You may be familiar with Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, and maybe even the Five Apology Languages. Dr. Chapman has over 35 years of experience in counseling couples, and he condenses his expertise quite effectively into his powerful collection of books that have been helping couples for decades. In his book, “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married,” he explores 12 areas in which he personally wishes he had a better understanding prior to entering into marriage.
Dr. Chapman makes the point that we do not enter marriage with the intent to divorce. However, we often tie the knot unprepared. He points out the glaring discrepancy between the sheer amount of time and effort we put into our education and careers versus the lack of general preparation we place when considering marriage.
For those who are single or beginning to date, being mindful of these twelve areas can serve as a blueprint when looking to transition from single to married. For those engaged or already married, these areas can help guide and assist you in exploring your relationship’s foundation before the big day arrives.
I Wish I Had Known…
That being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage
Research indicates that the life span of “in love” or the obsession we feel towards someone is 2 years. We know emotions change, and obsessions fade over time. Thus, couples need a more substantial foundation than just mere obsession.
That romantic love has two stages
The first stage is “in love” where no one is working at the relationship – it just comes naturally. We are willing – even eager – to make all kinds of sacrifices for that person. The second stage of romantic love is more intentional than the first stage and requires truly learning your partner’s LOVE LANGUAGE.
That the saying “Like mother, like daughter” and “Like father, like son” is not a myth
Most of us are more like our parents than we realize (or care to admit). Specifically, we tend to repeat communication patterns that we heard growing up, particularly the communication between our parents. Dr. Chapman speaks to the importance of recognizing these positive and negative tendencies, and that we must find our own voice accordingly.
How to solve disagreements without arguing
We must understand and accept the reality that we will have conflicts and these conflicts are not an outward sign that you should not have married this person. It is when we stop listening that disagreements become arguments. Dr. Chapman explains that sometimes compromise might look like “meeting in the middle,” “meeting on your side,” or “meeting later.”
That apologizing is a sign of strength
Apologizing is one of the fundamentals of a healthy marriage. Couples often miss what each other needs when it comes to apology and forgiveness. We need to learn our partner’s APOLOGY LANGUAGE, and tailor our apology to our partner to ensure that our apology is received sincerely.
That forgiveness is not a feeling
Dr. Chapman discusses the importance of recognizing that forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Forgiving your partner does not destroy our memory, remove all consequences or rebuild trust. However, it does offer the possibility of reconciliation and moving forward.
That toilets are not self-cleaning
Will you hire Merry Maids? Will you take turns unloading the dishwasher (and reloading the inevitable pile of dirty dishes stacked up in the sink)? It seems so silly, yet setting these expectations and exploring where the expectations come from can save you many conversations down the road.
That we needed a plan for handling our money
Is it our money or your money? Is it our debt or your debt? Who keeps the books? Who pays the bills? How much do we spend, save and give? Many people feel uncomfortable talking about money, but it’s critical for couples to have open and honest conversations about finances.
That mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic
Dr. Chapman explores the ways in which expectations can greatly vary between partners and the importance of having these conversations and what “sexual fulfillment” means for your partner. This is another area where couples find it easier to just not talk about it, but do each other a favor and ask what sexual fulfillment means to them. More than likely, you’ll be glad you did.
That I was marrying into a family
“Are we going to be at your parents for Christmas or mine?” How many times do we find ourselves in these types of conversations? Establish expectations early and remind each that we are coming from a place of empathy. And there is nothing wrong with negotiating.
That spirituality is not to be equated with “going to church”
Many couples do not discuss religion or spirituality at all before entering into a marriage. Yet, many consider themselves religious and say that their faith is important to them. Therefore, it is so important to explore what religion and faith mean to you personally, as well as your partner.
That personality profoundly influences behavior
Is the glass half full or half empty? Optimistic vs. pessimistic, neat vs. messy, logical vs. intuitive. These are all personality traits and behaviors that define who we are, and as a result, we bring to the relationship. Recognizing these traits in ourselves and our partner is key.
Remember, professional help is always available whether you are in the beginning stages of working toward marriage or you are currently struggling in your relationship. If you need more information, contact Counseling Works now to schedule an appointment.
Written By: Julie Peterson, LCSW