I remember how sad I was when I first heard the news from my best friend. She told me she was getting divorced. You might remember her – she was my married friend who I, single and so very alone, would often spend Christmas with, wishing I had her perfect life. Her life so complete, with the husband, kids, house and family dog, doing all of the things happy families do. The kinds of things that I could only dream about back then.
Well, as happy and perfect as they seemed back then, in the end she and her husband got divorced. It came as such a shock to me; my friend with the perfect life that’s no longer perfect. I felt like some great truth in my life had just been shattered. And I was, and still am, sad because both she and her husband are wonderful people. And awesome parents.
They had tried counseling but she told me that it was too late. She felt there were just too many hard feelings and too much bitterness that had crept into the relationship over the years.
Their divorce made me realize something. That even when everything and everyone is wonderful and awesome, it’s still a real relationship with all the realities that go with real life. And that means that even with two people who are committed to each other, being two separate people in a real relationship takes a lot of work. Even if it’s a relationship with two people committed to each other and committed to making it work. While commitment is great, and certainly necessary, it’s only one of many pillars that need to be in place in order for a relationship to simply survive, much less thrive. It also requires respect for one another, open and honest communication, and trust, to name a few. A relationship is a living, changing, growing thing that requires active participation in order for us to live, change, and grow along with it.
So what can we do to increase our chances of winding up being counted among the percentage of people who don’t get divorced?
Here are a few suggestions:
Start out strong
For starters, you need to make sure that you’re going into it with someone with whom you’ve got at least a chance at making it work. By starting out strong. With someone who treats you the way you deserve to be treated. Someone you can talk to about anything, and is open to talking with you about where he’s at also. Someone who’s in this for the real thing. Someone who’s not playing games, and when they tell you something, you don’t have to second guess the motives behind what they said, or try to figure out what they really mean or what they’re really feeling. Someone you can trust.
Know that it only gets harder
The reality is the dating stage and the pre-marital relationship stage are easier than the “now we’re married and sharing all parts of our lives together” stage. Once you’re sharing a living space, bank accounts, shopping, laundry, etc., it takes some great communication and relationship skills to work out the kinks of “where does the toothpaste go” and “who's going to do the dishes” every day.
Even the best of couples have struggles with these day to day life issues, and it’s compounded even more when children enter the picture. If your relationship is on shaky ground before marriage, it’s time to take a good, hard look at it before taking the next step.
I’m not saying that everything has to be smiles and roses all the time, but if you’re not able to work through things together, with open communication, respect, and trust, then it’s going to be a rocky road once you start facing some major hurdles together.
Treat the pre-marital stage as a dress rehearsal
It’s all too easy to believe that he can change, that he’ll rise to the occasion when it’s necessary, once you’re married he’ll settle down and stop the partying with his buddies, or once you have children he’ll become the perfect family man. It’s all too easy to keep making excuses for a guy that you’re attracted to and keep hoping he’s going to come around and eventually be the perfect guy for you. But if you’re thinking that way, it’s time for a reality check.
The truth is that what you’re getting now, before the two of you are married, is most likely the best you can expect after you’re married. If you’re seriously thinking of marrying this man, then treat this stage of your relationship like a dress rehearsal for the real thing. People don’t change very much. Or at all. Yes, change is possible, but it has to come from within and it’s not easy to change ourselves no matter how much we might be motivated to do so.
It’s much more likely that if you don’t like the way he’s treating you now, or if you’re not getting what you want, what you deserve, out of this relationship now, it will continue to be that way after exchanging rings.
Do you get that? I know how much you want to believe it’s possible. I know all too well how much you want to believe he’s different, your guy will change, or settle down, or whatever it may be, and you may be right. But if there’s even a chance you’re wrong, and what you’ve got now is what you’re going to have for the rest of your life, then you have to ask yourself - will you be happy?
Only you can answer that. But if you remember that you are beautiful, you have worth, you only deserve the best in life and love, and you’re not going to settle for anything less, then the answer becomes much clearer.
Remember, this is the dress rehearsal – after this, it’s showtime.