If you compared the engagement period and married life, like before and after pictures of taking wedding vows, the two scenarios would look way different—there's no comparison. This should not be discouraging—the idea that your relationship will change once you’re married should encourage you to reflect on your current relationship. Below are some tips I hope can help to prepare you for the big day and beyond!
Microwave Pizza Vs. Steak and Potatoes
My mother asked me once what I wanted for dinner: microwaved pizza or steak and potatoes? I said steak and potatoes! She then used that opportunity to analogize my current relationship. She said everyone always chooses a slow-cooked, homemade, blood, sweat, and tears meal over fast food. She told me to have the same taste in boyfriends. You want to remember that lingering loveliness of a bond, not hope it’ll be enough to fulfill you.
Never Go to Bed Mad
We’ve all heard this one before. It’s pretty self-explanatory. After a fight, all the guilt, the hurt, the frustration, the loss, the momentary inability to forgive or understand—all of that is only aggravated by your walking away. You must always communicate. Get to that middle ground in the argument. Whenever my significant other and I disagree, I like to talk and forgive immediately, whereas he needs time and space. Regardless of what the other is doing that one of us doesn’t like, we always let each other talk until we feel we both can understand what brought on the friction. It could be as simple as his forgetting to clean out the kitten’s litter box.
A wise friend once said that what he learned after 52 years of marriage was that no 50/50 proposal would ever work, meaning a relationship in which both parties intend to contribute 50% would fail. He told me that dating, the engagement period, and marriage would never work 50/50—it has to be 100/100. Each party had to be equally willing to do all the work, and if they are, then they’ll never have to.
Cass McCombs wrote the song “Dreams-Come-True Girl.” The lyrics read: “You’re not my dream girl/ You’re not my reality girl/ You’re my dreams-come-true girl.” Remember that list you made as a preteen of all the qualities you wanted in your future mate? Remember writing things like “a sense of humor,” “intelligent,” “wears sweaters,” “is athletic,” or “doesn’t share my father’s name”? Your list of desired characteristics should match who you’re with! They may not have every single lofty, hopeful adjective (“rich” or “blue eyes”), but they should measure up pretty well. Don’t lower your standards. You deserve everything you want. Marriage is a big deal; you don’t want to devote your life to someone who can’t make you smile when you’re down. Dreams of finding and marrying your soul mate can come true.
Pros Vs. Cons
No, you’re not vapid for weighing the pros against the cons of marrying your significant other. Nitpick away! We are talking about marriage here. No one who marries intends to divorce, or to have a mediocre relationship. Be sure you’re marrying for the right reasons. Don’t think you can fix the other person or yourself once you’re married. You have to be whole as yourself. Getting married because you think you can eventually change your spouse simply documents the fact that you have been spending time with someone you clearly don’t want to be with. To figure out how compatible you are, perhaps try reading about engagement and marriage, taking couple’s counseling classes, taking personality quizzes, finding your love language, or having a deep discussion about your beliefs and values. However you discover and possibly resolve your differences, you know what’s best for you—don't pity-marry.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
By the time you’re engaged, you should probably have seen most every facet of your lover: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Your significant other may be kind, generous, gentle, tender... but is he or she patient? Loyal? Honest? Integral? There’s no such thing as perfect; if your significant other seems perfect, you probably haven’t dated long enough to be engaged. It’s good to acknowledge that you’re both imperfect people, and maybe you’re perfect for each other, but it’s good to be aware of each other’s moods, behaviors, pet peeves, tolerances, and preferences.
The 30-Day Return Policy, Not Guaranteed
Much of dating is trial and error. When you’ve graduated to the engagement stage, you find yourself in a lasting trial period, kind of like that moment before you rip the tags off that new dress. Do you see yourself wearing this in a few years? Do you like how it makes you feel? Will you take good care of it? You can always return the dress; returning a husband is a different matter entirely. There’s no 30-day return policy on a husband. If engagement is the trial, then marriage is that moment of commitment when you rip off the tags and know in your heart of hearts that you’ve found a good one. Same rule of thumb as shopping: “When in doubt, don’t!”
Why You Should and Shouldn’t Overlook Faults
“Prepare for the worst, but expect the best.” It’s cliché, but true. Be optimistic but pragmatic. Your outlook on marriage and togetherness counts. You have to be willing to overlook some faults in your significant other. It’s easy to ignore your boyfriend’s leaving the seat up or your girlfriend changing clothes four times before going out anywhere, but some characteristics are less innocent than others. It’s not a sin to have a temper, but if your significant other is verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive when he or she is angry, then that is quite another thing. Don’t overlook behaviors that embarrass or hurt you—or them; this is destructive and unhealthy, and most certainly not a desirable trait for a spouse.
Partners in Life and Love
Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa decided that she would make the little decisions in their marriage, and he would make the big ones. He said that because of well made small decisions, he never had to make a decision. Your relationship is a partnership. Decisions are made together, now that you’re intertwining your lives most intimately. You must trust each other to make a decision for both when you can’t be together. Your significant other should be your best friend, your most trusted friend, your partner, your beloved, and should also be someone with a head for decisionmaking.
Alas! Be ye not disheartened! These tips are merely to brake check, not wreck you! There is peace in the happiness you share. Whether you go the distance or take some space is up to you, but either way, take seriously the vow that is eternal, documented love. It only happens once, right?