You’ve walked down the aisle, danced the first dance and cut the cake. Now what? In a society focused more on the act of getting married than the act of staying married, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. While I don’t pretend to have all of the answers and realize that each marriage is incredibly unique, I’d like to offer a few tips for starting your marriage off on the right foot.
- Make a plan. Spend less time planning your wedding and more time planning your marriage. While some couples choose to focus on pre-marital counseling, others simply talk through important issues like expectations, children, money and in-laws. Set aside a specific time to create your plan together. Be intentional about what you want and what changes and sacrifices you are both willing to make to achieve it.
- Show respect. From the beginning, focus on respecting your spouse—no matter what. Don’t disparage him in front of other people, gripe about him to your friends and family, or intentionally cut him down. There will be times when you are frustrated and angry with each other, but remember that your spouse is, above all, a human being with real feelings.
- Speak up. Strong marriages are built on good communication, plain and simple. There’s no way for your spouse to know what’s on your mind if you don’t share it, so keep the lines of communication open. Keep in mind, however, that doesn’t include backhanded comments or passive-aggressive statements.
- Learn a new language. Your spouse may not communicate the same way you do, and that’s okay. You just need to learn how to speak the same language. It will take practice, and it’s completely appropriate to coach each other through it. Try questions and statements like, “I’m hearing you say this, is that correct?” or “Here’s a way you could better communicate with me.” Remember that coaching should come from a place of respect (see #2).
- Have fun. Don’t forget why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. I suspect it was because you enjoyed spending time together. With that in mind, don’t let life’s stressors get in the way of having fun. Travel, be adventurous, go on dates, play—and laugh as much as possible.
- Take care of yourself. It’s hard to care for others—especially your spouse—if you are physically, mentally or emotionally compromised. The more you can do to reduce your stress and boost your tolerance, the better. Remember, self-care is not selfish.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.