Before you start practicing your new last name, or envisioning your destination wedding; how do you know if you should be heading towards the altar let alone saying…I DO?
When this topic comes up in discussion, one of the first things I hear is, “when you’ve been together for more than 5 years!” Of course I feel if you’ve been in a healthy, committed, and productive relationship for 5 years, what else could be hindering you from making the ultimate commitment with your partner? However, I don’t think time together should be a major determinate of getting married. I say this because when you know, you know, and knowing comes with discernment and quality time spent together with your partner. My husband and I dated for 8 months before he proposed. We had a year engagement period, and we’ve been happily married for 7 years! We were friends before we dated, but during our 8 months of courtship we got to know each other better, and know what the other deemed important foundationally in life.
I was single before I dated my husband and when I started dating, I knew what I wanted in a spouse, I didn't want to date idly. I identified what were important characteristics I wanted in a husband. I would recommend this so you clearly know what you deem non negotiable. Some factors that contributed to me knowing that when/if he asked, I would want to spend the rest of my life with my husband were:
These elements mentioned in no way mean that if you don’t have similar factors, you shouldn’t be headed towards I do. For me, these factors, confirmed that my now husband, demonstrated all the characteristics that are important to me. The character of a person is highly important, when you become married, the two become one and it is important to know who you are conjoining with. Essentially, who you are saying I do to, is what you are saying I do to. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the great! So knowing what characteristics are important to you and seeing them on display in your partner helps gauge the fortitude of not only a person but your relationship.
Marriage spells sacrifice. Not literally, but you know what I mean. If I had to pick a few words associated with marriage, one would be sacrifice. Two becoming one (previous article) doesn’t just happen effortlessly, you have to commit to allowing your marriage to work. Sacrificing means sharing responsibility , understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses that affect the relationship, and occasionally doing things( chores) you don’t particularly care for because it benefits the relationship.
An example of working towards strengths: I never want to send my husband to the grocery store, for a fact, he will come home with at least 5 items I didn’t ask him to get. It ruins the budget, and it’s almost never what we needed. I actually enjoy doing the shopping. I price match, use coupons, and ensure we will have balanced meals for the week. On a rare occasion I’m not home with my family for dinner, I'm sure to meal prep or risk worrying that my guys will go hungry.
Now, don’t ever ask me to fix anything around the house, that’s my husband's territory. I consider my husband extremely resourceful and handy in that regard, he changes the air filters in our vehicle. Once our washing machine clogged and he was able to fix it. Leave an issue like that to me; I’d yelp the best repair man. Knowing what our strengths and weakness are helps keep balance as we naturally gravitate to those things, and ensures the basic essentials of living are not forsaken. Spend a little time discussing what your preferences/ strengths are and take ownership of it. This does not have to be set in stone; it’s okay to be flexible. For our relationship it doesn’t mean I never change a light bulb, or my husband never goes to the store!
Whatever the dynamics are in your relationship, whether both spouses work outside the home or no one does, responsibility among the two should still be shared. When I was expecting our second son, I was a stay at home mother to our toddler. I knew when my husband got home from work he would be drained from a long day. He also knew that I was at half energy due to being pregnant and engaging our toddler, with also trying to manage our household and prepare supper. After working a long day he would love to retreat to the couch and kickback to watch a show, but he was always mindful of me having my hands full at home all day and would eagerly ask how he could help. I was mindful not to bombard him when he walked through the door, letting him transition into the role of husband and father. I did have a timer to make sure his unwinding did not take too long though. (Just kidding)
If you are married in a Christian ceremony or of the faith, one scripture you might hear is Ephesians 5:31. It reads “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” This means that you and your spouse are a united front and operate on the same accord.
A huge challenge some married couples face is being married but living as single individuals. Your spouse is not your roommate! You could be setting your marriage up for failure if you have a roommate mentality towards your spouse. Examples of this include maintaining separate finances, poor communication, and different lifestyles. As a roommate, you don't discuss personal finances, and when the bills are due you are in agreement of who pays what. As a roommate, you are not obligated to communicate with your housemate about your comings or goings. Instead, the priority is being able to share hostile free living quarters. As a roommate, your agenda does not have to consistently or ever align with that of your housemate.
When I hear people say “Marriage is 50/50; I do this and my mate does that. I keep this and my spouse keeps that,” I cringe! Why would you commit your life to your mate but only give 50% or withhold anything, including finances? 50/50 shouldn’t be a part of a healthy, trusting marriage. The union of marriage shouldn’t be two people putting in half of anything, including finances or effort, and hoping for the best. Marriage should be two people coming together with all they have to offer for the best outcome.
Here are three things that have helped my husband and I avoid the roommate mentality:
Why is it that as soon as you get married people immediately start to ask, “So when are you having kids!?” I mean honestly, the ink on the marriage licenses hasn’t dried, your honeymoon isn’t over yet, and you haven’t even opened your wedding gifts! It’s as if it’s some unwritten rule of expectancy that as soon as you say I do, a junior should make its arrival in the world nine months later.
I can speak about this from personal experience. My husband and I were bombarded with questions about starting a family for two years after we were married. We started a family when the time was right for us, not based on other’s expectations. The “right time” can be different for different people and for different reasons. Until then, it doesn’t necessarily mean the family is incomplete without children.
Should etiquette be considered when you’re speaking with a married couple without children? For example, is it polite to ask why or when children will be considered?
I recently bumped into an older married couple in the market. No, literally bumped into them with my cart, yes I know, I felt horrible! I was hoping I didn’t bruise a hip or a rib. They were very gracious and ensured me they were fine. Whew, I felt relieved! Just when I was adjusting my cart to back away from my shame, the wife said thanks to me. Confused, I asked “thanks, if I’m not mistaken I bumped into you”? That’s when she proclaimed, “he needs a swift kick every now and then, and now I don’t have to give him one for the week!" I could not help but to laugh. Then I asked, “how long have you two been married?” “37 years” he let me know. "Wow, what’s the key I asked?“ He replied, "It’s simple, love never dies. If you can remember that, you get to 37 years."
I was grateful for that encounter and I let them know. Loves never dies, so simple, yet so profound. As I pondered on the concept, to me it made perfect sense. There are so many things that you can breathe life into with the use of faith, your words, mentality, and even your actions. The love you have for your spouse doesn’t die, unless you let it. Every day you have to be intentional to cultivate it because love is a feeling and it's also an action.
I’m reminded of a garden. You don’t have a bountiful harvest unless you till the land, water the seeds, and really nurture the ground with care and attentiveness. Even good fertilizer will suffice. When you wake up one morning to ripened tomatoes and peppers, you smile in delight. Atlast, you can enjoy your crops! The same process can be applied to your relationship, consider it a permanent growing season. You should always partake in actions to not only grow your love, but make it everlasting.
An everlasting love doesn’t just happen, just like your crops don’t appear out of thin air. You work on it by...