Falling in love and getting married is such a fun and exciting time. And, of course, it should be, right? The question I want to help answer is; why do so many marriages start off strong only to soon fall apart?
Although marriages fail for various reasons, some leading causes are a lack of knowledge of who we are marrying, a lack of instruction for dealing with difficulties in the relationship, and simply failing to plan. This article looks at several areas a new couple must consider.
In our twenty years of marriage, my wife and I have had some serious hardships. Most of these could’ve been prevented by us doing some research in the early days about what we were getting ourselves into. This article might come across as directed towards young newly-weds, but each topic I discuss would apply to new relationships, second marriages, and even a long-standing marriage like ours.
It’s never too late to pick up some new tools and knowledge and put them to work to improve our current circumstances. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started looking long and hard at our relationship; what it had become and where it was headed. It was surely improving, but at a snail’s pace.
Utilize the available resources before you need them
After getting married, when we were nineteen, we did eventually find some decent resources that gave us some good tools to use, but we didn’t search for these resources until we needed them. This is the common mistake. Instead of practicing preventative maintenance, we waited until we had a breakdown before addressing the situations. Had we learned about what could go wrong and how we could’ve noticed the signs, we could’ve avoided much heartache.
If you spend any amount of time reading through my various articles and books, you will find that I focus on trying to help folks correct undesirable circumstances and damaged relationships. I believe this life has much to offer, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, and I also believe that life is much better spent making good memories with someone you love.
I encourage individuals and couples to spend time each day, even an hour, reading or watching material that can help in their specific situations. For young marrieds, this might be videos on planning for kids, making the right big purchases that help the new family instead of hurting it, learning about finances, and even learning best communication practices.
For any situation that might come up, there surely is helpful material that is only a few clicks away. The resources are there, and I encourage you and your partner to make learning about relationship-building a part of your daily or weekly schedule. This is an investment that will pay huge. The returns are near immediate, too.
Alright, I guess that’s my little rant about resources. Let’s move on and look at some of the things that my wife and I wish we knew more about before diving into our marriage.
What every new couple should consider before getting serious
- Who are we hooking up with?
- What causes bad circumstances?
- What should we know about finances?
- Where should we live?
- Do kids ruin relationships?
- Conflict resolution for relationships
- A couple becomes a team
1. Who are we hooking up with?
When my wife and I first met, we were an unlikely couple. She was a young woman, strong in her faith for God, and I, well, I was a mess.
Long story short, I had a drug addiction and so did my buddy. His girlfriend however didn’t, and his girlfriend had a friend who came to visit often, who eventually would become my bride. I practically lived at my buddy’s house, so I was always there when his girlfriend’s friend would come over.
In time, we started to become attracted to each other and we started dating. Before we married, her only request was that I gave up the drugs. “Ok, no problem” so I thought.
It took only about a month before I picked up a new habit of drinking, at first I was a happy drunk, but after we were married this changed, I was no longer the happy drunk guy and that lasted close to seven years; seven years of our married life that would bring about a whole bunch of heartaches for us.
My wife continued in her faith and I too wanted to be part of that lifestyle. So, I jumped on board and got saved and met Jesus too. However, I still wanted to drink and live loosely. My wife knew that I had addictions before marrying me, but she didn’t realize how they would affect her life and our marriage.
Before launching into a life-long commitment with someone, be sure to understand what you are signing up for. In the dating days, everything seems fun and interesting. Be sure to ask some hard questions before tying the knot. If a person appears to have an addiction, ask them to resolve it before getting serious; if they have some terrible habits such as overspending or gambling, help them seek out solutions before locking yourself down with them.
Most issues can be resolved, just be sure to find out about them before the marriage ceremony and not a few months later when they get comfortable and start showing true colors. This might also mean spending more time in the dating phase getting to know them.
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2. What causes bad circumstances?
It’s a simple question, and the answer is also simple. Circumstances, good or bad, are a result of an action. In most cases, our circumstances are a direct result of our own actions. There are certainly some instances where an external factor or person causes a poor circumstance for us, but for the most part, we are responsible.
This is something we didn’t spend much time thinking about in our early years. My wife and I would make decisions quickly, often without thinking through, and then soon suffer the negative consequences as a result. We didn’t look at it this way at the time.
Now, of course, I am well-aware that my every action comes with a result. If I want good results and good circumstances, I only need to make good decisions and perform good actions.
I gave up my addiction for alcohol about seven years into our marriage, and not a moment too soon. Our relationship was on the extreme edge of disaster; literally, one drink away from over. It was at that point that I started looking at my circumstances and talking to some men of wisdom. They explained to me about cause and effect, and that my circumstances were largely my fault.
Of course, nobody likes to take responsibility for their actions, but I had to. And, I did. I can’t say that all is perfect at this point, but now after our twentieth anniversary, I can honestly say that our worst circumstances are so much better now than they were in our early days. This is because we are careful to consider things that will affect us or our relationship negatively before taking action.
If you find that life is a constant struggle, try looking at your daily actions and decisions. Is there something you are doing that is sabotaging your future? Start to swap out bad habits for good habits and in a short time, you will start seeing an improvement to your circumstances. Just be sure to keep at it.
3. What should we know about finances?
From what I understand, money is the leading cause of divorce in North America. Who knew debt would have a negative effect on families?
Whether a young couple is embarking on their first credit card or a long-standing couple is staring at a countertop full of outstanding bills and collection notices, now is the time to take action.
Learning about finances is a quick and simple process to get started. It’s also a life-long commitment to sticking to good money management, but it all starts with a decision.
My wife and I listen to Dave Ramsey at daveramsey.com. He is a wise financial guru who also made some poor choices early on and learned about negative circumstances. Whatever or whoever you choose to listen to, don’t put it off.
If you and your partner are considering a life in marriage, make learning about good money-management a priority. Having some basic financial goals and setting some rules and guidelines about spending and avoiding debt will go a long way for you two. We are learning Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and the baby steps to follow to financial freedom.
Many couples take on debt responsibly and are capable of maintaining that. This is purely up to the couple. But I must warn; this is playing with fire. If we choose to operate at the top of our budget, we don’t leave much room for error. What happens in the event of a job loss? Can we count on the creditors to be understanding?
If anything, or in the least, grab your partner and spend an afternoon learning about financial budgets and emergency funds. You will be thankful you did. But after this, just know, any additional learning that the two of you do will only line you up for better success and a future with more freedom to travel and explore and try new things.
4. Where should we live?
Some couples will know this right away. Some will want to stay right where they are. However, my wife and I moved a lot. Even after having kids, we moved a fair amount. I can say it slowed down at that point, but we still moved.
What’s wrong with that? Well, it’s not always bad. There are some drawbacks such as leaving behind friends or tearing our children from their schools and friends and inserting them into a new school and an awkward position.
We eventually moved to a town in Northern Alberta and we have had many regrets since then. We try to make the best of it but often find at least one of us grumbling about wanting to move back to the previous town.
So, what could we have done differently?
Before marrying, we didn’t have a plan to buy a house. We also didn’t consider where we wanted to settle down. We went month by month renting apartments or houses and we moved when our mood shifted.
In our particular situation, we should’ve been more concerned about building a solid financial foundation and researching where to purchase a house for the long term. We also should have researched how our living location would affect raising our children.
What I would say about this is, choosing the right living conditions and area will have an affect on the family life. There is fast-paced city living which might result in the children and adults spending the grand majority of time indoors with electronics, whereas country living, or homesteading, will offer a large variety of education for self-sustenance and teach hard work.
It’s possible to make the best of either, just be careful to make a pros and cons list for each and put some heavy thought into which will be better for your growing family and future.
5. Do kids ruin relationships?
It’s not uncommon to hear about couples fighting and breaking up because of the stresses of parenting. Parenting is tough; especially, if the couple doesn’t share the same parenting techniques and beliefs.
The parents must be on the same page when it comes to setting and enforcing rules, and they should be careful to not undermine the other’s authority when the situation presents itself. It’s much better to have a conversation and set some guidelines on what is efficient for discipline or reward.
Kids aren’t responsible for ruining relationships; the adults are the ones that must make the choices that will lead the family down the right path and encourage good circumstances. If there is extra stress due to the children’s behavior or constant need for attention, then there are resources available for the couple to make use of.
These resources might include parenting books and videos, parenting retreats and seminars, counseling, and other exercises to help with the child’s behavior.
Instead of working against our partner when we have a difficult child, utilize the “strength in numbers” law. Join forces with our partner and start working together to come up with solutions. If one needs a break, give them the break. Take turns until the solution takes root.
It might be possible that someone must come and help out for a period of time. Kids and the family-life should be embraced and enjoyed. There will always be the potential for hardships and difficulties. Again, picking up the necessary tools in advance and learning some methods for dealing with such difficulties will help the parents stay strong in leadership and in marriage.
6. Conflict resolution for relationships
Conflict resolution skills are useful in all of life’s applications. How many couples spend time learning about communication skills and how to prevent a disagreement from becoming an all-out-war? Not enough, right?
Before engaging in marriage, a couple is wise to pick up a book or video and learn about some effective methods for managing disagreements in relationships. It is ridiculous to say, “Oh, well, we love each other and would never fight,” but new couples deep in love do think this way.
We were newlyweds at one time and we too figured that our love would conquer all. Had we learned about communication, respect, courtesy, and conflict resolution, we might’ve been able to salvage many rough nights.
At what point should we take a break from an argument and return to it after cooling off? And, when a disagreement turns into something bigger, is it a result of our own pride? I mean, if so, then why not give in and put it to rest?
Taking some time together to learn about these things early on will undoubtedly save the couple from many restless nights. There is absolutely no doubt that the couple will have disagreements that lead to fights at some point in the relationship. The question is; will the couple be equipped with the right tools to quickly recover the situation and return it to logical and loving?
7. A couple becomes a team
As I mentioned previously, we should unite with our partner in battle instead of battling our partner. The couple unites in marriage as one. An efficient team operates as one. The have a common goal and they protect each other. If one falls or slows, the team stops and waits for their fallen comrade.
In our relationship, there are very few situations where the couple can’t gain victory over together. The difficulty lies in solitude. When we try to tackle hard situations alone, we can often be met with failure or defeat quickly. This can have a negative effect on the relationship and ourselves.
Instead, when we ask our partner to work with us to find an effective solution to whatever problem lies before us, we are so much more likely to arrive at a useful method quickly and move past, in victory.
Consider the couple who racked up too much debt; one partner might feel that it’s up to them to go out and find the fix and get the finances back in order. However, the correct solution might be for the two of them to put together a side business to earn some money or to come up with a plan for selling some items to help correct the situation.
Marriage isn’t a one-man-rodeo. A marriage that acts like this is more like a circus. When a difficult situation arises, consult with your partner and seek a sound solution together. This is the most proactive way to do this. You might not get all the right answers at first, but it is said that two heads are better than one. This means that the likeliness of coming up with an answer is very high.
If you are entering into a relationship or marriage, see your partner as a teammate. Set some relationship and life goals and lean on them to accomplish those goals.
A couple in a relationship is a powerful force when working together. Also, that same couple can do considerable damage when working against each other. My wife and I didn’t spend enough time asking the right questions early on, and as a result, we had many hardships and difficult circumstances.
It is most beneficial for the two of you now, and for the future, to take some time as soon as possible to ask some heavy questions and be sure to cover as much as possible. When we take the time to plan out our course of action, the journey is much easier.
If you have any helpful suggestions for couples that would help them to have a long-lasting relationship, please leave a comment below for all to enjoy.
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How to get your spouse to hear you, by Mort Fertel.