“The public is so ill-prepared for and ill-informed about marriage —they don’t realize that the first two years of marriage is the time when a new civilization is hammered out. We mislead couples by calling it the ‘honeymoon’ phase. We send them off without the basic understanding of what to expect or the skills they’ll need to lay the foundation for a life-long marriage.
“It’s cruel and barbaric —we’re still in the dark ages when it comes to marriage —teaching couples —equipping them what to do —and how to improve their odds —that’s the key. The first three years also has the highest infidelity rate. Very few people realize that. So much needs to be done in the area of marriage education.” (Diane Sollee -Smart Marriages)
Did you realize that the first 2-3 years is such a vulnerable stage of marriage? We didn’t, before we started studying about it. As a matter of fact we recently learned that it’s predicted that,
“One in 12 couples is heading for the divorce courts after 24 months —more than double the figure for seven years. Dr Michael Svarer, who led a study in Denmark, said the risk of a split rose rapidly throughout the first 18 months of a marriage and then slowed before reaching a peak at 2 years.” (James Mills, from News.Australia article titled, “Two Year Itch Infects Marriage”)
That’s one of the reasons we’re saying something about this in this message so we can be especially supportive to those who are newly married. Our society idealizes weddings and the honeymoon period of marriage so much that we don’t consider the fact that this is really a time of “hammering out” a joint life-style together.
It’s a time where two individuals with differing backgrounds, expectations, and living styles are working together to build a home—a marriage of wills and living styles. It only makes sense that this would be the most vulnerable time when ideals and ideas are hit with the reality of having to readjust to working as a team.
So, whether you’re newly married or have been married a long time, there’s something to be gleaned by all in the following advice. It comes from the Smartmarriages.com web site (in the topic, “Ask Dr Romance”):
“They call this a Honeymoon?! Question: We’ve only been married four months and all we do is fight. I can’t believe things can start out so good and fall apart so fast. We dated for two years and I thought we were so in love. Now we can’t even agree on what to eat for dinner —I’m totally miserable. When I got to work this morning, I looked up numbers for divorce lawyers. What would you do in my shoes?
“Answer: I’d slow down. Most divorces happen in the first three years because our concept of marriage is built on a Big Fat Myth. We think that if we’ve found the right person, and ‘true’ love, then we’ll agree on everything. Nothing could be further from the truth! All couples disagree, all the time. Even if you lived with your best friend, or your clone —you’d disagree. If you get divorced and marry someone else, you’ll also disagree with him. You disagree because you are two separate individuals.
“Which brings us to another Big Fat Myth: we do NOT actually ‘become one’ at the altar. You will both continue to have opinions about everything —till death, or divorce, do you part. And they’ll be strong opinions because you care so much. You MUST learn how to handle disagreements in a way that makes your marriage stronger, and more fun.
“Successful couples don’t have fewer disagreements, they just accept them as a normal part of marriage, and know how to handle them.
“Not knowing how to fight is not a character deficiency —it just means you didn’t learn how. Understanding that disagreement is normal is the first big step. The fact that you are newlyweds who are disagreeing when YOU”RE ‘supposed’ to be madly in love has probably blown things way out of proportion.
“The second step is to learn how to thoroughly discuss the issues. Before you begin, agree to take timeouts if things get nasty or either of you gets too flooded with emotion to think. Take turns speaking and listening. Many times this is interpreted as taking turns ‘debating’ —big mistake. The emphasis needs to be on listening, not on winning.
“If you can come back in three days and accurately explain your partner’s point of view, you’ve listened. Ask questions like, ‘Is there more?’ ‘I understand what you’re worried about, but I don’t understand how you’d like to do it differently. Can you clarify?’ You must do this without contempt, sarcasm, blaming or mind-reading. It takes practice.
“Use the next few years —before there are kids on the scene —to really get this down. And realize that the biggest myth of all is calling this the honeymoon stage. It should be called the ‘clash of civilizations’ as you hammer out all your differences and come up with a new culture, new rituals, and a new family. So relax and respect the enormity of the task the two of you have taken on.”
Whether we’ve been married for a short or long period of time, we will eventually realize that it’s difficult to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us,” as the Bible talks about in Ephesians 5. It takes prayer, determination, and pro-active effort to work together to apply the principles of the Bible to live together in a way that honors God and honors each other.
For those who are newly married, we’ve got a topic on our web site titled “Newlyweds” just for you. In it you might want to read the article, “Can Two Independent Persons Become One Unit?”
Please know that we’re working hard to make as many tools available as we can to help your marriage. However, the fact is that you can have all the information possible right at your fingertips, but it is up to you to do the work and apply it to your lives.
Keep in mind that no marriage “has arrived” in being the “perfect” marriage. It takes continual effort to keep it healthy and loving because of the dynamics of everyday living.
“Honeymoon” stages may end, but love and respect, and growing a wonderful, healthy marriage doesn’t have to. It takes intentionality and the “want to” and the “heart to” do what is needed, on both your parts, to make that reality. It’s our sincere hope you will make that effort to do your part.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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