When most of us think about ‘getting married’, we tend to focus on the day itself: the venue, the style of ceremony, the music, the dress, the cake, the gift list and the table plan… Then there’s the honeymoon and perhaps also a house move, a mortgage and whose parents you’ll spend your first Christmas with perhaps…
But how many of us think beyond that? Sadly, virtually none of this, as fun as it may be, will make any difference at all to the length and quality of your marriage!
Explore is a charity that delivers relationships workshops to young people aged 15-19. As part of the workshops, married couples volunteer to join us in the classrooms to answer questions from young people about their relationship.
To date, more than 100,000 young people have quizzed some very ordinary but long-lasting couples about the magic ingredients for their marriage. This is what they have discovered:
Marriages don’t just work by themselves
Top tip #1 – You have to work at making them last.
If you believe that being madly in love today will be all you need to cope with problems down the line (of which you can be guaranteed there will be many), then you are deluded and unprepared for the commitment of staying married. You need to set aside time for each other, time for yourself and to be open to the inevitable differences that exist between you.
Top tip #2 – Communicate!
Long-lasting marriages are ones where both sides continue to communicate – verbally and on-verbally, all the time. Often this means learning as you go how your partner needs to be understood; don’t assume that you know how they are feeling and thinking all the time.
Top tip #3 – Keep celebrating!
The excitement of the first date and the intensity of the romance, the thoughtful planning about your wedding – that’s all super! But keep some of that spirit in reserve for the marriage itself. Keep making plans, keep making special memories, and don’t rely on plans and memory-making being about the most lavish and luxurious experiences– you may not always be able to afford to!
Top tip # 4 – Don’t fall at the first hurdle
Not all arguments are bad and if you expect marriage to be a bed of roses, then think again. Marriage rose beds have thorns as well as petals! Arguments don’t necessarily mean an exit from marriage, but can be worked through to create a better understanding and more robust relationship.
Top tip #5 – Plan for parenthood!
Not just the obvious here… but think and talk about your family and parenting principles – ideally before starting a family, so that you share an understanding about how you each feel about bringing up children and how you will ensure you can work together as a team. Similarly, it’s best to consider the possibility that with the best will in the world, conception might not be straightforward. Have you considered how that might impact your relationship?
Explore helps young people discuss, evaluate and explore long-term positive, healthy relationships within the context of marriage. It relies on a constant supply of volunteer couples to join them at the workshops in schools. If you are open to explaining your own marriage story to young people, to help prepare them for important relationships, then please get in touch. You can find out more here www.explorerelationships.org.uk