Monday, May 21, 2012

5 Don’ts to a Happy Marriage

     This is the month.  As a matter of fact, it’s less than a week away; that fateful day where the first of the children will be leaving the nest and getting married.  Okay, he’s already left the nest, three times, actually.  However, this time it’s a home that he’s moved into and with his bride-to-be he’s decorating and putting it all together.  We stopped by the other day so they could show it off and they have created a beautiful nest that doesn’t look anything like a dorm room decorated with Star Wars posters and empty pizza boxes.  Thank you, Christina.

       In just a few days, they will be husband and wife, and I’m happy for them.  I feel confident that the two of them will succeed and live a long and prosperous life together.  It’s a family tradition, after all.  Char and I have been together for twenty-four years, my parents forty-seven and my aunt and uncle longer than that.
       However, even though I believe Nathan and Christina have what it takes to make their relationship work, what kind of father would I be if I didn’t butt my nose in and offer unwanted advice?  So, I’ve come up with five do’s and five don’ts to help new couples survive the gloomy statistics.  I’ll start with the don’ts and next time share the flip side.  Perhaps I’ll even post it on Nathan’s Facebook wall so that he can’t avoid it.  I’m sneaky like that.

Don’t try to have everything Your Parents had
Nathan and Christina are just starting out and while their wedding registry is listed everywhere and they’re going to receive some awesome gifts, they won’t receive everything they want or need.  Knowing how these things work, they are probably going to get four toasters and three hand mixers and not that lamp they want.  They’ll get tons of wash cloths to scrub their bodies with, but no towels to get the water off.  When it’s all said and done they’ll step back and look at what their parents have and they’ll say, “We need that.”  Of course, I’ll have to say, “Nathan, put my Star Wars books back,” and he’ll sulk for awhile.  Still, he’ll survive.
The fact is that most of us will survive without what we think we “need.”  It’s a sad commentary on our times that wants have become needs, but too many people believe a flat screen television with an X-Box is a basic need nowadays.  The urge for most young couples is to have everything in their home that their parents have, all the gadgets, nice furniture, and Disney coffee mugs.  However, what many tend to forget is how long it took their parents to accumulate that mass of useless gizmos.
People don’t get married and suddenly have everything they need and want.  It takes years of hard work, doing without and pinching pennies.  By trying to have it all in the beginning you will only cause debt and stress and new couples do not need either.  They’ll be stressed out enough once they see what each other looks like first thing in the morning.
Spend your money and time on each other and not on what you think you desperately need and you’ll discover that what you can’t do without is your spouse.

Don’t Always be Practical
Being practical is also being responsible, but sometimes it’s best to not be the former.  Diligent practicality can be boring.  Life needs spontaneity and a path without risks will not stretch you.  Sometimes life can press in on you with overwhelming intensity and you feel like you’re going to explode like a zit on a teenager’s face.  It’s at that moment that you need to do something unexpected before you’re wiping your sanity off of the pristine walls.
Life is about taking chances.  Don’t be afraid to swim against the stream of popular opinion telling you how you should live your life.  Dare to not only dream, but to go after that dream.  There will always be bills to pay and laundry to do, but there won’t always be this moment right now.  Grab it and squeeze every minute out of it you can.  The dishes can wait until morning once in awhile so that you can enjoy that spontaneous burst of energy and imagination.

Don’t Over Schedule Yourself
Everyone will want a piece of you and you’ll want to accommodate them so that no one gets their feelings hurt.  Add to that work, church, maintaining a home and soon you’ll find yourself too drained to invest time in each other, and that’s why you got married in the first place.  You saw something in your spouse that made you say, “I want to spend time with this person above everyone else.”  Yet, the two of you are never alone long enough to explore those gifts you both received at your bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s important that you socialize and visit family and going to work is the one practical habit that you should keep, because while your parents want you to visit, they don’t want you moving back in.  We’ve worked real hard getting you to the point of moving out.  Besides, I like my office.
No, while you need to do stuff with family and friends, you must also allow time for yourselves.  You will never get to know each other if you are always surrounded by other people or constantly busy with events and gatherings.  Even after so much time, this is one area the girls and I struggle with on a regular basis.  We love to be social and will flood our Day Planners with cookouts, dancing, and parties without taking time to catch our breaths.  We have to check ourselves constantly before we wear out.  However, it’s usually too late.
Don’t be afraid to say, “No,” to some invitations and don’t feel guilty no matter how hard people may try to manipulate you.  As long as you’re balancing everyone, then they should support you staying home and investing in your relationship.  If they do not understand, then perhaps those are the people who deserve less of your time.  Value that moment alone and always protect it even if you have to block off hours or dates on the calendar.  You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t Build Separate Lives
I’ve never understood this.  Why get married to someone if you’re never going to do things with them?  I’ve known couples who have taken separate vacations, have separate friends and even separate hangouts and bedrooms.  They’ve dwelt together for years, but they have never lived together.  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t say, “I do,” just for a roommate to split the bills with.  I want a spouse that I can build a life with.
I can understand an occasional girl’s night out or a guy’s pickup game - basketball, not dates - but I don’t get it being a habitual thing.  Our desire is to share experiences together, to see that expression on the other’s face when they try crawfish for the first time; to see the fear in their eyes as the ship tilts out in the Atlantic, or hear them scream, “Get me out of this graveyard!”  I want to see the girls dance and they need to help me into the car afterward.  Memories are far more special when experienced together and not just heard.  I want us to grow old and nostalgic together, not separately.
While each may have their own hobby, they should show some interest in what brings delight to the other.  While I may not enjoy scrapbooking or painting, I can take pleasure in the joy it brings them and share in the products.  Couples who do not partake in each other’s pastimes or delights will never go deeper than the surface of the relationship.  Separate lives mean shallow lives, at least as far as the marriage is concerned and there’s so much more to be had in the deeper waters.  I don’t wish to do things alone nor do I want to recite how my trip went when I return.  I want them there, every step of the way, telling me I took the wrong turn.

Don’t Go to Bed Angry
An oldie, but a goodie, I know, but it can’t be repeated enough.  Arguments happen, feelings get hurt and someone gets bent out of shape.  Expect it.  Any couple that tells you they’ve never had an argument is either lying or they live in separate time zones without cell phones.  It’s not whether you’ve had a fight or not that makes you a strong couple; it’s how you survive the fight that strengthens you.
You never want to start a day mad at each other and the best way to avoid that is to not go to bed angry.  You won’t be able to sleep anyway, so you might as well hash it all out.  Oh, you may think you’ll be able to sleep, but you won’t.  You’ll lay there, body tense with emotion, screaming at your spouse in your mind as you let them know what an idiot they’ve been.  Of course, I would caution against allowing what rattles inside your steaming mind from finding its way out of your mouth, because then another argument will ensue and you’re back at square one.
This also keeps arguments from lasting days or weeks and no one is stuck sleeping on the couch or running home to mother.  Trust me; Mom likes visits, not roommates.  She tried hard to get you out and is enjoying her freedom.
Before your emotions stir up more trouble than it’s worth, take a break.  Go for walk, take a shower, or watch an episode of Friends, anything to help you calm down and then come back and together reach a compromise.  You’ll both sleep much better.

There are other don’ts, of course, like don’t clip your toenails in bed and don’t suggest a former lover’s name for your first child, but these are enough to start with.  Besides, it’s what the girls said I should put down and it’s too close to bedtime to argue with them.
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