The success of your marriage depends on having a good foundation. Meaning, what you do before you say ‘I do’ matters just as much in your marriage as what you do after, with no pressure. Building a solid foundation with someone can be extremely difficult and it’s only getting more complicated in our modern society. According to the American Psychological Association, 90 percent of people in this country marry by the age of 50 but anywhere between 40-50 percent of them will end up getting divorced at least once.
The rates are just as high for the Black community. We have the second-highest rate of divorce in the US behind Native Americans. A lot of millennials look at these numbers along with the current state of the dating world and throw in the towel but I don’t think the institution of marriage is dead and hopeless for future generations. I just think marriages that fail are marriages that should have never started or that started off on the wrong foot. But don’t worry, there are ways to ensure that your marriage is built to last. You’ll be off to a good start as long as you don’t get married if you’re guilty of these five things.
1. You haven’t had big convos yet
During the whirlwind of dating a few details can get lost in the infatuation and passion of a new romance. This reminds me of Sex and the City character Miranda Hobbs remarking to a couple of face-sucking newlyweds, “Yeah, it’s all so hot three days in!” After the adrenaline rush of the engagement, the excitement of wedding planning, and the romance of the honeymoon phase fade, you will be left with regular, schmeh-gular everyday life. When the glitz and glamour fade, you need to make sure you know, and like the person you’ve pledged to spend your life with. So make sure you have the not-so-glamorous talks with your partner about all of the things people typically have very strong opinions about religion, managing finances, roles in the relationship, and whether or not to have children.
If there are conflicting views on one or a few of these topics a serious rift in any marriage can grow. Journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley in her book ‘Til Faith Do Us Part’, interfaith couples have higher divorce rates. After drawing from national surveys and numerous conversations with couples, religious leaders, and her own personal experiences she writes, “People tend to underestimate how important religion is going to be to them later in life”.
When it comes time to raise children, celebrate holidays, etc. our upbringing and passed-down religious traditions resurface. This also goes for opinions on financial issues and whether or not to have children. These can be deep-rooted ideals we hold but never think about until we are confronted by a situation. A difference in beliefs isn’t always automatic grounds for divorce though. These problems can be worked through with communication, respect, and compromise. However, issues like whether or not to have children can be non-negotiable for some people. It’s extremely important to have these conversations early and have clear expectations so that you don’t enter a marriage on false pretenses.
2. You’re doing it because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do
Babies are a blessing but they can put a strain on the healthiest relationships, especially when unplanned. Many couples feel pressured, either by society, their family, or themselves to make things more serious when an unplanned pregnancy happens. Thirty years ago, the ‘shotgun wedding’ was much more popular. According to Brides.com, about 30 percent of the couples who found themselves unexpectedly pregnant got married as a result. Alternatively, when that happens, it usually just leads to moving in together. Of course, living together could still lead to marriage but I think it usually just leads to a long-term relationship.
Stagnant long-term relationships, either from being together after an unplanned pregnancy or being with someone from childhood are also not a good reason to get married. Sometimes we stay in long-term relationships because we feel that leaving would prove that we’ve wasted our time or that eventually, we will receive a return on our investment of time by getting married. This often leads to resentment and further breakdown of the relationship. These two reasons aren’t good enough motivation to enter a life-long commitment to someone. Marriage should be proposed as a result of love and a longing to share a life together, not from obligation or an ultimatum.
3. You aren’t willing to be Flexible
When you decide to share your life with someone, you have to realize that you are doing just that, sharing. This means that the decision process behind many of the actions you take will involve the two of you rather than being up to the individual. This will take a lot of personal flexibility so that everyone can remain content and fulfilled in the marriage. I’m more so referring to big-picture ideas such as where you will live, who will remain working, and how to establish a parenting routine. You may have never considered raising a family in any other neighborhood than your own, but if your spouse wants to relocate for a new career opportunity, you should be open to the discussion. After all, your married life is a new chapter in your life where you have decided to leave your single, self-driven life behind and move in unison with your spouse. Leave to Cleave!
4. You haven’t discussed finances
Behind infidelity, financial issues are the most common reasons for divorce. Money affects almost everything around us so financial problems can present themselves in many different forms. While dating, money isn’t really an issue for most couples if they aren’t living together. But in marriage, the stakes are raised considerably. Before accepting the ring, you should have a clear understanding of your partner’s economic status and spending habits. This will help out greatly when it comes time to figure out how bills and future expenses, both planned and unplanned, will be handled.
This really boils down to what you agree will work best for you. I think joining together financially can be one of the more difficult aspects of marriage for millennials than for previous generations. Although it is difficult to live comfortably without two incomes in today’s society, most millennials are getting married much later in life. The longer you are single, the harder it can be to break yourself from the single frame of mind when it comes to money matters so that makes this conversation extremely important to have.
5. You don’t know what their idea of a good spouse is
A really big aspect of being in a relationship is being able to express yourself and be understood. What we don’t often realize is that the way we receive and express love can be different from our partner. The five love languages is a really popular idea and a book about this concept.
I think it is really helpful to figure this out and have a conversation with your partner about it so that you gain a better understanding of how they love. This will allow you to receive it and reciprocate it in a way that they will understand. If not, you leave the door open for a lot of miscommunication and angst.
Expectations work the same way within a relationship. Your partner may be under the impression that as long as they act as the provider by paying bills, then anything else, parenting, household chores, and even faithfulness, is not important or optional when this is not your expectation of them. You may be expecting that all household work, bills, etc., are shared between the both of you and extra tasks be decided over as they occur.
Some of these things may sound like a no-brainer but it’s amazing what you can assume about a person. Just because you get along and are in love doesn’t mean you hold the same beliefs and ideas on all subjects.
If we intend to repair the institution of marriage and avoid divorce court, we need to enter marriage with a firm grip on reality and the determination to put in work by being aware of expectations, being realistic and communicating.
Brittany Wright, B.A in Creative writing and English – University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, is an aspiring writer and creator of the She’s Wright blog. This black, millennial mom loves everything beauty, motherhood, and marriage related!