Marriage is such an important step in our lives, but many of us enter into it without a plan or any serious preparation. We’re caught up in the romance of it and the notion of happily ever after. We put more diligent effort into other more mundane things, like getting a driver’s license. To earn your driver’s license, you have to study a handbook, take behind-the-wheel lessons from an instructor, and practice on your own. And even after all that preparation, you may still flunk the driving test and have to go back for a second try.
When it comes to marriage, however, you’re on your own. There’s no official handbook, no marriage class at school, no dry run. For many of us, “marriage prep” boils down to an emphasis on planning the wedding and dreaming of a perfect life together. But once the big event is over and the newlywed bliss has worn off, we discover that we don’t have the tools to talk things out, or we’re stifled by taboos and avoid discussing the important things that aren’t working in our marriage.
Many people have the flawed notion that when we tie the knot all of our relationship issues will magically be resolved. We believe that if one of us has irritating habits or we don’t agree on certain things, the act of getting married will make all the problems disappear. Unfortunately, marriage doesn’t stop dysfunctional behavior. It doesn’t prevent harmful family dynamics, compulsiveness, addictions, depression, anger issues, or any other damaging behavior. It doesn’t change the person. In fact, it can often exacerbate bad behavior over time because we may feel relaxed enough to let that part of us show, we can no longer hide the truth of our inner life from our partner. Then we’re lost in a sea of regret, and the distance between spouses begins to grow.