Are you newly engaged? Below are my ten tips for newly engaged couples. This year will mark just eight years of marriage for me and my husband. I do not claim to be an expert on marriage nor am I a marriage professional. Our is a blended family and my husband and I run a business together and are raising two teenagers; we have endured our share of stress and have overcome much in the last decade together. Drawing from my own experience, below is my advice for couples who are considering marriage or may be newly engaged.
1. Choose your partner wisely
This is number one because it is the foundation for everything I am about to say. Marriage is a lifelong commitment that should not be entered into with an escape plan. If you are in a relationship with some that you are planning to marry and already thinking of what you will have to do if you need to leave, you may want to rethink your decision. Look at the character of your partner. Is this someone you are excited to raise children with? Do you feel that you wholeheartedly trust your partner? Are you and your partner on the same page when it comes to finances, sex, and religion? Do not rush into marriage for the sake of having a wedding or being married. Choose your partner wisely because know that when you do, inevitably there will be rough seas ahead that the two of you will need to face together.
2. Throw away all expectations
Expectations are nails in a coffin for a relationship. Did you expect that he would automatically take out the garbage or that she would want to cook dinner every night of the week? When we have expectations of what our partner will do and it doesn’t line up with the reality of what our partner actually does, we can be left feeling cheated somehow. Your partner will not be the perfect person you dreamed about, because no such person exists. There is not a magical soul mate out there waiting for you somewhere and no one’s love story is perfect. Every marriage endures trials and couples that have been married for 10, 20, 30 or more years can tell you there were times they thought about divorce. We are human, when a situation is uncomfortable, we want to get ourselves out of it. Marriage requires learning how to stay in the situation and make it better. Discard expectations and work on communicating on what you need and listen to what your spouse needs.
3. Forgive, and forgive again
Arguments can quickly get out of hand with hurtful words spoken that are hard to forget. A heaping amount of grace is needed in marriage. Have you ever had words of apology playing through your mind, but you don’t speak them aloud? Pride has no place in marriage, we all make mistakes and must be quick to apologize and learn to work on ourselves to change our future behavior. If you were on the receiving end of hurtful words, and are in the position of offering forgiveness, give it wholly. When you forgive your partner, make the effort to forgive and forget and not bring up past hurts. Do not hold onto slights in your emotional suitcase ready to unload them on your partner in the next argument. Partners need to show grace toward one another.
4. Take care of yourself
I believe as much as possible, you should not trouble your spouse with what you can do for yourself. No one wants to have to carry someone else. When you were dreaming of your future spouse, were you thinking of someone who would take care of you, fix your financial troubles, mow your lawn, clean your house, and cook your meals? Stop dreaming. Your spouse is not your caretaker, housekeeper, landscaper and cook. Have you ever stopped to think about what you can provide to someone else? As much as possible, you should be thinking of what you can do to make things easier for your spouse. In a marriage, you should be working hard to take care of yourself just as you would have to if you were single. A spouse is not meant to be a caretaker.
5. Think the best of your partner
As I mentioned above, grace is a necessary ingredient in a marriage and when our partner fumbles at something, grace is needed. This means when you partner leaves dirty laundry on the floor or perhaps loses their job it doesn’t become the latest gossip you share with your friends or co-workers. In a relationship, we get to know the best and the worst of each other. Grace is choosing to focus on the best and not reliving the worst. The good feels we have when we begin dating someone are largely because we only see the best in the other person. That point of view in the beginning of the relationship came naturally, but over time is a skill that requires work and care. Our partners need our love, our kind words, and our thoughtful acts. When we take the time to pour love into our partner, they will begin to shine and show their best side. If we push, nag, and degrade our partner, they will react accordingly. Be aware of how your actions, your words and your thoughts contribute to the “temperature” in your relationship and household.
6. Choose your friends wisely
Maybe you are newly married, and your closest friends are not. You and your husband had an argument over something small and now you’re with your friends embellishing your side of the story and of course, they side with you. This is a slippery slope. If you paint your spouse in a poor light to your friends, they will view your spouse negatively. The best of friends will listen, support you and support your marriage because after all, this is the person you chose to commit your life to. If you are beginning to have doubts regarding your marriage, you should seek professional couples counseling together.
7. Avoid being easily offended
If you find yourself getting irritated by the tone in your partner’s voice or heated because the dishes aren’t done, it could be you are too easily offended. Do you feel like your spouse is trying to push your buttons? You may need to work on removing some buttons. We cannot control other’s actions, but we can control our response to situations we are in. Maybe your spouse was having a bad day and the curt response wasn’t necessarily a dig at you, but was an expression of their own frustration. Put away paranoia and pull out your grace for others. We are evolving works in progress and that doesn’t change when we say, “I do”. As we face increasingly difficult and stressful situations with our spouse, children, or work, it is important to see things from the other’s point of view and show as much understanding as possible. Being easily offended and brusque with those you love will push them away and cause others to feel a need to walk on eggshells in your presence. Dig deep within yourself to understand what is causing you to be easily offended and work on the root of the problem.
8. Continue dating each other
Dating is fun. Keep fun in your marriage and make time to spend time with one another doing new things, learning, and laughing together. Plan small weekend getaways that give you both something to look forward. Be intentional with your conversation; stay away from hot topics such as bills, children, or the list of repairs you would like to see done around the house. Keep dating and getaways light and fun, avoiding heavy conversations!
9. Don’t keep score
It is very human to keep score and track of what you have done and compare it to what others have done. When we compare ourselves to others it gives us a sense of where we stand. Did I complete the task quicker? Was I better? These are traits we pick up as children; competing with one another to see where we rank among the group. It is hard to shake this learned behavior and we carry it over into our relationships. We tend to keep score of what we do and keep a tally of what our partner hasn’t done. It is damaging behavior that will lead to future conflict. Put away the scorecard and do what needs to be done around the house, or for the kids without tracking how much you are doing compared to your spouse. You are one unit; you have to view your marriage as such.
10. Choose love and choose your marriage
Protect your marriage. It is the single most important relationship with another human being you will ever have. Honor your marriage and remember the importance that it holds. Do not allow others to wiggle their way into cracks in your relationship and break it apart. Once you enter a union with another person, the two of you become a family and you begin building your life together. You must protect your marriage and fight for it always because in the end your marriage is worth it. :)
I am the winemaker's wife. Scott and I married in 2014 and I transitioned from a hospitality manager to a grape farmer's wife, event coordinator and blog author.