This list is in response to a couple of posts that I have read recently giving marriage preparation advice for men that is all about self: preparing yourself to lead, preparing yourself to become a man instead of a boy. Looks to me as if that is only helpful if you intend to marry yourself.
So here are 17 tips that apply equally to both partners and apply whether you are preparing for marriage or a civil partnership.
- Learn to listen. Either take a course in listening skills together or buy a how to book at work through it together.
- Learn to share openly. Write each other love letters or emails that share your dreams, your hopes, your fears and your life story. Then meet and talk about them.
- Learn to be honest. Discover how to share things that you do not share with anyone else, to be honest when you know you will disagree.
- Learn to open your closets and show the skeletons that are hidden there. Do not let this be a surprise after exchanging vows.
- Take up at least one new hobby/activity/pastime that your partner loves and that you have never tried. Let them choose what it is. Together try something entirely new to you both.
- Consider issues relating to loss. What will each of you lose through this permanent commitment? What might you lose in the future? How do you deal with loss?
- Watch each others favourite film and tv show. Read each others favourite book. Discuss what they mean for each other and the influence they have.
- Share your traditions. How do you celebrate birthdays, Christmas etc in your families/traditions. How are you going to face the differences (for example if one is lavish with presents and the other modest).
- Explore your faith together. Maybe you share a common faith, maybe not. Do you understand the others beliefs? Do you respect them? What are they going to mean for the way they want to live? How do you feel about the commitment they require, the attention they need? What about the relationships with others that will be part of your faith journeys – are you both ok with them. Is there an agenda or assumption that one of you will change? Is either feeling resentful or isolated or threatened and if so what is going to be done about it? Does either/both faith tradition have a recognised scheme of preparation for marriage/civil partnership? If so then do it together.
- Share the top 10 things you like about the other. Talk about them together. How does the other feel about you liking those things?
- Share the best 5 ways in which the other has made you feel loved and valued (and thank them), discuss them together.
- Share the most irritating things about the other, the habits that wind you up, the behaviour that makes you mad. Not just as a list but as a discussion on what you are both going to do about this. Is change expected, possible or realistic or is it about attitudes and expectations?
- Make a budget. Agree your spending priorities and how you are going to organise your finances. Are you going to have a completely shared finance or what? Do you have compatible spending habits and lifestyle expectations? Can you trust the other with all your money? Have you really faced the challenges and expectations?
- Explore aspects of your personalities. This does not have to be through formal techniques (but you might enjoy finding out a bit more about yourselves and the interactions between you through something like the Myers Briggs personality types). Look at how you each respond to stress and how you unwind. Can you recognise the symptoms of stress in each other and know how to respond helpfully. What about anger? Do you know when the other is angry and what causes it and how to respond?
- Look beyond yourselves. How are your friendships with others, your relationships with your families? Is there some kind of balance between you or are all your friends from just one of you?
- Compile a list of the best ways your partner would like to celebrate good news and a list of nice surprises. Share the lists and get marked out of 10. Discuss where you were close, where you were far off and your own reactions to the lists.
- Seek a couple to act as mentors. Ideally they should not know either of you much better than the other, you both need to respect them and see them as role models. Obviously they should be in a stable and secure relationship. Spend time with them and share your journey of preparation with them.