Bo and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage in March! And celebrate we will! I often wonder what if on so many ideas regarding our marriage. What if we’d sought out professional premarital counseling? What if we’d made a budget together right away? What if we’d learned our temperament to better understand why we behave the way we do? What if?
But I have to stop myself. Asking what if leaves room for regret. We cannot change anything about our past but we have full control over the decisions we make for our future, and that is what we focus on.
Accepting my past and moving forward, there are some key concepts I would highlight if I were able to go back and tell my newly married self some tips. But let’s be honest, I was (am) stubborn, especially as a 19 year old and I almost always have to learn the hard way (sigh). BUT if you’re reading this, and you’re engaged or newly married, hopefully it will highlight some areas you and your spouse could work on!
Here are just four:
1. LEARN TO COMMUNICATE. Communication is not simply about talking, it’s the exchanging of ideas and feelings. We talked about things that were exciting and brought positive emotions, but we avoided any communication concerning things we weren’t happy about. This built up frustration and disappointment over years. In the disappointment of not conveying what we wanted or needed, we became defensive against each other and eventually withdrew emotionally form the marriage.
Communication is a skill that can easily be practiced in the early years of marriage and even engagement! This is actually the best time to implement them. If you can learn to communicate when things are good, it will come more natural for you when you’re faced with a challenge.
Challenge: Can you say what you mean and understand what you hear? When your spouse asks you if you’re ok, do you say, “I’m fine” but really you’re not? When you’re spouse shares his/her feelings with you, can you repeat back to them what it is you hear them saying? For example, “What I’m hearing is …..”
2. CREATE BOUNDARIES. This is where we slowly allowed crisis to creep into our marriage-lack of boundaries. We said “one time won’t hurt” over and over, until it the “one time” turned into daily habits. The biggest boundary we ignored was intentionally choosing our friendships. What we ended up choosing was our party people. We slowly distanced ourselves from earlier, solid friendships to hang out with people that could give us an emotional thrill ride.
Ask me if it was worth it. NO FRIGGIN WAY!!! To this day, we still live with the consequences of our decisions. Please understand that God has completely forgiven our sins, but there are consequences for all of our actions.
Challenge: Together, set boundaries for your marriage. What self-inflicted crisis have you seen that you want to avoid? Affairs, addiction, financial debt? What boundaries can you set together to protect yourself as best you can from a potentially self-inflicted crisis? Make a list and talk about it together.
3. CREATE A FINANCIAL BUDGET TOGETHER. Well this little sentence could have saved us tens of thousands of dollars. Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be a future blog post on this topic! Needless to say, we racked up A LOT of debt in the first seven years of our marriage. It is HIGHLY likely that had we put pen on paper and actually looked at real numbers, we would have stopped spending so ridiculously. What was going out was definitely not coming in. Money is not always an easy subject to discuss, but when we do it properly and with a shared heart, it often has been the beginning of dreams we’ve discovered recently!
Challenge: Go here and print out a budget form for you and your spouse to fill in. If finances are a touchy subject, express your concern by using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. For example, “I would feel more secure if we could take a look at our budget.” Not, “You haven’t taken the time to budget for us, so we need to do something about that.” See the difference?
4. DISCOVER YOUR TEMPERAMENT. The first time I read over mine and Bo’s temperament, I was floored. Before I even fully understood what it all meant, it brought to light so many traits and behaviors that helped us make sense of ourselves. It explained why we act or react the way we do. Knowing these traits has helped us tremendously in knowing each other’s expectations and each other’s perception of a situation.
One interesting thing to point out is that we’ve taken four different personality tests over the years and we have scored the SAME on every one! That is crazy. BUT our temperaments are completely opposite and so on point! Our temperament are the unique traits God placed in us even while we were in our mother’s womb, while our personalities can change depending on our environment.
Challenge: Take a temperament test and discover what your God given traits are and how you can leverage those in your marriage.
Growing with you,