Many couples are getting married now at the age of 25 to 30 years of age. If they are successful at staying together, maybe we would be wise to teach couples how to be a better spouse before marriage. Instead of a simple blood test, maybe a mandatory class or workshop addressing anger, financial conflicts or in-laws would help. Since the bride’s family traditionally pays for the wedding, maybe the groom’s family could step up and pay for the pre-marital classes. We put so much focus on the wedding, engagement, and the birth of new children. Often we forget that the back bone of this union is going to be determined on how well the couple can resolve conflict.
Marriage is sacred, and I believe it is one of the greatest institutions we have available. However, if you are in a dysfunctional marriage you can live hell on earth. At that point saying you should stay in it to be healthy would be ludicrous. Marital counseling can help, but it is not as effective as pre-marital counseling and education could be. Couples don’t think about it, because when they are getting ready for their marriage they don’t want to anticipate the inevitable conflicts. It takes parents to bring this up, and offer it as a gift to the couple. It never hurts to understand your spouse more. Below I have listed a few ideas to go over with your fiancée’ prior to marriage. The more of these you address now, the better your chances are for being married forever. If you are getting ready to marry number three it may be wise to address these prior to tying the knot.
1. Marriage ensures I won't be lonely.
2. Marriage means we will maintain a close relationship until we are parted by death.
3. With marriage I am legally able to have sanctioned and readily available sex.
4. We will create an extended family. That means my family (mom, dad, sisters, brothers) will all be taken care of by us.
5. This marriage means we will have kids and create our own marriage.
6. My partner will help take care of and motivate me to take care of myself.
7. How comfortable am I in exposing my feelings, limitations, and childish attitudes to my partner? Whatever I tell my partner they will embrace.
8. How comfortable am I with closeness? If I need distance, my partner will understand.
9. How much of my love for my partner is actually fear of being on my own?
10. I expect my partner to be there 100% financially.
11. How will my partner feel when they see my reaction to anger?
12. What am I willing to reveal to my partner in regards to how I feel about new sexual experiences?
13. How big of a gap is there with education between my spouse and I? Will this be a problem?
14. How do I really feel about my partner’s family?
15. Do we actually have parallel lives making our relationship somewhat superficial?
16. If either of us has an affair, is it is always best to be honest and tell the other spouse?
17. We both love kids and will accept however many we have. (Be sure you discuss this one before you get pregnant.)
18. We are different religions, but that doesn’t make any difference. We will decide how to raise our kids after we have them. (Not an issue you should postpone talking about until the children are born.)
There are of course many reasons marriages fail. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a million times; “He changed,” or, “I never saw that side of her.” We don’t see what we don’t want to see. Communicate, share, and stay open is my best advice to stay married until death do you part.
–Mary Jo Rapini
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Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is featured on TLC’s new series, Big Medicine which completed season one and two. She is also a contributing expert for Cosmopolitan magazine, Women’s Health, First, and Seventeen magazine. Mary Jo has a syndicated column (Note to Self) in the Houston Chronicle, is a Love/Relationships columnist to HealthNewsDigest.com and “Ask Mary Jo” in Houston Family Magazine. She is an intimacy and sex counselor, and specializes in empowering relationships. She has worked with the Pelvic restorative center at Methodist Hospital since 2007.
Mary Jo is a popular speaker across the nation, with multiple repeat requests to serve as key-note speaker for national conferences. Her dynamic style is particularly engaging for those dealing with intimacy issues and relationship challenges, or those simply hanging on to unasked questions about sex in relationships. She was recently a major participant in a symposium for young girls dealing with body image and helping girls become strong women. Rapini is the author of Is God Pink? Dying to Heal and co-author of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever. She has appeared on television programs including Montel, Fox Morning News and various Houston television and radio programs. Keep up with the latest advice at Mary Jo Rapini
Watch for Mary Jo on “Mind, Body, and Soul with Mary Jo” every Thursday morning at 9a.m. on Fox 26 (Houston, Tex.) Get real answers to your relationship questions.
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