Contrary to what experts might say, the leading cause of divorce is not financial problems. It’s not family issues. Not even infidelity. The leading cause of divorce is… Marriage! With that in mind, let’s get the first basic truth out of the way: If you never want a divorce then make sure you never get married. The problem is, very few people choose this option.
Which leads to the second basic truth: If you do choose to get married, then keep in mind your chance of divorce is greater than 50 percent. Not surprising, even that nugget of truth does not stop most people from walking down the aisle. (If you’re already divorced, I’m not telling you anything new.)
But what I can tell you is what I would tell myself if I were much younger… before my SECOND divorce! It’s not that I’m living with regret. As James Bond puts it, “Regret is unprofessional!” However, an experienced sober perspective is valuable and worthy of sharing. And who better to give advice than someone who’s stubbed their toe twice!
So, if you’re thinking about getting married, or contemplating your next attempt (and please tread with fear and trembling), here are three important ideas to consider… three things I would definitely tell my younger self.
Don’t Dismiss the Risk: If the odds of a plane crash were the same as divorce, there would be no airline industry at all! (For all you Six Sigma geeks I suspect this has thrown a wet blanket on any ideas of marriage for eternity!) Even the odds of contracting certain diseases is less than the odds of getting a divorce. And just like preventative health care or travel precautions, we need to do everything possible to reduce or eliminate the risk ahead of time. One of the best ways to accomplish this is DON’T RUSH IN. Taking time to know the other person thoroughly is of great value!
That means giving your relationship the opportunity to walk through a wide variety of experiences over a long period of time (at least 12 months). During that time, take note of things that bother you or situations that remind you of previous unpleasant relationships.
It is vital that both parties share similar ideas concerning the fundamentals of life, such as money management, anger management, communication, stress management, personal boundaries, personal habits, skeletons from past relationships (a.k.a. unresolved soul ties with the opposite sex and in my opinion should be addressed with spiritual counseling), family expectations, religious beliefs and the like.
Each of these are critical areas to discuss and resolve ahead of time for the sake of relationship success. But sometimes the overly optimistic heart refuses to believe it, which leads to my next piece of advice.
Don’t Believe your Own Press: Do not… I repeat… do not believe that YOU are somehow THE ONE PERSON on this planet that can change the other person you’re hoping to share the planet with. Worse still, that YOU are the one person who can “step up to the plate” and overcome the issue they are not willing to. That train of thought is a train load of cow manure with a chaser of horse manure!
Stop thinking about yourself or relationship from the position of desperation. You do not have to settle for the sake of settling down. Yes, it might be lonely being alone. But temporary loneliness is better than a lifetime of shattered dreams and broken hearts. Besides, loneliness is all in how you look at it (check out my awesome blog “Redefining Loneliness.”).
Think about it like this… if you start out compromising who you are, what you want or placing unreasonable demands on yourself, then get ready for a lifetime of doing the same. I have yet to meet anyone who says “Please stop tolerating my selfish, immature, stubborn behavior.” Just think about it before you say “I Do” to something you really don’t want to do.
Don’t be the Better Half: Describing your partner or yourself as “the better half” might be a cute cliché. The truth is, being half of anything is not good enough. A successful relationship is best accomplished by two WHOLE individuals.
There is nothing stronger than the strength of two strong people to strengthen the marriage and each other. Sorry Jerry McGuire. But if you are looking for someone else to “complete you” it’s an admission of your own sense of inadequacy.
Do whatever is necessary to become the most complete you before adding yourself to the mix of a relationship. Your partner should be striving for the same thing as well. When two whole people become one, they are unstoppable! And believe me, there are enough obstacles out there trying to stop you. Why not arm yourself with strength from the outset?
So whatever your ambitions might be concerning marriage or re-marriage, think about how you want to finish. As Steven Covey recommends, “Begin with the end in mind.” Take time to think about what you want the marriage and your own life to look like 10 year, 20 years or 50 years from now. Then start taking steps right now to make it happen.
One way to strengthen yourself for successful relationships is through prayer. Check out my popular book, 5 Easy Steps to Life Changing Prayer to learn more.
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