Before getting married I was eager to be married. But I gave little thought to my own preparedness for marriage. Now that I’m married there are things I’m grateful I experienced and things I wish I’d spent more time developing. Here are 6 things I recommend everyone do before getting married.
#1 Obtain financial stability before marriage
Before getting married it is essential that you get your finances together for a few reasons:
- You want to feel capable of providing for yourself without being dependent on family, friends or a spouse. Knowing that you can provide for yourself gives you a peace of mind and confidence. If you were financially independent before marriage then you always know that you are capable of providing for yourself again if you need to. If your spouse is out of work, chooses to be a stay at home parent, or God forbid there is a divorce or death, you know that you are capable of supporting yourself financially. Money, How Much Does it Matter in a Relationship?
- Getting married is expensive, as can be the road that follows. Even if you have a small inexpensive wedding like we did, getting married can be expensive. Our wedding expenses included: the engagement trip, rings, typical wedding expenses (food, venue, photographer, attire, decor, hotel, etc.) Days after our wedding we moved across the country, and months after that we moved again into our final apartment. Six months after that we took our honeymoon, and 5 months after that we found out we were expecting a baby. All of this within a year! Had we not each had some money saved prior to our engagement, things would’ve been tough. It’s hard to predict exactly what will come after the I Do’s but one thing is for sure, having some money saved can’t hurt.
- You want to be with someone because you want them not because you need them. Again, we’re talking worst case scenario. If something goes terribly wrong in the marriage and you don’t want to be in it anymore, you want to know that you can get out without being homeless or helpless. Even if you’ve been a non working stay at home spouse for some years, having a savings account of your own, past ability to financially support yourself and good money sense will give you confidence and ability to not be trapped.
- Money troubles is one of the top causes of divorce. If you were financially independent before getting married chances are you know how to follow a budget, make decisions when money is tight, and plan finances long term. Being financially savvy and able to communicate your values about money will make for a stronger marriage. Money & Relationships
#2 Travel before marriage
Before getting married I took a few trips that I will always cherish. When my sister and I were both single we spent 7 days in San Francisco. Years later after she was married, we took a two week trip to Europe (me, my sister, her husband and his brother). The trip was an experience of a lifetime, and I doubt the four of us would ever have the opportunity to do such a trip again. It’s not that travel stops after you get married, of course not. I actually started traveling more when I met my husband. But traveling with friends and family is a different experience than traveling with a spouse. Furthermore, traveling helps you discover new parts of the world and new parts of yourself. This self discovery and exploration is something I recommend everyone experience as much of as possible before making one of the biggest decisions of their lives: marriage.
#3 Have Your Heart Broken before marriage
What the heck?! Why? I know this one sounds crazy. Who would willingly seek heartbreak? Some people marry their high school sweethearts and never experience heartbreak. More power to them, but for most of us this isn’t our experience. Most of us experience rounds and rounds of heartbreak before finding “the one”. I personally am grateful for all of that heartbreak and I feel it strengthens my marriage.
Marriage is hard because people are flawed. Marriage is living with someone everyday, it’s having a best friend/roommate whose always around. This is great if you enjoy your spouse but regardless at some point you’re going to get into little spiffs. Communicating will at some point be challenging even if you are a great communicator. Bad habits, like socks on the floor or a cap-less toothpaste tube will make you pull your hair out. . Disagreements on important issues will stress you. And the list goes on. No marriage is perfectly blissful because no person is perfect. At times you might even think, what did I get myself into. In those moments, I think of past heartbreak and it makes me love and appreciate my spouse so much more.
For example, a key characteristic of my spouse that I love is his considerateness and generosity. In past relationships this was something most of my exes lacked. Every time my husband offers me the last bite of desert, empties the dishwasher, pulls the car up to the door so I don’t have to walk far, offers his jacket in the rain, or any other small pleasantry I appreciate him so much. I also really appreciate how he argues. Whenever we are in a disagreement, I think about nasty arguments of my past and how my husband, no matter how difficult the disagreement speaks to me with respect and patience. It makes me really appreciate him and our marriage. Having experienced disrespect, impatience, inconsiderateness and general heartbreak makes me appreciate my spouse that much more and gives me reason everyday to not quit, but rather work through challenging times. Marriage, 4 Things I’ve Loved and Learned from my 1st Year
#4 Discuss Religion before marriage
Whether you are atheist, agnostic or belong to a specific faith you need to discuss it with your spouse. If you plan to have children this becomes even more essential. Religion is about more than just your beliefs in God or lack thereof. Religion can dictate your wedding ceremony, practices within your home, your diet, and even how you observe holidays. If it’s an inter-religious marriage what kind of ceremony will you hold? If you have children, are their religious must haves such as circumcision or baptism? If one partner observes a specific diet, will the other be required to also? Will holidays of both faith be observed and if so in what way? Even if you aren’t super religious, trust that a conversation on religion is critical! Intercultural Dating: Unforeseen Challenges and Expectations
#5 Live alone before marriage
If you’ve ever had a roommate and then lived alone then this is self explanatory. But if you’ve never lived alone listen up. Living alone is a liberating experience. You control the energy of your space at all times. You can leave something and know it will be exactly where you left it. You can play music at 2am, or nap peacefully at 2pm without disturbance. You don’t have to be considerate of anyone else, or check on / be checked on. Furthermore, being alone requires you to be even more independent. If there’s a mouse in the apartment, or our fridge breaks you’ve got to deal with it. If you hear an alarming noise in the middle of the night, you are on your own to deal with it. Having a good roommate can be loads of fun, and comforting for the times when there is a problem, but living alone at least once in your life is an experience worth having. Lastly, once you get married, chances are you may never get a chance to live alone again. If you plan to have kids your home will only get more crowded. And if you don’t have children, there is still the possibility of aging parents at some point moving in. Take advantage of solitude while you can if you can. 10 Things I Miss About Single Life
#6 Know what it takes to be happy before marriage
This is definitely the most important tip. If you don’t know how to be happy prior to marriage, you won’t be happy post marriage, at least not long term. Some of us focus so much on wanting to get married, that we equate our incomplete happiness with not having marriage. “I’ll be happy when…. I find love (find marriage, start a family).” But happiness can’t be a when event. Be Happy NOW! Don’t Postpone Your Happiness And happiness can’t be defined by one category of life, especially not one so dependent on another person. Ask yourself:
If I married the partner of my dreams but I was unemployed with no career prospect would I be happy? If I married the partner of my dreams but my health was rapidly declining, could I be happy?
And the list goes on. Most of us have goals in multiple categories of life: health & fitness, career, education & mental stimulation, finances, family & friends, spirituality, love, etc. We need some reminisce of success or balance in each category to feel fulfilled. Before getting married, give lots of thoughts to what it takes to make you feel fulfilled and happy. Don’t expect that a happy marriage will be enough to fulfill all of these other categories. While a great spouse will try with all their might to make you happy in every way possible, it isn’t their job to be responsible for your happiness. And it isn’t fair or realistic to expect this of them. Your happiness is and always will be your own responsibility.
These are my six tips on things to do before getting married. I hope they were helpful. Just a quick reminder that this is an opinion based blog. Love From the Other Side is a blog about love, life and perspective. That is my perspective based on years of making mistakes in dating and undervaluing the importance of self-love. Now that I’m married, I love to spend time retrospectively thinking about dating and the things I learned over the years that helped me to finally find love & marriage. I’ve been married only 1.5 years now and my understanding of love and marriage continues to grow by the day. With that said, I greatly value your comments and opinions whether you are a veteran of marriage, or a single person dating with a varied perspective.