10:43 08 April 2005
If youre getting married, youll probably be focused more on the wedding day than the marriage after it. But with over a third of UK marriages ending in divorce, how can we increase our chances of staying together happily ever after?
Recently, a consortium of churches decided that all couples who want to marry in their churches would need to attend classes and sit a test. But would this really help us improve our relationship skills?
The idea behind these tests seems to be both to help couples see whether they are compatible and to check out their own and each others expectations of their relationship and marriage. In principle, this sounds like a good idea as we often rush into things without thinking about the bigger picture first.
Some of the questions in the test focus on matters such as how much contact each partner has with their family and how they arrange their financial affairs. These issues may seem strange matters to test in a marriage exam. However, many arguments in marriages crop up over partners having very different attitudes to family and money. Knowing in advance how each of you feels about these things may help you negotiate what could be acceptable for you both and avoid arguments later.
Being compatible does not necessarily mean that you want and / or do the same things. Having interests in common certainly helps oil the wheels of a relationship, but it is also healthy to have separate interests and friends. Again, the most important thing is being able to negotiate these points constructively.
Maybe one of you wants to go out every night and the other would prefer to just go out at the weekend. There isnt a "right" answer, but compromises could include doing what each one wants on alternate weeks / months or finding a middle ground of socialising on four nights a week, for example.
How smoothly do you expect your relationship to go at different times? One of the marriage test questions centres on whether the first two years of the marriage would be better or worse than other years.
People often expect that this period will be the best part of the relationship, with the "honeymoon" effect. This can certainly be true in terms of frequency of sexual activity! However, in reality, the first two years of living together can be the hardest as couples adjust to each other having different habits and attitudes. As time goes on, you can become more comfortable with these adjustments as you become used to one another.
Being aware of possible problems in advance is a good way to find solutions before differences become difficulties. The marriage test is certainly one way of preparing for this. People often take quizzes in magazines or on the Net to test their relationship, so in some ways the idea of a marriage test is an extension of that. And the marriage test is not so much "pass or fail" as a way to highlight potential problems that you need to address.
However, taking a marriage test is certainly not the only way to ensure a good foundation for your relationship. Ask yourself what your expectations are, check what your partners expectations are and discuss them together.
Think about how you negotiate problems together. Being able to find solutions to problems in a constructive way is a crucial part of the success of a relationship. Knowing what the possible difficulties are and how you would deal with them will help your marriage run more smoothly.
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