Three weeks ago my son popped the question. After more than seven years of dating, he asked his high school girlfriend to marry him. And, on a boat sailing the Hudson, she said yes.
Through the years, I’ve proudly watched my child and his girlfriend live their lives and grow as individuals, while maintaining close ties with family and friends, even as their relationship became stronger. So, as you might imagine, entering this new phase of life is quite exciting. I was particularly thrilled when my son voluntarily involved our family (even my parents) in the process leading up to the engagement. We looked at loose diamonds, admired settings, tried on rings, and even discussed possible scenarios for the actual proposal.
It is interesting to note, however, that my son never paused for a moment to solicit our input on what it takes to lay the foundation for a good marriage. Not once.
Now, I would like to believe that this omission simply comes from taking one’s own family’s marriages for granted. You see, my grandparents have been married for almost seventy-four years; my parents for fifty-two years; and my mother’s siblings for about forty-five years each. My in-laws have been married for almost sixty years; and my husband’s and my siblings have all been married for decades. It is clear that my kids have been fortunate to see long-term marriages all around them; maybe they think they know what it takes to make them a success.
But, do they really know? I’m not sure. So, my dear boy, whether you like it or not, here is some to the point, unsolicited advice from someone (uh, I mean your mother) who’s been married for thirty years.
- Marry your best friend. It’s okay to have friends who you can hang out with, talk to, and confide in, but your spouse-to-be should be your BFF. If you’re not friends before you marry, you won’t become friends later. Make sure you can rely and count on each other.
- Talk to each other about anything. No topic should be off limits or taboo. No keeping secrets; no blindsiding. If there are things you cannot or don’t want to discuss before you marry, you won’t be able to talk about them later. Get into the habit of covering tough topics in an open, sensitive, and understanding way.
- Talk about important life issues and decisions before you say, “I do.” Views on religion, finances (including budgeting, holding joint bank accounts, saving, etc.), children, parenting, schooling, politics, drugs (or other potential addictions), shopping, etc. should be explored up front. These topics are often influenced by one’s upbringing or personal philosophies, and can become the source of major marital conflicts.
- Don’t assume the other person will change. What you see is what you get. Expecting someone to change after marriage is a recipe for disaster. If something bothers or annoys you now, it’ll only become worse later.
- Take on a household project together. Try hanging wallpaper, tiling a bathroom, painting a room, or building a deck (or something) together. If you can work well with each other under pressure, that’s a good sign. Working together to overcome challenges is a fact of life.
- Make sure you are sexually compatible. Sex is an important part of marriage. It should be special, desired, and even fun. It should never be treated as an obligation or used as a weapon. (For more on this, see “Sex…Kosher Style.”)
- Never go to bed angry. Fighting is normal. Wanting a time out (or away) is normal. But, having a fight and then storming out of the house or going to sleep angry in another room is NOT okay.
- Don’t take each other – or your relationship – for granted. Make each other feel special. Celebrate moments. Have a date night. Take vacations alone. Don’t become complacent, boring, or routine.
- Don’t violate sacred trusts. You have to be able to trust your spouse. Lying, cheating, and breaking trusts are clear signs that the marriage is in trouble.
- Be prepared to work at it! Marriage isn’t easy. Priorities often change; people make mistakes. Life becomes stressful. Marriages must be nurtured. If you’re having a hard time adjusting, getting along, or coping, seek professional help.
This list is just my personal top ten pieces of advice. (I’m sure my readers could add plenty!) And, I hope you’ll take my words in the heartfelt spirit in which they are shared. I figured that, since half of all marriages end in divorce, it’s not a bad idea to learn – up front – from people who have a lot of experience in this field.
If nothing else, I hope I’ve given my son and his fiancée a few things to think about before their wedding day. I love them both and wish them all of the very best.
 Adapted from a Huffington Post article, What Are Some Tips for Young People Wanting To Get Married?