Marriage is not an easy step for anyone. In fact, it can be quite tough at times. No matter how much a person is in love or thinks they are in love, making that commitment and keeping it strong takes work and patience. I will be the first to say that as wonderful as it can be, it is not just a fairytale. I am so thankful that I found my husband and we had the opportunity to get married at this young age, but we also had to take on the responsibilities that come with it. It takes an adjustment, but if done right, is worth all the effort. This page is an introduction to the responsibilities of marriage in general. I feel that it is necessary for you to understand what is involved in actually being married before you can get caught up in the fantasy of planning the wedding. Here, you will find advice on all aspects of being married from engagement to everyday living with each other. This comes from my experience and from marriage experts that have helped us. I believe that the most important thing to know about marriage is that advice from other married people is invaluable and it should be sought after as much as possible.
EngagementSo, the day you have been waiting for has finally arrived. Or, it took you completely by surprise. Nonetheless, out popped the ring and suddenly you are engaged! In all of the excitement, however, did you stop and think about the kind of commitment that you are about to make? Sadly, many couples do not actually think of the ramifications of marriage and how they will change their lives. After the thrill of planning the wedding and the honeymoon is over, many brides become depressed because marriage is not exactly the fairytale they thought it would be. To avoid such a fate, when getting engaged, couples should sit down and think about everything that goes into marriage and determine if that is what they are waiting for. Also, I highly recommend taking premarital counseling classes, which not only help you make sure you are making the right commitment, but also save you money on your marriage license from the State. The bottom line is that engagement should be a well-thought out step in your life that should be taken seriously.
Time ManagementNow that you are engaged, you will be very busy juggling the responsibilities of school, planning a wedding, possibly work, and having a life on top of all of that. This is a very daunting task. The only way I got through it while retaining a few ounces of sanity is the fact that I had to learn how to manage my time better. Of course I was not perfect, but if I had not been aware of the need to try to do this, I would not have gotten anything done. The best way to manage your time is to set priorities and goals. You then do the tasks in order of the priority that you have set. It is also helpful to write down everything you have to do and write down when certain things need to be done. As in the case of wedding planning, you can use the timeline on this website as a guideline to help you get everything done that needs to get done. You can make similar timelines for other things in your life. This time management, however, should not stop after planning the wedding. It should continue throughout your married life as you finish school, go to work, and possibly have children one day. It is a good life principle to have.
ResponsibilitiesAlong with time management, when you are married, you will have responsibilities such as chores that you will have to learn to deal with. These things if not worked out in the beginning of your marriage, might cause problems even though they seem small at first. In order to avoid such conflict, it is a good idea to make time to sit down with each other and divvy out these responsibilities. Chores such as who does the dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc. are important even though they might not seem that way. Also, you should decide how you are going to handle dinners, finances and other various important responsibilities. This is not an easy task. Bill and I are still trying to work out these things. It just takes time. Just remember to be flexible and patient with each other. With this frame of mind, your marriage should run much smoother.
Building IntimacyWhile time management and dividing responsibilities are important to work out in a marriage, intimacy is the heart of the marriage. When I say intimacy, I do not just mean physical closeness, but emotional closeness. This is the feeling that you are in love, but it is also the strong bond of commitment you feel toward your spouse. Intimacy is very important to cultivate in a marriage. It is the glue that holds it together. You and your significant other should try to actively work on it every day to keep it alive. The best way to do this is to make sure you communicate. You should talk daily about anything and everything that is going on in your lives. A walk in each other's shoes and experience is a bonding experience that extremely valuable. Also, you should learn each other's communication style and the way he or she shows love. All these things will help you become more intimate and, in turn, have a better marriage and relationship.
Conflict ResolutionA step in building intimacy has to do with communication. It is a fact that everyone has conflict with other people because everyone is a different person with differing personalities, beliefs, and values. Because of this, inevitably every couple gets into a fight. Most people believe that an abundance of fighting is what leads to marital problems and often, divorce. This is not entirely true. Fights lead to failed marriages only if the fight is not dealt with in a constructive way. This is where communication comes in. A fight becomes a constructive exercise when both people learn how to communicate their views effectively while also listening and fully understanding the other's point of view. The best way to do this is to practice taking turns. This is an approach that Bill and I learned in our premarital counseling classes. One person talks while the other person listens intently. The listener then repeats back what the speaker said. This insures that the listener understood what the other person tried to convey and instead of trying to think of a retort, he or she can focus on the message. The listener then becomes the speaker, and this continues until the issue is resolved. This also controls the conversation and helps to prevent escalation and saying things each person regrets. Another important thing to remember is to learn what the other person's conflict style is. If one person wants to retreat and the other confront conflict, you should reach a compromise so both people do not become frustrated and cause an even worse fight. This is what Bill and I are working on. It is really hard, but it can be accomplished with much persistence.
The In-Laws and Family IssuesThe last issue I would like to mention can sometimes be very sensitive. Often, when couples marry, especially young couples, they let their parents interfere too much in their marriage. Although I think it is very important to consult your parents on decisions and other matters because they have more experience and more wisdom, I believe that, ultimately, your marriage is yours to manage. When two people get married, they promise to commit to each other alone and to leave their family to form a new one. This is the significance of the unity candle. The two side candles represent the two families, while the middle symbolizes the union of the couple. When couples do not take hold of the autonomy of their relationship and let their parents tell them what to do, it causes problems in the marriage. One spouse might start to resent the in-laws and the other spouse for letting them have that control, while the other spouse might think he or she to be overreacting. The best solution to this is to take hold of your marriage and decisions from the start and show your parents where you stand on the issue. They will probably be fine with this after awhile because they want you to be happy and to succeed in this new era of your life. They might have a problem at first if they are having a hard time letting go. This is only natural. Eventually, if you act responsibly, they will accept your new life and be there to support you. Our parents have been wonderful in this aspect, and yours probably will as well.
Last revised July 21, 2002.
Copyright Jennifer Hitchcock 2002 all rights reserved.
Void where prohibited.