" ... First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!" This popular playground song used to accurately describe the sequence of intimate relationships. Today, however, the order could be vastly different depending on who is "singing" the song.
From Hollywood to your next door neighbor, relationships sometimes consist of one-night stands, adultery, un-planned pregnancies, co-habitation, short-lived marriages, divorce, and sex and a baby preceding marriage, or no marriage at all. After all, some people believe that it's "just a piece of paper" or a "dying institution." Less frequently do we observe good examples of healthy, strong marriages.
Just because something becomes normalized or "OK" doesn't mean it's a good idea. An article titled, "Before 'I Do,'" identified three pre-marriage areas that impact the quality of a marriage.
"What happens in Vegas ... " doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas. When intimacy is shared between two people — whether casually or in a more serious relationship — you share a piece of yourself that you cannot ever get back. A study found that women and men who had only one or a smaller number of sexual partners had higher quality marriages than those who had many. Of course there are exceptions, and a lot depends on attitude and a potential change of heart, or rather, learning from mistakes. "This doesn't mean that sex before marriage will doom a marriage, but sex with many different partners may be risky if you're looking for a high-quality marriage," the article states.
Sliding versus deciding
There are milestones in relationships such as kissing, engagement, sex, marriage, children, etc. Thinking through these choices rather than getting caught up in the "heat of the moment" can dictate the strength of your relationship and ultimately your marriage. As the article states, "Couples who decide rather than slide are saying, 'Our relationship is important, so let's think about what we're doing here.' Making time to talk clearly about potential transitions may contribute to better marriages." Just doing what feels right in the moment may not ultimately be a good decision — and will likely lead to regrets.
Planning a wedding can be tedious, but it seems to correlate with marriage quality. While factoring in income and education levels, the article reports that " ... having more guests at the wedding is associated with higher marital quality." It may be that it not only takes a village to raise a child, but also the support of said village to support a marriage. Though a wedding is one of the biggest steps in a relationship, it is not the end of working on it. How you view your wedding, and the effort you put into planning it, directly correlates with your view on your marriage and the subsequent efforts you're willing to put into it.
Quality marriages don't happen by chance. Just as our school homework is a good indication of how we'll perform on a test, so it is with our relationships. If you seek casual sex, cheat on your partners and make spur-of-the-moment relationship choices, your marriage will follow suit. What you do before you say "I do" is practice for what you will do after you tie the knot.
If you don't like the idea of your marriage reflecting the current life you're living, you can make changes now. Decide what you desire in a marriage and make choices that match those goals. If you want fidelity, live a sexually faithful life. If you want a marriage built on mutual decisions that are well-planned, don't make choices based on emotions or carnal desires.
Marriage is what you make of it, and the quality of it is a reflection of your own thoughts and attitudes toward it. Discuss with your spouse, or future potential spouse, your goals for your relationship and what is important to both of you. Quality marriages are built on quality relationships.
Wendy is a regular contributor for familyshare.com and does media reviews. Website: https://survivorshopeandhealing.wordpress.com/ for victims of sexual abuse. Blog: https://wendyejessen.wordpress.com Twitter: @WendyJessen