I talk to a lot of young couples who are preparing for marriage and most of them have a list of things they want to do and accomplish before they get married. I think it’s very important to have a list, but I’ve found that most people have the wrong stuff on their list. What I mean by that is that people often focus their energies on accomplishing or experiencing things before marriage that won’t actually help their marriage once they are married.
Taking all the Bible teaches about marriage and adding to it the perspective of talking with hundreds of couples along the way, I’ve put together a short list of things to do before you get married. If you will make the effort to do these before you tie the knot (and maybe even before getting engaged), I’m convinced you’ll end up with a stronger, healthier and more divorce-proof marriage!
In no particular order…
1. Tell your Secrets. Marriage has got to be built onTrust. I’ve seen too many people keep secrets going into marriage and it sets a pattern for keeping secrets during marriage. Put it all out on the table. If they can’t accept it, then you don’t need to be getting married anyways. Honesty is the cornerstone of Intimacy.
2. Make sure you’re marrying the right person! This one probably sounds obvious, but I think some people fall in love with the idea of getting married more than they fall in love with the person they’re intending to marry. I encourage you to go back and read the previous blog post I wrote called “6 Questions to Ask Before you get married” to give you some insights into this. You’re better off staying single than marrying for the wrong reasons.
3. Get out of Debt (or at least have a Financial Plan). Most young couples do the opposite. They take their student loans and combine a bunch of credit card loans to pay for an extravagant wedding and honeymoon which leads to a lot of Financial Stress down the road. Be fiscally disciplined right from the start. Have a financial plan. Have a budget. Even if getting all the way out of debt before the wedding is impossible (and often it is), go into the marriage with a financial plan. I’d recommend reading “Financial Peace University” or “The Total Money Makeover” which are great and practical resources by Dave Ramsey.
4. Combine EVERYTHING. If you go into marriage with separate checking accounts, separate friends, separate last names and separate dreams, then you’re not really married. You’re just two single people sharing a house enjoying some new tax benefits but the marriage is doomed from the start. Your finances, your dreams and your plans can’t be “my” anymore. From now on, it’s got to be “ours”! This will lead to a lot of compromise and give and take, but that’s a huge part of marriage. With that being said, I’d strongly discourage you from moving in together ahead of time. I know that culturally, that’s what most people do, but for more reasons than I can list here, it’s a bad idea. Preparing for marriage doesn’t mean playing like you’re already married.
5. Find a Church. I strongly believe that Faith has to be the foundation of any healthy, vibrant marriage. God is the one who created marriage and He’s also the one who created you, so He knows best what you need. The supportive community, friendships and resources a healthy church provides will help strengthen your relationship more so than nearly anything else. For additional reading on this, you can read the previous blog post “Why Christians should never marry Non-Christians.” For both of your sakes, please don’t compromise on this one!
6. Plan the Partnership. As husband and wife, you’ll both be taking on new roles and it’s critical to get on the same page before you jump in. I think it’s very practical to talk about who’s going to pay the bills, who will take out trash and any other task you can thin of. If you try to figure it all out on the fly, it will usually lead to miscommunication and frustration from both people.
7. Talk about the Kids. Parenting will be the most significant role you share, so you need to get on the same page beforehand. Whether you’re entering the marriage with children already or you plan to have kids someday, for their sake and yours, take the time to talk about parenting philosophies, what you loved about how your parents did things and what you plan to do differently. You’ll definitely learn new things about each other in the discussions and you’ll become more equipped for the adventure and partnership of parenting when it happens.
8. Find some “Couple Friends.” Your future spouse is probably your best friend, but you both need more social outlet than they alone can provide. Instead of going to hang with your single buddies (which is fine sometimes), establish some friends you can hang out with together. Make the effort and you’ll be glad you did.
8. Learn everything you can about each other. This will be a lifelong process of discovery, but the more you learn early on, the better you’ll communicate. One resource I’d suggest you reading is “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It will show you how each of you give and receive love and it’s guaranteed to teach you new things about your future husband or wife and probably about yourself as well.
If you put these into practice, I believe you’re laying a solid foundation for a great marriage! I pray God’s best for you and your future spouse.