The Most Important Thing You Can Do Before Getting Married
As adapted from Vikki Ziegler’s upcoming book, “The Pre-Marital Planner (to stay happily married).”
Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have obviously just made one of the most important decisions you could make – to share your life with the partner you love. You are probably feeling elated, maybe even a little woozy with excitement. And you should! After all, you have big plans – a wedding, a honeymoon, and maybe even a new home.
However, marriage involves a lot more than a big send-off, some new stuff, and being called Mr. or Mrs. Getting married means assuming a lot of added responsibility. Not only are you supposed to love your partner, but you are also expected to be supportive and treat them as an equals, now and for decades to come. That is a tall order. So before you pack your bags for Tahiti, let us take a few moments to discuss what you should unpack first.
To be fully present in your marriage, you need to be able to give your relationship your undivided attention. The best way to accomplish this is by getting rid of any emotional baggage that can potentially distract you first. Your primary objective should be to go into your marriage with a light heart, not a heavy one.
It goes without saying that each of us lead a busy life filled with distractions, including obligations to our careers, extended family, and personal needs. That is not the baggage of which I am speaking. Though there may be a lot on our plates, if we have our act together, we should have no problem balancing all of that and more while still carving out the time we need to spend with our partner one on one. It is when more deep-rooted issues distract us, such as unresolved conflicts from our past, that our present tends to become dicey.
That is why I advise my clients who are contemplating marriage to look back before they look forward. In particular, I ask my clients to dig deep into their past and pinpoint any relationships that may have at one time caused them pain or continue to today. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t have an unresolved conflict lurking in his or her past. Though you may not want to admit it, old disputes or long-running ones can directly impact the relationships you currently have, most notably the ones you have with your soon-to-be husband or wife. That is why it is imperative to heal your heart before walking down the aisle, first by forgiving others for their transgressions and then by forgiving yourself.
Forgiveness does not mean solely for the person you are forgiving. It is a gift you give to yourself. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you must speak to them every day or spend every holiday together. Instead, it means that you, and only you, have found a way to work through your emotional pain. You are an adult now, which means you can control how you allow others to treat you.
Keep in mind that nobody is perfect. People typically do the best they can. The relationship you had with your mother, for example, while growing up may not have been a close one for reasons that had nothing to do with you. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot salvage a relationship with her or build a new one today. The things you each said or did can never be undone. But now that you are no longer a child, the onus is on you to find a way to forgive your parents for what they did or did not do. Not for them. For you. Whatever the case is, it is time to let the pain go.
So if your mother continues to criticize you, try finding it in your heart to forgive her, remembering that sometimes a little kindness can go a long way. Keep in mind, too, that the people you have hurt or hold anger toward may be fighting personal battles, and though you can speculate, you likely have no idea why they behave as they do. For your sake, make peace with them and yourself. Then use their mistakes and your own to do and be better.
If necessary, enlist the help of a mental health professional, clergyman, or anyone else you know who can support you while you work through your pain. A useful tool for distilling and then healing old wounds is to write a letter to those individuals you have wronged or wronged you. Whether or not you send it is irrelevant; the value is in the exercise itself and identifying emotions you may have never known you have, working through them, and then moving on.
Only when you release what has been holding you back can you finally find the love want and be in a position to enjoy it.