Advice for Engaged Couples

Occasionally, a young couple considering marriage asks me for marital advice. When this happens, I must spend significant effort trying to remember the most important principles. I finally realized I could write them down so the next time I'm asked, I’d be ready.

I know, I’m slow.

There are innumerable articles on marriage advice that go on-and-on for pages. None that I can find say as much with so few words, as what I've written below. I could describe more about each item, but I believe you'll get the idea. I have great confidence in you.

The following applies equally to both husbands-to-be and wives-to-be. I use the word spouse instead of fiancée or fiancé because we’re supposed to treat people how they can be, and not how they are now. That's another good principle to remember.

Advice for young couples considering marriage

  1. You know nothing.

  2. You’re born three times: at birth, when “born again,” and again when you’re married.

  3. Marriage is the most difficult thing in life because it’s the most growth producing.

  4. All odd behaviors you see in your spouse now will be there forever.

  5. Any unresolved weaknesses, fears, and issues from your youth will become manifest after you have children. Those old weaknesses, fears, and issues you think are already resolved, are not.

  6. You have three selves: you as you, you as husband or wife, and you as father or mother. All three at first require different behaviors and attitudes. As you develop, your three selves will begin to merge into one.

  7. Don’t be contemptuous. Contempt is the attitude that a person or idea is beneath consideration or is deserving of scorn.

  8. You must let her be her, and vice versa. The good parts of both of you are needed.

  9. Date every week. Don’t put your marriage on hold while you raise your kids. Share babysitting with other couples with young children (trade kids).

  10. Use humor generously. It reduces stress and fear and increases comfort and relaxation.

  11. Winning isn’t relevant.

  12. House of cards analogy. Replace one card at a time over time for a better one, else the entire structure will fall down—to be rebuilt, not abandoned.

  13. Keep a secret list of all your gripes about your spouse. Not to keep score, but to put them out of your mind. Keeping issues in the forefront of your mind reinforces them, whereas writing them down lets you not think about them and even forget them. Eventually you will see in them patterns. Don’t confront your spouse with these patterns, but show support in those areas. She’ll love you more because you’re addressing her deepest needs without her knowing you’re doing it.

  14. Think about root causes for arguments. What is the true reason for the dispute? It’s often not what's being argued about.

  15. Little things equal big things. There are many, many little things. Apply the No Big Deal principle as often as you can.

  16. Give each other white space.

  17. Have friends who help strengthen your marriage.

  18. Never keep secrets (except your list); never lie.

  19. Never talk badly about your spouse publicly. Praise your spouse publicly.

  20. There are two stages of love. The first is during the first 5-12 years of marriage. The second starts after that. The second stage of love is real love.

If you can master these principles then you'll do very well, even if some of them take you a lifetime. And that is okay. As you experience your own lives together as a couple, you can write your own list of advice for young couples considering marriage, which eventually will look just like mine. And that is okay, too.

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