Deciding to say “I do” is one of the most important life-changing decisions one can make. Being or feeling in love, although a hallmark that substantiates elevating your relationship to a lifelong commitment, will not secure a healthy marriage.
Recent statistics say more than half of all marriages will end in divorce.
As a therapist, it’s not the lack of love that I see between two people but the destructive communication patterns, power struggles, anger and resentment that pull them apart. Before you decide to get married, it’s important to look for the warning signs that point to the potential for an unhealthy marriage. These warning signs include but aren’t limited to major conflict, anxiety, depression, substance use, infidelity or domestic violence. If you see any of these in your current relationship, seeking help from a professional counselor would be a better choice than getting married.
If those warning signs don’t exist, you might be on your way to a healthy marriage! There are still some things to consider before making your final decision, though.
To set your marriage up for success, it is important that your relationship includes the following:
A friendship is a necessary building block of any intimate relationship. A friendship allows a couple to build trust, show care, and meet each other’s needs in an unselfish, non-romantic way. If your relationship consists only of infatuation and romance, you may be headed toward challenges like feeling insecure about sharing vulnerable feelings.
2. Open Communication
This looks like having the ability to share thoughts and feelings while feeling safe and heard by your partner. Listening and validating each other’s opinions and perspectives will create a safe haven to acknowledge vulnerable feelings such as hurt, fear, and rejection.
3. Trust and Honesty
Trust is the ultimate foundation love is built upon. Honesty is being willing and open to share your authentic feelings with your partner, even if they may not like what they hear.
To create trust and honesty, each must feel a secure attachment to one another. Consider how would you answer these two questions: “Will you be there when I need you most?” “Will I feel safe sharing my most vulnerable thoughts and feelings?” If you can say yes to both, then most likely trust and honesty are present in your relationship.
Speak and behave towards each other in a respectful way using direct eye contact, a gentle tone of voice, and assertive communication. Disrespectful behaviors include criticizing, stonewalling, talking or yelling in an aggressive tone, and not valuing your partner’s opinion.
5. Shared Goals
Wanting the same things out of life is instrumental in growing together instead of apart. It’s important to communicate now about stuff like your spiritual beliefs, desires for children, and financial situations and habits (to name a few) in order to gauge if you two share the same goals in life.
Before deciding to say “I do,” talk with your partner about how you’re doing in each of these areas. Be sure you’re both willing to make them a priority as you move forward. If you want assistance evaluating your relationship objectively, you can always seek help from a professional counselor.
Porsha Jones, LAMFT