Preparing yourself for marriage is even more important than preparing yourself for the wedding day.
I hurt. And that's an understatement.
I spent the better part of Saturday tilling, weeding and planting a garden with my wife and our next door neighbors. We decided to make it a community thing this year so all the kids could experience the joy of having a garden. The problem is, I am a creative kind of guy, not a labor kind of guy. I spend my days behind a keyboard and a microphone. I'm lucky I am able to type, due to the bulging blisters that even made my neighbor wince.
After much digging, weeding and making lines in dirt, we eventually made it to planting. And the comment was made "Wow, it's amazing how much preparation and time you have to take to get the dirt ready. Then you plant, and within minutes you're done."
This gardening principle seems to be something we lack in today's marriages. We spend lots of money and time preparing for the wedding day. The penguin suits and puffy white dresses, cakes, champagne, the guests, where the service will be, then the reception. A lot of work for just a few hours of time. Often, we spend more time and energy preparing for the wedding than we do preparing for the marriage.
What would happen if we actually prepared ourselves for marriage, not just the wedding? What might that "preparing the garden" process look like?
1. Having your money under control.
Whether you're dating or have been married for 20 years, we can all get better at how we handle money in our relationships. Money is a tool. In our marriages, we have to be on the same page about how it is used. It is critical that you set guidelines about money. Who will pay the bills? How much money will you spend and on what? How will you make decisions about big expenses? If you both don't agree on a big expense, then wait to purchase it. Money (or the items we buy with money) can't be more important than our marriages. If you are able, take a financial class together to learn about how to be wise with your money.
2. Learning communication skills.
Learning how to effectively communicate with your spouse is extremely important. It is something that we really have to work on — for most of us it doesn't come naturally. I suggest you read books, listen to podcasts, go to conferences — anything you can do to improve yourself on both sides of the communication process, better listening and better speaking, so your mate will understand you.
3. Having a relationship with God.
The foundation of a good marriage is one that includes God. Our pastor made a great statement: "You don't know who you are, until you know who God is." If we get our identities from our past, our occupations, our families or our spouses, then our marriages will be much more difficult than they have to be. Everybody knows that line from the movie Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise says "You complete me." Well, that's just bogus. I can't complete my beautiful wife and she can't complete me. We can complement each other, we can each bring different strengths to the marriage, but I have to know who I am first (and so do you). And I really can't figure out who I am until I have an understanding of the person who created me.