ways to celebrate your marriage for years to come.
- Make time to have fun together. Plan regular date nights, even if it's just a happy hour each week.
- Remember to celebrate the special days in your lives, especially your wedding anniversary.
- Plan ahead for the holidays and how you will handle your in-laws' expectations.
- Establish rituals to keep your marriage strong.
- Every now and then, be spontaneous. Don't become complacent. Surprise your spouse with a gift, love notes, or special home-cooked dinner.
- Be open to learning and growing both individually and as a couple.