Marriage represents one of the biggest steps a couple can take outside of having children or purchasing a house, and it’s helpful to know what habits will create a strong marriage and what habits might weaken the relationship. Most couples must actively work to keep a marriage healthy and happy, and no couple should feel ashamed at having to learn the basics of a solid and long-lasting relationship.
The oft-quoted statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce may feel daunting when it comes to walking down the aisle, but there are a variety of steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of a failed relationship or marriage. Here are some of those essential considerations for starting a marriage on a strong note and ensuring it grows even stronger over time.
1. Maintain Mutual Respect Despite Disagreements
Respect is the basis upon which all other facets of marriage build and a marriage cannot survive if one partner disrespects the other. Without respect, a couple cannot truly agree on important topics like how often to have sex, how many children to have, and how to spend the family’s money, which are all other important discussions to have in advance of a wedding date.
A lack of mutual respect can doom a marriage before any other topic has come under discussion, and entering into a marriage without respect is a poor life choice. Verbal and emotional abuse stems from a lack of respect, so incorporating mutual respect into a relationship can reduce the likelihood of a strained marriage or eventual divorce.
2. Agree on a Schedule for Intimacy
Whether intimacy begins before or after marriage, creating an understanding between the two members of the relationship on the frequency of intimacy is one of the most important pre-marriage discussions. The number of times a couple is intimate will slow down naturally over time.
The International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM) shares that several factors may influence how often a couple is intimate. From the length of time a couple has been together to the number of children the couple has, virtually every life choice can have an impact on a couple’s sex life.
In addition to being on the same wavelength as far as frequency is concerned, a couple must also be open to scheduling intimacy, particularly as life throws its challenges their way. Children, busy jobs, stress with family, and a host of other factors may interrupt a regular sex life. Accepting that intimacy might need to sit on a calendar can help keep intimacy throughout a marriage.
3. Argue With Purpose Instead of Fighting
Reaching adulthood usually means getting into a few arguments, but there’s a distinct difference between arguing and fighting. Couples may fight about inconsequential things that don’t really matter, and a particularly combative partner may take an opposing side simply to spite the person with whom they’re arguing.
Known as a “devil’s advocate,” this person will take an opposing side during an argument even if he or she doesn’t really believe in the argument. The term originated with the Catholic Church, who would employ a scholar to argue against the canonization of a person tapped for sainthood. The scholar might not have believed his arguments, but it was his duty to present evidence nevertheless.
The Catholic Church still uses devil’s advocates, but the term has entered common parlance to mean someone arguing simply for the sake of argument. If a partner in a relationship understands the habit of his or her partner to act like a devil’s advocate, it’s important to point out this habit so that it may be avoided.
Arguing is a habit most humans regularly engage in, but fighting without conviction in one’s opinions or in an effort to make an opposing party angry doesn’t do anyone any good, particularly when it’s within marriage. Keep arguments honest, and avoid arguing just to make the other person angry.
4. Align on Children and Parenting
Not all couples will have children, but the decision to bring a new life into the world means having input from two parents when a marriage exists. As parents in a marriage will have an equal say on topics like discipline, medical care, and school, it’s important that a married couple discusses their likely parenting styles before getting pregnant.
Periodical Psychology Today describes a couple with divergent parenting styles where the mother wanted to implement strong, firm rules for the children and the father was adverse to a strict upbringing for the kids. The situation created an imbalance in the marriage where one parent was seen as the “nice” one, and the other was the strict rule enforcer.
One of the dangers parents may face in a marriage when they have dramatically different parenting styles is that the children may learn to manipulate situations to their benefit and to the detriment of the overall family unit. If one parent is seen as the less agreeable one, a child may take the side of the other parent during a family discussion and create a division between the married couple.
While having some different opinions on certain aspects of child rearing is natural, it’s important that a couple shares opinions on the major aspects of raising children. For example, there shouldn’t be any disagreements when shopping for health insurance quotes and the schedule of vaccinations children might need. It’s also important to agree on a time when the children may start dating and whether they should participate in extracurricular activities.
5. Ensure Equality with Money
Finances cause a huge amount of stress in relationships, and a recent survey suggests it’s the leading cause of stress. Around 35 percent of people who responded to the survey indicated money was the biggest stressor in their relationships. Since money is a topic that impacts just about everything in every relationship, its importance grows exponentially as it becomes difficult to pay bills.
Even if one member of a marriage makes significantly more than the other member, who might work inside the home rather than at a traditional job, it’s essential that monetary decisions are made in partnership rather than by the person who brings in the most money. Marriage is a partnership, and money decisions must be made by and to benefit the family.
No marriage is perfect, and virtually every relationship takes work from both participants to ensure low stress, happy children, and a beneficial partnership. It’s essential to discuss these topics in advance of getting married, and it’s probably a good idea to have these discussions before marriage is even on the table.