Marriage is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Anytime two people come together from two different worlds to become “one,” they are headed for the challenges of a lifetime. If you think about it, it would be unnatural for it to be any other way.
Two different people raised in two different families, probably in two different regions, experienced two different parenting styles, and most likely have two different expectations regarding marriage. Most likely, it’s based on the kind of marriage their parents had. Typically, both spouses have a vision of what they believe marriage is supposed to be.
The challenge begins when each spouse thinks that their way is the right and only way, and therefore their spouse, needless to say, is WRONG! Throughout years of counseling, I’ve noticed how the pattern smoothly transitions into the next stage: “my way or the highway” mentality. This occurs typically around the 6 – 12 month time frame and usually accompanies high levels of frustration. At that point, the whisper of that nasty “D” word (as in divorce) starts to creep up in the marital vocabulary. Oftentimes, that is when couples seek help.
It’s important to understand that what worked for your parents may not work for you and your spouse. Those were different times, and they were different people.
The quick down and dirty is this SEEK PRE-MARITAL COUNSELING. Even if you go only 1 time (although three times is the suggested frequency), it will get you thinking and talking. If that suggestion is too little too late, and you are already married, try these tips listed below:
- Each spouse take what you need (lessons learned from parents) and leave the rest
- Each spouse share what they think marriage is in general and create boundaries
- Talk about styles of discipline pre-children
- Discuss expectations with regards to roles
- Discuss expectations for future goals: kids, homeownership, education, etc.
- Talk about need with regards to financial comfort
- Rid yourselves of the “my way or the highway” mentality, and instead create a hybrid, take a little of both of your beliefs, and blend them together, so it becomes “our highway”
- Don’t be afraid to tweak as you need to. Trial and error is the name of the game.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of tips, but it’s a start. These tips are just that; they are tips. They are not guaranteed to fix a marriage, but again, it’s a place to start. There are no guarantees, and each marriage is different, so please keep that in mind.
Oftentimes, marriages that have reached the “my way or the highway” require intervention to derail it from the big “D” (divorce). It can best be addressed by a professional. Hint: Don’t use the “D” word unless you intend on doing it.