In today’s society, marriage is pushed to the back of people’s minds; careers, education, and hook up culture take precedence. Accordingly, Pew Research Center reports that “the marriage rate has declined about 9 percentage points over the past 25 years, with about half of all U.S. adults now married.” That being said, the reality that married individuals are both happier and healthier persists.
I’ve always wanted to get married so I have studied my parent’s marriage to be able to one day have a healthy one myself. To clarify, I am not myself yet married; these are observations I have made about my parent’s marriage of almost 21 years—pretty darn successful by today’s standards.
Talk about money before you get married.
21% of marriages fail due to money issues: not talking about money, not budgeting, hiding purchases, or hiding credit cards. Dave Ramsey says that “ninety-four percent of respondents who say they have a ‘great’ marriage discuss their money dreams with their spouse, compared to only 45 percent of respondents who say their marriage is ‘okay’ or ‘in crisis.’”
Before my parents got married they actively talked about budgeting, what they value, and how they want to work together with finances. They continue to set common goals, hide nothing, and work together to save. To be unified in your marriage, you need to be unified in your finances.
Put more work into your spouse than the kids.
It’s almost doctrine to say our children are our top priority. However, according to Psychology Today, “when one or both partners make their children’s happiness a higher priority than the health of their marriage, they run the risk of neglecting the needs of the marriage, and in doing so, fostering feelings of resentment, neglect, resignation, and alienation in themselves and/or each other.” Children depend upon the stability of their parent’s marriage and so, counterintuitively, good parenting sets the marriage as most important.
My parents have always put work into each other. They would often tell us at 9 o’clock at night “we are done being parents; It’s our time.” This meant spending time talking, hanging out, and working to better their marriage. Sometimes, they went on dates alone or watched a movie without us.
Your spouse should be your best friend.
During a span of 10 years, the British Household Panel surveyed 30,00 people about their life satisfaction and found that “those who listed their spouse [as their best friend] were twice as likely to have higher life satisfaction.”
My parents dated for ten years, in that time they were a couple, best friends, broke up, dated other people, and eventually married. Even though my parents enjoy completely different things, they are willing to do what the other wants, sacrifice just as they would for a friend. Hike together, grab dinner, watch a movie, hit the gym, or anything else. Be friends, not just co-parents or glorified roommates.
You have to decide what’s best for your family.
At the end of the day, couples are left with the riches or rags of their own decisions. Medling inlaws can make this difficult. In 1986 researchers decided to study how men and women felt about their inlaws. The researchers tracked 373 couples since their marriages in 1986. They then asked the couples to rate their inlaws on a scale to one to four and they found “marriages in which the wife reported having a close relationship with her in-laws had a 20 percent higher risk of divorce than couples where the wife didn’t report a close relationship.” Surprisingly, it was the reverse for husbands. In other words, our healthy or unhealthy relationships with our family of origin have a drastic impact on our current marriage.
My parent’s decision to homeschool their children was unpopular; my dad’s family comes from a family of all public school teachers. However, my parents made their decision, stood by it, and are grateful they did. Family influence is worth consideration but must remain secondary to the marital relationship.
You need to have the same values.
A survey conducted for the Legacy Project asked over 500 people married 40 plus years about their best advice for a happy marriage. The overwhelming answer was that “you are much more likely to have a satisfying marriage for a lifetime when you and your mate are fundamentally similar.” Will you raise your kids in the church? What’s important to spend money on? What is frivolous? How many kids should we have? These are significant questions. Unless a house has a strong foundation it will crumble.
My parents have their differences but they agree on core beliefs and this is paramount to a strong relationship. They agreed on how to raise their kids, how they were going to religiously educate their kids and so on. A marriage, much like a house, needs a strong foundation.
We all have that one couple who we think about when we talk about marriage. They are the couples who take Sunday drives, tease each other no matter how old they are, and still love and respect each other after decades. They are the couples willing to help with their wisdom and wit. This March, my parents will celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary. One day, I hope to have a marriage as strong as theirs.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.