Two people fall in love. By definition, they’re not in the right minds! “In love” is all about chemistry, hormones, connection, and intensity of emotion. They decide to get married. So what’s wrong with this picture? In life, we need to think major decisions through. This post is all about how to think things through before you say “I do” and after.
Establish your own sense of identity.
It is not unusual when two people are in love for them to feel consumed by one another. In fact, this is part of the fun of being in love, isn’t it? That when you’re in the presence of that other person you feel like more than when you’re on your own. You feel like more because they see your potential in a way that you don’t.
Establishing your own sense of self is vital in the marital process. If you’re not clear about who you are as an individual, what you stand for, and what kind of life you want to have moving forward, how will you negotiate with your partner? Get this now: marriage is a constant negotiation. That sounds rough but it’s actually awesome. What makes marriage wonderful is that you constantly challenge one another to grow. Negotiation is the vehicle through which that happens. The alternative is to engage in negative conflict and who wants that?
There are 12 basic areas that every individual and couple should look at. Six of them are internal, and six of them have to do with things outside of the individual in a couple. They are body, emotions, intellect, spirituality, values, and mission or purpose. The six external are partnership, family, community, finances, career, and lifestyle.
Get On the Same Page
Getting on the same page looks like talking about the 12 areas of life mentioned above. First, you’re going to share your individual vision or goals. Once you’ve both shared your individual visions and goals, you get to start creating one for you jointly. The challenge here is resolving differences creatively before you say “I Do”.
Resolving differences creatively can actually be fun. It may seem like you have a lot of areas of overlap and a few areas of real difference. Even the greatest differences can be resolved and create something truly beautiful when two people who love each other approach this process in a caring way.
Money is not the most important thing and yet 76% of all married couples fight about money. Additionally, 40% of all divorce is driven by differences around money. Why is that? The reason is that couples tend to spend more than they have coming in. For example, they’ll plan a big expensive wedding without much thought to how that will impact their finances now and in the future.
First, you want your individual finances to be fully functional. You would be amazed at how many people are living on credit cards or have no clue about whether they’re spending more than their earning. This is your first mission as individuals. Get a grip on your individual finances.
Next mission: creating a financial plan for your future together. This does not have to be the rest of your lives, but you definitely want to think about your goals for the next 2 to 5 years. Then you can think about how your wedding expenses fit into that box.
Creating a financial plan is going to help you prioritize. By prioritizing where your money’s going to go, you’ll start to think about what are your values and principles? What kind of life do you want to live together? How do you want to treat each other?
Having clarity on your sense of purpose as individuals and as a couple is key when it comes to prioritizing your values, principles, and lifestyle choices. When you know where you want to go in life, what your “why is “, choices become so much easier!
If you’re still discovering what your why is, or not sure about your personal purpose or mission that’s okay. Start out with some agreements about what’s really important to both of you before you say “I Do”.
Look at those six areas of life we mentioned earlier. What’s most important about your partnership? What are going to be the guidelines for your partnership? What’s the relationship you want to have with your families? What kind of family do you want to start? What communities do you involve yourselves and where would you like to have shared engagement in the community? How can you be on the same page about finances, career, and lifestyle?
Get Ready for Change
Here’s the thing nobody tells you about marriage. The second that you say I do, both of you will change. In that moment of taking on what is possibly the biggest commitment of your lives, you will both literally become different people. It is the nature of taking on the commitment that we are changed by the commitment we take on.
What that means is the second you get married, you’re both married to different people than you fell in love with. Don’t freak out because this is going to happen basically forever. The more commitments you each take on, the more you’re going to change shift, and grow to meet them. That’s why it’s so important to have your priorities in alignment first. When your priorities are aligned, you will tend to make choices that are in alignment with each other’s interests.
In order to meet the changes that you’re both going through as individuals, your relationship is going to shift and change as well. Take nothing for granted. Take time to communicate and appreciate one another.
Intimacy is the result of caring communication, trust, and empathy. People get married to deepen intimacy for the most part. If intimacy, closeness, loving, and nurturing one another is the game that you’re into, then you will communicate!
Communication as we indicated earlier needs to be caring to be positively impactful. When we take each other for granted, communication can get sloppy and offhanded. People can become triggered or even hurt. Be super conscious about every communication with your partner. Remember this is your partner!
Make a point of checking in with each other daily. It’s easy to fall into a pattern that feels like a rut. Shake up your communication from time to time. If it feels like how is your day? Fine and how is yours? Fine, then you want to start asking oh really? Tell me more! Be willing to explore always even if it’s something you’re not especially interested in. Remember you’re exploring the interests of your partner, and that’s the person you’re most invested and interested in.
Always Appreciate Your Partner
Appreciating your partner is central to remaining interested! The chances are that your appearance is going to change over time. Your personalities are going to change over time. Your interests are going to change over time. Staying engaged with, and involved in your partner’s development and growth will help you to appreciate them.
Appreciate their strengths! Appreciate the way that they’re overcoming their weaknesses and leaning into their strengths. Remember why they married you and vice versa, a big part of being in love is about seeing the full potential of one another.
Falling in love has a limited shelf life of two to three years or so the studies tell us. However, what never leaves us is the vision we have for one another as individuals and together. Appreciate how each change and steps forward in bringing that vision to life. Appreciation is about how integral your partner is in supporting you and helping you get there. Appreciate their victories. Losses? Appreciate them and the grace with which they handle them. Appreciation is a practice before you say “I Do”. We grow the more we practice it.
Love is A Muscle
Just as appreciation is a practice, love is a muscle. Sometimes you got to exercise it. When you were in love it was easy, you were getting off on each other. Once “in love” wears off, we need to exercise love with each other.
What do I mean by that? Once being in love wears off, you find out that you’re married to your parents. I’m sorry to tell you that, but it is an inevitable part of the marriage game. That’s another blog post lol! What is going to inevitably happen is your partner is going to become a master at pushing your buttons just like your parents were. How you react to that has to do with how well you exercise your love muscle.
The most important time to exercise love is when you’re feeling triggered. When we feel triggered our natural instinct is to lash out at the source of the trigger. When we exercise our love muscle, we remember that even though we’re triggered, the person across the table is our partner! Our love! When we remember that we exercise the grace to say “I need a few minutes”, “let’s get back to this”, or something similar.
Being triggered doesn’t have to be explosive. It might be that they leave their clothes on the floor. It could be small things that wear on you over time. Approaching these kinds of small, wearing irritations by exercising your love muscle will take you a long way.
It’s going to look like bringing it up gently and affectionately the first time. If there’s no change, sometimes exercising our love muscle may look like being a little tougher. If it becomes unresolved exercising our love muscle could look like reaching out for help.
Of course, we’re not saying to keep dating other people. What we’re saying here is to keep dating each other! In order to keep up with all the changes, you’re going to need to keep dating. Want to understand what’s happening with finances? Keep dating. In order to talk about the socks on the floor in a way that’s gentle and affectionate, you’re going to need to keep dating. Rediscover who your partner is as you’re both shifting and changing through “dating” Dating equals communication!
Make different kinds of dates. Start with a romantic date night. Ground rules? Don’t talk about work! Turn your phones off! Well, unless you need to be in touch with the babysitter of course. Have a monthly “date” over coffee where you talk about how are you doing with your vision and financial plan. Have a work partnership date, where you talk about what’s happening in your businesses, jobs, or work and support one another. You can have a date for just about anything!