This was written by Sam George and published in an Indian newspaper in the US.
Last week, I began a new series on newlyweds. Older couples as well as newlyweds can learn a great deal from early marital experiences. Today I want to continue to unpack vital lessons we can learn no matter how long we have been married or how fragile our marriage is. Weddings are a big deal in our community; but once it is all done, we leave it to the couple to figure out marriage and make it somehow work.
Left to themselves, all married couples will make mistakes and weaken relational potential at some juncture. Some will learn from it, but most won’t learn anything and will continue to repeat the same relational blunders. Relationship mentors and developing a heart and mind to learn about relationships helps greatly in growing strong marriages.
Why do I want to focus on this area? Primarily for two basic reasons: First, state of the early day marriage is indicative of how far the marriage will go and how strong it will grow. The long term success of a marriage depends on how well spouses make the adjustment during their early years of marriage.
Secondly, mistakes made are harder to undo and lessons learned can be precious as well. When the idealism of the premarital/dating stage is over, we begin to see each other more realistically. How you deal with the small and big crises in your marriage during the early years leaves a permanent imprint on the minds of our mates and sets the course for the rest of our marriage.
Researchers have found consistently that the approximately first five years of marriage can accurately predict which marriages are likely to flourish and which may die an early death. The early years are either a time of rapid personal and relational growth or a time of disappointment and frustration. There is no middle ground.
Most marriages start off with the delight of ‘being in love’ and joys of discovering each other. A grand wedding ceremony and honeymoon add to the excitement. Attaching emotionally and sexually can be exhilarating and deeply fulfilling. The blissful stage of early marriage can put blinders on learning the essential relational skills necessary in building strong marriages.
What happens after the wedding reception is over and the initial excitement wanes off is more important for the life of a marriage than the ceremony. The couple must learn to really love another person who may have very different needs and expectations. Otherwise, the couple may experience poorly handled conflicts, power struggles, disillusionments, deepening frustration and resentment.
Lack of communication and conflict resolution skills can be dangerous for a new marriage. Instead of dealing constructively with the inevitable disagreements and conflicts found in every marriage, couples end up yelling, blaming, attacking or withdrawing from their mate, which by the way is a toxic cocktail that can send a new marriage spiraling downward.
Marital stressors are more intense during early marriage. Same issues might not have same level of impact later in life. So it is utmost important to recognize the power of some of the stressors and how you deal with them. Minimizing strain caused by some of the stressors is a key skill necessary for a great start, because some of strain may last for a lifetime.