With Kim Kardashian's splashy wedding and 72 day marriage, the buzz is all about what happened? Publicity stunt? Money grab? Or, perhaps reality setting in once the big event is over. Does this happen in real life or just for the headlines and the sponsored 20 carat ring?
Looking into other cases of short-term marriage, there is a trend. Think about this: We spend more time training potential drivers before they get a license to drive than we do couples who claim they want to spend their lives together. Potential business partners perform investigations, have meetings, and review documents before they agree to enter into a partnership. In order to obtain a marriage license and pledge your life to someone, all you need to do is drop to one knee and hand over the ring.
Before a couple gets married, there are many discussions that should occur. Unfortunately, they rarely take place. Does the couple know how to express dissatisfaction without destroying their relationship? Do they know how to keep each other current on what's going on in their respective lives? Have they learned to have a fight that doesn't lead to a separation? Has anyone taught them how to request change without seeming to insult the other? And that's just for starters.
Once the fairytale wedding is over and the honeymoon pictures have been put away, couples are likely to face a long list of challenges. Preparing for bumps down the road and creating a roadmap with a professional BEFORE the big day is essential to developing the relationship skills that are the foundation for a strong, lasting marriage. Here are some things that couples absolutely must address before tying the knot.
Regarding future plans, there should be a discussion about children and the sharing of responsibilities. How about careers and potential job offers that require relocation? And of course, there is the issue of managing the finances.
Fifty years ago, before the big IBM generation (I've been moved), people lived near their respective families and they had family support. With our mobile society today, that is rarely the case. There is no support system for the unhappy spouse when there is a problem; the cell phone is not the same as a hug from Mom and Dad. Before joining as a married couple, the matter of where "home" is should be addressed.
Newlyweds must also take a look at the way they communicate with each other. It's important to learn how to convey frustrations in way that builds the relationship, rather than destroying it. Learning how to ask for change, for example, can be a big deal if not handled properly. Dividing the request into three parts, "This is the behavior I notice, this is how I feel about what is occurring, and this is the change I would like," is far better than screaming about the dirty dishes that were left in the sink. Learning how to constructively blow off steam when one is really angry is a skill that ought to be learned before marriage. A fight should be scheduled when both individuals have time to address the issue and should be timed to last no more than two minutes. Doing so might enable the couple to put the issue behind them. And, by the way, no "kitchen sink" fights, where the issue of the interfering parent gets lost among past grievances. These are just a few skills that once learned, can ensure that the marriage will exceed 72 days!
Marriages are tough for many reasons, including differences in the family of origin, family interference, and even religious issues. The first year is the most difficult and usually involves several necessary adjustments. All of the couples we see in our office have never meshed together because they never took the time to explore the setbacks that they would inevitably face in the future. Too bad they didn't take a marriage and communication skills course before they chose the wedding location.
Communication skills courses are available and really contribute to lasting marriages. I recommend a nationwide program calls PAIRS.org. There are also programs available for younger individuals. While I chaired the American Bar Association's Family Law Section, I developed a high school curriculum called PARTNERS, which is offered in some schools and teaches these skills before young people make their life-long decisions. An educational course should be required prior to obtaining a marriage license, just as Drivers-Ed is required before one can receive a driver's license.