Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married

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Published: 9/1/2010
“Most people spend far more time in preparation for their vocation than they do in preparation for marriage.” With more than 35 years of experience counseling couples, Gary has found that most marriages suffer due to a lack of preparation and a failure to learn to work together as intimate teammates.

Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married

Key Insights

Marriage is not always easy. Many people go into it thinking they know their partner through and through. Then they come to find out that the phrase ‘I do’ can change a relationship in drastic and unexpected ways.

Falling in love is an experience full of passion and excitement. But, marriage is not always like that. The heightened feelings start to deplete and many people are left feeling alone and isolated. So, how do you recover from that?

“People do not get married planning to divorce. Divorce is the result of a lack of preparation for marriage and the failure to learn the skills of working together as teammates in an intimate relationship.”- Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman has been a marriage counselor for decades and in his book, “Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married,” he shares his insights on how to work as a team, practice observation of your partner, and overcome common romantic conflicts.

Key Points

  • After The Two Year Mark

When you fall in love with someone, the emotions are heightened. Even during the first stage of marriage, your mental, physical, and emotional self are all full of happy thoughts and disillusioned ideas about the person you’re with.

But, when these emotions begin to fade, suddenly, all of your partner’s flaws come to the forefront. This can make the transition into the second stage, or the non-euphoric stage, of marriage difficult for couples to handle.

When you are in the ‘honeymoon stage,’ your physical body reacts by releasing chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen, which are categorized as sex hormones.

Your brain also releases oxytocin and dopamine, which activate the reward center of the brain. These chemicals are associated with pleasure.

All of these hormone surges make a person feel happy, giddy, and eager. However, some of these symptoms actually are quite similar to the evolutionary fight-or-flight situation, so, in turn, these feelings of love can actually create disillusions and clouded thinking.

When you’re in love, you may also experience an increased heart-rate, ‘butterflies’ in your stomach, or a flushed face. These are all short-term symptoms, but they can reoccur.

All of these symptoms make it hard for a person to clearly see their partner as they are. It makes it easy to look over a person’s faults.

These symptoms last for about the first two years and then subside.

  • People Love Differently

Not everyone shows love in the same way. And, the way someone shows love usually stems from their upbringing.

When people jump into marriage, they assume that their partner shows and feels love in the same way as them, but that’s rarely the case. This can cause a lot of issues surrounding miscommunication.

It’s important that partners become skilled in showing their partner the right kind of love based on their preferred love language.

The love languages as described in Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages” are:

  1. Affirmation - This is verbal admiration for your partner such as a compliment.
  2. Acts of Services - This is doing something for your partner such as cleaning their car for them.
  3. Receiving Gifts - This is gifting something to your partner such as flowers.
  4. Quality Time - This is spending time with your partner such as going on a nature walk.
  5. Physical Touch - This is using physical contact to make your partner feel special, such as a kiss or holding hands.

 

Marriages last and grow strong when partners use the correct love language to show their affection. It’s important to know your love language, as well, so you can communicate effectively to your partner about your needs and desires.

  • The Effect Your Parents Have On You

Whether you like it or not, you are more like your parents than you realize. That’s because childhood experiences tend to stay with people throughout their adult lives.

Personality traits such as bossiness, humor, or empathy are usually inherited by the same-sex parent. For example, if you are a female and your mother always looked on the bright side of life, it is likely that you often think positively about situations too.

Learning through mimicry starts at a very young age. Babies often mimic their parents’ facial expressions. And when babies grow to toddlers they may ‘play pretend’ by vacuuming, cooking, or mowing the lawn to essentially copy Mom and Dad.

The love parents show their children also activate neurotransmitters that affect our self-esteem or how we see ourselves. It also affects how we show love to the ones around us.

In 2018, a survey was conducted that revealed that people saw themselves becoming more like their parents around the age of 33 and 34. A huge trigger was the way they looked in comparison to their same-sex parent. But, personality was also a major factor.

A good way for partners to see what their significant other will be like as they grow older is to observe their partner’s parents.

  • Arguments Are Not Productive

Disagreements in marriages are not uncommon. This can cause panic to newlywed couples.

Disagreements are healthy and they must not be ignored or avoided. To make disagreements easier to solve, you must practice empathy in the face of conflict.

In the book, “Nonviolent Communication,” psychologist Marshall Rosenberg suggests that working at issues with a nonjudgemental frame of mind is more productive than arguing.

Focus on your own needs and desires during a disagreement rather than judging the other person. This is often hard in the heat of the moment, but detachment is necessary in order to solve any marital conflict.

You must also be sure not to frame your wants and needs as demands, but rather statements. Demands hold negative connotations with them, while statements are neutral.

To resolve a conflict, there are three options:

  1. Compromise
  2. Settle On One Idea
  3. Put Off The Decision

 

  • Each Person Needs To Take Ownership

In marriages, there are usually roles that each partner becomes responsible for. For example, one person may do financial planning, while another may be in charge of taking the kids to soccer. However, not all couples agree with what role should go to who. This can cause petty arguments.

In 2015, a poll was conducted that concluded that the majority of American couples thought that sharing the household chores was vital to their marriage, especially in regards to whether or not they would have children with their partner.

Women often tend to take on more of the household responsibilities than men. Working females in America go from being an employee in their career to essentially going to a second shift at home.

Women’s paid work is often devalued in society and in their marriage, which is why they pick up the domestic duties, as well. This is just another example of gender inequality in our society.

Couples should discuss roles before entering marriage so that everything is fair.

  • People Apologize In Different Ways

Just like with love, people apologize in different ways too. Also, like love there are five languages that people use to apologize:

  1. Expressing Regret - This is when you are straight-forward and express your apology in a regretful and descriptive way. For example, “I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t accurately plan the amount of time it would take to get all the kids ready before leaving the house.”
  2. Accepting Responsibility - This is when you go even further from expressing regret by adding that the responsibility is yours. This is holding yourself accountable and expressing your regrets to your partner.
  3. Make Restitution - This is a way of trying to make up for what you did. For example, if you missed an important event, you could offer to host another event to get the same social group together.
  4. The Promise of Future Change - This is when you apologize and then promise that the issue will not happen again.
  5. Language of Apology - This is when you ask for forgiveness from your partner.

It’s important for partners to know the language of apology their spouse speaks so that they can correctly apologize to them.

  • All About Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a step you must make in marriage disagreements in order to move past an incident. Incidents may continue to cause you or your partner pain, but forgiveness is the first stage of healing.

The act of forgiveness has actually been proven to have biological healing properties. A doctor named Dabney Ewin is famous for talking to his burn victim patients about their feelings toward the incident that injured them. Many felt angry about their incidents. Ewin explained that if they felt forgiveness toward the incident, it would help heal their skin. As a result, the people that forgave healed faster and better than the patients who remained angry.

Forgiveness also has an effect on mental health. A developmental psychologist named Robert Enright worked solely with elderly women who had been molested or abused. He discovered through his work that women who were able to forgive had bigger improvements in their mental health.

Dr. Frederic Luskin, a founder of Standford University’s Stanford Forgiveness Project, believes that forgiveness helps with healing because of the chemicals released during the body’s stress response. When you are angry, the chemicals cortisol and norepinephrine, surge.

All of these studies and observations prove that forgiveness is not only important to a relationship, but also to the well-being of the individual.

  • Arguments About Finances

Before getting married, it’s important to have multiple discussions about your finances. These conversations should cover debt, spending habits, and saving goals. And decisions about financial responsibilities such as budgeting and banking should be made before entering a marriage.

“Often we fail to consider the fact that our social, spiritual, and intellectual interests are miles apart. Our value systems and goals are contradictory, but we are in love.”- Gary Chapman

Studies have shown that finances are the most stressful aspect of romantic relationships. This is because many couples have different spending habits and about a quarter of the people in the US have financial struggles.

In 2009, a study concluded that financial disagreements or conflict predicted a divorce better than any other variable.

If you plan your finances and responsibilities before entering a marriage, the chance of divorce and conflict will decrease immensely.

The Main Take-Away

In order to have a successful and long-lasting marriage, you must understand that the feelings of heightened passion during the ‘honeymoon stage’ will pass quickly and issues and conflicts will inevitably arise. To counteract this, you must be prepared by knowing your partner’s love language and apology language. Practicing forgiveness and preplanning finances will also help to prevent devastating marriage conflicts.

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