Wedding season is just around the corner, but once the party’s over and the newlyweds have waltzed off into the sunshine, the hard work of maintaining a marriage really begins.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average UK marriage last 32 years – that’s three long decades of arguing over whose turn it is to take the rubbish out.
But many couples don’t make it that far. The ONS estimates that 42% of marriages end in divorce, with 34% of marriages expected to end before their 20th anniversary.
Mary Banham-Hall, a lawyer and mediator with more than three decades’ experience and the author of Love Lose Live: Divorce is a Rollercoaster, has this valuable advice for couples tying the knot.
1. Have the children conversation
Do you want any, and if so, when. Never assume he or she feels the same way as you do, or merrily think that if you disagree, the problem will go away. It probably won't. Babies can make or break your relationship. You need to start in the same place.
2. Have the money conversation
Are you both debt averse or is just one of you? Think how you will run your finances. Even if you have separate accounts, if one saves and the other spends, it causes friction. Talk this through carefully. Who will pay what? Try and make it feel fair so you each have about the same level of disposable income. Anticipating problems helps you avoid them.
3. Decide where to live
Town or country, old or new, garden or decked courtyard, high-maintenance or easy life? It's best to try and work out a lifestyle you both like, as if you hate gardening you won't want to spend hours a week doing it. But if the big outdoors is essential to your happiness, then a 10th-floor luxury flat will be torture. These things matter on a daily basis more than you think.
4. Conflict resolution
Make sure you can resolve disagreements and problems without having highly charged emotional rows. Each of you should feel able to express your feelings and beliefs without being ridiculed or attacked. Learn to listen to each other, not just think what you're going to say when you argue back and try to make the other person do what you want. Sometimes you should do what they want.
5. Agree some house rules
Both of you need to feel comfortable with how you live, and neither of you has a right to impose your rules on the other. This must be a fair and mutually respectful negotiation. For example, if you both work, then household tasks should be fairly shared. If one does the lion's share while the other relaxes, this can be very destructive to your relationship. Silent resentment is a marriage wrecker.
6. Extended families and clashing demands
You probably both have relatives who you want to spend time with, but you must start to put your new family unit first. However, combine this with being supportive and understanding of each other's family ties and be fair. Don't cut one family off. This can breed resentment and be destructive.
7. Wedding versus marriage
The wedding is just one very special day, it’s precious, and you'll remember it forever, but the marriage is the nuts and bolts of life and you want it to last forever. You need to invest even more time and money in nurturing your marriage year-in, year-out than you did the wedding. It costs little or nothing to go for a walk together, and talking and listening are better for you than a new bike or handbag.
What are your secrets for a successful marriage? Would you have done anything differently? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.