Before someone gets a driver’s license, they take a driver’s ed course, practice with the help of an experienced driver, and closely study the rule book.
These are all valuable things to do because driving without the necessary skills would make someone a menace on the roads and a danger to themselves and others.
The same thought process applies to getting married as well.
Before getting a marriage license, people must learn how to do the demanding activities that a partnership requires.
Otherwise, couples are at risk for intense fighting and starting a marriage that’s weak from the outset.
Couples who learn important marriage skills have the highest odds of enjoying a long-lasting and gratifying partnership.
A marriage takes work and effort from both partners, but if you’re willing to learn a few crucial skills, then you’ll be triumphant in creating a strong marriage based on love.
And if you’re spending too much time and energy focused on needing to have a wedding, you still need to make sure that the marriage that follows will be a prosperous one.
Here are the 4 main critical skills you must have as a couple before getting married.
1. Emotional self-regulation
Young children often get mad, cry, or even hit their siblings. Adults, on the other hand, live their lives mostly in a calm zone.
The good news is that adults who get overly emotional, especially with anger, can learn how to overcome their aggressive tendencies.
If you find that you raise your voice and get mad more than once every several months (or get so mad that you say and do hurtful things), you’ve got some important learning to do.
Talking tactfully, especially when the issue is something that distresses you, and listening in a way that is productive, are essential to any marriage.
Talking in a way that’s complaining, critical, or otherwise hurtful will get you in serious marriage trouble.
Dismissing what your partner says, negating what you hear with “but,” or ignoring, instead of digesting what you hear, are all sure to cause extreme marital woes.
3. Conflict resolution
All couples have differences.
Successful couples know how to start with a “his way” and a “her way” and end up with an “our way” that they both feel good about.
That’s true, whether the issue is a simple one, like what movie to see on Saturday night, or big issues like where to live, how to handle money, and how to keep your intimate life passionate, you have to come to a compromise that you both can live with.
Every time you share a smile, laugh at your partner’s jokes, agree with a comment your partner said, express appreciation, thank your partner for something, or express affection, you are offering “dollops” of positivity.
The more dollops you give, the happier you both will be.
The moral of the story? Be prepared.
Remember that a wedding is for one day. But a marriage, hopefully, is forever.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is a Harvard-educated clinical psychologist, marriage counselor and author who helps clients to relieve negative emotions, enjoy personal well-being and sustain loving relationships. She has published several books, and has been featured in Psychology Today, WebMD, TIME and more.