I’m not married, and maybe for good reason seeing as how I’ve been there and done that twice now. Many times the biggest lessons you learn in life are from your failures. Two of mine involve marriage – so here we are. I do believe quite a few things strongly for my life and other’s lives such as that our journey is unfolding just as it should be. I believe God can take a horrible experience and turn it into good. I also believe that our failures, mistakes and low moments aren’t just meant for us but more for others. If we can’t share personal experiences and things we’ve learned from life then our journey is a waste.
I don’t know what it’s like being 16 in today’s society but I do know that 15 years ago life had a specific order to it. You were supposed to finish school, find a man, get married, buy a big house, and have lots of children. #southerngirldreams Then you and your best friend would somehow end up in the same old folk’s home and reminisce about the good ‘ole days. The thinking process of a young person is quite comical if you ask me. Although I did get married for all the wrong reasons at 19, it quickly ended after only a few years without the big beautiful house or the kids. And though I did marry again, much later down the road, that relationship was unsuccessful for reasons beyond my control (although hind sight shows the signs were there long before the “M” word). I took, from both relationships, some very valuable lessons that have helped my current relationship tremendously. And I’ve come to realize that there is nothing more important than having your best relationship before marriage.
People will tell you that marriage is hard, mostly because you can’t leave. Actually you can leave but it’s widely frowned upon, quite dramatic when you do it, and should you choose to stay away it gets expensive. If you’ve ever been in a serious relationship, or find yourself in one now, then you already know that relationships in general are hard. But I think without realizing it, society does unmarried couples a disservice in the way that we view relationships. Not too many people will actually take your relationship seriously unless you’re married. You’ve probably heard the speech at weddings “now your life begins” but it began long before that.
Ladies, if we are honest with ourselves, marriage is the goal about 98% of the time. I have never met a woman, or have any friends, that invested an extended amount of time in a relationship with the sole purpose of just being together. Relationships are impactful on your life, they make you grow as a person and in some cases can change the course of your future in an instant. People have pushed off education or opportunities because it didn’t quite fit into the life they were building with someone. Others have moved across the country to be with someone they weren’t married to. Relationships can even take you through some tough things, like in my case, adjusting to kids that are not mine. It is important to cherish and value the relationship as it is now rather than wait until marriage to validate your effort.
When you’re not married, it’s easy to take for granted your relationship’s potential. It can feel like you’re in the house but the front door is open in case you want to leave. Being married would be the equivalent of shutting the front door and locking it. What I’ve learned from my past is that you’re either in or you’re out, either way the door is closed. Marriage can actually put a lot of pressure and unrealistic expectations on couples. If you’ve never been married, let me tell you what marriage is not. Marriage is not a fairytale where you wake up from your honeymoon and the birds seem to sing a little louder and the sun shines a little brighter and everything is so peaceful and wonderful. Let me tell you what marriage is. So you remember that one time you turned 18 and you thought life would be so different because you were an adult now? And then like the next morning was the same as yesterday and no one cared? Then the same happened when you turned 21? Marriage is like that. Once the party is over and everyone goes home, tomorrow will feel like every other day before. Your significant other will be the same person he/she was before the vows and your relationship will carry over with the same issues that existed prior. And this my friends is why having your best relationship before marriage is so important.
Marriage should be the next step not a new step. Your relationship is the journey, marriage is a stop, forever is your destination. Marriage is a wonderful and beautiful thing but it will not create value in your relationship that does not already exist. It cannot provide a stable foundation if you hadn’t already built one. It will make things harder for you if you wait until after marriage to confront problems or draw lines in the sand about things you decide you don’t want to put up with. Outsiders will not respect your relationship more because you’re married, people have affairs all the time. So if you’re hoping that your cheating boyfriend with a wandering eye will suddenly become man of the year when he puts a ring on his finger, don’t waste your time. Do not marry solely because it makes you look good religiously, if you divorce you typically end up in the same boat. Do not marry solely because you got pregnant. Divorce is just as hard on kids as two parents who hate each other and can’t exhibit a good example of love.
Drawing from my own experience, there are a few things I can share about how to value your relationship before marriage.
#1 – Be Honest With Yourself.
I honestly truly truly believe with my whole heart that deep down inside of our heart’s mind we already know if a relationship is for us or not. Hope keeps us there when wisdom tells us we need to leave. If your heart is telling you to move on, save yourself the heartache – it’s not worth it.
#2 – If Someone Shows You Who They Are – Believe Them
This little nugget here I wish I would have taken so seriously when I was younger. People are who they are and although people can change, that is not something you can control. If someone lies to you, cheats on you more than once, or tells you they are not looking for a serious relationship – pay attention. Staying with them longer will not change their mind, marrying them will not change their actions.
#3 – Be Decided
We all know the vows, “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better for worse…”. Can you say that in your relationship now? What needs to change or be done for you to have that outlook? Would you ever have that outlook? Even in dating someone, don’t even bring up marriage unless you can be decided. This is also a good way to expose things that need to be worked on within the relationship.
#4 – Draw Your Lines Of Tolerance Now
As I said before, marriage will not change the issues that already exist. It is not fair to tell your partner that they can’t do certain things, talk to certain people, or act a certain way because “I’m your wife/husband now”. If there are deal breakers now, address them and carry on.
#5 – Be Willing To Grow
No one can quite tell you about yourself as well as someone who spends a lot of time with you. Some people will hold onto the excuse of “I’m not changing for you/this is who I am”. Marriage won’t make your growing pains hurt any less. If you’re not willing to work on yourself for the benefit of your relationship, it may be time to move on.
#6 – Seek Wisdom And Surround Yourself With Healthy Relationships
We are who we hang out with. Although no one in this life has a perfect relationship or marriage, there are those who strive to have the best relationship possible. These are the people you want to surround yourself with. Seek advice from people who have marriages you admire. Hang around couples who respect each other and support each other.
And last for a reason:
#7 – Do Not Settle
Do not settle for a relationship less than what you desire because you A) don’t want to be alone, B) feel like you’re falling behind your friends, C) are in a hurry, D) don’t think you’ll find anyone better, or E) been with this person so long that you don’t see why you shouldn’t just get married. Additionally, if you want a big wedding – have a big wedding. If you want him to ask your parent’s permission – have him ask your parent’s permission. If you want to finish school first – finish school first. There are reasons certain things are important to you. Do not sacrifice your reasons to rush your relationship into marriage. Again, marriage does not thrust you into a portal of relationship amazingness that you wouldn’t otherwise reach without it.
Build a beautiful relationship now that has a chance later. If you’re not married yet, take your time and enjoy what is. Build on what you have and make it awesome. I can promise you that if you value your relationship now, your wedding day will have a whole different meaning and feeling. It will be far better than you could have ever imagined. ❤
Photo By: Ben Rosett