Marriage can be one of the most incredible experiences of your life…or it can truly drain and destroy your heart every. single. day.
When starting my grief ministry, I was surprised by the amount of people who sought help for marriage, family, in-law, and dating relationship related grief issues. All of these types of relationships – especially in this day and age – can be stressful and cause an extreme amount of grief and conflict.
Yet few consider the huge impact these relationships can have before taking the plunge.
My adult son once told me a marriage joke: “There are three rings in marriage…the engagement ring…the wedding ring…then the suffering.”
This was funny when I heard it..but it is an all-too-true reality for so many.
My husband and I have been marriage coaches at our church the last several years. We also have many couples contact us now due to word-of-mouth and recommendations from couples who we have helped. With God’s grace, we have an over 90% success rate with helping couples to turn their relationship around, and it’s not because my husband and I have a perfect marriage. It’s because we experienced years of marital turmoil, and we also experienced many life, family, and grief experiences throughout our marriage – so we have gained priceless practical insight on how to help couples. We are also very real, authentic, honest, and transparent when we help others.
When rebuilding our marriage, we found what worked…and what did not…and we are very open about what we learned.
My husband and I have been together for almost three decades. During the first 14 years, our marriage was horrible…absolutely terrible. There were ten years we genuinely despised each other. We only stayed together because we didn’t want to ruin family members’ birthdays…or divorce around a holiday…or we had a vacation or special occasion coming up that we didn’t want to ruin for anyone. For me, it was also because I didn’t want all of our photo albums and home videos to turn from being a source of joyful memories for our family to being a visual source of pain – evidence of what “once was.”
At our lowest point…I sought to improve myself and our marriage, as I deeply pondered how things got so bad.
Nobody plans on things going bad, but it does happen…frequently. Too frequently. In fact, around 50% of marriages fail.
Most people (my husband and myself included) get it backwards: we wear rose-colored glasses before we get married and then we wear magnifying glasses after saying, “I do.”
It is much wiser to wear magnifying glasses while dating so you can truly make a solid decision about who you will be spending the rest of your life with…then wear rose-colored glasses after you get married.
When someone gets married, it literally can affect everything in, and about, that person’s life…who they are, their joy, their relationship with God and others, their family, their health, their present or future children, finances, goals, dreams, job/education/career, beliefs, their self-esteem…everything. Since they are willingly placing their self…and their life…in a position of extreme vulnerability, it’s important to be very thorough in making sure they’re giving their heart and life to someone who truly deserves it.
Nobody is perfect…that’s for sure. We all are a work in progress. We all have room for improvement. We all have a bad day here and there. Always. But there is a huge difference between being with a partner who is willing to work at figuring things out vs. a partner who will simply wear you out.
Many people — like I stated earlier, one out of every two people — will either file for divorce or be served divorce papers…so it makes sense to ask a few very important questions before getting engaged or tying the knot.
Consider these statistics:
- The average marriage lasts 8.2 years
- 45-50% of first marriages end in divorce
- 67% of second marriages end in divorce
- 74% of third marriages end in divorce
- Nearly 60% of spouses admit to cheating…45% will go on to cheat again
- The average divorce costs $15,000 to $30,000
A good marriage can be an incredible joy and blessing…but a bad marriage can negatively impact both spouses, their children, and both spouse’s families – and each person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health…sometimes for years!
Contrary to popular belief, a gold band or diamond ring doesn’t have magical abilities. It doesn’t sprinkle pixie dust on the wearer’s finger and make them a magically better version of their self. Brides and grooms come “as is” – no warranty.
Some go into marriage not only thinking they can change someone…they try to make the marriage or potential spouse “fit” their expectations.
If a person has to force their foot into a glass slipper (marriage) to make it fit, they will, no doubt, have a very uncomfortable walk throughout their marriage…or worse, the glass slipper will eventually shatter and they’ll carry the scars for a very long time. And if someone is made to feel they never measure up, they, in turn, will resent their mate.
So now that I’ve been a much needed Negative Nancy so far in this post, how about some positive statistics?😍
- Married women are 30% more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good compared to single women
- Married people report lower levels of depression and distress
- Married people (over 50 years old) are more likely to maintain daily health routines like exercise, eating right, not smoking, and routinely receive annual health physicals
- Married people are twice as likely to go to church as unmarried people
- Marriage does more to promote life satisfaction than money, sex, or sometimes even children (source: Wake Forest University psychologists)
Okay, so what if you’re already married and you believe you made a huge mistake or you think you married the “wrong” person? Please consider a few statistics:
- 50% of those who divorce regret ending their marriage, and 80% of those who divorce during an affair regret the decision…so it is vital to talk to a trusted pastor or qualified marriage therapist before making the painful decision to separate or divorce
- 86% of those who rated their marriage as “unhappy” reported having “improved” or even “great” marriages five years later after choosing to stay married
- once you get married, your spouse becomes the “right” person. God has the incredible ability to heal your marriage
At some point, I’ll write specifically about each of these questions, but for now, I’ll leave these questions without answers so each reader can come up with their own individual answers. As you read each question, be sure to also answer how your partner would answer or rate you if they were the one reading these questions.
With any and every relationship, you must keep perspective and look at all viewpoints and sides!😊 It is an absolute must for both people to reflect on not just their partner, or their own individual wants and desires, but it is also important to reflect – and be real about – what both people are personally bringing to the relationship. It most likely will be a mixture of good strengths along with some flaws.
Each person needs to do their own self-work to ensure they are continually becoming a skilled “master” of their relationship, instead of being the “disaster” of the relationship.
We’re truly either an asset or a liability to our partner’s heart and wellbeing.
There are also a few issues many do not consider before marriage that my husband and I frequently hear while coaching:
- a spouse influences their partner to “write off” or limit their spouse’s time with their spouse’s parents, siblings, or family…then a family member dies…then the spouse who was influenced becomes extremely bitter towards their spouse.
- a spouse makes more money than one spouse and holds it over the lesser paid spouse’s head.
- when children are born, a spouse compares their spouse to their own parents.
- a spouse changes direction in their life without considering how it will affect their spouse (moving, going into missions, etc.)
There are many reasons – too many reasons to count – why a marriage can fail. These questions are designed to eliminate possibilities for divorce.
While reading this list, you may be tempted to point fingers, argue with your partner, or dish out blame. That is not the goal of this blog post. The questions are a great opportunity to reflect on what self-work needs to be done by each individual, and it may reveal deficits so you can make an overall decision to either work toward a happier, healthier, and much more fulfilling relationship – or discover that you (or they) may need to upgrade your/their value…or if you choose to stay together, upgrade the value of your relationship together.
In any bad or challenged relationship, it is rare if it is just one partner’s fault. Both people need to take responsibility for their part and work toward creating a “team” mentality together. When my husband and I were repairing our marriage, I shared with him, “Well, we’ve already found out what doesn’t work for our marriage…let’s now focus on finding out what will work.”
The truth is: marriage – just like all relationships – are work…sprinkled with love, times of joy, memories and purpose.
If you’re experiencing a bad time in your relationship or marriage, or you’re in need of good, solid, unbiased advice, there’s no shame in seeking out a qualified and trusted pastor or marriage therapist. My husband and I went to several before we found one who we both liked who could genuinely help us. To this day, we still go to this therapist when we run into issues we can’t easily resolve. The best advice he’s given is, “Treat one another how you would want to be treated and seek to improve yourself!”
When tempted to think that it’s all one partner’s fault, it’s best to consider the impact – both the good and the bad – both are contributing. As my husband’s and my marriage therapist always says, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”
When my husband and I coach couples, usually one partner will initially drag their feet and truly dread it…until they realize they can custom create a marriage where they and their spouse both feel treasured and fulfilled.
Your relationship and marriage is yours. You do not have to have a perfect marriage to be happy. You don’t even have to resolve every problem to get along and feel fulfilled. You are not required to pattern your marriage after anyone else’s marriage. You get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make your marriage exactly what you both want it to be!
Before reading this list, take a few minutes to pray. Ask God to speak to your heart and to guide and direct your life and relationship.
Realize there are probably some of these that your partner and you are not favorably doing, and one or both of you may not be up to par. This list simply reveals what needs to be worked on.
Some of these may be high priorities for you both as a couple…some may not be. Each relationship – especially a marriage – needs to be custom created by the couple. Parents, siblings, friends, etc. certainly care…and a couple should prayerfully consider and contemplate the advice and wise counsel of anyone who cares about them…but at the end of the day, both people need to take ownership of their relationship and do what works for them.
My husband and I wouldn’t have suffered as much turmoil in our marriage had we discussed a list of questions like this before we got married. We pray this list truly helps others to avoid the heartache and grief we experienced for so long.
Marriage is definitely a huge decision and commitment. And lifetime love, joy, purpose, and commitment are the goals — for both you and your partner!
Things To Ask Yourself Before Taking Your Relationship To The Next Level:
1. Is your partner into you…really into you? (Are you truly into them?)
2. Do you both love, honor, & fear God? Is your relationship with God the top priority…individually and as a couple? Are you comfortable praying together and encouraging each other spiritually?
3. How do you both treat your own family? How do you treat each other’s family? How does their family treat you…how does your family treat them? Do you both respect and love your families? Are you both under authority…or are you rebellious? Are you both capable of leaving and cleaving (even though you will still love and respect your parents and families)? Will you (and your partner) be able to set solid boundaries after the wedding so your spouse and marriage truly come first?
4. Are they mature, responsible, compassionate, caring, and kind? Are they bent towards mercy in how they deal with others? (Are you?)
5. Do they – and will they – handle hardship, grief, and stress well? (How do you think you handle these things?) If either of you were to prematurely die, can you trust and depend on them to be compassionate to your family and treat them well (and if there are children, will they be fair to your parents/family)…or would there be conflict? 80% of couples will divorce after the death of a child. How people handle grief and tough situations is more important than most realize.
6. Do they protect, respect, and honor you? (Do you seek to protect, respect, and honor your partner?)
7. Are they loyal, faithful, and will they truly put you first? (Are you truly wiling to do and be these, too?) Are they prone to cheating? Has a parent cheated? If a parent has cheated, there is a greater likelihood a child will cheat if they’ve failed to forgive their parent.
8. Do they have a solid ability to communicate, process, and work out problems/issues and restore harmony in the relationship? Are they good at taking the initiative to work problems out? Will you truly have a partner who invests in the relationship to prevent issues? (Do you communicate and work problems out well? Do you invest in the relationship and do your part to prevent issues?) Are you both willing to learn new communication and relationship skills?
9. How do they consistently treat their parents/family, waiters/waitresses, store clerks, pets, children, and others? (How do you treat others?) How a person treats their parents/family/others is a solid indicator of how they’ll eventually treat you.
10. Will they be a good parent…and will you want your kiddos to be just like them once they’re grown? (Will you…and would you…want your future children to emulate your life/actions/habits?)
11. Are they forgiving or do they hold grudges? Are they a peacemaker? Are they vindictive? Are they mature and work issues out…or do they resort to immature tactics such as throwing fits, cussing, sweeping issues under the rug, ignoring problems, or doing the silent treatment? (How do you handle forgiveness issues?)
12. Do they have their finances in order and have a stable job/work history – do they quit easy? (How about you?)
13. Are you (or they) controlled by any addiction or toxic behaviors? Will either of you have a hard life due to these issues?
14. Do they have anger, bitterness, or attitude issues? Do they “make people pay”? (Do you?) Are they humble or prideful?
15. Have they unpacked their “baggage” in life – the unprocessed baggage their parents (knowingly or unknowingly) passed down to them, as well as their own – and do they continually seek ways to grow and improve their self? (Have you taken – and do you continually take – the steps to do this?)
16. Have you or they ever cheated in a relationship…and if either has a history of infidelity, did you/they learn from it? If someone has cheated and failed to self-reflect to figure out why, they have an overwhelming chance of cheating again.
17. Do they respect sex and are they respectful towards you in this area? Do they respect boundaries on social media? Do they make inappropriate comments about the opposite sex? Do they use premarital sex to entice you so you overlook issues or fail to see their personal flaws? (Are you respectful in these areas? Do you do these things?)
18. If you were ever disabled or diagnosed with a serious illness, how would they accept and handle that? (If your spouse became disabled or seriously ill, would you leave…or love them enough to stay?)
19. Are they continually self-centered? (Are you?) Do they frequently talk about what they can get from you and others…or do they seek to give to others?
20. How does your partner make you feel…and if nothing ever changes or improves, can you genuinely live with how things currently are? (How do you make your partner feel…and are you willing to do whatever is necessary to improve your relationship?)
21. Do you have a good education, a trade, or skill set to provide for yourself – and any children – if the marriage ends or your spouse dies? (Are you committed to ensuring both you and your partner have this important ability?)
22. Are you/they in love or in need? Getting married for financial purposes will bring problems and deep heartache – for both people.
23. How do your parents/family feel about your partner? (How do your partner’s parents/family feel about you?) Are any of their concerns justified? Will your parents welcome your spouse after the wedding…will your spouse treat your parents/family fairly? Will you ensure that your parents/family loves and respects your spouse…and will you ensure that your spouse loves and respects your parents/family? You’d be surprised how many marriages end due to not ensuring basic love and respect by all parties.
24. Is your partner genuinely good to you and are you genuinely good to them…and are you genuinely good for each other?
25. Do you genuinely like them as a person? (Do they genuinely like you?)
26. Do you have similar values, life goals, and beliefs? Are there any deal breakers?
27. Do you have compatible ideas on the hot topics of marriage: religion, money, parenting, family, sex, chores/jobs/responsibilities?
28. Do you have fun together, have a strong friendship, and genuinely enjoy each other? Do you value and celebrate each other on important “couple” holidays (anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, etc)?
29. Are you attracted to your partner – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.? (Is your partner attracted to you in these areas?)
30. Do you and your partner make gratefulness and valuing each other a priority? Are you (they) more grateful or ungrateful? More valuing or demeaning?
Hope these questions are helpful! Keep in mind these questions are not the gospel…they’re simply a tool for self-reflection and self-improvement.
Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither are relationships. Marriages take a lifetime to grow and perfect!
So, what if you read this list and are now discouraged?
Here are a few resources I have personally found to be very helpful. Some are websites and some are videos. All are helpful for building relationships and self-improvement:
Marriage can truly last a lifetime and be one of the best experiences of your life!
Your heart is one of the highest, most prized treasures you can give to someone. Give it to someone who will take good care of it!❤️
Gratitude & blessings,
©2018 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.
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⭐️For more encouragement:
❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net
❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/
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❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com
❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
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