Yesterday was my and my husband’s 13-year wedding anniversary! I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since we said “I do” in our $500 wedding ceremony! Seriously! Where does the time go! Being married for only 13 years hardly qualifies me to give marriage advice, but I did want to share with you a few things I’ve learned to be super helpful if you’re newly engaged (or even newly married).
Before getting married, have an honest conversation with your soon-to-be spouse about money. Be willing to open up about how much debt you have. How much money do you make, and what your budget looks like. Or be willing to open up about not knowing how to budget. I know it’s awkward. One of the biggest mistakes Pat and I made early in our marriage was keeping our accounts separate and acting like “his” and “my” money. As I say in my book, Getting Good with Money (I devoted an entire chapter to managing money with your spouse for this very reason!), you and your future spouse are going to be a team, and a team has to be playing on the same field to win.
It’s important to be willing to have these weird and awkward conversations about money before getting married. It will help paint a realistic picture of what the two of you can afford together.
If you’ve been around here long, you’ll remember that my husband was an Atheist when I married him. I’m a devout Catholic. To say that we were unequally yoked would be an understatement. But this is also why I think it’s important to have conversations about your religious beliefs before getting married, especially if the two of you differ. Are you going to raise the kids in yours or their religious customs? Do you two want to try out together other denominations to see if you can find middle ground? What does each of your particular beliefs look like around things like sex (sex before marriage/birth control/sterilization/etc.), alcohol use, service, or missionary requirements? What will the holidays look like?
Again, I know it’s awkward, but this is all a part of growing together. If you want to have a truly intimate relationship with your spouse, having these awkward conversations before walking down the aisle can be very, very helpful! And this is one area where Pat and I did talk in length about before getting married. So there was no question when kids came along about how we were going to raise them in terms of religious beliefs, and there was no confusion about the fact that I would be at church every Sunday even when on vacation.
Just like discussing your religious beliefs and how you want to raise your kids in those beliefs, you also need to have conversations around the possibility of having children. Do you or your future spouse have strong feelings about one of you staying home with the children or not staying home with the children? What about schooling options – any strong opinions there? What are the values or character traits that you plan to instill in your children? Where do the two of you see eye-to-eye and where do you differ?
And just to be clear, you don’t hold a crystal ball. As someone who has suffered for the last six years from secondary infertility, I can tell you that children, or at least biological children are not always a given in marriage. So even though you may plan out that you want X amount of kids and how you’re going to raise them, make sure you hold all those beautiful plans with loose hands. I would actually encourage you to picture your future spouse as a parent and as someone willing to hold your hand while walking the painful path of infertility.
This is going to be a big one but is also one that we struggled with hard in our first year of marriage. I come from a family that values boundaries, and my husband, well, let’s just say they’re the opposite. That’s not a bad thing – but overstepping boundaries is. And don’t worry, we had to put boundaries in place with my parents, too, so it just wasn’t my in-laws. Boundaries are good and helpful, but the two of you will need to decide together what they are. And you’re going to need to be willing to support the other one when they hold fast to those boundaries, especially when they’re holding those boundaries with your parents. It’s not an easy thing to do. You’re going to be tempted to take your family’s side, which is why it’s important to establish your and your spouse’s boundaries for your families, so you’re both aware.
5. Love Language
This one is weird, I admit, but if you’ve never read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, I highly encourage you to do so! In fact, I encourage you and your spouse to take the free quiz online here. Why? Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 13 years of marriage, it’s this: Not everyone says “I love you” the same way, and not everyone receives the message of “I love you” the same way.
For example, one of my husband’s top love languages is physical touch. That’s number 2 for him. For me? It’s number 4. In fact, sometimes I don’t want even to be looked at much else be touched! But my husband? He needs that hug and kiss when he gets home from work. He needs the snuggle on the couch. These are ways that he receives the message of “I love you.” Me? I’m more of an acts of service kind of girl. Nothing says you love me like you scrubbing a toilet.
Knowing these “weird” ways each of us interrupts “I love you” helps us better know and understand each other. If my husband is super stressed, he may need me to walk up and hold his hand spontaneously. He needs that more than me writing a love song and painting it in the sky. And chances are you, and your future spouse are opposites too.
You Don’t Have to Have it All Figured Out.
Seriously. Don’t let this post stress you out. You don’t need to know every little nuisance detail about your soon-to-be spouse in order to have a wonderful life together! In fact, that’s part of the fun in getting to spend the rest of your lives together – you get to figure it out together as you go! So use this post as a guide to help facilitate some questions that need to be discussed and then throw up that prayer to our Heavenly Father and allow Him to guide you two for the rest of your lives together.
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