|This will be a week I remember forever. My middle son and his fiancee’ will be surrounded by their loved ones in the Colorado Rockies as they marry each other. Five years ago when I first looked her up on Facebook after he told me her name, I had no idea if she would be a passing fancy or something more. Little did I know that this sweet young woman would become a beloved part of our family and that I would love her like a daughter. I’ve had the privilege of a front-row seat view of their relationship while they lived with us for two years during COVID. As a marriage and family therapist, I can say that this is a solid relationship and they have put in the work to make sure it’s healthy.|
A few years ago, I wrote an “Open Letter to My Son about Preparing for Marriage.” I shared it with this son, Palmer, and my oldest son, Keaton who got married in 2020. I’m going to share snippets of that letter with you today. But what I’d really love to know is what you wish “they” had told you about marriage. What would you share with a young couple ready to take this big step? Will you please hit “reply” and share anything and everything I can pass along to my boys? Thank you!
OPEN LETTER TO MY SON ABOUT PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE
Know who you are. Know what makes your heart sing, know what triggers you. Know your “light side,” that bright, shiny side of you that you show to the world. Know your “dark side”… the part that shows up when you are hurt or mad or afraid. Know your tendencies and whether or not you can rein in the part of you that wants to lash out or retreat when upset. Be able to name what your wounds are and what work you have yet to do to heal them. You don’t have to be perfect or “finished” or without scars… but I do hope you can both recognize the scars when they make themselves known. Your wounds WILL make themselves known and your primary relationship is where they are most likely to get played out. And hopefully healed.
Learn the art of effectively saying what you need. And get good at hearing her needs and finding room in your heart to meet them. Make sure you both know that needs are not demands; you each have the right to say “yes” or “no.” But hopefully, there’s enough love and grace that you each try to find your “yes” to the other’s requests.
Assess your relationship for compatibility in the following areas:
1. Emotional – is there safety and compassion? Are you at complementary levels of development?
2. Intellectual – are you impressed with and inspired by each other’s intellect?
3. Social – do you have fun socializing together? Are you compatible with how much time you like to spend with others?
4. Spiritual – do you support and inspire each other? Does your relationship with her increase the likelihood of you being all that you can be and do spiritually?
5. Sexual – is it healthy? Is it intimate? Can you talk about it? Are you both teachable? Understand what gifts and wounds your partner bring to the relationship. If there has been sexual trauma, plan to address it side-by-side because it will be yours to face together.
6. Financial – do you share similar values about money… the making, spending, saving, and donating of it?
7. Work – are you well-matched as far as your drive and willingness to work, whether it’s for money, altruism, or around the house?
Talk about monogamy. If this will be important in your marriage, be explicit about that. Ask about temptations and violations in the past. Understand your family’s history and hers.
Talk about addictions and mental health. Understand your family’s history and hers because patterns and genetics are powerful.
Talk about children. Be on the same page about whether you want them and how many. Share your ideas about how you want to parent and how you were parented.
Talk about therapy. Find out if it will be an option when things get tough. If it won’t, then you might have a really big hill to climb at some point. If it will be an option, then you can probably get through almost anything.
Do pre-marital counseling. There are two kinds and I recommend both. One is a curriculum where you do personality assessments and discuss a number of prescribed topics. The other kind is full-fledged couples therapy where you work through any current hiccups in your relationship and make sure you’ve experienced the closeness and repair that can come from good therapy.
Make sure you feel comfortable, relaxed and happy in each other’s presence. Make sure you will still adore each other as your bodies change, as you age, when you go through hard times, show insecurities, have annoying family members, aren’t interested in sex, and regardless of externally-defined success.
Ask yourself: Is this my favorite person to spend time with? Can I see myself feeling this way in 1 year, 10 years, 50 years?
Make sure you have what it takes to treat each other with respect and honor. Make sure you both have demonstrated the ability to be gentle with each other.
Lean into your disagreements. Practice working through conflict. Be fearless about addressing those areas that you might shy away from discussing.
Ask yourself if you make each other laugh enough.
Be you. Be true to you. It’s so important that you get to be all of you, living fully alive, while you are with each other.