Before someone gets a driver’s license, they take a drivers ed course, practice with the help of an experienced driver, and closely study the rulebook. 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 marriage, as well. Before getting a marriage license, people must learn how to do the high-skills activity that partnership requires. Otherwise, couples are at risk for intense fighting, and launching a marriage that’s at risk from the outset.
1. Emotional self-regulation. Young children often get mad, cry, or even hit their siblings. Adults, on the other hand, mostly live their lives in the calm zone. The good news is that adults who get overly emotional, (especially with anger), can learn how to overcome their anger 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.
2. Communication. Talking tactfully, especially when the issue is something that distresses you, and listening in a way that sustains cooperation, 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, is 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 to see on Saturday night, or big issues like where to live, how to handle money
4. Positivity. 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.