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By Kelli Kirwan for LIFELines
(Last Reviewed Friday, February 09, 2007)

 Happily ever after begins right after the wedding, right? Perhaps in movies and fairy tales, but not in real life, and certainly not with the additional challenges that the military brings to a marriage. Romantic love, although known to cause giddiness in young women and loss of all reason in young men, is not the stuff that true marriages are made of. Romance is not what sees a marriage through to the 50th wedding anniversary.

Romance is an illusion, according to Gary Zukav, a relationship expert. It is not what real and enduring love is made of. Many people are fooled into thinking that once the romance is gone, the marriage is over. The realization that the real work must now begin is often so overwhelming and bitterly disappointing that the relationship is traded in for romance with someone else. Soon the initial excitement of the new romance begins to fade and reality sets in once again. Without commitment and realistic expectations, there is only unhappiness and sadness to look forward to.

To love and to cherish till death do you part. Before you say the vows, "For better or for worse, in sickness and in health," think about what they really mean.

Do you realize the magnitude of the commitment being made? It is an awesome task for two people to come together and carve out a life together. It's difficult to bring two people's family traditions, attitudes, and values together and make them into something that is their own. It is not something that is done overnight, or found in a manual. It is not done with moonlit strolls on the beach or by the light of candles in a darkened restaurant.

It is done sometimes through sorrow and disappointment when expectations crash against the seawall of reality. It is done when a couple overcome challenges, when they climb and conquer a seemingly unmovable mountain together. The road begun at an altar or courthouse, or under a rose-covered arbor, is one that stretches a lifetime. To begin it with little thought of what lies beyond the honeymoon is unwise and only makes the road harder to navigate.

So how do you make the journey from the decorated honeymoon car to the rocking chairs (or mountain bikes) of your golden years? Through perseverance, commitment, and realistic expectations of what marriage is really all about.

Be realistic. No one can fully prepare for the meshing of two lives, but it is possible to start out with expectations that are realistic. We aren't born with this information, and it takes effort to replace the romantic notions we've grown up with, or the fear that may have been created if we witnessed unhappy marriages dissolve in anger and bitterness.

Nothing is for certain in a marriage except that ... nothing is for certain. All you can be sure of is your personal commitment to do your part.

Things to Think About Before You Walk Down the Aisle
You should have some serious discussions and make some serious decisions with your intended.
Dr. Phil, a popular relationship guru, has five questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Why are you getting married?
  2. Do you know and trust your partner's personal history?
  3. Did you plan your marriage, instead of just your wedding?
  4. Are you investing more than you can afford to lose?
  5. Have you identified and communicated your needs and expectations?

In addition, the Chaplain Corps has opportunities for newly married or soon-to-be-married couples to invest more in their future than just deposits on reception halls. They offer wonderful programs such as the Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) and the Chaplain's Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO).

These programs benefit our Navy and Marine Corps families and are well worth the time spent. The effort you put into a relationship now will pay off later. Premarital counseling can help give you a realistic approach to your partner and the effects of the military on your marriage, as well as help you define life goals. By discussing these things in advance, you can help start your new life off in the best possible direction.

No Such Thing as a Perfect Marriage
You must also realize that not one perfect marriage exists. Every marriage must be nurtured and worked on by both husband and wife. Small habits that may seem insignificant or even endearing in the beginning can become annoying with time. The strongest of marriages have their trials and low points. The successful ones are forged and strengthened in the fires of struggle, conflict, and life's unexpected twists. Marriages are refined by what you are willing to give and what you are willing to do.

You must realize that love is a verb. It takes action on the part of both husband and wife to make a healthy marriage. It means that sometimes you have to be the one to step back from a conflict or disagreement and offer the olive branch of peace. It means being willing to see the other person's point of view, and being humble enough to allow them to have a differing opinion. You also must understand that although you are committed as one to your marriage, you are still two different and unique individuals. Embracing those differences and not trying to spend all your time changing each other will bring strength and diversity to your relationship. It is, after all, those differences that probably brought you together in the first place.

When your service to the country is complete and you are faced with life beyond the [military], who is it that will walk into the future with you? It will not be the [military] that will be by your side, but the one you began that journey with. You owe it to each other to do all you can to make sure you are prepared for a lifetime, not just a wedding.


 

Related Articles:

MilitaryAvenue.com Resources: So you are getting married?

 

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