– Guest Blog Post by Pastor Kennedy
In the midst of wedding planning, shinny rings and happy celebrations, very few people give engaged couples the tools and information they need to build a happy, solid marriage. That’s probably why 52% of first marriage end in divorce. But that doesn’t have to be the case! With an open mind and a willingness to learn and try new things, marriage can be a wonderful context for personal growth – one in which your capacity to love and forgive expands, and where your emotional and spiritual muscles grow and get strong. The way you handle the first three years of your marriage will set a foundation for the decades ahead.
Most Divorces Occur in the First 5 Years of Marriage. What’s going on?
After I got married myself, I was talking to a friend about some of the challenges that my wife and I were facing as newlyweds. He casually noted. ”Oh, that’s typical. Those first years are usually tough for everyone.” I was a little stunned! Surely it’s not supposed to be this hard, I thought to myself. Later, after my wife and I successfully worked through those challenges, I realized that my initial expectations of what marriage was “supposed” to be like were wrong.
Couples are often surprised and confused by the challenges of these first years, and without previous preparation for the bumps along the way, couples often conclude that their relationship isn’t working. In fact, the highest rate of divorces occur in the first five years. And in a 2001 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the researchers discovered that the success and happiness of couples in the first two years of their marriage accurately predicted their marriages’ happiness and success over ten years later.
The Secret to Creating a Successful Marriage – Tips for Newlyweds
When two people get married, they begin a process I call “becoming married”. That process requires dealing with unexpected questions and challenges that can easily throw an early marriage off course. If a couple is unprepared for that, disillusionment sets in, and there is a sense of having married the wrong person. This is just a phase, even though it seems very real and feels as though things will likely never change or improve.
That’s why it is important for a couple to be well educated about this phase (by a professional who is both knowledgeable in this area and has lived through it themselves), because it doesn’t mean the marriage won’t work. (An exception to this is physical abuse, chronic adultery and untreated substance abuse. In those cases, seek the assistance of a treating professional to see if your spouse is willing to actively participate in treatment for their issues, and to create an interim plan in which your safety is assured during that treatment phase).
But besides the 3 “A”’s – Addiction, Abuse, and Adultery – most everything else that be worked through to eventually achieve a happy, fulfilling marriage. The keys to that success are:
1) Don’t throw in the towel;
2) Be open to and actively seek new learning and information about marriage;
3) Use each interaction with your spouse as an opportunity for your own personal growth – focus on what you can improve.
Written by Pastor Kennedy McGowan, with Dr. Chantal Gagnon
Rev. Kennedy McGowan is Pastor and Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, Florida , has been a Christian Minister for over 25 years, and is a wedding officiant / wedding celebrant in greater Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Palm Beach. www.RevKennedy.com
Dr. Chantal Marie Gagnon is a Licensed Psychotherapist, Mental Health Counselor and Marriage & Relationship Coach in Plantation, Florida. www.LifeCounselor.net