I’m about a month away from getting married. My fiancé and I have been together for almost two and a half years, most of it long distance. As we inch closer and closer the big day, I’ve become more keenly aware of some simple do’s and don’ts that make life, and our relationship, so much more enjoyable. These aren’t hard and fast, they’re simply things that we’ve found to work for us and I think most people would find, can really help eliminate some of the petty issues that arise in relationships.
Good communication is so much more than being able to talk to your spouse about anything and everything. Good communication means you are able to clearly
express and articulate what you’re trying to say, in a way that he or she understands. It is wonderful to be able to talk openly about sex, kids, finances, problem areas etc but if a wife is unable to communicate a want, need, desire or concern to her husband, for any reason, there is a breakdown in communication. Good communication between a husband and wife means that the message gets through with it’s intended meaning still intact. Sounds simple, but anyone who has been married can attest to the fact that what is said, isn’t always what is heard.
Lose Your expectations
I lucked out. My fiancé loves to clean and do laundry. It’s like a drug for her. Seriously. Dirt doesn’t stand a chance on our floor but if for some reason I thought something needed a good cleaning, all I have to do is say something to get her mad at me, and she’ll deal with it by cleaning.
Kidding aside (I don’t actually do that) I’m blessed by how nice she keeps our place, but I didn’t expect that of her coming into this. I don’t expect dinner on the table when I get home, I don’t expect her to handle all the grocery shopping and I won’t expect sex every night when we get married. Our expectations about roles in marriage usually come from what we observe in our own family growing up. It’s understandable why that happens but it’s wrong to bring those expectations into your own marriage. It goes back to communication and those things, in my opinion, should be talked about LONG before the marriage subject comes up. Marriage is the coming together of two individual, selfish people with their own lists of wants, needs and desires. Expecting the other person to complete you or be some sort of savior is a recipe for disaster.
Have Grace for the Small Stuff
Life alone is enough to derail you. Whether you want it or not, everyone deals with illness, financial crisis, job loss, in-laws, flat tires and car problems. Arguing about leaving the toilet seat up or down or squeezing the toothpaste from the middle verses from the end is only going to cause small rifts between you that will increase the likelihood of a blow up later. Have grace and patience in the small areas where the other person may irritate you, and work on correcting the things in your own life that might bother the other person, majoring on grace and not turning little things into more than they need to be.
Try to Out Serve each other
Do small things to make life easier for the other person. This will look different in every relationship but do nice things for each other. Kelsey and I don’t live together, but I come over for breakfast and coffee every morning on my way to work. I leave before her so on cold mornings, I scrape her windshield so she doesn’t have to. She has the coffee prepped in the machine the night before so all I have to do is hit the button when I come in in the morning. There are dozens of other small things we do for each other but the bottom line is, it makes life just a little bit easier for each other.
Care less about Golf
Golf is a metaphor. It stands for whatever your “thing” is. Your hobby. Your pastime. The thing you can’t wait for Saturday to be able to get away and do. Sure when you were single you could play as much golf or Call of Duty that you wanted but getting married means you are giving of yourself which most practically means you have less time for you.
I’m not saying you have to kiss it goodbye, because sure we all still need a little “me” time, but over the years, the people I’ve seen that have the best marriages, have the least time for themselves. This is in stark contrast to our culture that would say “take care of yourself first” but take a look around at our culture and society and tell me if you really think they’ve got it figured out. Besides, it’s good practice for when you have kids. Again, the best parents I know are he ones that have little time for themselves because they’re so entrenched in loving and serving their families.
Embrace Your Role
I know what your thinking. What a tool. Well deal with it. Like it or not, God has made us differently. Women are better home makers and guys are more physical. Or should be (although guys today seem to be increasingly more femine, right down to the skinny jeans they wear.) I’m not saying women can’t or shouldn’t work, I’m saying AROUND THE HOUSE take initiative in the areas your spouse is less likely to. Guys, learn some basic auto maintenance, basic plumbing skills and how to unclog a garbage disposal. If you have to call a professional every time something malfunctions you’ll go broke.
Ladies, PLEASE learn some basic cooking skills. You don’t have to be the Pioneer Woman but it’s a safe bet the guy in your life hasn’t learned to cook. For your health, and the health of your family, learn how to do more than heat up tater tots and corn dogs in the oven. (Bonus for the guys: learn your way around the kitchen as well. She’ll be impressed.) Parents today are so bent on making their kids happy they quit teaching them basic skills to help them function in life, let alone succeed. Whether male or female, bring some practical skills to the table for the betterment of the relationship.
Easily said, not so easily done. Like it or not, technology has made us “available” at virtually every hour of the day. For those that are committed to their job (or addicted to social media) it means that we are seldom, if ever, “disconnected.” If you don’t learn to unplug you never will. There will ALWAYS be some situation that needs attention or some sort of fire that needs to be put out. Learn to unplug and be “present” early on before your own home and family goes up in smoke.
Tell or show the other person how much you appreciate what they do. My fiancé leaves me notes 3-4 times a week telling me thanks for something specific. We go out for a meal and she tells me thanks for buying lunch. In all actuality, its OUR money, not mine, but she knows I’m a little more savings oriented and would typically rather eat at home than go out, so she thanks me for being willing to go out and spend some money on us. I can’t begin to tell you all the ways that she shows me how much she appreciates the things I do for her and I try very hard to show her how much I appreciate all that she does for us.
Talk about Money
More than simply talking about it, come up with a plan, together, on how you’ll spend it and stick to it. You are married. In my opinion it’s no longer YOURS and MINE but OURS. Have one account, agree on bills, spending money, and ALWAYS be in agreement on big purchases. It takes honesty, commitment and tons of discipline, but coming up with a financial plan you both agree on is the best way to avoid marital breakdowns revolving around money. It doesn’t mean problems won’t come but the impact will be less as long as both people remain open to communicating about how money is to be spent.
I used to naively think that when I was married, I would have no greater desire than to spend hours upon hours, sitting on the couch meeting my wife’s every need for fellowship and intimacy. (I know what you’re thinking…oh barf!) The reality is, as much as I love Kelsey, there are a million other things going through my mind at any given moment. At times I feel like I need a personal assistant just to help me handle the logistics of being alive. Whether it’s setting reminders in my phone, texting her during the day to say I love you, or putting a date night on the calendar two weeks in advance, I need to be intentional in how I continue to pursue her. For me, that usually means loosening the strings on the wallet. Not that she’s high maintenance, but things like flowers, a night out or bringing Jimmie Johns home for dinner, goes a long ways in helping her feel loved.
I’m no expert and I’m confident the learning has only begun, but these are a few things I believe that have and will continue to give us a firm foundation as we move into the next season of our relationship together.
What would you add to the list?