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Getting Married and Staying Married: Advice for a Young Couple
As my husband and I happily prepare to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary this week, I was trying to think of good advice I would give a couple about to be married. I've seen that as a trend at wedding showers lately. Write down some advice on an index card that the couple can put in an album and read later. I never can think of what to write in the noisy environment of a party, so I am thinking about it now. What could I tell a couple while they were still in the wedding planning stages? What would be helpful? What could keep them together for the long haul? What could help them be in the 50-60% of married couples who stay married throughout their lifetimes together? Here is the advice I would give to a couple starting their lives together.
1. Don’t spend all your money on the wedding. Yes, it should be a wonderful day, but the wonder of the day should be about the person you’re marrying and the family and friends that surround you and support you in that commitment. Set a reasonable budget that lets you keep most of your money in the bank for a down payment on a house or just a rainy day cushion. Remember financial stress can be a major contributor to a broken marriage.
2. Keep in mind the major point of the day – that you are getting married. If at the end of the day you are married to the right person, the wedding is a stupendous success. Anything else that happens is just a story you can tell at dinner parties for the rest of your life. So hang on to your sense of humor and your perspective, and enjoy your wedding day no matter what happens.
3. Plan to do the chores together, right from the beginning. Being married is as much about being a working partnership as it is about being playmates and lovers, so start off on the right foot and be partners in taking care of your space. We still do this in my house. Grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, picking up around the house… for the most part we’re working together. It gives us a little extra time together, it makes the jobs more fun, and we both feel we’re participating in caring for the house.
4. Regularly take long walks together, even if it is just circles around the block. I’m not sure what it is about walking but it both calms the mind and loosens the tongue. Some of our best conversations have occurred while we were out for a long walk as well as some of our most effective problem solving. As a bonus, regular walking keeps us healthier and I hope that translates into longer lives to spend together.
5. Always take your anniversary off. When we were younger and still childless we would skip an anniversary gift and instead give each other the gift of a lovely trip together. Now both our time and money are a little tighter but we always take the day off and at a minimum hire a babysitter so we can go out in the evening. I believe the only anniversary we haven’t spent together in thirteen years is the one when I was deployed overseas, courtesy of the U.S. Military who didn’t care much about my anniversary. And even then we still made a point of talking and connecting on our special day. Celebrate each other and your life together!
6. Speak to your spouse with respect and treat them as if they are an honored guest who is favoring you with their presence in your home. Even when you are angry, speak with kindness, stay on point and take ownership of your feelings and mistakes. Make a no-shouting and no-swearing rule. If you get so angry you feel you can’t abide by that rule it is time to walk away. Avoid saying hurtful things; remember that you can’t unsay the mean words, no matter how much you might regret them, when you calm down. There should never, ever, ever by any hitting, throwing, kicking or other types of physical violence no matter what the circumstance.
7. Blend your money but then pull some back out for fun. My husband and I put our paychecks into one shared checking account and savings account that pays the household bills. We have an agreed on budget, which we revise twice a year, and we stick to it. We do not make major purchase (over about $150) off budget without discussing it. Part of our budget is an equal allowance for personal spending that we each receive weekly; the amount has varied with our incomes and other expenses but it is always there. That way we each have money we can spend as we choose, without discussion or argument. The bulk of our money is dedicated to the well-being of our family.
8. Make the effort to meet each other’s friends. That doesn’t mean you should share all of each other’s friends. It’s good to have a few friends that are more yours or more your spouse’s as well as many friends who are clearly both. It’s good to spend some occasional but regular time apart, doing things that interest you and not your spouse. But I’ve met my husband’s friends and he’s met mine, and so we know the people the other is spending time with when we’re not together.
9. Get along with each other’s family. My husband and I lucked out in this department; I love his parents and he loves mine. We got so lucky that his parents and my parents also get along really well and enjoy spending time together, which is awesome for us. However even if you are not so lucky, make the effort to get along. Be polite and considerate and kind, just as you would hope that one day a son or daughter-in-law would treat you.
10. Be faithful and committed to your marriage. Remember that love is not a feeling; it is an action. More, love is a committed discipline. Cheating on your spouse is not an option, no matter how angry or unfulfilled you are. Divorce should never be discussed as a threat. When you have differences, and you will, work them out with the perspective of making a lifetime together work for both of you.