Marriage is nothing like dating. Marriage is a big change. It's no secret that some people who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate than those who don't, but it's still important to understand the differences between dating and being married so you'll be prepared when things change from butterflies in your stomach to doing the laundry together.

 

Marriage is more than just living together. Having an apartment together isn't quite the same as being married, especially if you've never lived with anyone before. It takes work to get used to living together and getting along with each other's quirks, so give yourselves plenty of time (more than six months) to make sure you can handle living with each other before tying the knot.

 

Here's a list of 10 things you should know before you say “I do.”

 

  1. You are on the same page about finances. 

 

Finance is one of the biggest stressors in marriage. If you're not on the same page with your spouse about money, you'll constantly be fighting and making each other miserable. You need to discuss short-term plans, like vacations and gifts, and long-term goals like buying a house or having children.

 

  1. You have trust in your relationship. 

 

If you don't feel like you can trust your partner, it will be very hard to maintain a healthy relationship. A lack of trust can lead to constant fighting and jealousy, and it could eventually cause your relationship to fail. What is trust? It's believing that your partner is faithful and will stay faithful despite opportunities to cheat, and it means being honest about everything, even if it hurts.

 

  1. You are willing to compromise. 

 

No one gets everything they want from their partner all the time. If you're set in your ways and unwilling to compromise with your partner about anything, you probably aren't suited for marriage yet.

 

  1. Be present and engaged

 

It's so easy for couples to get caught up in their day to day lives, that they forget to connect with each other. When it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship, being present and engaged is key. “Check in with your partner frequently,” says Julie Williamson, marriage and family therapist. “Don't take them for granted.” Keep the spark alive by celebrating special occasions, planning date nights and surprising each other with small tokens of appreciation.

 

  1. Schedule time to talk

 

The best way to stay connected is by making a weekly date night or monthly lunch date. During this time you're not allowed to talk about work or the kids — just yourselves and your relationship. Williamson also recommends scheduling daily five minute check-ins with each other. (Set an alarm on your phone if you need a reminder.) These don't have to be long conversations, but they help you stay connected throughout the day.

 

  1. Get used to having fewer options. 

 

When you're single, you can make your own decisions about what you want to do with your money. But when you're married, there are two people involved — and that means giving up some of your independence in order to make joint decisions.

 

  1. Combine your finances.

 

 The days of keeping separate accounts after marriage are over. If you're the couple who is “just going to keep things the way they are,” that's not a good idea. You may want to consider a joint account for regular monthly expenses and then keep separate accounts for your own spending money. At a minimum, both spouses should know about every account, credit card and loan, as well as share access to them.

 

  1. Get on the same page with debt.

 

 Discuss how much debt each spouse has accrued — from student loans to car loans to credit cards — and create a plan for paying off that debt together as a couple. That doesn't mean one person pays off everything while the other is living debt-free; it means both partners take on the challenge of paying down their debt together as much and as quickly as possible.

 

  1. You can't read your partner's mind

 

No matter how long or short your marriage is, there will be times when you will feel like you don't know your partner anymore. Maybe they did something that upsets you or they do something that annoys the hell out of you. Don't try to read their mind because chances are that you might get it wrong. Instead of jumping to conclusions, confront them directly about what's bothering you and ask them what their thoughts are on the issue at hand.

 

  1. A lot of effort goes into maintaining a healthy relationship

 

Romantic relationships require constant work, especially in today's day and age when everything is about instant gratification. Maintaining a healthy union requires commitment from both partners as well as having realistic expectations from one another. 

 

  1. Know that marriage isn't always easy — but it's worth it

 

Know that marriage isn't always easy — but it's worth it: You've heard it before: Marriage takes hard work! It's not going to be easy all the time, so I encourage you to know that ahead of time. Have realistic expectations of each other, and know ahead of time that there will be times when things are difficult and may even seem impossible. But don't give up at the first sign of trouble — your marriage is worth fighting for.

 

  1. Have realistic expectations of marriage and your spouse

 

There's no use trying to make your spouse over again, because it won't work. It's best to marry someone who already is the way you want him or her to be. If your potential mate has some of the qualities you are looking for, but not others, do not try to change him or her. Remember that differences add spice and vitality to a relationship.

 

Besides having realistic expectations about your spouse, you also need to have realistic expectations about marriage itself. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, which means that it will take a lifetime to get all of your needs met. You can't expect everything from your partner. Sometimes you'll need other people in your life: friends and relatives to meet those needs.

 

My last piece of advice to you both as individuals and a couple is to wait. I know that this is something that we are all told every time. But it couldn’t be truer. If you feel like you are not ready for marriage, then don’t do it; it will only cause resentment in the long run. 

 

For example, if one person wants children but the other does not, this can cause dissension in relationships where one partner thinks they are ready while the other has no interest. Another example is finances: if one person has several thousand dollars of student loan debt and the other has nothing, this could lead to resentment as well after getting married. 

 

I think the trick to being ready for marriage is to make sure that you are compatible on a basic level, as well as an emotional level and a spiritual level. When you get married, you actually “become one flesh” which means that you need to be on the same page when it comes to everything from family values to how much money you make.

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