Marriage 101 – Start with a good foundation (a guest post)

After yesterday's Tiger debacle, I noticed that marriage is really getting a bad rap. I also received dueling emails from my friends Chad & Rose who were headed for divorce but decided to try counseling. I must assume from the emails that it is NOT going well. Chad came home Wednesday night, stood looking at Rose and said, "Okay I'm tired of talking about it, you have five minutes to convince me to stay." Wow. She replied, "Why don't you use that five minutes to tell me why I should care if you go." This escalated into an argument that turned naked that resulted in dual rug burn. Wow again. When all of that wound down he said, "Besides what we just did, I don't remember why we got married." Separately, they both emailed me and asked if I remembered what they were like before their marriage went to hell. I haven't responded yet. But I did ask my friend Jayme, a marriage counselor and life coach with 20 years of marriage under her belt to answer one question: What are the components of a successful marriage?

Without further ado, here's Jayme's response (it's a good one):

Marriage, when it works, is one the greatest things ever invented. It's a joy, comfort, treat and celebration. It's also a trial, a job, a hair-puller and a burden… and that's when it's working. Marriage is more than what happens after words are spoken and toasts are made, it's a way of life. It's a promise, a path and a state of mind. It's also not for everyone.

When marriage doesn't work it is one of the most soul-sucking, depressing feelings in the world. Despair and confusion do not begin to cover the range of emotions experienced on a daily basis when that happily-ever-after love goes off track.

What do we do, Ms. Jayme? It's the first, middle and last question asked of me when couples come in for counseling. I look at each of them and wish I'd met them individually before they married. Not every two people combine to make a good unit. So to begin to answer your question, I have to start by saying that a good marriage starts with two people right for each other. There are so many components needed to build a good foundation for marriage, here are the ones I believe to be the most important. I call them the Serious Seven, without these – it's just casual:

  1. Know who you are first. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The man has half of the picture; the woman has the other half. The goal is to put it all together and make a lovely picture to hang on the wall. Once the pieces are connected you add glue, a foundation, a frame… see where I'm going with this? If you don't know what your half is comprised of, how are you going make a pretty picture? If whole sections are missing from your half, the puzzle isn't stable to begin with.

  2. Marry your very best friend (and be theirs too). Do you know what a best friend is? This is someone you love spending time with. Someone you share common interests, likes and dislikes with. Someone you respect and trust. Someone who has your back through thick and thin. Someone you can't wait to share things with. Someone who listens. Someone you love even in those times when you don't like them very much. That's the person you want to marry.

  3. Marry the person you sizzle with (and they are sparking off you too). There's a chemical reaction when people click. You can see the palpable energy jumping from one to the other and back again. Even in silence, they radiate some sort of "we're together" vibe. It's sexy, yes – but more than that. It's attraction, which can manifest mentally, physically and spiritually. Marry the person who lights you up from the inside out.

  4. Marry the person you can talk to about any and everything (and they can talk to you too). Not text, not write, not hint, not nudge… talk to face to face without barriers or distractions. I call it the Seinfeld syndrome: you have to be able to talk about everything and nothing and still be entertained. At twelve noon, dinnertime, in the middle of the night when the power is off and there's nothing but cereal to eat… if you can hold a conversation with that person in those circumstances, you're doing good things.

  5. Marry the person you share values with (and they share yours too). Ethics, finance, religion, behavior… they don't need to be the same but they do need to be complimentary. The penny pincher who hates to spend $5.00 on Starbucks is going to have a problem with the person living paycheck to paycheck. These are things to get settled about four months into the relationship well before the "I dos".

  6. Marry someone who is committed to the relationship (and you have to be too). Not the sex, not the food, not the companionship but the relationship. Know how to spot the difference. The sex will fade, food won't always get cooked and you won't always be each other's favorite companion but the relationship should always remain a priority. Marriage is above all a partnership and you need a partner who will be right there. Not two steps in front, not lagging behind… right by your side.

  7. Marry someone who can roll with the punches (you gotta roll too). Marriage is more than the wedding. Let me repeat, a marriage has to start the minute the tux and Cinderella ballgown come off. Marriage is not all champagne and buttercream frosting. Sometimes it's flat Sprite and ritz crackers. You need someone who is rolling down in the valley and up to the mountaintop by your side. Someone who gets skittish at the first sign of trouble may not be marriage material.

So that's the no-so-secret secret. And yes I know it's easier said than done but if you can start with these seven, you are ahead of the game. If you are already married and missing some of the seven, it's never too late to work on it. Hope this answered the original question?

Okay BougieLand, thoughts? Tips? Comments? Show Jayme some love.