March: Tips for the Unmarried
This column is usually written to married folks, but this time I want to address those who are not yet married. This includes both young people who have never been married, and those who have been but are divorced or widowed. I have worked with almost 200 couples (many along with Barbara’s help), and I’d like to share some of what we’ve seen and learned from their composite experience. Here are some tips for things you can do NOW to strengthen your future marriage:
- Know yourself. Self-awareness and a realistic self-image are critical to a healthy relationship – for both parties. But you can only do that for yourself. Take time to think through your values, your goals, and your non-negotiables. What makes you feel energized? What wears you out? What are your true priorities, and would a stranger be able to deduce them from your calendar, your checkbook, and your lifestyle? A healthy marriage starts with two healthy people, and your level of emotional intelligence is a key component of the equation.
- Listen, observe, and think critically. We are surrounded by examples of relationships – the good, the bad, and the ugly! Talk to people about their successes and their mistakes. Learn to discern – be able to recognize healthy relationships and avoid the toxic ones.
- Slow down. One of the most common mistakes we see is people rushing into marriage too quickly. Whether you are 20 or 40, whether you have been married before or not, it takes TIME to really get to know someone well. The research indicates that it takes at least two years for us to “let our guard down” with someone we care for. Not that we are being deceptive, but we want to make a good impression on the one we like/love, so we unconsciously or subconsciously tend to be on our best behavior. Take time to get to know the real person, in as many different contexts as you can, because people sometimes act or think differently in different situations.
- Limit your sexual involvement. Because of all the psychological and physiological complications it brings on, sex really does cloud one’s judgment. Establish boundaries for your own behavior and thought life, and stick to them. Defend them against intrusion by other people, the culture and the media. Be a person of integrity. That is a person whose actions and convictions are integrated into a complete whole.
Whether marriage for you is way down the road or right around the corner, following these suggestions will help ensure that you make a wise choice and a solid start for the relationship of a lifetime. And as soon as you think you know that he or she is “the one,” get some comprehensive pre-engagement or premarital preparation. It’s a great way to be absolutely confident about your decision.
Contributed by: Larry Compter, Executive Director
Above image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net