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What if I told you to worry less about your big day? You might be thinking, “But Alli! My dress, my shoes, my future mother-in-law… You don’t understand!” Stay with me. Planning for a big wedding can feel like a full-time job, and all the details are important. There’s no denying that.
When you walk down the aisle, you should feel as beautiful as you have ever hoped you would on this day. I want that for you (in fact, I even have three tips to reduce your stress). But I also want you to feel prepared for what’s ahead in marriage, not just the wedding.
To give you a little background on my marriage, my husband, Mark, and I dated for 7 weeks before getting engaged. We married shortly after that. It worked out well for us, but it’s not a strategy that everyone should try. Honestly, if one of my sons came home to tell us he was engaged to someone he’s only known for 7 weeks — we’d probably flip out.
We didn’t have the $100K wedding you see on TV. But I’m sure if the money was there, I would have been saying “Yes to the Dress” along with all the rest of the brides. The great thing about our low-key wedding — no pressure, low stress, no one to impress. Again, it’s not for everyone, but it worked well for us.
If I could give you one piece of marriage advice it would be: start a lifetime of investing in your own personal development. The big day is just that — a day. And just because it was a beautiful wedding, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a beautiful marriage.
There’s no secret to happiness, but there is a key to pursuing a healthy marriage. Be a healthy person. You’ll never have a healthier marriage than you are as an individual. Your mental, emotional, and spiritual health will not only be reflected in your marriage — it will be magnified. If it’s unhealthy in areas, be prepared to face it. I recently shared examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships in an article about toxic friendships. You don’t want to be toxic in your marriage.
Personal development should be an ongoing process. It’s not just for the singles out there, and it’s not a thing to start after you get married. The best time to start, if you haven’t yet, is now. One of the ways we can thrive in our personal development and build a healthy marriage is by knowing our blind spots.
It sounds counterintuitive, and it is — if you’re trying to find these blind spots on your own. A good counselor can be invaluable in helping you recognize the areas that you can improve in and work through so you can have an emotionally healthy marriage.
If these blind spots haven’t surfaced yet, they will in marriage. Best to identify them in the safety of a trusted counselor’s office, rather than on your tropical honeymoon vacation.
I know that this tactic might not be a popular one. And in some spheres, it’s taboo to bring up the differences between men and women. But it’s something that worked for me because healthy communication in marriage is important. I read a few great books that helped me as a young woman understand what most men and women need.
It might sound funny, but reading Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus really helped me understand my husband better. The basic needs hold up — women need to be cherished and men need to be respected. This book is full of tips for healthy communication for couples.
I also read Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas and The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. I still reference both today.
Within your personal development, it’s necessary to become a student of relationship dynamics within your marriage. Translation: you are not an expert on your spouse’s personality, and yours comes with imperfections too.
The first couple years of marriage are known to be some of the most difficult ones. Not for lack of love, but for lack of understanding. Becoming aware of your interactions (over your husband’s reactions) is crucial to a healthy marriage.
Overanalyzing will always make a bad situation worse — those molehills turn into mountains. I’ve learned to err on the side of love and empathy for Mark and trust he has my best interest at heart.
If you’d like to dig a little deeper, Psychology Today has a great article on dynamics in a healthy relationship.
I would also recommend looking into the enneagram as a tool for understanding yourself, your spouse, and how you interact with each other. On my podcast, Marilyn Vancil and Beth McCord each share valuable insights and takeaways from their experience studying and coaching others towards healthy relationships. The enneagram has helped my relationship with Mark, and I hope it helps yours too.
A healthy marriage is wonderful and hard and messy and worth it. Doubling down on personal development doesn’t have to look like taking up a new hobby or certification to acquire new skills.
Our personal development comes out in our character — the ways we react and interact. It comes out in the ways we get to know and love ourselves and our spouses. When we work on our own development, we make ourselves better for the people around us. We build healthy relationships.
Want to read more? My most recent book — Standing Strong — is full of wisdom I’ve learned through living life, navigating relationships, and listening to God.