Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ten things to tell an engaged daughter

It's almost wedding time, and so today, I'm re-posting "Ten things to tell an engaged daughter," the most highly viewed thing I ever wrote anywhere at any time. 

From September 19, 2013:

People think your soul mate is your perfect fit. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
 -- Elizabeth Gilbert.

Very soon, our daughter will be married. In my life, I have attended only a handful of weddings where I was certain it would last. This will be one of them.

And yet, since we reached the halfway point in the planning, I've found myself wishing to offer some parting gift of wisdom. Not the birds and bees talk of yesteryear, of course. 

More of a nests and hives talk.
An argument has evolved between my mother self which wants to share wisdom the minute I earn it, and my better judgment, which knows that unsolicited advice is tolerated more than it is followed. People in love blaze their own path, thank you very much.

And, adds my better judgment:

We customize our marriages. We rise and fall and stumble and glide through them, trading our coins of love and promise to create a new whole that won't leave anyone's unique self out. 

After nearly three decades, we've had our wins and fails and I could offer as many don'ts as do's. Maybe more, unless you ask my husband, who claims not to remember the "don'ts" because he is very good at marriage. 

And, in a discussion of "what marriage is and isn't",  is it better to caution against the things that are sure to damage a marriage? Or share the discoveries which made you understand that marriage is not just something you have in common with your spouse, but a place where you feel more honored, accepted, understood and loved than anyplace else?

And, as I consider offering any advice at all,  should I consider how much difference do's and don'ts advice made in my own life, which was none?

And, yet, says my mother self:

In three days, I will watch my daughter walk into the arms of her man. Knowledge is for offering, like fine food that you've prepared with your own hands. You put it out there, and whoever is hungry can eat. And so, from the turned down pages of my own manual I offer the ten things about marriage I consider most Worth Mentioning. 

Be who you are. You came to the relationship as whole people, with identities and a purpose in life. Feel complete in your relationship, share your happiness, look forward to everything you'll do together, feel better about everything when he walks in the room, miss him when he's gone. But honor your individuality. He loves things about you that you're not even aware of.

Know your marriage. As you know yourself, know your marriage - why you love each other, what you need, what you have learned to give and take - and realize that very, very little of this is visible to others. When people tell you when to buy a house, or when to have children, or why your marriage should be like theirs, remember how much information they are really working with, which is practically none.

We love differently. People can love each other equally and show it very differently. Women of words can be married to men of action if each knows they are loved the best way possible by the other and wish to stay that way.

Talk. Tiny amounts of honest communication - all the time - even when you're not together will keep you in sight of each other. Absent or lazy communication - all the time - even when you're in close proximity to each other is worse than silence.  

Listen. Learn to listen as much as you wish to be heard. You do this now, but life will get noisy. There will be distractions. Listening is not just making eye contact and waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can tend to something else. That's just hearing. 

Show your belly. There are plenty of times when you should play your cards right, not give yourself away, not expose your belly. But in a marriage is not where to do that.  Show who you are. If it's hard to do that sometimes, you're doing it right. 

Bring it up. Even if you are sure what is in his heart, never think you know what's in his mind. Don't let something go just to avoid "clashing." Give each other a chance to be understanding and allow yourself to be surprised.

Use Humor. When stuff  seizes your attention  that won't matter in a year from now, do your best to treat it with humor. Humor heals, humor binds, humor relieves everything in the world and makes life easier. It also improves your facial expression.

Ask. When you do get upset with each other, start conversations with these words:  "I'm having trouble with something but I think you can help." It's amazing how responsive people can be when they are invited to help you, rather than defend themselves.


The most important thing, what will keep you attuned, what will assure you live within the hearts of each other, as well as in the same house, is this:

If it's happy, if it's loving, if you mean it...

Say it.

You make me happy.
I appreciate you.
I love you.
I'm glad I married you.

And in almost three decades, when you are about to watch your daughter walk into the arms of her love, do what I plan to.

Turn to your husband and say:

I would do it again.

Originally posted: 9/19/2013


  1. What a lovely gift to your daughter; to give her your wisdom and such wonderful advice. Congratulations!

  2. How wonderful that your daughter has so much wisdom to glean from you and your marriage. Best wishes for a wonderful weekend!

  3. Beautiful and sage advice.

  4. Thank you all for such wonderful comments. As a mother, you never know what advice of yours will stick. Then, you see your daughter walk into her new life, as I did this past weekend, and you realize, it doesn't matter, because, somehow, she has this.

  5. I started nodding in recognition when you wrote 'that unsolicited advice is tolerated more than it is followed'. So true!
    That said, I love the advice you do have to offer - it's something we can all use, no matter our age or marital status.
    Wishing you and your family a beautiful weekend,

  6. This is such great advice, Susan. For anyone, really.

  7. I took a couple of pieces of advice away for myself. Wonderfully said. I told my kids two things.
    1) During the preparations: Remember how you love everything about each other now. Hold onto that feeling, and respect your differences, don't try to change each other.
    2) Right before walking down the aisle: It's not too late to change your mind. (I know that sounds a bit cynical, but it's something my Mom & Dad said to each of their children.) Sometimes brides and grooms can get so caught up in the preparations that they begin to feel there's no way to say never-mind.
    After 5 children and eleven years of marriage, my daughter asked me why I said told her that. "No doubts on my part. I just wanted to give you permission."

  8. Adela, I agree. It's not a suggestion or doubt that you're expressing, it's just something that should be said, in my opinion. And yes, accept the package as is, agreed. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

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  11. Beautifully written, Susan! It's not only wonderful advice for people getting married, it's also worth keeping in mind for any couple. After a while we tend to take each other for granted and this list is a reminder that that person we fell in love with is still there and that love still needs to be nurtured. Thank you for sharing and I'm not surprised this is your highest viewed post.

    (I'm coming over a little late from Janet's blog, but I was traveling.)

  12. Sorry about that! My computer went crazy spewing out the same comment.

  13. Hi Lynn! Thank you for visiting and commenting, and I agree, it's often with some sort of wake up call that people "look up" and pay attention.

  14. I really love this quote: Women of words can be married to men of action if each knows they are loved the best way possible by the other and wish to stay that way.

    From a woman of words, thank you for putting into words exactly how I feel about my future man-of-action/husband. :)

  15. I love that you said that. I knew what I was trying to say, but it took a while to find the words. They describe my own marriage and are as true as any I know. Thank you.