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  • Writer's pictureLehandra Riley

Things to consider before and after marriage

Getting married is one of the biggest and life changing events a person can experience in their lifetime. It is a decision and covenant that is not to be entered into lightly. It is, therefore, a good idea to do your research and homework before entering such a serious commitment.

It is important to remember that many marriages fail even after spouses do their homework and research beforehand. Some married couples even describe the success of their marriage as a coin toss, it either succeeds or fails. However, reducing marriage to a coin toss is a bit simplistic as the intricacies of married life can sometimes be complex as each couple and case is different.

What do the stats and research say?

According to information released by StatsSA in 2021, four out of ten marriages would end before the ten-year mark. The most dangerous time for marriages seems to be around the 5–9-year mark. If marriages are able to make it past this point, they are much more likely to be a long-term marriage. The good news is that the divorce rate in South Africa was 6.2% lower than in 2019, with a downward trend starting in 2010.

The divorce rate in South Africa is higher among those that are getting married for the first time. Although, this can be explained by the fact that the majority of marriages are first-time marriages. The divorce rate in South Africa is slightly higher among couples with children who are under the age of 18 years. The stats indicate that in marriages with children 44.1% of divorces were for families with children over the age of 18 years, while 55.9% of divorces were for families with children under the age of 18 years.

While the divorce rate in South Africa is seeing a trend of decline, it is important to note that certain groups are more at risk than others.

With this information in mind what can we do to ensure that the odds are in our favour?

There are a lot of matters to discuss before getting married in order to ensure that both parties are on the same page. When it comes to these matters it is important to be honest in your discussion with your partner and it is okay to answer with a “I don’t know” or “I am unsure”. Sometimes the answers to these matters come at a later stage. However, it is important for both parties to be aware of this and the potential answer their partner may give and how that aligns with their own answer.

Here is a list of conversation topics to have with your partner before marriage:

● What are your finances really like?

● Do you want children? How open are you to the possibility of children?

● How would you raise your children? E.g., discipline styles, religious teachings, schooling etc.

● What if having children is not straightforward? E.g., infertility issues, adoption, IVF treatment, surrogacy. (This question is particularly important for same-sex couples).

● What does religion mean to you?

● What kind of wedding do you really want?

● Where do you want to live?

● What does your dream house look like?

● How will you split your finances?

● What do you want to save up for?

● How will you split the chores?

● What are your politics?

● How do you feel about your sex life?

● What about each other’s families? E.g., family obligations, religious traditions or beliefs

● What do celebrations look like for you?

● What is your dream holiday?

● How important is your career?

● What will you do with your last names?

● Are you more introverted or extroverted? How does this affect your need for alone time or your need for interaction with your partner and/or friends?

● What are your non-negotiables?

● Do you have a will? How will your will and that of your partner change after marriage?

● What do you want to happen after your death? E.g., cremation vs burial, religious or non- religious ceremony.

● What is important for your partner to know in order to make informed decisions if you are critically ill or on life support?

● How do you feel about pets and animals?

● What is a deal breaker for you?

● What constitutes cheating?

● Who is the most important person in the world to you?

● What does your retirement look like?

● What is your love language?

● How do you deal with pressure and stress?

● What do you find difficult to talk to with your partner and/or people in general?

● What are you comfortable or uncomfortable sharing on social media?

Even though this list is quite long it is not nearly all the possible topics to discuss before marriage and therefore it is important to think what questions of your own you would like to add to this list. When unpacking or exploring these topics, a marriage or couple’s counsellor is a helpful consideration. A neutral party with no attachment to either person often yields more objective inputs and topics that either party might not even have considered.

Important points that help maintain a healthy marriage:

Although all the above-mentioned topics can be important, some of these topics stand out and need to be considered and especially valued.

  • Communication: One of the most important components of any relationship is communication. Healthy, open communication is essential for the survival of a marriage. Open communication refers to the ability to talk freely and express feelings and opinions as needed. For open communication to be successful we must be compassionate listeners. A compassionate listener focuses on the speaker and listens with empathy and compassion. Do not listen to respond, but to understand. Think before responding. Make answering or responding a conscious rather than automatic act. Mindfulness is key here.

  • Conflict resolution: The success or failure of a marriage does not depend on whether there is conflict, but on how conflict is handled and resolved when it occurs. It is natural to disagree with your partner from time to time. Sometimes it can be about small things, other times larger issues, however once conflict occurs remember to maintain open communication and compassionate listening. If this is difficult and situations get heated, take a step back. Breathe, take some time apart, think and revisit the issue once both parties have cooled down. Never leave conflict situations unresolved. Always undertake to mitigate all situations as best you can as a couple. Not all answers come instantly, not all issues resolve instantly, but when we are open a compromise can be reached.

  • Friendship: According to John Gottman, happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. A deep friendship refers to mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. “Friendship fuels the flames of romance, because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial towards your spouse.” We do not know what life will bring for us or our spouse, however many hardships are bravely faced and conquered with your best friend by your side.

  • Respect: Always treat your partner with respect and hold them with the highest esteem. According to Gottman, fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting marriage. The best test for a couple’s fondness and admiration for each other is to see how they view their past. According to research, 94% of couples who put a positive spin on their marriage history and their partner’s character are likely to have a happy future as well. Marriages are in trouble at the first sign of contempt.

  • Being equally yoked: This refers to having a partner you can rely on to work together with you as a team. It is important to remember that marriage is a team sport, and that teamwork makes the dream work. If you see your spouse as a team member it makes being compassionate and understanding with your spouse easier versus being withdrawn and indifferent as you would toward a competitor. Remember you and your spouse walk the path in life together as equal and formidable teammates.

  • Raise your children together: Always have a united front when raising your children. Be co-parents on board with discipline strategies, schooling, extra-murals, and anything else concerning your children. Always discuss decisions together regarding your children before choosing an option. Inform your partner of any news or situations regarding your children to make sure both of you are on the same page.

  • Intimacy: Emotional intimacy generally refers to a closeness in which both parties feel secure, loved and where trust and open communication are available freely. When you experience emotional intimacy with your spouse you feel as if you can see into their soul, know their hopes, dreams, and fears. You understand them on a deeper level. Remember sex is a tool to enhance intimacy, but not intimacy itself.

  • Quality Time: To maintain a healthy marriage quality time must be made for yourself, relationship, family, and friends. Balancing these factors are vital in maintaining healthy relationships within all social spheres in your life, especially your marriage. It is a task easier said than done, however having quality time as a married couple is vital to its survival and success.

  • Privacy: What happens in the marriage stays in the marriage unless help is sought from a couple’s counsellor together as a couple or other related professional. This point excludes toxic marriages or cases of domestic violence. Always be vocal when you need help. However, it is a good idea to not involve family and friends in your marital affairs. When discussing your partner with friends or family members without them present you run the risk of influencing their opinion or thoughts about your partner in a negative light. It can jeopardise the respect you have for one another. When talking about your marriage always do so with your spouse present. Be a united front in the face of your challenges.

  • Be consistent: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Always be consistent and have one set of rules that apply for both of you. E.g., do not invade your partner’s privacy by going through their mobile phone if you are not comfortable for them to do the same. If you would not like your partner to use your devices without asking first, apply the same rule with them.

  • Depend on your spouse above others: Your spouse is the one you share your life journey with. It is important to rely and depend on your spouse above all others. When it comes to finances, parenting, intimacy, or any other issues always depend on one another for support. When in doubt, approach family and friends as a united front for support. It is unwise to seek help or depend on others for emotional, psychological, or financial support without informing or consulting your spouse. Never bypass your team member.

  • Stick to your vows: Remember the vows you made to your spouse. Honour and stick to them. Never make this covenant lightly, otherwise it will undermine the foundation upon which your marriage is built. Follow through, stick together and vow to always give your best. Never give up.

Marriage is a beautiful and life changing commitment. It is the union of two individuals as one, where they walk life’s path together as equals and as a formidable team. Every marriage is unique and should be treated as such. It is important to note that this article is but one viewpoint and several other viewpoints such as cultural considerations and alternative family dynamics (to name a few) have not been included or elaborated on. As a couple you might disagree on some of the points mentioned in this article or have other points that might be of particular importance to your marriage. That is 100% acceptable as long as you discuss and undertake all aspects of your marriage as a team, two moving as one.

Part of this article is featured in Go Weddings ZA's May 2023 edition. For all your wedding needs give them a try: .



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