Start a Marriage Built To Last Using These Six Steps
It’s wedding season! Starry-eyed couples are saying, “I do,” and looking forward to spending a lifetime together in wedded bliss. So, when a curveball shows up in their marriage, it can cause them to wonder what they’re doing wrong. Inevitably, this may happen to you, too.
You may have heard the phrases “starter wife” or “starter marriage.” This concept was first made popular, in part, by demographer Pamela Paul in her book, “The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony.” Paul found that many people are divorcing before 30 years old as part of the “starter marriage” phenomenon, a name coined to refer to marriages lasting less than five years, where couples have yet to have children and they end their marriage by the time they’re in their early thirties.
According to Paul, below are some risk factors that raise the likelihood of having a starter marriage.
- Lack of guidance from parents. Children of divorce often do not have healthy role models to understand what a thriving marriage looks like.
- Culture of impatience. When young couples hit a pothole, they might think it’s time to move on rather than working through issues.
- Pressure to marry. Young couples feel that their marriage clock is ticking away.
Research has shown that many couples walk down the aisle, after months of planning the perfect wedding, without the slightest idea of how to make their marriage last. That fact, combined with the risk factors above, can produce a deadly combination for marriage.
Don’t lose hope, yet! Marriage experts tell us there are several ways engaged couples like you can significantly enhance your chances of staying married and journeying in a healthy marriage. Below are six examples.
1. Attend a premarital experience like Marriage Prep.
Eighty-nine percent of married couples who attended premarital education found it helpful to their marriage. Among other topics, premarital counseling and/or premarital retreats encourage you and your partner to learn effective communication and conflict management skills—skills crucial to the long-term success of your marriage.
WinShape Marriage does not offer premarital counseling; however, we do offer Marriage Prep, a weekend retreat for couples, who are seriously dating, considering engagement, or currently engaged, that provides fundamental teaching regarding marriage expectations.
2. Manage your individual expectations as you’re approaching marriage.
Every union is a combination of two different and imperfect people. It takes time to learn how to cooperate with and love one another well, especially in the context of marriage. You will become soul mates with your spouse over time. This deep love isn’t instantaneous; it’s a journey of learning one another over the years (no matter what the latest rom-com would like you to believe).
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” —Philippians 2:3-4
3. Practice better self-awareness.
Often, you look for perfection in your partner without realizing you can’t meet the standards you’re asking them to meet. Reading God’s Word, humbly asking the Holy Spirit to shape your heart into God’s image, and connecting with a community of faith who can reveal growth areas and blind spots is imperative. These are tangible ways to grow in self-awareness, help you understand your daily need for grace, and support you in maintaining realistic expectations in your relationship.
4. Understand that marriages grow and change over time as each individual in the marriage grows and changes.
Be curious about your fiancé and future spouse. Make it your goal to continue learning about them daily—their personality qualities, habits, and desires. Additionally, consider it your duty and blessing to encourage them to be who God has called them to be. Be willing and vulnerable with your significant other, too, and share openly about how you are growing as an individual. Ultimately, recognize that as time passes and life happens, neither of you will be the same person you were on your wedding day, and that’s OK.
5. Recognize that finances are a team effort.
Finances are the number one thing couples argue about and often the reason they state for getting a divorce. Understanding what money means to you and to your partner, as well as understanding that money may mean different things to each of you, will be helpful as you launch your marriage journey. Learn more at Money Habitudes.
6. Find a mentor couple.
Form a relationship with a couple who is further along on their marriage journey than you. Lean on them for wisdom and support as you begin your own journey.
The good news is—you and your partner have a great chance to be in a happy, healthy marriage, especially if you take the opportunity to prepare ahead of time. Keep your expectations in check, add some communication and conflict resolution tools to your emotional toolkit, grow in self-awareness, and aim to love your significant other through the eyes of Christ. Overall, make your marital health a priority, so you can fully experience the beautiful, God-ordained journey that is marriage.