Maybe you have already been burned by having a first marriage collapse in a Divorce. Maybe you are thinking of embarking on the adventure of matrimony for the first time. You should know that in the United States the chances of any marriage ending in a divorce or a permanent separation are as high as one in two, though recently it has declined to one in three. So how do you increase the odds of staying happily married until “death do you part?”

Asking the hard questions about a lifetime commitment

The first step is to start asking yourself some tough questions.

Are you ready to embark on a lifetime commitment? You should think about what lifetime actually means, not to mention some of the phrases Common to most wedding ceremonies, such as “for richer and poorer” and “in sickness and in health.”

For instance, you and your significant other may be on a fast track, career-wise. You’re making a little money, and you have a chance of making more as you grow older and more experienced. But, what if something happens that causes your career to be derailed? An economic recession that causes you or your potential spouse to be laid off or a change in technology that causes either or both of you to be obsolete can cause an incredible hit to your income.

Many divorces happen because of disagreements about money.

The process of downsizing one’s lifestyle can place significant stress on any marriage. Are you and your potential spouse ready to weather that kind of storm if and when it occurs?

Incidentally, some financial and educational planning would be of immense help when you are young and able to make plans for your future.

A really big issue that comes up in marriages is the subject of children.

Do you want to even have children? If you want kids, how many do you want? The question has to be considered carefully as it represents a huge commitment of time, money, and energy.

What happens if one of you gets sick or injured?

Now we get to the “in sickness and in health” part of the discussion. Chances are you and your intended bride are at the peak of your youth and health.

However, that condition is not going to last forever. People grow old, get sick, and even get into life-changing accidents. So it behooves you to start thinking about inevitabilities and possibilities.

Will you still love your intended bride when she gets middle-aged and frumpy? What about when you are both in your seventies, gray-haired, wrinkled, weak with age? Will you still love her then? Think carefully about your answer.

What will happen if your bride gets an illness, such as cancer, that will waste her away before it kills her? Will you love her then? Will you be able to stand it?

What happens if she gets into a car wreck and is paralyzed? Your marriage vow will now obligate you to be her caregiver.

Are you ready for that obligation if it becomes necessary? What if she goes into a coma and doesn’t wake up? What happens then? These are scary things to think about when you are in the full emotional rush of being in love. However, being at least emotionally prepared will be of great help if the worst happens.

It goes almost without saying that it would be a good thing if she feels the same way about you, should illness or injury befall.

Everybody disagrees about something but can you disagree with respect?

People disagree about a lot of things, including religion, politics, and sports teams. People can be passionate about these subjects. When a married couple disagrees, the potential for conflict can be potent.

Religious differences can either be vexing or a chance to broaden and grow. You can approach the idea of marrying outside your faith in one of three ways. Either you can exercise tolerance, the theory being that more than one path to the divine exists, or you can try to insist that your intended convert to your faith, something that may be problematic as it imposes a condition to the marriage that your potential bride may find hard to accept. On the other hand, the option always exists of converting to her faith.

A marriage between a believer and an atheist presents certain unique challenges. The best way to approach that situation would be for that nonbeliever to accept the religious person’s beliefs and that the believer not attempts to convert the atheist.

Tolerance and understanding are, again, ingredients in a successful marriage,

How does one deal with the children and which faith they are to be raised in? One solution may be to expose them to both of your faith traditions and then allow them to decide when they grow to adulthood. A pretty good chance exists that one or more of them will choose the third option, in any case.

Politics can be another minefield that can make a marriage more difficult than it should be. If the two of you aren’t that interested in politics, count yourselves blessed. That will be one less source of conflict that you will have to worry about. If you see pretty much eye to eye on the issues of the day, then you’re pretty safe, as well.

However, a mixed political marriage can be tricky, especially if both spouses are passionate about their positions.

A number of high-profile mixed political marriages have worked. Former Bill Clinton advisor James Carville has been married, quite happily, to former Bush operative Mary Matalin for 25 years. The conservative writer Mary Katharine Ham was married to an Obama staffer named Jacob Brewer until his untimely death in a freak bicycling accident.

A number of ways exist for dealing with political disagreements within a marriage. One would be to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. A quick look at social media suggests that this skill is a hard one to learn and even harder to practice.

People tend to regard political positions that they do not share as slightly insane if not downright evil and dangerous. The tendency is one reason why the United States has the first amendment, not to protect popular speech, but the unpopular kind.

The other way to deal with a mixed political marriage is not to bring up the subject of politics. After all, you and your potential bride presumably have so much in common that the fact that you’re a Bernie bro and she’s a Trump supporter (or the other way around) should not matter. A great many things are out there to talk about besides politics.

Finally, you have to deal with the matter of sports teams. If you both root for the same hometown teams, then you don’t have a problem.

However, many people get very serious about their loyalties when it comes to sports like baseball and football. Could a Yankees fan remain married to a Red Sox fan? The very idea would be an interesting science experiment that maybe you might want to avoid.

Planning in advance is all for a successful marriage

All levity aside, the preparation for what you hope to be a successful marriage involves not only a lot of thought but also a lot of communication. Some of that takes place just in the course of being together, conversations around dinner, and so on. However, it behooves both of you to be clear about what you are doing when you finally take that plunge. Marriage is sometimes hard work and is fraught with compromises and mutual understanding of one another’s quirks and foibles.

No matter how much preparation goes in before you go on bended knee and present the ring, there will be some difficult moments. Life is filled with them. However, if many years from now, like old people, your children and grandchildren are helping you celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary, and your friends are wondering what your secret is, you’ll know that even though wedded bliss is not always blissful, it can be full and satisfying.

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