This column’s last article suggested that there are three basic steps to a happy marriage:
1. Become a healthy, happy person.
2. Find a great match.
3. Create a fulfilling/healthy/happy/loving/passionate/fun relationship.
Ideally, we spend at least the first two decades of our lives focused on step one, becoming the person we want to be. It is our primary purpose during those years. Of course, we are never truly done with it—we are becoming all through our lives.
Enter, step two, finding a great match. Notice I did not say finding The One, or finding our true soul mate, or any of that blather. If you are happy with yourself, and willing to work on creating a great relationship, there are many people who will make a wonderful partner.
While in step two, remember that each relationship should teach you something about not just how to find a better partner, but also how to be a better partner. After each relationship, take a little trip back to step one and work on yourself. Next time, you will do step two much better, until eventually it is checked off the list and you never have to go there again.
Now what is left is step three. This is where you will spend the majority of your years. There will be much trial and error involved, and it takes time to get it right.
Obviously, an important step in building anything together is to agree on what the end product should look like. If you were building a house, you would first decide on some major issues: how many stories? how many bedrooms? If you are picturing a chalet and she is envisioning a rambling ranch style, do not pick up the hammer yet.
Beth Jones, the owner and “head librarian” of My Wedding Library, says her store has information on everything an engaged couple needs to know—except marriage counseling or advice. It is likely no one has ever asked for it. People spend a year or more pondering questions like, “What dress should I wear?” but never ask, “What do I believe my marriage will look like—and what does my partner believe?”
Maybe you believe good marriages foster a spirit of freedom, and you picture Friday nights with friends. Fine, unless your partner thinks marriages thrive best when Friday nights are reserved for romantic candlelight dinners.
Ask questions; listen to the answers. Later, ask more questions, and listen again. It is a conversation that should last a lifetime.