Before you got a driver's license, you learned to drive. Before marriage, learn these 4 skills.
Before someone gets a driver's license, they take a drivers ed course, practice with the help of an experienced driver, and closely study the rulebook. These are all valuable things to do, because driving without the necessary skills would make someone a menace on the roads, and a danger to themself and others.
The same thought process applies to getting married, as well. Before getting a marriage license, people must learn how to do the high-skills activity that partnership requires. Otherwise, couples are at risk for intense fighting, and launching a marriage that's at risk from the outset.
Multiple research projects have clearly established that couples who learn marriage skills have the highest odds of enjoying a long-lasting and gratifying partnership. If you're spending time and energy on a wedding, it makes sense to ensure that the marriage that follows will be a successful one.
Here are the 4 main skill ares you need:
1. Emotional self-regulation. Young children often get mad, cry, or even hit their siblings. Adults, on the other hand, mostly live their lives in the calm zone. The good news is that adults who get overly emotional, especially with anger, can learn how to overcome their anger tendencies. If you find that you raise your voice and get mad more than once every several months (or get so mad that you say and do hurtful things), you've got some important learning to do.
2. Communication. Talking tactfully, especially when the issue is something that distresses you and listening in a way that sustains cooperation, are essential to any marriage. Talking in a way that's complaining, critical, or otherwise hurtful will get you in serious marriage trouble. Dismissing what your partner says, negating what you hear with "but", or ignoring instead of digesting what you hear, is sure to cause extreme marital woes.
3. Conflict resolution. All couples have differences. Successful couples know how to start with a "his-way" and a "her-way" and end up with an "our-way" that they both feel good about. That's true whether the issue is a simple one, like what movie to to see on Saturday night, or big issues like where to live, how to handle money, and how to keep your sex life passionate.
4. Positivity. Every time you share a smile, laugh at your partner's jokes, agree with a comment your partner said, express appreciation, thank your partner for something, or express affection, you are offering "dollops" of positivity. The more dollops you give, the happier you both will be.
The moral of the story? Be prepared. Remember that a wedding is for one day. Marriage, hopefully, is forever.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., author of The Power of Two book and workbook, invites you to check out PowerOfTwoMarriage.