3 Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married
Before I got married, my friend handed me two books titled Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married and The 5 Love Languages by Dr Gary Chapman. Dr Chapman is a New York Times bestseller and has more than 30 years of experience in couples counseling.
When I got the books, I didn't jump right into reading them (too busy preparing for the wedding!). It was three years into my marriage before I stumbled upon the books again and decided to have a go at them.
The books aim to provide an insight on what marriage is about, what we can do to gain marital bliss, and basically how to live happily ever after. And I must say I quite enjoyed the books and can somewhat relate to what the author is saying and still learn quite a few tips (with three years of marriage under my belt and endless marriage advice from my parents).
So, I have picked out three great points that I found useful for all of us who are embarking or have embarked in the marriage journey. Take some time to go through them and I do hope you find them useful.
Dr Chapman is a New York Times bestseller and has more than 30 years of experience in couples counseling. He provides valuable advice on how couples should interact and maintain healthy relationships. This article is inspired by 2 of his most famous books so do check them out if you are interested to learn more.
1. Love Comes in Two Stages
According to Dr Chapman, the first stage of love is almost effortless. During this stage, we are so in love that we will do almost anything for each other and it will not feel like a chore or sacrifice to go the extra mile for our other half. We could queue up for hours just to buy that popular new gadget for our partners or travel thousands of miles just to spend some time together.
At this stage, couples can also get so absorbed in the relationship that they can become oblivious to the world or to the obvious issues or flaws in the relationship (remember the times when our friends or family warn us about our gf/bf and we angrily brush them off?).
The second stage of love needs a lot more effort - it requires us to have a much deeper understand of the needs of our other halves in order to sustain the relationship. The second stage usually takes place about two years into the relationship.
In order to stay happy when we are at our second stage of love, we need to understand our love language, as well as our other half's and act on it. So what exactly is a love language?
As Dr Chapman explains, love language is our own individual interpretation of how love is expressed and how we can feel loved. The five language of love as described by Dr Chapman includes:
- Words of Affirmation - this refers to the act of using words to admire or appreciate a person. Examples - " You look really great in that dress." or "You are really sweet for helping your friend with that chore."
- Acts of Service - this simply means that love is expressed through actions rather than words. To perform acts of service, we need to understand what our other half values and want us to do for them.
- Receiving Gifts - this basically means love is expressed and felt by the giving of gifts.
- Quality Time - spending time together and enjoying each other's company is also another way of expressing love and making the other half feel special.
- Physical Touch - touch such as hugs, holding hands can also help individuals feel loved and connected to their loved ones.
So for example, if your spouse's love language is acts of service and he/she likes some help around the house, then helping with the house chores is (according to your spouse), an expression of love for him/her.
2. Resolving Conflicts Without Arguments
Arguments occur in every marriage and sometimes it can get so bad that we may question ourselves if we have married the right person or saying things that we may regret - "Let's get a divorce!"
The first important rule to remember, according to Dr Chapman, is that having conflicts does not mean you are married to the wrong person. Conflicts are a part and parcel of life.
To sustain a good relationship, every couple must find an effective way to resolve conflicts and one of the first steps to addressing conflicts is to practice listening to one another. Allowing each other to express their opinions (without interruption) and acknowledging what was shared helps both parties to feel that their feelings and needs are valued.
After having a clear understanding of the problem, the couple should then discuss the solution openly and be willing to compromise. Being able to compromise with one another is extremely important in a relationship and it may occasionally involve sacrifices on our part - this is a necessary step if we want to peacefully come up with the best possible solution.
Do you think you have an effective way to resolve conflicts with your other half?
3. You Are Not Just Marrying One Person
Marriage is not just about the couple, but also their families. When we get married, we are not just marrying one person but also marrying into the whole family.
To have a happy marriage, we should make effort (to the best of our abilities) to have good relationships with our spouse's family (whether they are distant relatives or close family members like mother and father in law).
Everyone is different and has their own opinions, needs and demands. So how do we try to have positive relationships with a variety of individuals whom, we honestly cannot really ignore?
In his book, Dr Chapman suggest that we practice empathetic listening. Empathetic listening is listening with the intent to understand the views and feelings of the others and withholding judgement until we have clear knowledge of the situation.
For example, your in laws may request that your family have dinner with them at least twice a week if possible. At first, it may sound like they are trying to be a little demanding and controlling. However, when you try to listen to their point of view and understand how they feel (without judgement) - i.e. reasons for the request was that they feel lonely because they had no other family members living near them other than yours and they would like to bond with their grand children, you will likely be more receptive of their request.
A love language is our own individual interpretation of how love is expressed and how we can feel loved.
As much as possible, we should try to accommodate to our spouse's family needs. However, to maintain positive relationships and keep ourselves equally happy, we should also learn to negotiate our way around certain requests and expectations (instead of keeping everything to ourselves all the time and one day explode). And often, it is the manner in which we negotiate that helps to us to increase the chances of reaching our desired outcome.
Taking the above example, instead of flatly rejecting your in laws' request and behaving in a 'take it or leave it' manner, you can find some time to talk with them to offer an alternative proposal and also cite reasons for your proposal. You should also make more references with 'I' instead of 'You' so it would not sound like you are making any accusations or are being too harsh.
For example, "I have an unpredictable work schedule so it can be difficult for me to bring the kids over twice a week. I think it will be less stressful for us to come on Sunday's to spend time together." - instead of using "You want us to come down twice a week but it will be difficult. If you want too see us, we will need to make alternative arrangements.".
Lastly, we can also learn the love language of our spouse's family and likewise share ours to help build and sustain better and more loving relationships.
If you have questions and would like more practical tips on a how to have a happier and healthier marriage, you can refer to Dr Gary Chapman's books Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married and The 5 Love Languages for more guidance. Happy reading!