I thought being ready for marriage meant being twenty-something, reading a few books on marriage and attending courses at the local mosque. I thought I knew what it took to have a successful marriage, unlike those around me! I knew his rights, I knew my rights and now it was the hard bit: finding the right person… or so I thought.
Once I got married, I was in over my head. I had no idea what it took to have a successful marriage and what I should or should not be doing. I was thrown into the deep end, and I had to either sink or swim and guess what… I sank! Today as a divorcee I realise that I wasn’t ready to get married, all my preparation (or lack of) wasn’t nearly enough to set me up for the responsibilities, demands and expectations of my husband and the in-laws. I was clueless as to how to manage those relationships, the conflicts and my emotions, especially when it became quite clear that I had married the wrong man… Ouch!
Being single is difficult at the best of times. You’ve got parents pressuring you to get married, and the constant stream of totally incompatible proposals… that’s if you’re lucky! If not, your parents are grateful for any old proposal and expect you to seriously consider it… eek! What makes it worse is wedding season; the endless stream of wedding invites that you’re looking for excuses to get out of. As if that’s not bad enough, now there’s a Royal wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It’s all over the media and you just can’t get away from it – how depressing! You’re wondering “when it is going to happen for me”, “when will it be my turn, so I can breathe a sigh of relief”, because life gets easier after marriage, right…? Wrong!
Are you ready for marriage?
So you’re single, in your twenties or older, you’ve got the qualifications and the perfect job – now you need to get married. That’s the natural progression, right? Does that mean you should go out and find the person you will spend the rest of your life with? But how do you know you’re ready? You know with certainty what you don’t want: a dysfunctional marriage, just like the ones your parents, siblings or relatives might have. Somehow yours will be different and you’ll do things differently. What if I told you your parents, siblings and relatives all thought exactly the same thing? …Mmm.
How do you have a healthy marriage? Will it look like the Disney, Hollywood and Bollywood movies we’ve grown up watching? Will you marry the man or woman of your dreams? Will you get along with them like a house on fire? Will you go to amazingly romantic holidays abroad and eat at the best restaurants just like the adverts on TV, and be the envy of your family and friends? Will you live happily ever after?
The reality is marriage will bring amazing moments but there will also be challenges like the recession, job losses, financial worry, health issues and much more. That doesn’t include you gradually taking a step back and relaxing, when you start to skip the gym, put on a few pounds, dress a bit sloppy and even miss the odd shower or two. You even become less and less attracted to your spouse… Uh oh! So how do you deal with these testing times? Are you ready to take on the good and the bad that marriage has to offer?
Here are some key realities of a healthy marriage:
Love is not constant
After the first year or so of marriage, the honeymoon period will have well and truly faded. The responsibility of married life settles in with bills, chores, children and job stresses. The feelings of love and connection will not be constant. You may even question whether your spouse is the right person for you at some point in your marriage! These feelings will come and go but what shows your love is your commitment to the marriage; that’s true love. It means remaining committed during the good times as well as the difficult times.
Living together after marriage can cause a lot of friction; you’re in each other’s space, with different routines and habits. Each person will have their own ideas of how to run a household. Give yourself time to adjust and be patient, you will soon settle into a routine that works for you both. That doesn’t mean you won’t annoy each other on a regular, if not daily basis. It can cause a loss of love between you and your spouse. The key is to be flexible, communicate honestly about what’s not working and adjust your approach. That means discussing solutions to the problems rather than blaming each other for not living up to each other’s expectations.
Change your perspective
Marriage brings out our insecurities and parts of us we didn’t know existed. Knowing that we all have flaws and each one of us has our own struggles helps us to have compassion for the other person. How you think about your spouse determines what you expect from them and how you treat them. So reflecting on our own flaws and how we can change rather than trying to change our spouse, will help to have a happier marriage.
This includes the day to day errands such as schedules and grocery lists, as well your plans for the future and all your hopes and dreams. Communication becomes especially important during the difficult times. Being defensive, making excuses, giving each other the silent treatment, blaming others for their mistakes, or deflecting blame from yourself to your spouse will only make things worse. Being ready to admit when you’ve made a mistake and being able to openly speak about what’s not working will help you to move to forward.
The feeling of unshakable security and love in a relationship is very important. It takes time to build trust, unlike love and commitment which can happen in a moment, trust takes weeks, months and even years to build. It takes patience and doing exactly what you said you’ll do. That means controlling suspicious thoughts or paranoia connected to past betrayal from friends, family or previous relationships.
Room for growth
As individuals we will change throughout our lives. Accept that your spouse will not be same in six month’s time let alone in several years’ time. So allow each other to grow. Support one another, rather than holding the other person back because you’re scared of change. Work as a team and don’t be in competition with one another. Their success is your success.
Marriage comes with responsibility just like everything else in life. You fall into mundane routines and life becomes boring. It’s okay to have boring periods in a marriage. Recognise that it’s very normal but take action: holidays, adventures and surprises are great ways to have quality time together, to reconnect and rekindle the romance.
A successful marriage means having a realistic view of what really happens in a relationship as well as having a good understanding of ourselves. This will not only manage our expectations of marriage but it will help us to deal with situations from a place of solution and not blame. A perfect marriage is a fantasy; you can’t have a perfect marriage when both spouses are imperfect.
How do you decide you’re ready for marriage? Do you have any tips for singles out there? Please share your thoughts and experiences so we can all learn from each other.