My cousin just got engaged to his lovely girlfriend and I am over the moon for them! It’s an exciting time in both their lives and I envy those carefree days of just frolicking around town as two young people in love with all the hopes and dreams and possibilities that lay ahead.
The union of two people is a beautiful thing. God said “it is not good for man to be alone”, so he created an Eve for Adam and marriage was established. Marriage is a wonderfully complicated phenomenon. I’d always dreamt of meeting Mr Right and having an amazing wonderful life and so when that time came, I imagined that as long as we loved each other, there was nothing we would not be able to overcome and I still believe that…but If I could turn back time, I would tell my giddy newly engaged self these things:
1. Marriage is for ever.
Spend enough time together before you get married. What’s the hurry? You are going to be married for a lifetime. Spend time courting, and getting to know one another for an extended period of time before you say “YES”.
2. Ask lots of questions.
Not “whats your favourite colour?” That’s very romantic but try “what’s your take on sanctity in marriage?” or “how do you resolve a conflict?” or “what is your take on gender roles in the family?”. I think it’s easy to assume that you and your partner have similar ideas and expectations of each other but this is rarely the case. Asking questions and participating in active discourse will help you discover differences in opinion and help in understanding one another.
3. Go for pre-marital counselling together.
I believe that couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry without attending pre-marital counselling. We sign up for courses to gain all manner of skills but dance our way into marriage. Counselling provides a safe haven for discussing difficult issues and equips couples with relationship skills. We were in different countries so settled for separate counselling but in hindsight it’s more effective to find a good counsellor or counselling program to attend together.
4. Spend time with his family.
Don’t enter into marriage without doing a “visibility” study on your husbands family. It might not stop you from getting married but it will definitely prepare you for the new family you are about to be joined to. It will also help you understand your partner better. Ask your partner about family dynamics, how his parents and siblings interacted and how he was brought up. Our characters and a lot of our choices are shaped by the families we grew up in. But it’s not the end of the world if both your families are like chalk and cheese. For example, I never stood a chance with the family I was born into…for us, being affectionate is somewhat unnatural. We did tough love. I had to learn to go against my natural instinct to slap my husband´s hand away when he was being touchy feely or wait to hear him snore before I untangled myself from his deathly grip! Funny thing is that we are creatures of habit. It doesn’t really bother anymore and I find myself being more affectionate.
5. Discuss finances. It’s a big issue.
Finances need to be discussed. Financial difficulties can cause a heavy strain on any marriage. Find out your partner´s money mindset. Is he a spender or a hoarder or anything in between? How different are you both when it comes to money matters? Have you fully disclosed your debt? If your debt or spending is a secret and private matter, you need to reconsider the idea that you want to become one flesh with another person.
6. Have fun together.
Be easy and carefree…there will be good memories to take you through the tough times after the wedding. I have a bank of good memories tucked away for those ‘woe is me’ days. We frolicked at the Park Guell in Barcelona, took a road trip to Kwara for a wedding, had pancakes and watched Ratatouille on our first date and held hands as we walked together, talking about everything and nothing. Make great memories, you’ll need them.
7. Find a marriage mentor.
Research shows that couples who have marriage mentors are happier and healthier. I found that more experienced married couples have helped a lot in steering my husband and I in the right direction. Choose a couple whose relationship you admire, understanding that no marriage is perfect but they can contribute positively to your growth as a couple. I have been blessed and privileged to be surrounded by several amazing couples.
Your turn! What would you say to yourself if you could turn back time?
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