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 14-17. As part of the workshops, volunteer married couples open themselves up to questioning about their relationship experiences by young people in the classroom
To date, more than 100,000 young people have quizzed real-life couples about all aspects of their married life together. 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 unprepared for the commitment of staying married. You need to set aside time for each other, time for yourself and to be open to overcoming the inevitable challenges that you will face.
Top tip #2 – Communicate!
Long-lasting marriages are ones where both sides communicate well – both verbally and non-verbally, all the time. Often this means learning as you go how your partner needs to be understood and communicating how you need to be understood; don’t assume that you know how they are feeling and thinking all the time, and likewise that they will be able to mind read what you are feeling or thinking.
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. Showing your partner that you have invested time and thought into celebrations is more important than how much you spend!
Top tip # 4 – Don’t fall at the first hurdle
Not all disagreements 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. Some couples chose to have marriage counselling before any challenges arise, to help them learn how to communicate well together and, when the inevitable challenges come, are able to overcome them and remain together.
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. It relies on a constant supply of volunteer couples to join them at their 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