It is the prevailing romantic narrative that marriage will complete us. Thanks in part to fairytales, rom coms and social conditioning, it's easy to believe that once we find our partner, we will finally feel fulfilled and at peace with ourselves. This, as any married woman can attest, is simply not the case.
The truth is, aside from two becoming one and all that that entails, marriage is a new opportunity for personal growth. You are the same person you were before you got married and you will be just as unsatisfied with yourself after you say "I do" as you were before.
While marriage is a beautiful goal and enriching state of life, it should not take precedent over our own self-development. In fact, the health of any relationship begins and ends with how well we understand ourselves. So, with that in mind, here are six things to know about yourself before you say “I do.”
01. Your Love Language
We all express and feel love differently and it's important that you understand the unique way in which you give and receive love. This knowledge will not only help your partner love you better, but also help you understand yourself.
The Five Love languages, a concept developed by marriage counselor Gary Chapman, posits that while we all give and receive love in countless ways, there are typically just one or two love languages that make us feel most loved. These Five languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
Knowing your love language gives you the awareness to help you express your emotional needs to your partner. By knowing and communicating your love language to your partner (and vice versa) you are addressing one very crucial aspect of knowing yourself that will continue to benefit your relationship long after you’re married. Curious about your love language? Take the quiz here!
02. Your Trigger Zone
Have you ever been upset by something your partner said or something that happened but didn’t fully understand why? Or maybe you've had the same argument repeatedly with your soon-to-be spouse and can’t seem to find resolution? It's likely these mysterious emotional events are caused by unidentified emotional triggers.
We all have emotional triggers, or certain situations or words that can expose old emotional wounds. Your partner might unintentionally do something that evokes memories of being bullied, betrayed, or falsely accused in the past. In these situations, the way you react to your partner might have more to do with your history, rather than the situation at hand. When we have a sense of what our triggers are and how to handle them when they arise, we have a better chance of knowing how to take care of ourself in those precarious moments and keep conflict from escalating.
03. Your Passions and Interests
Remember how marriage doesn't complete you? It's important to keep this in mind when you are tempted to believe that marriage will satisfy your every longing. Marriage will hopefully satisfy your desire for companionship and romantic love, but it is only one part of your life. It's important to cultivate your interests and passions so that you continue to grow as a person—and so that your relationship doesn't suffer from the pressure of needing to fulfill your every need.
Knowing what you’re passionate about, aside from your man, and pursuing those passions will be an important outlet for you personally and for your marriage. Your faith, your hobbies, and your friendships will be an outlet you can turn to. Besides, when a person has interests or hobbies that they are passionate about outside of their marriage, they typically experience more joy within their marriage.
04. Your Reason for Getting Married
From the time we’re little, so many of us dream about our wedding day. But it’s important to understand your own motivation for marriage before you fulfill that lifelong dream.
Ask yourself: Why do I want to get married? What does marriage mean to me? What do I expect out of my marriage? By answering these questions honestly you can begin to build up an important part of yourself—self-awareness. Self-awareness is important because when we have a better understanding of ourselves, we are able to express ourselves and our expectations more authentically. Not only that, why you want to get married and the purpose of marriage is an important part of shared meaning, or the shared narrative and history you create with your partner. According to marriage expert Dr. John Gottman, shared meaning is one very essential ingredient to a happy marriage.
05. Your Relationship to Compromise
We all have a relationship with compromise. For example, you could be someone who always needs to be right or can't let things go, you could be someone who is uncomfortable with confrontation so you never ask for the things you need, or you could be someone who finds compromise in relationship easily. Whatever your relationship with compromise is, it's important that you identify it and work on getting comfortable with it before you get married.
Compromise is a vital part of all relationships, and it will play a huge role in your marriage. It is one of the fundamental, core attributes that every relationship requires to be successful. For example, for those of us who always need to be right or can’t let things go, marriage (or any relationship) will prove to be very challenging. In my experience, the bulk of relationship and marriage disputes could be resolved with a little less “me” and a little more “us.”
Essentially, compromise allows you and your partner to balance each other’s needs by considering both of your positions, which leads to mutual understanding as well as a solution to the issue at hand. Sit with this concept of compromise and get as clear as you can about what you need to develop your compromise “muscle.” Your future marriage will thank you for it.
06. Your Communication Style
Just like we all have our own unique love language, we also all have our own communication style, and it's important for us to get to know it before we say, "I do". The four main styles of communicating are passive, passive- aggressive, aggressive, and assertive. Having a general understanding of your communication style before you get married is important because a healthy relationship thrives on our ability to be able to articulate our emotions, desires, and beliefs. The more open and connected the dialogue, the healthier a relationship tends to be.
The most effective way to communicate is by being assertive. If you fall into one of the other categories try reflecting on what keeps you from being assertive. Is it fear? Avoidance? Insecurity? It’s important to figure this out sooner than later because communication will no doubt make or break a relationship.
Photo Credit: Brittni Willie