By Davida Brown
For many couples, marriage is a scary thing. These couples typically have a good, maybe even great relationship, and fear that “marriage” will ruin everything. They want to be together, forever, but are somehow convinced that those “I dos” will sound the death knell for their relationship. So what do these couples do?
I’m currently providing premarital coaching to a couple grappling with this very issue. They love each other tremendously. They’ve been together 5+ years and have experienced tremendous highs and lows during the relationship. They’ve both been married before, and were both raised in a home with separated and ultimately divorced parents. Both want the relationship and marriage to last and thrive and are committed to doing just that. Both are ready to take the plunge and get married, but admit that, because of their previous marriages and observations of their parents’ marriages, they fear that marriage may ruin their “good thing.”
For this couple, their past exposure to marriage has obviously had a significant impact on how they view it. During our sessions, we’ve spent a great deal of time talking about perception and mindset. Because they both believe that “marriage” is more likely than not to negatively impact their relationship, they’ve created and enabled a barrier that may prevent them from getting married or reaching their full potential once married.
The good news here is that mindset and perception can change. We control our views on marriage. We control the success and yes the failure of our marriage. Marriage doesn’t happen to you. Marriage doesn’t wield some supernatural power of you. Marriage is a choice you make. Its success or failure is up to you.
For couples dealing with this issue, I believe it’s critically important to understand and embrace the following principles:
(1) You are the architect of your marriage. That saying, “Every marriage is unique” is true. While the marital plan for another couple can be informative and helpful, you, as a couple, decide what your marriage is going to look like. You decide the goals and objectives of your marriage. You decide the roles each of you will play. What you did in your former marriage really has no relevancy in your current marriage.
(2) You are always in the driver’s seat – You decide whether to change the course of your marriage. If something isn’t working in your marriage, you can always change it. Always. You don’t have to stay in a “low” or unhappy place. Roll up your sleeves, figure out what’s not working, chart a new course, and then follow it.
(3) You can’t change what you did in the past, but you can change what you do in the future – You will make mistakes. Every spouse does. And guess what, when you do, you can’t undo them. Mistakes are instructive and present both of you an opportunity to grow. Understanding that you can’t change what you or your spouse did or somehow erase the past over time is key. Understand that you can choose not to repeat the mistake, that you can choose to learn from it, and that you can take that knowledge and move forward together. Yes, some mistakes may be significant. Some may require time to get past. Some may require that you seek assistance from a third party. Even so, you can always move your marriage forward if you want your marriage.
(4) You can be a great spouse – It’s in your DNA. God created us in his image. That means, He has equipped each of us with the innate ability to succeed in marriage, because yep, He created marriage too. God would not set you up to fail. Tap into your God-given skills. Armed with them and those of your spouse, you can reach your potential as a spouse and together you can have a thriving marriage.