Want a Happy Marriage? Do This Now

young couple having fun at santa monica pier

There are tons of checklists for wedding planning that ensure that you remember to book the church, reception site, caterer, photographer, and so forth. They remind you to pick out a wedding dress, tuxedos, bridesmaid dresses, rings, invitations, flowers, etc. To be sure, all of this is very important and these checklists can be quite helpful! However, while making all these decisions together is good preparation for marriage, they don’t really prepare you fully for the day-to-day realities of married life.

People in general give you all kinds of advice when they find out you’re getting married, ranging from truly terrible to incredibly spot-on.  It can be overwhelming to sort through this deluge of insight, discarding the bad ideas and implementing the good. For us, the best advice came from our parents, specifically our fathers.

Shortly after my husband proposed, we called our parents to share the news of our engagement. Both our dads responded identically, “You’ll have a lot to talk about.” This wasn’t just a coincidence; this advice came from real life experience. Both Jason’s and my parents have been married for several decades. They know firsthand that dialogue is the key to a successful, happy marriage. Communication is the lifeblood of marriage.

Over the course of our dating relationship, we’d spent hours upon hours together and a great deal of that time was talking, getting to know one another and falling in love with one another. Yet, there remained a great deal that we hadn’t touched on that was really important to discuss before we made a lifelong commitment in matrimony.

Fortunately, right about the time we decided to get married, we took a trip up to Annapolis for a wedding of friends. In the 20 hours in the car, ten hours each way, we were faced with a whole lot of time where all we could do was talk. In those 20 hours, we covered a broad range of subjects. We returned from that trip closer than ever before.

That trip was only the beginning of a series of heartfelt discussions as we prepared for marriage, sharing our hopes and dreams and joys as well as our regrets and failures. These talks also set the stage for open and honest communication in our marriage.

Marriage is a level of intimacy beyond any other relationship. There are no secrets, nothing hidden or held back. This bond is strengthened by understanding which requires communication, frequent and full conversations. In marriage, two lives come together and two separate persons choose daily to love one another and to live in unity. The ability to speak freely and communicate one’s self through words and actions builds and fosters love.

Both parties speak up to praise one another, to express concerns, to verbalize feelings, to say “I love you”, to ask forgiveness and make amends, and so on and so forth. Marriage is a union of a man and woman in the entirety of their selves, body and soul. Thus the marriage relationship must be nurtured in every dimension of the human person: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, in every way and on every level. Communication bridges the gap between spouses, drawing them closer together and fostering a more perfect communion.

The foundation for this essential communication begins in earnest during the engagement period but really starts long before that. Whether you’re married already, engaged, dating exclusively, or currently single, you can take steps to hone your communication skills. The first and most important step is to cultivate an ability to listen well. Communication is a two-way street and most people are naturally better at talking than listening.

The second step is to learn to express oneself clearly and effectively. Both these things take practice and dedication. So practice listening fully in your everyday interactions, focusing your attention completely on the person with whom you are conversing. When you speak, work on matching your words and speech to the circumstance and situation. Marriage is for a lifetime and brings with it a lifetime of communication. So start working now to build solid communication skills. They will strengthen your marriage, allowing you to speak one another’s language and be connected on the same wavelength.