My father once gave me a piece of valuable advice. He told me that if I want to excel in a desired profession, find someone who was doing what I wanted to do, and then ask them how I can imitate them. Today, in my work as a marriage counselor, I have found that the same wisdom applies to marriage.
Whether you are learning a foreign language or trying to become proficient in a sport, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from those who have mastered what we desire. If you know any couples who seem to be masters at marriage, you would be foolish to not ask them for their secrets.
Here are seven questions to pose to your married friends and family so you can one day reap the benefits of their hard-earned wisdom.
01. What is your secret to making marriage work for a lifetime?
This question may seem broad, but this is how you get all sorts of helpful tricks and secrets that make marriage that much easier. A lifelong commitment can, at times, seem overwhelming. Whether the secret to their success is date nights, daily acts of kindness, or laughter, married couples can help you understand that part of the secret in staying committed during your marriage is to take it all one day at a time.
02. How do you make finances work?
While this may appear to be a purely practical question, it also has a significant relational aspect. You see, the common tension around personal finances in marriage is about so much more than numbers. His spending habits or her desire to save has more to do with the things that each person values, like freedom verses security for example. From the practical side of things, having a solid plan for how to handle finances (from how much you will save each month, to how much you both are comfortable spending on a variety of items) helps you to increase communication and learn to live out the day-to-day aspects of marriage. But talking to couples who have different values when it comes to money and hearing about how they have come to empathize with one another and work through those differences might be even more valuable.
03. Is it normal for us to argue?
While mental health professionals like myself can tell you that it is perfectly normal (and in my mind, healthy) for couples to argue, it will mean more if a couple you admire tells you that arguments have a place in a healthy marriage. More so, it would be wonderful if they let you into how they repair their relationship after an argument since it is the repair attempt, and not the existence of an argument, which predicts the happiness of a marriage.
04. How do you successfully practice work-life balance?
Early on in our careers, we are often happy to put in those extra hours at the office in order to secure our future. In the same way this is true for our careers, it’s also true of marriage. Marriage takes necessary time and sometimes overtime to be successful. Happy couples we look up to can give you the skinny on what kind of sacrifices and re-prioritizing was necessary to make time for their relationship. Maybe it will be the same for you, maybe it won’t. But it’s helpful to have this very realistic perspective.
05. How did you decide on how to split up holidays?
This is a valuable question to ask, since deciding on how to handle holidays will save you a lot of trouble down the road. Married mentors can help you navigate the sometimes dramatic waters of one family not getting to see you or your spouse on Christmas or Easter. Remember, they had to figure it out as well, even if their families lived in the same town.
06. How did you figure out the household chores?
Most people walk into a marriage with expectations about housework based on how their parents did things. Maybe your mom handled everything inside and your dad handled everything outside. But it’s not likely that the same arrangement will work for you and your future spouse. In the beginning, creating new cleaning rituals of your very own is important and things can get tense. Chances are your married mentors have been there and their experience can give you some pointers. Hearing different couples' experiences can help you take a more flexible approach to your expectations in marriage. Remember this: Rigidity is a great way to suffocate a marriage.
07. What kind of boundaries protect your marriage?
You are entering into a new life with your fiancé, and as such you will need to re-draw boundaries with everyone from your parents to your coworkers. Happy couples have healthy boundaries and finding out what boundaries they have found encourage intimacy can help you form your own protective boundaries. Maybe they make it a rule to avoid intimate one-on-one conversation with the opposite sex, maybe they make it a rule to decide upon rules for the kids as a unit before communicating any rules to the kids. Whatever it is, their boundaries could be an easy way to follow in their (happy) footsteps.
Photo Credit: Vine and Light Photography