Before you're tempted to roll your eyes and not read this all the way through, trust me—I've heard it all. Pretty much, not one week goes by when someone hears that I'm a marriage life coach who's never been married before and they say, "How can you offer insights on marriage if you've never been married before?"
My response to that is too long for this article. For now, I'll say two things. One, I'm not a wife but I am a child of more than one divorce. Don't sleep on what kids observe and the takeaways that they glean from their own parents' experiences. Second, being that pretty much half of all marriages end in divorce, what are folks saying? That married people know how to be married? The stats seem to say otherwise. (Just sayin')
I've learned, sometimes the hard way, that it's not so much someone's "status" that makes them worthy of speaking on certain topics. Wisdom and revelation come in many forms.
A homeless person can offer a great deal of insight on finances. A substance abuser has quite the perspective on self-control. And yes, a single individual can be quite useful in the area of marriage (I've even reconciled a couple of divorced couples along the way!).
In my roughly 10 years of being a life coach, there are a few things that I've learned about marriage. Things that have made me more resolved than ever that it's better to wait until "it"—the person and timing—is right than to get married, just so I can say that I'm not single anymore. Here's what they are:
Vows Are S-E-R-I-O-U-S
Personal vows are nice. They really are. But a lot of the wedding ceremonies where I've heard them? The couples weren't really vowing anything. Sure, they talked about how they felt and the memories that they shared, but if you're signing up to give someone a front row seat into every aspect of your life, there needs to be some "better or worse" and "until death parts us" stuff said too.
And that's the thing. A vow is serious. It's literally "a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment". Marriage is not casual. Marriage isn't even supposed to be temporary. In fact, something I oftentimes say is, "I bet if divorce were illegal, most couples would find a way to make it work." Because I agree with what Lawrence's daddy (from Insecure) said in the season three finale—a lot of relationships don't last because a lot of people don't want to put in the work to make it so.
Vowing until death is a LONG time. It's not until you are mad or tired or "not feeling it anymore". It's supposed to be until death parts you. The people who've been brave enough to have the integrity to honor what they promised on their wedding day will tell you that marriage ain't easy but it will teach you things about yourself—and about love—that you wouldn't learn any other way. That alone makes marriage well worth it.
It's More Important to Be "In Like" Than "In Love"
If you're an engaged person reading this, PLEASE do yourself a favor and COMMIT to seeing a marriage counselor or therapist at least a couple of times a year. Don't wait until one (or both) of you wants to sign divorce papers to give therapy a shot. I say that because marriage counseling is not some magical solution. It's just a way to offer up another perspective, along with some (hopefully) helpful tips.
One piece of advice that I have to offer is this—care about being in like far more than being in love; especially during the tough times.
I say that because "in love" is oftentimes feelings-oriented, and since human beings are emotional creatures, feelings are always subject to change. "In like" on the other hand is about friendship—trust, humor, mutual respect, support…liking the other person.
Whenever I have a couple who are at their wit's end, I find that so long as they still like each other, I can help get them back to being in love. When it's the other way around? Not so much. Because feelings without a foundation of friendship leaves…not much at all to stand on.
Your Sex Life (or Lack Thereof Speaks VOLUMES) About Your Relationship
I once heard someone say that good sex is 10 percent of a marriage while bad sex is 90 percent of it. Why? Because the bedroom tends to set the tone for the rest of the rooms in the house. Sex isn't just about gettin' off (although that is one of the best parts of it, no doubt!). It's also about communication, intimacy, and establishing/maintaining a real connection.
Another way to look at this is, sex doesn't "make love", sex celebrates it.
That said, listen, I don't care how much a couple claims they're in a healthy marriage. If the sex is lacking (if it's something they do once every couple of months even though they are physically capable of having it more), they're not doing as well as they should be. Not by a country mile.
All of this reminds me of what I once heard a woman who'd been married to her husband for over 60 years say. When she was asked what made her relationship with her husband so different from her other relationships, she matter-of-factly said, "We have sex. I don't screw any of my other friends."
Let the church say "Amen."
If You're a Bad Forgiver, You'll SUCK at Marriage
Reverend Billy Graham's wife Ruth Graham Bell once said, "Marriage is the union of two good forgivers." Hmph. Let me tell it, one of the main reasons why so many marriages don't succeed is because one or both people missed the entire memo on this.
No matter how awesome a person is, they are still a human being and human beings make mistakes. Not every once in a while, either. So, if you're someone who holds grudges, doesn't let go of the past, or only forgives on your terms and you're married—you probably should've stayed single.
How do you know if you are a good forgiver? You don't do the silent treatment thing. You're intentional about talking things out to come to a mutual resolve. You don't withhold affection or attention as a form of punishment. You don't bring the same stuff up over and over again. (This one is sooooo important) You forgive your spouse the same way you'd want them to forgive you.
If you're rolling your eyes at any of this and you are married? Good luck in staying married. If you're single and rolling your eyes—stay single.
Marriage Is Still Beautiful (And Relevant And Necessary)
I keep hearing that millennials are finding marriage to be obsolete. That's a shame because there is something about having a person who promised before your family, friends—and don't forget about God—that they would have your back, no matter what, until you take your last breath.
From where I sit, marriage isn't the problem. Choosing the wrong partner, having an immature concept of love, being selfish, not wanting to put in the work, being delusional about marriage—these are the real issues. (Or, as one man who'd been married 40 years once told me, "The problem with you young girls is you pick irresponsible men. I would never leave my wife, period." WHEW-WHEE.)
I don't know about you, but whenever I see a senior couple walk hand-in-hand, my heart melts. No matter what they've been through, they chose to stay. That's marriage. And to me, that is absolutely beautiful.
Sitting in countless marriage life coaching sessions has shown me that. It's taught me to honor marriage and to remain single until I can mean everything I just said. And for that, I am truly grateful.
©Shellie R. Warren/2018
Denzel Washington Shares the Secret to His & Pauletta's 35-Year Marriage - Read More
How I'm Getting Over The Marriage Bug This Wedding Season - Read More
I'm Afraid Of Marriage - Read More
10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married - Read More