It has been said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure." I would say that this is almost always true in a marriage. We can substitute the word "prevention" with "discussion," "planning" or "forethought."
The result is the same: Design your marriage ahead of time to get the outcome you want.
By taking time to design your marriage, you are specifying your goal. Here are some common examples:
- We don't want to get divorced.
- We want to raise our kids in a healthier environment than we were raised.
- We want to be that 90-year-old couple holding hands.
Defining the barriers
Once you define the goal you want to discuss barriers. Since most people don't plan to get divorced, I am going to use the goal of "staying married." As a couple, discuss what might screw up that plan. Things like adultery, pornography, emotional affairs, loss of intimacy, or growing toward living like roommates are all things that can lead to divorce.
When you step back and look at these things, the next step is to look at boundaries that will reflect these areas.
Planning the boundaries
Early on in our marriage, we decided that the other would not spend time alone with someone of the opposite sex, unless the other felt comfortable with it. This isn't because either one of us plans to have an affair. Instead, it is a boundary that makes the beginning of one near impossible.
As a result, we are honest and open about the relationships we have with others. Questions and discuss are encouraged. We don't lie, even on little things. By setting clear boundaries, we reflect the ways our marriage could get screwed up and hopefully move toward being that 90-year-old couple.
Our own emotions
What comes with this approach is laying down our own sense of entitlement. I have decided to co-live with my wife. It does not mean that we are not independent. But, I know that whether small or big, what I do will impact her.
By setting clear boundaries it reminds others and us that the success of our marriage is the priority. It is not easy, we often fail and have to reset, and then we start again. But the whole process of designing our marriage for success and implementing boundaries that reflect that is our ounce of prevention.
Joseph R. Sanok is a counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling. He lives in Traverse City with his wife and daughter. For relationship tips and his Marriage Tips Newsletter go to http://www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/relationships/