It’s almost June — the beginning of the summer wedding season. Some couples are in the last stages of wedding planning. Hopefully they still like each other.
Too often the bride and groom (bride and bride; groom and groom) are so focused on their wedding day, they forget that they are launching into a new way of life. Caught up in the mythos of making the perfect day, Bridezilla emerges from an otherwise perfectly lovely young woman. Her partner becomes zilla-ish too. What should be a fun celebration of love becomes a stress-filled quest for an impossible perfection. STOP!
If you are among the soon-to-be wed and feel stressed; if your friends and family are starting to avoid you; if you are obsessed with whether to wear the blue garter or carry the bluer hankie; if you sometimes wish you could just elope — the wedding has become much, much too important.
It is only a day out of your life.
No one but you cares if you are having carrot cake or vanilla. People are just as married if they have a fantasy wedding or a quick “I do” at the JP’s office. So — Take a deep breath, count to 10 or 100 or 1,000. Now let’s get back to the important stuff. You are getting married. The wedding is just a door you are going to pass through to get there.
These last few weeks or months before your wedding are an important period. It is time to affirm your relationship and to celebrate your love. Don’t let wedding planning ruin it. Marriage planning is far more important.
A successful marriage won’t just happen. It takes thoughtfulness, kindness, and a commitment to actively love each other. It is much more difficult than deciding on a wedding venue or color scheme. It’s even more difficult than dealing with wedding guests who, for one reason or another, are likely to be out of control. Your wedding day will come and go. With love, attention, and a little bit of luck, your marriage will last a lifetime.
If it’s fun for you to stress over centerpieces, have your fun. But once that fun is over, I hope you will have even more fun putting these principles into action.
Checklist for planning a marriage:
- Treat love as a verb, an action. It’s not just a feeling. Random acts of small kindnesses mean even more than a big splashy present or event. Oh yes. Big, big deals now and then are exciting. But a solid marriage is more often the result of a steady accumulation of little gestures of appreciation and small surprises. After the “I do’s”, keep your love alive by vowing to look for little ways to make your partner’s life a bit sweeter every day.
- Date. There are some people who see no reason to date, to dress up and do interesting things together, after they have “won the prize” of a mate. What a disappointment for the spouse who thought that dating behavior was their true love’s regular style! If you want your marriage to be a success, don’t drop the dating behavior. Dress up now and then. At least get out of your sweats or jeans. Plan an evening out. It doesn’t t have to be fancy or cost a lot. The point is to have fun together, to share novel experiences, and to be focused just on each other.
- Say “I love you.” Words do matter. Long-married couples report that they make it a point to say those three little words regularly and often – even when, especially when, they aren’t sure they like each other in the moment. Stating love and hearing love every day makes both people feel good. Stating love and hearing love on days when things are difficult reminds both partners that a problem is something to be solved, not a reason to let go of the relationship.
- Touch each other often. An often forgotten form of communication is touch. People hunger for gentle, loving contact. Touch your partner many times every day. Yes, sex is important. But perhaps even more important is loving physical contact that isn’t part of foreplay. Pat your partner as you walk by. Give a brief shoulder rub. Touch each other’s hands when talking. Hug. Slow dance in the kitchen. Cuddle on the couch. Although not necessarily sexual, regular touch often ramps up sexual attraction.
- Look for the positive in each other. Limit the criticism. Spouses who look for the positive usually find it. Spouses who comment regularly on their partners’ positive characteristics bring out the positives in each other. The result is more joy, more hope and more love.
- Get to know each other’s family and friends. You may be lucky. Your spouse’s family and friends may be wonderful — in which case getting to know them and spending time with them is easy. But if your spouse’s extended family and/or friend group is difficult, they are still people who know and love the person you love. Find ways to fold them into your life, at least a little, with some interest and care. Never, ever, ask your spouse to choose. You will lose.
- Pursue independent interests. As much as you love each other, maintaining your individuality is an important part of being interested and interesting in a relationship. Develop at least one hobby of your own. Encourage your spouse to see his or her own friends now and then. When brought back to the marriage, stories about differences can enrich it. Introducing new ideas, hobbies, and people to each other expands your world.