12 Things to Do Before Getting Married (or Re-Married)
I think about how much heartache and struggle I could have saved myself if I had only known at the age of 25 what I now know at the age of 40, but life happens exactly how it is supposed to happen. We go through tough things because we have more to grow and learn before becoming the person we’re supposed to be. One of those tough things can be marriage, or divorce.
Over a 13 year span I got married, had a child, got divorced and then ended a long-term relationship after 5 years. So, you can say I’ve had my share of heartbreak. I had some great experiences in those 13 years and some really crappy ones. The thing is…I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s what helped me become the woman I am today. I will say that as I’ve moved forward in my life over the last few years, I see things differently…I do things differently. I’ve learned so many things that will serve me well in the future, and I want to share them with you.
Here are 12 things you should do before getting married (or remarried) for the best chance at a solid and happy marriage. These will make this journey through life so much easier for you!
Maybe you know you like chocolate and being outdoors, or that you want two kids and a dog. That’s not really what I’m talking about here, though. I mean REALLY get to know yourself. Know who you are…your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses, your dreams, and what you value. Know what you like (besides chocolate and wine) and what you don’t like, especially in your relationships. Here are some journal prompts you can use to help you get started.
Love & Respect Yourself
You can’t truly love and respect another human being, if you don’t love and respect yourself…at least not to your full potential or in the way they deserve. It isn’t enough to just know yourself. You have to embrace all that you are…your strengths and perceived weaknesses. You can’t wish you were someone different, and find self-love.
One way I have found to get to a place of love and respect for myself is through using affirmations. My initial thought about affirmations was, “Oh, how cheesy. I’m not doing that.” Then, out of desperation to ease my pain, I gave it a shot. At first, I didn’t believe even half of them. You may not believe any of them at first,and that’s perfectly OK. Say them anyway. Our brains are so fascinating. They are always trying to protect us (even when danger isn’t really present), and they love repeat what they know. If for years you have talked down to yourself, disrespected yourself even, that’s the tape your brain will play until you insert a new one. Play the new tape enough times and eventually your brain will start to believe it.
An even better way to get to a place of love and respect for yourself, is to do thought work. Write down your thoughts (no judging, just writing) and get curious about them. What is the negative thought about yourself you keep thinking? What feeling does that thought cause you to feel? How do you behave when you feel that way? What is the result that happens for you when you behave that way? What is a better feeling thought to think that is believable to you?
Know Your Worth
You are innately valuable and worthy. Write it on a sticky note and post it on your mirror…”I am valuable. I am worthy.” Read it every day.
In order to make good choices in your relationships, you have to believe that you are worthy of having a great relationship. You are worthy and valuable just as you are. You have to know that you have infinite value you bring to others. If you don’t learn and embrace this, you will always settle for less than you deserve. You will tolerate abuse, disrespect, dishonesty, and manipulation. Know your worth, and set boundaries to protect yourself.
Have Your Own Back
So many times I wanted a man to come rescue me (cue Richard Gere). You know…just like in the movies (Rapunzel, Cinderella, Pretty Woman). Well, the bad news is that he’s not coming. Sometimes, we get lucky and it happens that way, but that usually isn’t the case. The good news is that you can have your own back. You can rescue yourself, and that I find much more satisfying. When you can say to yourself, “I got you girl. We got this,” it takes life to a whole new level. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t allow someone else to be there for you. It doesn’t mean you can’t turn to other people in your time of need for comfort. It just means that you can have your own back too…like reinforcements. Because sometimes others may not be able to be there for you in the way that you may need them to.
Having your own back also means taking care of YOU. You can’t pour out love from an empty bucket. From my experience, empty buckets get filled with anger, anxiety and resentment…not useful feelings. Make time to take care of yourself…whatever that looks like for you. If that means once a week you get someone else to handle the kids while you have a few hours of “me time,” then make it happen. Your family, and your mind will thank you for it!
Unpack Your Bags
We all have baggage from our past…childhood, bad relationships, bad experiences. And so does your future spouse or partner. We have it because we’re human. The key is to unpack your bags before taking things further (and make sure your partner unpacks theirs too). What that means is don’t carry the hurt, the resentment, or the unresolved feelings with you. Take the time you need to acknowledge them, work through them and accept them. They are guaranteed to carry over into your relationship if you don’t deal with them first which will only make the relationship that much more challenging.
Love Your Life
Create a life you love SO much that you’re OK with being alone (at least for a while). We are human beings which means we crave and require connection, and being alone (or at least dying alone) is one of our biggest fears. If you can get to a place where you love your life on your own, life will be even that much sweeter when you get to share it with someone else. Don’t wait until you have that relationship or until your married to decide to create the life the want. Create it now.
Figure out what you enjoy doing, and do it. If you’re not sure, trying new things. Always wanted to learn another language? Take a class. Always wanted to take a trip to Italy, start saving for it now and set a date. Noticed that you enjoyed that one time you had an opportunity to paint? Sign up for a painting class to improve your skills. Don’t wish your life away…make it happen!
Take responsibility for your own actions and your own feelings. This is a big one!
If you were in a previous marriage or long-term relationship and it didn’t work out, ask yourself what you could have done differently? Evaluate everything about that relationship, and realize that you are the one common denominator in all of your relationships. Let me be clear…do NOT start putting blame on yourself for something that didn’t work out. Everything happened exactly the way it should have. I’m not saying at all that any of it was your fault. I’m just saying to consider removing the blame all together, and only looking at it as a learning opportunity. If you can’t take responsibility for what you could have done better in your relationships, you are much more likely to repeat the same pattern. Learn from the hard times. It may even be something as simple as, “Next time I’m going to take extra care in picking my partner.”
It’s also important to take responsibility for your own feelings. No one can make you feel a certain way. The behaviors of others can trigger certain thoughts in your brain, but only you get to decide what you want to make those thoughts mean. Did you catch that?? Only you can choose how you want to feel by managing the thoughts in your brain. Mind blown! They should totally teach this stuff in school. When your husband or partner doesn’t help with the housework, there are sentences that start rapidly firing in your brain (“He never helps with the dishes”) and you begin adding meaning to them, like “He doesn’t appreciate me. If he loved me, he would be helping me.” The problem is that these are faulty thoughts and not likely to be true. The great news is that you can totally choose new, more useful thoughts that will make you feel the way you want to feel about your significant other! Amazing!
Look for a Teammate
Having a happy and solid marriage is a lot like being on a team. You have to work together to make your relationship thrive. You will have to resolve problems together, raise kids together, and make big decisions together. Go into your marriage with the attitude of “We are in this TOGETHER. We got this!” When one person goes down, their teammate picks them up and cheers them on. You and your partner are a team. You can even give your relationship a team name if you want.
This one seems obvious, but it is mind-blowing how much communication is an issue in relationships. Yes, you should talk about the big stuff before getting married or furthering your relationship. What is the big stuff? You know, the stuff that could wreak havoc on your relationship if you don’t put it out on the table beforehand….stuff like finances, spiritual beliefs, how you want to raise your kids, your dreams, your values, your career plans, your goals, and where or how you want to live.
You may have learned somewhere along the way that good communication is about more than just talking. It’s also about paying attention and listening; and speaking up when something is on your mind, rather than allowing it to fester and build resentment (you’re not in control of their feelings, remember?). It’s about committing to coming up with a resolution without one person dominating the conversation. It’s about respecting one another.
Be Open to Being Wrong and Compromising
Did she just say what I think she said?! As awesome as it may feel to be right, know that you are going to have to give up being right sometimes…and that’s totally OK. You can do it! Sometimes he will be right. Sometimes he will have a better way of doing things (or at least a perfectly acceptable way). Other times you will both have a great way of handling something and may have to mesh the two together to come up with a solution. A lot of times, you will have to compromise. You will not always agree (shocker, I know). That’s OK. That’s where the art of compromising comes in…and yes, it’s an art. It may even take some practice (get your colors and paint out people).
Make Sure Marriage is What You Want
This seems like a given, but I think sometimes there’s a blurred line for some people between wanting a wedding and wanting a marriage. I love weddings. They are beautiful, romantic, joyful, happy, fun and exciting. Don’t they always look like the best day ever?! But what should be even more exciting is getting to create a beautiful, happy, amazing marriage. No, that doesn’t mean things will always be rainbows and butterflies. Quite the opposite. There will be challenges and difficult times, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be beautiful and amazing. You just have to make it so. So, make sure you’re willing to do the work that comes with marriage…you know, after the fun wedding. Which brings me to my next tip…
Promise to Actively Love
Love is not just a feeling. It is an action. Make a promise to yourself and your future spouse or partner that you will be an active participant in your marriage. That means that you will make your relationship a priority. Your kids will not die if mom and dad have a night for dinner (alone) once a week. They will not become delinquent children if you show affection to your husband. They will not be eternally damaged if you send them to bed an hour earlier than they would like so you can spend quality time together. Our kids are pretty resilient. Promise to make time for each other…time to talk (face to face), time to relax together (without faces in phones) and time to have FUN together. Do sweet things for each other…not because you may get something in return, but just because you want them to know how much you love them. Tell them how much you appreciate what they do and who they are. It’s very easy to forget these things when you’re in the depths of raising a child, working, keeping up a household and paying bills. Make it a priority.
No matter the national divorce rate or my previous experiences, I choose to believe that happy marriages do exist and still can. It’s just takes some preparation and determination.
“Nothing in this life worth having comes easy” -unknown