As you gear up for your big day, and cross out each to-do on that seemingly endless list, one area you should not neglect to focus on is developing healthy marriage habits. Of course, seeing as you and your significant other are about to marry, it’s pretty clear that you have a strong foundation. But are you truly ready for the challenges and obstacles marriage may (and likely will) throw your way?
The engagement period is a great time to fine-tune your relationship and focus on areas where you each can improve. One of these areas has to do with your everyday habits. How do you two communicate, spend time together, have fun, etc.?
To help you along the way, we asked relationship experts to share some of the most important healthy marriage habits to work on and develop during your engagement.
As any relationship expert will tell you, communication is a key healthy marriage habit. It’s not only important that you talk with your partner, but also that you do so often, not just every once in a while. “When you’re out of touch with each other, you might not realize that there are seeds of hurt or annoyance that could potentially grow and bloom into full-blown issues if not addressed at the onset,” says Laurel House, dating and relationship expert and host of the Man Whisperer podcast. “Making it a priority to check in and talk about how you feel about the relationship tackles those seeds before they have the opportunity to sprout, plus it brings your relationship out of the blur and back into focus.”
Listen to your partner.
Too often we’re the ones speaking in a conversation instead of doing what we really should be doing—listening. That’s why House recommends paying close attention to how your partner is feeling and taking action to better their situation. “If your partner calls you on their way home from work and says that they are in a terrible mood, draw a hot bath with bubbles, candles and a glass of wine so that they can dip their feet in the moment they get home,” she suggests. “They don’t need to think—they just need to allow you to take care of them.”
Maintain proper hygiene.
If you’re already clean, neat and organized, you’re on the right track. But if you’re on the messier side—leaving hair all over the bathroom sink and clothes strewn all over the floor—now is the time to step up your game. “If you don’t already live together, take time to stay at each other's place to see how you keep the place,” suggests Professor Keba Richmond Green, psychotherapist and relationship expert. “All these things can be fun and challenging on a relationship start early so it won't cause problems down the line.”
Keeping it light is another healthy marriage habit that will ensure a successful and happy relationship. “Turning a sour moment into a fun moment with a little humor gives you the opportunity to step back and view the conversation from another angle,” says Professor Green. “Build lifelong memories together, don't sweat the small stuff and, most of all, don't compare to others!”
Kiss or hug every time you say “hi” and “bye”.
It’s easy to get out of the habit of touching, but House points out that physical touch is an emotional connector that reminds you to take a moment to be present together. “Once you touch, you might want to touch more, but when you fall out of the habit of touching, sometimes it can feel hard to break the touch barrier again and you start to grow physically and emotionally distant,” she adds.
Know who you are.
It might sound rather simple, basic and, well, obvious, but think a little deeper into the meaning of this statement. Do you really know what you stand for as an individual? And what are your core values? “Having an awareness of what your values are and how you can strengthen each one keeps you on purpose of being your best, most authentic self,” says House. “Once you have confidence in your core values, you have confidence in yourself, which is important in a marriage.”
Have a life outside your relationship.
Believe it or not, but individuality is one of the most important components to a successful partnership, according to House. “If you're not passionate about your career, find another passion, pursue a side job, volunteer with a favorite nonprofit—just have an activity that inspires you, impassions you, and is just yours,” she says. “Unless you maintain your individuality, and continue to be the layered, dynamic person who your man or woman first fell for, he or she could lose interest.”
One of the most important healthy marriage habits is also one of the easiest: Having fun! “As we get older, don't forget the power of laughter, smiling, and positive experiences as a couple,” says Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., author of Think, Act and Be Happy. “There will be mortgages to qualify for, losses of grandparents, and financial hits along the way, so keep a buffer of positive experiences for the two of you to enjoy together no matter what.”