PHOTO: Chris Giles Photography
Don’t let sad or horrific tales of failed marriages ruin your confidence or deter you from tying the knot. Just keep your hearts open, advises renowned authors and marriage experts, Dr Greg and Erin Smalley. “For friendship, passion, fun, intimacy and deep connection to occur, your hearts must be open to each other. If they are closed and backs are turned, it’s difficult to find a resolution,” says Greg who serves as executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.
The couple has faced stumbling blocks in the early years of their marriage. “We didn’t know how to handle conflict in healthy ways — and about three years into our marriage — weren’t even sure if we were going to make it. We sought the help of a counsellor and a mentor couple who helped us through our issues. The support was priceless because we just lived life alongside them and learned from them,” says Erin, who’s been married to Greg for 24 years.
Not sure if you have what it takes till death do you part? Here are 10 signs you are completely ready to walk down that aisle.
You’re planning for a marriage, not a wedding.
The glitz and glamour of a big white wedding have not detracted you from the fact that life will be about ‘we’ not ‘me’. This means handling all the administration that comes with it like household chores, raising children, money management, and also having shared dreams and goals that you are both passionate about, say the Smalleys.
You can easily list how much you value your partner.
If you love and like your partner, pen it down. The Smalleys urge couples to routinely make a list of things you value about your partner and what you like about being together. For example, “I feel loved when you …” This will serve as a reminder especially when the going gets tough. “Always remember what you like about being with this person and that this value does not diminish based on your inability to see.”
You are very comfortable around each other.
In a healthy relationship, you can entrust your partner with your deepest secrets or harsh criticisms. If your other half is okay with your unusual hobbies or sub-par hygiene level and thinks your burps, farts and snores are adorable, he or she is a keeper … provided the feeling is mutual! But try to limit walking around in the nude as sex therapists believe this may destroy the fantasy husbands have of their wives.
You don’t want to change each another.
Acceptance is a big component of a loving marriage. Don’t marry and expect your partner to change. Marry them because you love them as they are and all the attractive qualities they possess. Marriage may change your lives as a couple, but it doesn’t alter your fundamental personalities.
You speak the same love language.
Being able to get each other is such an important aspect of a happy and healthy relationship, and it all boils down to speaking the same love language — the one created by Dr Gary Chapman, who theorises that we receive and express love through words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch. When couples sit on opposing lines, this can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and miscommunication. So count yourself lucky if you both share the same love language!
You want to take this person to bed forever.
Needless to say, marriage means being monogamous for life. Do you think you’ll be happy with the sex you’ll be having with this person? “Sex is a gift we receive within marriage. The connection and intimacy you get from it are irreplaceable by anything else. In order to pursue an intimate relationship with your spouse, it must be a priority for you. Do it often and in ways that feel good to both of you!”
You’ve mastered the art of conflict resolution
You know never to begin an argument with the words “I told you so”, “You always do this!”, “You never do …..” Love is a decision. You decide to love even when you don’t feel like it. “Reminding yourself that your partner is not the enemy will make all the difference in a dispute,” advises Erin. “It only takes one person to influence the overall environment in the marriage. Begin doing the things you desire to see your spouse doing. For example, if you want connection, pursue him. If you desire him to honour you — honour him first. It’s amazing when one spouse starts trying different behaviours or attitudes — the impact they can have on the marriage.”
You don’t mind each other’s dysfunctional family.
If you think your fiancé’s family squabbles and strict meal times are endearing, then you’re definitely ready to tie the knot! Where in-laws are concerned, it’s good to understand what your expectations are with regards to filial duties. “We encourage couples to have a discussion prior to getting married to uncover expectations — discover if they are realistic or not — and decide together as a team what will work for your relationship.”
You trust each other implicitly.
A great marriage is made up of two healthy and trusting individuals. When the relationship is well-grounded, there should not be any worry of infidelity or unacceptable behaviour when one partner is away. “An affair is usually a sign of something missing in the marriage,” says Greg.
You don’t shy away from marriage preparation classes or counselling.
You acknowledge that gaining insight from marriage experts will do the world of good for your current relationship. Research shows that couples who attend premarital training are more satisfied in their marriage and are 30 per cent more likely to stay married. “There is no greater gift you can give to your future marriage than premarital training. The topics that should be covered include finances, communication, sexual intimacy, conflict management, expectations and family issues.”
Focus on the Family offers counselling services, personalised coaching programs and marriage preparation workshops for engaged couples. Get advice and guidance from family and marriage experts at 6336-1444.