7 Tips for A New Marriage . . . or An Old One

The following article appeared in the Hendersonville Standard, the Gallatin News and The Wilson Post the week of February 3, 2014.

When you marry, this new relationship presents issues neither of you have ever faced before. It’s a scary time. However, you bring into this union the hope that it will be the start of a life that will bring you rich fulfillment. You are also both bringing into the relationship your faults, your strengths, and the possibility that your marriage will endure or fail. How you tend to your marriage will determine the level of satisfaction you experience and whether or not your ideal is realized. Hopefully, the following tips can give a new marriage the charge it needs or restart a once happy one.

Expect that your relationship will change. Within the first few months and even years of marriage your life will be relatively easy. You work and live for each other. There’s little else that takes your attention and what does typically has its own time slot (ie. exercise, work, and friends). However, as children enter the picture, you will be spread thin and forced to continually reconsider your priorities. This change can be good if you accept and adapt to it, or the metamorphosis can be your undoing.

As a result of your changing relationship, the excitement level you have consistently maintained will begin to fall. This is a practical matter because we can’t remain in a state of lover’s euphoria forever. This is life. The question is, can you find happiness in the little things? Can you connect over a cup of coffee or while playing with the kids? These moments of contentment and shared joy are what will prolong your marriage. Trips and dates are fun, but must not be relied upon to fully engage with your spouse. While what you deemed exciting as a young married adult may lessen, moments of intimate connection can be more intense than you ever thought possible. Why? You get better at being you, at being a lover, and you learn how wonderful the person you married actually is.

Discuss your values. You may have entered the marriage with a well thought-out plan or you may have fallen into it with little discussion about matters of importance. Where do you each stand on politics, religion, and children? Depending on their importance to you as individuals, they can either push you apart or bring you together. Talk about what is important to you.

Don’t be selfish. Your decisions are no longer about what you want, but about what is best for the family. This makes goal setting an important part of your relationship. If you have goals, both of you know what you are working for materially speaking. Then, saying no to a new boat or other luxury item will be easier if it’s not in the current plan. Talk to a financial planner and be on the same page regarding money.

Time apart is a good thing. In our families we give and give without taking personal time and this can be bad news. It could be as small as 30 minutes at the end of the day, but we must nurture ourselves. This will enable us to have something to give to our family; our best. That being said, time together is equally as important. You can’t be apart on a regular basis and then act surprised because of the lack of affection.

Read at least one book per year on how to improve your marriage. You can also follow blogs or someone’s Twitter feed who gives good advice on marriage. There are also podcasts to glean inspiration from. It’s easier to maintain a good marriage than it is to fix a broken one. A good book to start with is Willard F. Harley’s Fall In Love Stay In Love. In it he explains how spouses should work to meet each other’s needs.

Always strive to be the best spouse you can be. It’s very common for battling spouses to point at their counterpart and say, “when you change, I will.” In this case, neither party is winning. The only thing that is being built is a wall that grows stronger with each passing day. Forgiveness must be a part of your lifestyle. If you both strive to be the best spouse you can be, you won’t be pointing out the faults of the other. Rather, you’ll be working towards reconciliation.