Anyone who has ever been married and divorced knows how easy it is to get married and how difficult it is to get divorced. Spouses run through their divorce papers with fine-tooth combs, sometimes over and over again to refine it while quibbling about major issues, such as who will be getting the kids, to more mundane items, like who will be taking the toothbrush holders.
My feeling is that if the courts and the churches made getting married as difficult as getting divorced, we might have fewer marriages and, as a result, fewer divorces. Why not draw up a marriage contract – written and signed – that includes how potential spouses will handle all major and even some minor concerns, such as:
One of you may be a spender while the other is a saver. One of you might gamble everything while using credit cards to obtain money for gambling night. You HAVE to discuss money, and you HAVE to draw up a budget you both can agree upon. If one of you is bringing thousands of dollars worth of debt into the relationship, you'll need to know how to get rid of the albatross before it strangles you. When you agree on allowances and savings, WRITE IT DOWN!
Decide which church, if any, you and your spouse will attend. Decide in advance which church, if any, your children will attend. Maybe you want to introduce your children to all types of religions and let him or her decide whether or not to belong to any of them, but if one of you is Catholic and the other Jewish, don't wait until after the children are born to decide. Your children will be the ones who suffer over your arguments.
If you can discuss politics without harming your spouse, decide to either agree or disagree, maturely, about your political affiliations. If you have two completely different philosophies, and you can't find common ground together, decide to never discuss politics.
You may not like all of your relatives and having some of them around may be stressful. Be compassionate. Those relatives belong to you or your significant other. Discuss before you get married how you will handle long distant relatives who arrive for the holidays or interfering in-laws who want to run your lives.
Don't wait until after you're married to discuss whether or not you want children. You may find that your spouse doesn't want any while you want at least 3. Going into a marriage thinking you will change the mind of your spouse is not going to help your situation and that form of manipulation never works.
Discuss and agree upon the parenting style you will use when you raise your children. If you don't agree upon this situation prior to giving birth to your children, you will end up arguing in front of them. Figure out your positions on drugs, alcohol, dating, makeup, sports, education, etc. Keep in mind that each child is different. Take his or her personality into consideration when you decide how to parent each child. Every new generation brings with it new problems. New problems require new strategies. Discuss discipline with your spouse when the children are not present. Write down rewards and consequences so your children will know what to expect.
Discuss and agree upon where you will send your children to school and how that child will get back and forth from school. Also decide who will pick up the child when the child gets sick. If one of you is working out of the home, your choice may be obvious, but if both of you work outside the home or one of you has deadlines to meet in your home, you'll need to choose in advance who will take care of a sick child.
Some husbands expect their wives to attend to all of the children's needs and all of the interior household chores, such as getting the kids up and ready for school, cooking, washing dishes, dusting, washing floors, vacuuming, laundering, making beds, bathing children, putting them to bed, while they attend to the outside chores like lawn care and snow shoveling. If you live in an area where outside chores take a considerable amount of time, you might agree that this arrangement is fair, but if you live in an apartment, you'll want to reconsider your arrangement. Writing everything down puts everything in perspective.
Alcohol or Drug Abuse
Don't think that just because you're married your souse will quit drinking or doing drugs. If his or her drinking or drug use is bothering you now, that concern will grow. She won't stop using drugs and he won't quit drinking just because you're married. Discuss your concerns before you tie the knot or that knot will end up choking you.
Find a reliable responsible babysitter. Allow your children to spend time with him or her prior to leaving them with the babysitter. Purchase a hidden camera – just to be safe – and enjoy some time with your spouse. Even if you do this once a month, you'll be able to reconnect with your loved one. Can't afford a sitter? Find another couple who wants to have a date night and offer to sit for their children one weekend while they watch your children another weekend. Or barter with someone who doesn't have children but loves your baked lasagna.
Once a week, schedule family time. Make a giant breakfast, stay in your PJs, don't allow anybody else to come over, and just BE with your family. Play games together. Have fun! Later, make a bowl of popcorn, plop down in front of the TV with pillows and blankets and watch a movie together – as a family.
Whether you want to get away by yourself or spend time with friends, you need to discuss this arrangement with your spouse. Some people believe that once you get married, you must spend every second with your spouse. If you had friends before you got married, you shouldn't have to argue about seeing them after you get married. And if you just want to get away by yourself, you need to let your spouse know that alone time is important to you. Sometimes you don't need to actually leave the home, but if you have a man cave or a woman's retreat within the home, your spouse should honor your alone time and take care of the kiddies so you can relax and enjoy your time alone. And do the same for your spouse.
Learn to be empathetic, sympathetic, compassionate, and loving. When your child gets sick, will you go to the doctor together? Will you attend school functions together? What if one spouse smokes and the child develops a lung disease? How will you handle smoking? Be prepared to discuss and resolve any problem when you notice it becoming a problem, not after it has disrupted the entire household. Be proactive in your approach to your marriage, so you won't have to go through the trauma of a divorce.
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