Hereby, I continue my previous post about things we better know before we get married 😀 Enjoy reading!
#6 I Wish I Had Known … That forgiveness is not a feeling
The healthy response to an apology is forgiveness. But what does it mean to forgive? I thought that forgiveness was letting go of the hurt, and, thus, restoring the feelings of love. But it just did not happen that way. Now, here are what forgiveness is and is not. When one of us offends the other, an emotional barrier is erected between the two of us. The passing of time will never remove the barrier. Barriers are removed by sincere apologies and genuine forgiveness. Forgiveness removes the barrier, and lifts the penalty. The Scriptures say, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has [God] removed our transgressions from us.” No longer does God demand that we pay for our wrongdoing. When we sincerely apologize and request His forgiveness, He pardons us and will never again hold that failure against us. We are instructed to forgive each other in the same way that God forgives us. Thus, forgiveness is not a feeling but a decision. It is the decision to offer grace instead of demanding justice. Forgiveness removes the barrier and opens the possibility for the relationship to grow.
To avoid misconceptions of forgiveness, here are the four things that forgiveness does not do.
1. Forgiveness does not destroy our memory.
There has been a well-known statement which say, “If you have not forgotten, you have not forgiven.” This statement is untrue. The human brain records every experience, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant. It has two compartments, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The hurtful memories stored up in subsconscious mind can leap to conscious mind without being requested. The memory does not mean that you have not forgiven.
We cannot completely forgive in one day. But as each day we surrender and obey God to forgive, one day for sure you will be able to forgive completely. It means simply that you are human and remembering a painful experience. But we can handle these painful memories by surrendering it to God. In your prayer, affirm your decision to forgive and seeking to foster growth in the future. Forgiveness is a daily decision.
2. Forgiveness does not remove all the consequences of wrongdoing.
A father abandons his wife and children. Twenty years later, he comes back to apologize. They can forgive him -but it does not restore the twenty lost years. All of our behavior has consequences. Negative behavior has negative consequences. Forgiveness does not remove all the consequences of wrong behavior.
3. Forgiveness does not rebuild trust
A husband who had been sexually unfaithful to his wife later broke off the affair and apologized to his wife. The wife said to her counselor, “I think I have forgiven him, but I don’t trust him.” The fact is, forgiveness does not automatically restore trust. Trust is that gut-level confidence that someone is a person of integrity. Trust in a relationship is destroyed when one partner is unfaithful. How then is trust rebuilt? By changing your behavior and by being trustworthy. Over a period of time, if you are doing what you say you will do and being open and aboveboard in all of the dealings, trust will be most likely earned. Openness and a consistent pattern of honesty can open the door of possibility that trust can be regained.
4. Forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation.
Reconciliation means “to bring back to harmony.” Reconciliation requires working through differences, finding new way of doing things, solving the conflicts of the past, and learning how to work together as a team. The length of time to be reconciled will depend largely on how long the two of you have been “out of harmony”.
Forgiveness does not automatically bring harmony in the relationship. However, it does open the possibility of reconciliation.
What if the person who has offended you does not apologize? The most positive approach is to lovingly confront them with their offense and hope that they will apologize and you can forgive. But we cannot force an apology. We can extend the olive branch and express our willingness to forgive. An apology says, “I value this relationship, and I want to deal with this problem.” The refusal to apologize says, “I do not value this relationship, and it’s okay with me if we continue to be estranged.”
There are no healthy marriages without sincere apologies and genuine forgiveness. If you learn how to apologize and forgive, you will have in place two of the major elements for building a successful marriage.
#7 I Wish I Had Known … That toilets are not self-cleaning
Gary had never considered the idea that he would be a toilet cleaner after marriage. If and when you get married, who do you think will clean the toilet in your apartment or house? In most premarital counseling, most men think that the wife will clean it, while most women think their husband will clean it. Gary grew up where the toilet was never dirty. He never saw anyone cleaning the toilet not he himself ever cleaned it. Two weeks after got married, he noticed that the toilet had dark stains. As he mentioned it to his wife, Karolyn, she said, “I know. I was wondering when you were going to clean it.” Gary was surprised. “Clean it?! I thought you were going to clean it. I don’t know how to clean the toilet.” “Well then, let me teach you,” she said.
Confusion over roles is one of the most stressful aspects of contemporary marriages. The role in your father and mother play in the your previous home influence a lot on your expectation of what your spouse will do in you current home. One young wife who has grown up in a home where his father did the vacuum cleaning and car wash would most likely think that her husband would do exactly the same thing. But what if in her husband’s previous home his mother did all those things? He would expect his wife to do so too.
The issue is many people enter marriage without ever having discussed who is going to do what after you get married. So who is going to do what will certainly be needed to be discussed earlier.
If you are seriously contemplating marriage, make a list of all the things that come to mind that will have to be done in order to maintain a household. Be sure include your vehicles and who will purchase and prepare the food, do the laundry, and vacuum the floors. Ask your partner to make a similar list. Then discuss it. Where you have disagreements, it calls for negotiation. Share with each other your reasons for the choice you made. Be open and honest as you can about what brought you to that conclusion.
After listening emphatically, then seek to make an agreement on who will accept that responsibility. If you can’t agree before marriage, what makes you think you will agree after marriage?
It doesn’t mean that you are locked into these responsibilities for the rest of your life. It may be opened for adjustments. Discussing it in advance causes you enter marriage with a better understanding on your expectations of each other.
#8 I Wish I Had Known … That we needed a PLAN for handling our MONEY
Gary and Karolin in their first three years of marriage had no money problems because thay simply had no money. As long as there is enough income to pay for the necessities, they are not likely to have marital struggles about money. But their struggles came after they had just started “making money”.
“Our Money” : Building Unity
The first foundational stone in developing a financial plan is to agree that after marriage, it will no longer be “my money” and “your money” but “our money”. At the heart of marriage is the desire for unity. “For better or for worse,” we intend to live life together. The implication is that we will share our income and work as a team in deciding what to do with our money. Incidentally, this also means that his or her debts will become “our debts,” and we have the responsibility to develop a plan to repay these debts. It also means that his and her savings will become “our savings.” If you are not ready for this kind of unity, then you are not ready for marriage.
Saving, Sharing, Spending
The second step in developing a financial plan is to agree on a percentage of income that you will save, give away, and spend. There are essentially only three things you can do with money. You can save it, you can give it away, or you can spend it. Deciding the percentage that you will allocate to each of these categories is an important step in making a financial plan.
Gary has encouraged couples to adopt “10-10-80 Plan” Save and invest 10% if your net income. The first purpose is to have emergency funds in case of sickness or loss of job. The second purpose of saving is to pay off any credit card and consumer debts that the two of you may have. The third purpose of saving is in order to make major purchases such as home and automobile. Another 10% is to be given away. The happiest people in the world are not those who have the most money but those who have learned the satisfaction of giving to help others. An early Christian text says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The Other 80 Percent
That leaves 80% to be divided among mortgage payments (for rent), utilities, insurance, furniture, food, clothes, transportation, medicine, recreation, etc. How this is distributed is your decision. The most common mistake young couples make is to purchase a house that is beyond their income. A common guideline is to spend no more than 40 percent of your net income on housing and utilities.
Wise shopping does make a difference (important note for ladies). Another extremely important matter that needs to be discussed by every couple is credit buying. The media screams, “Buy now, pay later.” What is not stated is that if you buy now without cash, you will pay much more later. One guiding principle is notice all the details of offerings. If you have a credit card, use it only for emergencies (medical treatment) and necessities. Then pay off the balance as quickly as possible. If couple do not have a credit card, somehow it can be a problem when you get ready to purchase a house, car, or major appliance.
Another practical idea that can prevent much tragedy is an agreement on the part of both that neither will make a major purchase without consulting the other. Determine the range of of price that needs negotiation on both parts. For example, the purchasing which exceeds $100 needs agreement, and so on.
Records all the income and outcome of money well. This task can be assigned to a partner and it can change. Remember that you are a team and both team members must be fully aware of financial details.
#9 I Wish I Had Known … That mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic
This is another area in which Gary had never anticipated before entering marriage. He thought, “I was fully male; she was fully female -and we had a high level of sexual attraction for each other. What more could we need?” He anticipated that this part of marriage was going to be heaven for both of them. After the wedding, he discovered that what is heavenly for one may be hell for the other.
No one told him that males and females are different. Gary knew nothing about female sexuality. He thought she would enjoy it as much as he did; that she would want to do it as often as he did; and that what pleasured him would also pleasure her. And he discovered too that she knew little about male sexuality.
First, Gary wishes he had known that while men focus on intercourse, women focus on relationship. If the relationship has been fractured by harsh words and irresponsible behavior, the female will find it very hard to be interested in sex. To her, sex is an intimate act and grows out of a loving relationship. Ironically, most men often think that sexual intercouse will solve whatever relationship problems may exist. One woman said, “I can’t have sex with a man who has verbally abused me.” Sincere apologies and genuine forgiveness must precede the experience of “making love.”
For women, sex begins in the kitchen, not in bedroom. If he speaks her love language in the kitchen (for example: acts of service) by washing dishes and taking out garbage, it may be a sexual turn-on for her. One husband said, “If I had known that taking out the garbage was sexy to my wife, I would have been taking out the garbage twice a day. No one ever told me that.”
On the other hand, if words of affirmation is her love language, then complimenting her on a meal or on how beautiful she looks will stir inside of her the desire to be sexually intimate with him. This is true whatever the love language of your spouse. A husband may have a satisfying sexual experience with his wife even when his “love tank” is not full, while the wife would find it extremely difficult.
Second, Gary wishes he had known that to the wife, foreplay is more important than the actual act of intercourse itself. It is the tender touches and kisses of foreplay that bring her to the point of desiring intercourse. Without sufficient foreplay, the wife will often feel violated. One wife said, “I want to feel loved. All he is interested in is having intercourse.”
Third, Gary wishes he had known that mutual sexual satisfaction does not require simultaneous climax. Orgasm does not have to come simultaneously. When his stimulation of the clitoris gives her the pleasure of orgasm, she is now ready for him to complete the act of intercourse and experience the pleasure of climax.
Fourth, I wish I had known that when one forces a particular sexual act upon one’s spouse, it ceases to be an act of love and becomes sexual abuse. True love is always seeking to bring pleasure to the spouse. It is never demanding something that the spouse finds objectionable. To violate this principle is to sabotage mutual sexual fulfillment.
Fifth, Gary wishes he had known that sex is more than intercourse. By its very nature, sex is a bonding experience. It is the union of male and female in the most intimate way. It is not simply the joining of two bodies. It is the union of body, soul, and spirit. This is why the Christian faith reserve intercouse for marriage. It is designed to be the unique bonding experience that unites a husband and wife in a lifelong intimate relationship. If intercourse is viewed only as a way to relieve sexual tension or to experience a moment of sexual pleasure, it ceases to reach its designed purpose. And it eventually becomes a mundane act of selfishness. But as the intercourse is viewed as an act of love that expresses in the deepest possible way our commitment to each other, it leads to mutual sexual fulfillment.
Sixth, Gary wishes he had known that communication is the key that unlocks sexual fulfillment. Speak openly about your desire and listen emphatically to your partner. “What could I do or not do that would make the sexual part of marriage better for you?” Do not feel rejected or even condemned when your partner speaks openly to you. If you do this in the first six months of the marriage, you will be on the road to finding mutual sexual fulfillment.
Seventh, Gary wishes he had known that the past never remains in the past. The reality speaks that the previous sexual experience often becomes a psychological barrier in achieving sexual unity in marriage. It is in contrary with the idea that sexual experience before marriage better prepares you for marriage. All of the research indicates otherwise. The divorce rate among those who have had previous sexual experience is twice as high as those who have had previous sexual experience before marriage.
When it comes to marriage, something deep within the human psyche cries out for an exclusive relationship. And we are pained by the thought that our spouse has been sexually intimate with others. It is far better to deal with past sexual experiences before marriage. When this happens after marriage, the awareness of deception often is more difficult to overcome than the sexual activity itself.
#10 I Wish I Had Known … That I was marrying into a family
The wedding will not just be the two of you. You are marrying into a family, for better or for worse. Her family does not dissapear the day after the wedding. In some non-Western cultures, parental involvement is more pronounced and overt. In some cases, the bride actually moves into the house with her husband and his parents and lives there indefinitely. His mother will teach her how to be the wife he needs. There have been so many complaints regarding this in-laws relationships:
“His mother wants to tell me how to cook. I’ve been cooking for ten years. I don’t need her help.”
“My wife’s parents give her money to buy things we can’t afford. I resent that. I wish they would let us run our own lives.”
“Her father is an accountant. He’s giving me advice on how to manage our money. Frankly, I don’t usually agree with his advice. But I try to be nice.”
“My husband’s brother is always telling him what he should do. It bothers me that my husband is so influenced by his brother’s advice. If I have different idea, he always sides with his brother.
When you marry, you become a part of an extended family. This family may include a mother, father, stepmother, stepfather, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, and even perhaps an ex-husband or an ex-wife. Your relationship may be distant or close, positive or negative, but you will have a relationship because you are marrying into a family.
Five Key Issues
Normally, the most intimate of these relationships will be with your spouse’s parents. So we will focus more on mother-in-law and father-in-law relationships. Here are some cases: Spending family tradition holiday, difference of habits, different expectations.
One wife said, “My mother-in-law is the most organized woman I know. You should see her closets. Every shoe is in the right place and all of her dresses are color coordinated. The problems is I’m not very organized and when she comes to our apartment, she tries to give me suggestions that she thinks will make my life easier. I’m sorry but that’s just not who I am. Besides that, I don’t have time to keep everything organized.” One husband said, “Every time I’m around her father, it’s like he’s trying to convert me to his brand of Christianity. I am a Christian but I’m not as dogmatic and pushy as he is. I think religion is a personal matter and I resent him trying to pressure me to agree with him.”
So how do you build a positive relationship with your in-laws?
1. Learning to listen
By emphatic listening, it means that listening with a view to understand what your in-laws think, how they came to that conclusion, and how strongly they feel about it. By nature, most of us are not good listeners. Emphatic listening holds judgment until you are certain that you understand what the other person is saying. It can involve clarifying questions, such as, “What I understand you to be saying is … Is that correct?” Once you have listened long enough to understand, then you are free to give your perspective on the subject.
Emphatic listening does not require you to agree with the other person’s ideas, but it does require you to treat them and their ideas with respect. If you respect their ideas and speak to them with kindness, they are far more likely to respect your ideas and treat you kindly. Mutual understanding and mutual respect grows out of emphatetic listening.
Learn the “I” language. Instead of saying, “You hurt my feelings when you said that,” you might say, “I felt hurt when I heard you say that.” When you start your sentence with “I”, you are giving your perspective. When you begin your sentence with “you,” you are placing blame and will likely experience a defensive response from your in-laws.
2. Learning to negotiate
The third ingredient to having good relationships with your in-laws is learning to negotiate differences. Make requests and not demands. For example, offer your spouse to spend this year’s Christmas with your parents but with his parents for the next year.
3. Learning Their Love Language
Learn the primary love language of your in-laws and speak that language regularly. When your in-laws feel genuinely loved, it creates a positive climate in which to negotiate differences. Nothing communicates love deeply than speaking the right love language. Gary’s mother-in-law love language is acts of service. So he painted the house for her, and she could not be unhappy for that.
Talk it over all the potential areas of conflict with your extended families and about how you will handle these issues.
#11 I Wish I Had Known … That spirituality is not to be equated with “going to church”
Many couples never get around to discussing their religious beliefs at all. But so many problems which rise within marriage are surrounding this issue. So there must be a compatibility on sprituality.
What do you think of God?
There should be one concept of God. Has God spoken? Do not assume that you are a Christian, a Buddhist, etc when you have not struggling with the foundation of your belief. Even within Christianity itself, it comes in many flavors such as, Catholicism, Protestantism, and so on. Explore your traditions and seek to negotiate your differences. To marry simply because you are “in love” and to ignore the implications of these spiritual differences are signs of immaturity.
What kind of “Christian”?
There are some people who call themselves Christians attend church only during the Easter and Christmas holiday. Other than those holidays, their religion tends to influence them very little. There are many who attend church on regular basis. There are also some who involved in small Bible-study groups and cell-groups. These people live in deep and close community with those who attend the group. There are Christians who have a daily devotional time in chich they read the Scriptures to hear the voice of God, praise and worship, thankgiving, and pray. This daily “quiet time” is the most important part of their day. Thus, it becomes extremely important to discover what kind of Christian you are dating. What is their level of commitment and involvement in the Christian community? How important is their faith to them? And what kind of impact does it have on their personal life? It is obvious that an Easter-Christmas Christian is very different from a daily “quiet time” Christian.
Religious beliefs are often accompanied by strong emotions and deeply held convictions. It influences how we make decisions in life. For many dating couples, spirituality is an unexplored opic. They simply assume that this area of life will take care of itself after marriage. But the truth is, it does not take care of itself. And it will not. It takes a common agreement far before marriage to build a strong marriage. It will save you from a lot of heartaches.
#12 I Wish I Had Known … That personality profoundly influences behavior
Morning Person and Night Person
Gary envisioned his marriage would be full of romantic and calm breakfast in the morning. After he got married, he found out that Karolyn didn’t do mornings. Breakfast was not her “thing.” In dating years, Karolyn once said, “Don’t call me in the mornings. I’m not responsible for what I say or do before noon.” Gary took it as a joke and laughed. But after marriage indeed she was serious. Gary’s dream for a quiet romantic breakfast with his wife was shattered in first month of their marriage. He was left to eat breakfast in silence, except for the songs of birds were singing outside the window. On the other hand, Karolyn envisioned what the two of them would do between 10 p.m. and midnight. Her visions included reading and discussing books, watching movies together, discussing deeper issues of life. But Gary’s physical, emotional, and intellectual motor shut down after 10 p.m. The possibility of carrying on intelligent conversation was greatly diminished after that hour. During dating, he stayed alive and engaged with her until midnight. But that was because he was pushed by euphoric feelings of “being in love.” And that does not continue forever after they were married.
This personality difference may have a profound impact upon a couple’s sexual relationship. The morning person wants to go to bed at ten, cuddle, and make love, while the night person is saying, “You have got to be kidding. I can’t go to bed this early.” The morning person may feel rejected, while the night person feels like they are being controlled. The negotiation can be like this: the night person may agree to have sex at 10 p.m. if the morning person will allow them to leave the bedroom after love-making and pursue their other interests until midnight. However, if the morning person insists that the night person remain in bed after making love, that person may feel controlled and frustrated.
A morning person will never become a night person, and a night person will never become a morning person. It’s part of our personality.
Half Full of Half Empty?
The pessimist and the optimist are often attracted to each other.The optimist sees the glass half full; the pessimist sees it as half empty. The optimist sees the possibilities, while the pessimist sees the problems. While in dating stage, personality difference may not be apparent because of the illusion of euphoric feeling. For example, the optimist tends to be a risk taker because he is convinced in his own mind that everything will turn out be find. Thus, he may suggest the two of them go bungee jumping. The pessimist by nature does not want to take risks because she assumes that the worst could happen. Therefore, she would never have entertained the thought of bungee jumping. But because she admires her lover, she is willing to do it. The optimist is thrilled to be dating someone who is adventuresome, never realizing that she has gone far beyond her emotional comfort zone. After marriage, while her husband suggests them to go rock climbing, she would strongly resist the idea or even unwilling to let him go alone or with friends. She is unwilling to be a widow if something happens to her husband. The husband will be turned off seeing her response. Why does she change? The problem is neither of them knew who the other person was before they got married. The euphoria of dating experience blinded them to this personality difference.
Understanding, accepting, and negotiating personality differences are essential in building a foundation for a healthy marriage.
Neatniks and Slobs
Some people do live by the motto “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Other people have no compulsion to put away their tooks, clothes, used coffee mugs, or anything elese. “They don’t bother me anyway.” It is obvious during dating times when we want to open our eyes. Look at her kitchen and bedroom closet and you will know which personality pattern is natural for her. Look at his car and apartment. If the two of you fall in the same category, both of you will be happy effortlessly. If you fall into different categories, then now is the time for negotiation.
The Dead Sea and Babbling Brook
This is about speech. For some people, they have the Dead Sea personality. They receive all kinds of thoughts, feelings, and experiences throughout the day. They are perfectly happy not to talk about that. On the other hand, Babbling Brook is the individual for whom whatever comes into the eye gate or ear gate comes out the mouth gate -usually in less than sixty seconds. Whatever they see, they hear, they will tell. They have no reservoir; whatever they experience, it spills over and they tell it to someone.
Often the Dead Sea will marry a Babbling Brook. Before marriage, the differences are viewed as attractive. While dating, the Dead Sea can relax. He or she does not have to think, “How will I get the conversation started?” or, “How will I keep the conversation flowing?” All they have to do is sit there, nod their head, and say, “Uh-huh.” The Babbling Brook will fill up the evening. On the other hand, the Babbling Brook finds Dead Sea equally attractive because Dead Seas are the world’s best listeners. However, after five years of marriage, the Babbling Brook may say, “We’ve been married five years and I don’t know her.” At the same time, the Dead Sea may say, “I know him too well. I wish he would stop the flow and give me a break.”
The Babbling Brook tells stories with all the details. While the Dead Seas are bottom-line communicators. They simply get to the point. They will sometimes interrupt and say, “Could you just get to the point?” The Dead Sea will never become a Babbling Brook. So the person who is married to a Dead Sea must be content to live with a pweson who will not readily share all of their thoughts and feelings. Most of Dead Seas are open when the Babbling Brook asks questions. The Dead Sea is not willfully withholding information; they simply have no compulsion to share all of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The Dead Sea also needs moments of silence. So if the Dead Sea retreats, it does not mean that he or she rejects the Babbling Brook. If this personality differences are discussed before marriage, they are far less likely to be troublesome after marriage.
Passive and Aggresiveness
The aggressive husband or wife believes that each day is a new opportunity to advance the cause. They will aggressively pursue what they want, what they believe to be right, or what they think should happen. On the other hand, the passive spouse will spend time thiking, analyzing, wondering “What if?” and waiting for something good to happen. Their theme is, “Everything comes to him who waits.” In marriage, the couple often finds these traits divisive. The aggressive partner keeps trying to push the passive partner into action. “Come on; we can make this happen.” While the passive partner keeps saying, “Let’s wait. There might be a better opportunity later. Don’t get so excited. Everything is going to work out.”
It is certainly possible for these two individuals to build a successful marriage, but it requires the aggressor to be empathetic and understanding the passive personality. On the other hand, the passive person must allow the aggressive person to use her strength and let her leap before it is too late. If you cannot conscientiously leap with her, then hold the rope while she does so. Together you will accomplish much in life, if you learn to complement each other, rather than be competitors.
Professors and Dancers
For a ‘professor’, everything must be reasoned out. “We must have logical reasons for everything we do. If it’s not logical, we shouldn’t do it.” The intuitive person is more like a dancer. They do some things just because they enjoy them. One husband said to his wife, “The walls are not dirty; they don’t need painting again. Do you understand that?” His wife responded, “Yes, I understand that. But I don’t want green walls any longer.”
In dating phase, we have a huge desire to please one another. But after marriage, this desire does not come as natural. If you try to force each other into your own personality mold, you may spend a lifetime in conflict. We must recognize that logical and intuitive thinking are both legitimate ways of processing life. We must focus not on the process whereby we reach our conclusions but on finding conclusions with which both of us can agree.
The Organizer and the Free Spirit
The organizer give attention to the details while the spontaneous person -the free spirit- thinks, “The details will take care of themselves.” Organizers are planners; they will spend in months in preparation for a trip out of town. They will check three different websites, looking for the best airfare. They will make hotel reservations weeks in advance. They will plan what they will eat and do. The spontaneous person waits until the night before the trip and says, “Why don’t we go to the coast instead of mountains? The sun is so beautiful.” This sends the organizer into a tailspin and the vacation becomes torture.
In dating the couple may admire one another for the qualities they don’t have in their partner. But in marriage, seldom it works that way. There is always a tendency to make our spouse to be one of us. It is important to discover more of your partner’s personality and negotiate all the potential conflicts which may happen. Ask a lot of questions and be realistic for the potential problems. Do not simply ignore them.
Dating is a season where we can ask a lot of questions “getting to know each other”, observe all the details and at last possibilities to get married. The healthy dating relationship is certainly the best preparation for a healthy marriage.
Photography by Jennifer Phelps Photography