Dear Barb – Make a marriage work by starting out right

Dear Barb:

I recently became engaged and we are planning to marry next spring. My fiancé and I have been dating for five years and get along great. Because of the high divorce rate, we are both concerned about what we can do to make our marriage last. What is the secret to a happy lasting marriage? Can you suggest things we can do right from the beginning, to ensure our marriage will last?

Michelle in Quebec

Well Michelle, you are ahead of the game already by looking for ways to begin your marriage on the right track. I believe most people enter marriage believing that their marriage will be happy and successful. However many don’t realize how much work is necessary to sustain a happy marriage.

The most important consideration for having a successful marriage begins before you are married. You must choose a person with whom you are compatible. That may sound like a given, but many people choose partners who are like their parents. Even if their parent’s behavior patterns were dysfunctional, it is familiar and within the individual’s comfort level. Therefore they tend to overlook difficulties or warning signs indicating this may not be the person for them.

Subsequent to undertaking the serious commitment of marriage, you need to make this relationship a priority in your life. This can be achieved in part by separating from your family of origin. That does not mean cutting all ties with your parents, but it does mean that your decisions should now be discussed with your spouse first, not with your parents. Most parents understand the necessity for this, but it may involve an adjustment on both sides.

Healthy married life involves sharing activities, but also respecting each other’s need for autonomy. Many couples who have enjoyed a long marriage feel putting the other person first is vital to a happy marriage. Adaptability is another key element mentioned by long married couples, as things happen to us that are beyond our control. We can only control our reactions to these events. As well, communication is essential. Share your hopes and dreams and offer each other support and encouragement. When arguments arise, and they will, try not to attack and blame each other. Remember that things said during arguments are usually intended to hurt, and cannot be taken back. In fact, these unforgotten issues often lay the groundwork for a lifetime of disagreements.

Sexual intimacy is a healthy part of any relationship. Talk to each other about what you want and need from your intimate relationship. Sometimes simply watching a movie and sharing a bowl of popcorn can provide the foundation for many romantic experiences.

Finally Michelle, when faced with the unavoidable tragedies of life, such as loss, illness and death, you need to be united and strong in your determination to get through these events together. Don’t let these devastating experiences divide you as a couple. Moreover, for some people faith can be a source of strength when faced with life’s unfortunate events.

Congratulations Michelle on your upcoming nuptials, as you are about to embark on a very important journey.

E-mail your questions to advice.voice@ausu.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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