Welcome back! We are continuing with our series about the best ways to prepare for marriage. You’ve already learned one useful strategy in the previous post. In Part Two of the series, I’ll give you one more that you have probably thought of, but may not have ever tried.
Find a Veteran Married Couple
Whenever you want to improve in a particular area, it’ helpful to ask the pros. If you want to become a talented juggler and have your own variety show, who should you ask for advice? A ballet dancer? No, a talented juggler who has performed in shows of course! Someone who’s “made it.”
The same rule applies to marriage. You want to speak to experts who have been through thick and thin and have come out on the other side stronger than ever.
Think about a married couple whom you admire that’s not an immediate family member: Perhaps someone who has been married for 15, 20 or 30 + years. Take them out to coffee, ask for advice, and build a relationship with them.
If you’re having trouble thinking of a couple you already know, then try to look for a couple with whom you might share similar values. By the way, you don’t want to be too creepy with this. (Try to avoid speaking with random strangers in public places and interrogating them with questions about how long they’ve been married.)
A good starting point might be to begin looking in a familiar location like your church. Find someone who is willing to spend time with you and is open to becoming a mentor to you. Start small. Invite them over for lunch or to a social event. Please do this in a genuine manner. Choose a couple with whom you honestly connect and wouldn’t mind getting-to-know (Remember, this is only if you don’t already know a couple personally). Over time, the relationship would become close enough to where you would feel comfortable spending longer amounts of time together.
When you feel it is appropriate, share with the couple your desire to learn from them. Share how you admire their marriage and how you look up to them. Ask if they would be comfortable allowing you to shadow them for a day. (And I mean literally the whole day: From before breakfast to after kids go to bed). You can do this individually or with your significant other.
If you are uncomfortable with this idea, or if you have struggled to build a relationship with a couple, you can still observe while socializing together at dinner, etc. A longer amount of time together though is likely to give a more accurate representation of their family life dynamic. Which is what you want: To observe what marriage is really like behind closed doors.
We prepare for our future careers with internships. In regards to marriage, we throw two people together and say “Good luck!” You are more likely to stay married longer than you are to keep any one job position. If you’re in it for the long haul, invest the time to learn. Why not diligently prepare for what is most important to you? Even if it might mean doing something a bit out of the ordinary.
While you are observing, be sure to write down questions or note interesting moments that stand out to you during the day. Be intentionally focused during the exercise. Pay attention to interactions that make you comfortable or uncomfortable while you observe and make a note of it. Remember, this is for you. At first, it might feel awkward observing people and taking notes as if you were filming for National Geographic, but you want to make the most of this unique encounter. Soak in every moment. Absorb all that you can. Immerse yourself in the experience.
When the day is over, schedule a time to speak with the couple about what you observed. This could be in the evening at the end of the observation day or the following day. (Remember to bring your notes!) Ask your questions and listen to the veteran couple tell you what was going on in their minds during a specific moment. Let them describe why they made one choice over another throughout the day.
Be honest with yourself during this time. Really ask any question that comes to mind. There is no such thing as a stupid question! Discuss this with your veteran couple and with your fiancé. In particular, talk about those moments that made you feel hesitant or uncomfortable. If serious concerns arise that need more in depth conversation, you can also discuss these items with a counselor or religious leader.
The point is to allow yourself the freedom to confront all of your fears about marriage so that you are as prepared as possible before taking the big leap.
This exercise may take time and energy for all parties involved, but it is completely worth it! Not only will you get advice from the experts and a more accurate picture of daily life as a couple, but it will also help you to experience the thousands of little moments spouses have to consciously choose others over themselves. These moments are difficult to explain without seeing or experiencing them first hand.
For those of you that are married, it’s not too late! You can benefit from this tip as well. Pick a couple who has been married at least 10 years longer than you. Invite them over for dinner and pick their brain. Ask all of the questions you’re too embarrassed to ask. Experience brings wisdom, so take advantage and soak up all of their free wisdom!
If that is too uncomfortable for you, be more open about discussing marriage when you are with other couples. Facilitate conversation with married friends that elicit supporting one another. I’m not talking about the typical “ball-and-chain” or “husband bashing” conversation that many are tempted to have. Ask deeper questions and exchange constructive advice.
Reflect on the moments in your marriage when you would have appreciated some guidance and think about how you might be able to help a couple who is just starting out. Consider being a mentor couple to someone engaged, dating, or single and seek them out. They may not realize the benefits of befriending a couple who has been where they are.
That concludes the second part of our series. Now you have two useful ways you can prepare for marriage (or enhance your marriage)! If you missed the first tip you’ll have to go back and read the previous post.
As a reminder, before you begin the marriage preparation process, be sure to you have determined you are ready to get married. Once you are confident that marriage is the life-long commitment for you, jump right in and invest in preparing for a rewarding experience. Stay tuned, more marriage prep advice to come! Congratulations and enjoy!
Want more? Looking for more conversation about getting married and staying married? Join this Facebook group for tips and advice.
If you feel that you and your fiancé would like to give yourself the best chance of marriage success, click here for information about pre-martial counseling and how you can benefit from it.