Prioritizing your marriage over your wedding is a beautiful place to grow from. While the wedding day itself is dreamt of, saved for, and planned out, it can be magical without being financially detrimental. You’ll find you carry over some of the same conversations you had while planning your wedding while having conversations about preparing for marriage. What you two talk about in regard to how to save money for the big day will probably lead you to some great ideas you take with you after the wedding season.

It wouldn’t surprise me if you talked about:

  • Cutting down on how often you eat and drink out
  • Combining subscriptions like Netflix, Spotify or Apple Music
  • Buying some used things instead of buying all new things
  • Setting saving goals
  • Packing your lunch
  • Paying off debt
  • Asking friends and family if they have something you need

Research from the Gottman Institute shows that one of the biggest reasons couples fight is because of money. You can avoid this by getting on the same page and goal-setting together! When the two of you have a conversation about how you spend your money separately and how you can save together, you’ll find that while working as a team, you’re strengthening your relationship. You’ll inevitably align your priorities and practice making important decisions together. It’s a win-win. So let’s get down to business: You want to save money for your wedding, so here are some great ways to do so with a little advice from NerdWallet and my own wedding experience!

Money-Saving Tips for Planning Your Wedding:

If you’re expecting to be engaged soon, start saving.

If you know the two of you are planning to get married, start saving as soon as possible! My husband and I looked at our monthly income and cost of living and found room where we could save. Some months we saved $500 each, some $300. You have to figure out what works best for you. The best part about starting a few months prior to being engaged is that we could pay for things as we made decisions and we knew we had stability from the get-go.

Consider having an intimate wedding!

COVID-19 has made guests joining in over Zoom or Facebook Live sexy. All of the money you’ll save on food, beverages, a DJ, venue, extra hours from photographers, the rehearsal dinner with extended family, bridesmaids and groomsmen can go straight into investing in your own marriage! Maybe you can save money based on what you were willing to pay for a bigger wedding and put it away as an emergency or fun fund!

Skip the Saturday wedding.

Planning your wedding for a Sunday or weekday can save you thousands! (I know from experience—my husband and I saved $1.5k by having a Sunday wedding.)

Think outside the box for a venue.

Vacation home, if you know someone with property, government-owned historical sites, restaurants, State Parks (so, so cheap), etc.

Use the venue’s resources.

Using a venue that offers chairs and tables is a huge plus! Ask what’s included.

Design and send your own invites. Go paperless for the younger friends!

Canva has tons of free designs. The two best pro-tips I can give is to only send formal invites to those you know wouldn’t be as tech-savvy and email the rest. If you do decide to print, here is part 2: use Staples to print. Don’t upload your design as an invitation, but as a postcard! It cost us maybe $48 for 250 “Save the Dates” and postage costs less for postcards as well! We did the same things with our invitations but put them in an envelope and used the back as a place for more information. (P.S. The average cost for stationery/postage items like those listed is over $400… I just told you a way to do both for about $100). My wedding planner book told me to budget $800?!?

Buy Wholesale Flowers.

You can put arrangements together yourself and save $150 alone on what people charge for making bridal bouquets!

Check the sale rack and wedding dress samples first!

Your dress won’t be any less beautiful if you get a great deal.

Borrow anything you can!

Everything from accessories, centerpieces from friends or family members who have gotten married, decorations… anything!

Cut down on a store-bought cake.

Trust me, you don’t need as much cake as you think. Get a nice personal cake to cut into for you and your spouse and ask some friends and family to make the rest. This worked out beautifully for us.

Limit Plus-Ones.

If someone isn’t seriously dating, they don’t need one! On the flip side, just because someone is dating, doesn’t mean you need to invite the significant other—especially if you aren’t close to them! If someone is coming from out of town, offering a plus-one to travel with is thoughtful.

Be up front with each other while planning your wedding and figure out what your priorities are. Remember, your wedding day is the beginning, but your marriage is the rest of the story. One of the best reasons to save money on your wedding is so you can invest directly into your marriage! Enjoy this season, but anticipate the sweetness that follows. Being married is just the best!! (I’m biased, but I’d like to think I’m also honest.)

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As a young girl, I grew up in a neighborhood that was primarily boys. So, I played football, kickball, basketball and baseball with the guys. Throughout high school and college, I always felt comfortable around guys. They were like big brothers to me. I remember one incident when I was going on a date in college. The guy came and picked me up from my dorm. As we drove off-campus, my “brothers” surrounded the car to make sure that my date knew that I was to return to campus in the same condition that I left it. I remember feeling cared for and protected by their actions. As a result, I continued to foster and build these relationships with opposite-sex friends – until I met my husband and got married. 

I saw nothing wrong with having opposite-sex friendships after getting married. To me, they were purely platonic. However, my husband had concerns. After a discussion with him, I took a closer look at my past interactions with my opposite-sex friends—even the ones that I felt were like “brothers” to me.

Questions to Ask

I had to ask myself some questions about the state of these relationships and how they impacted my marriage. I found questions from Dr. Todd Linaman, therapist and executive coach, that I chose to ask myself.

  • Is my spouse aware of the closeness of this relationship?
  • Do I compare my spouse to my opposite-sex friend?
  • Has my spouse expressed concern about this friendship?
  • Have I ever ignored or resisted my spouse’s request to modify or end this relationship?
  • Is there a past romantic relationship or do you fantasize about a romantic relationship with your friend?
  • Is there any attraction (sexual/physical) to my opposite-sex friend?
  • Would I feel uncomfortable if my spouse had a similarly close friendship with someone of the opposite sex?

If the answer is yes or even maybe, I need to reevaluate my friendships by:

  1. Setting Appropriate Boundaries. I recognized that spending time with, sharing experiences, disclosing thoughts and feelings are ways to build intimacy. Prior to marriage, I may have shared my time and my experiences, as well as my thoughts and feelings, with my opposite-sex friends. Now, I realize that sharing like that should be primarily with my spouse. 
  2. Being Open To How Your Spouse Sees Things. It’s important to be open to your spouse’s concerns. Yes, this has been a long-term friendship. However, your spouse might see romantic overtures that you’re blind to. Take a moment and consider your spouse’s viewpoint.  Even if you don’t agree with it, you should respect their feelings. Remember, they only want what is best for you and your relationship.
  3. Building A “Friendship” With My Spouse. It may be sad to lose a long-standing relationship. However, making and creating time to build a friendship with your spouse can help fill the void. Explore your hometown for adventure and experiences. Seek out new interests together. Share thoughts, goals, and dreams with your spouse.

Our friend groups went through change when we got married – including our opposite-sex friendships. I have a great deal of respect for my husband because he never demanded that I give up my friendships. He only wanted me to do what was in the best interest of our marriage. I made some intentional choices when it came to opposite-sex friendships after marriage.

Looking back, I would say I have no regrets.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Need some guidance in creating good, strong boundaries for your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

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  • How to talk to your spouse about opposite-sex friends
  • What a good boundary for your marriage looks like
  • Practical ways to build trust between you and your spouse
  • 4 ways to connect well with your spouse & strengthen your relationship well
  • How to create boundaries with the parents and the in-laws
  • The 4 main thefts of intimacy and how to protect your marriage from them
  • AND MORE!

Marriage is the best! But it’s not perfect. If you’re engaged, I think it’s only fair someone breaks the news to you. There are some definite misconceptions about marriage you should know before you say, “I do.”

Having recently been in your shoes (about a year ago now), I’m glad to have figured this out! My hope is that you have an amazing first year of marriage and many years to follow. A great place to start is with clearing up a few misconceptions about marriage. Whether you are finding out about or being reminded of these 5 things, I encourage you to seriously consider them. 

Misconception #1. Marriage will solve whatever problems you currently have.

As amazing as that would be, a title and official seal of foreverness does not equal problem-free reality. If you know something is creating friction for you now while you’re engaged… work on it before “I do.” The hardest conversations are always worth having and though they may not feel great in the moment, they are more than likely the most important to have. (Besides, you may have the luxury of going back to your own place if you need some space. Once you’re living together you only have a few rooms to work with, and that may only be the bathroom if you’re in a one-bedroom like me!) You want to start this new chapter fresh. Lessen your baggage by bringing in more solutions than problems. You have to put in some legwork, but it’s so worth it!

Misconception #2. Your spouse will be the only emotional support system you’ll need.

Wooowee on this one. Let me tell you, you will be very disappointed if you fall into the trap of thinking that because you’re marrying someone to be their one and only, they’ll be the only one you need. To hold an expectation for your spouse that they are the only key to your happiness, comforting you when you’re sad, or even magically want to pick up and join you in all of your hobbies is to be disappointed. Just like you, your fiancé is human and when they become your spouse, they will be human then, too. 

My dad died unexpectedly this year, one month into our marriage. I am 24, so it feels young. Though my husband was absolutely there to hold me, I needed someone to talk with to verbally process what just happened.

My husband is an internal processor and doesn’t want to say anything until he feels like he has the right words to say. Instead of putting pressure on him to try and talk to me in depth about what was going on and potentially being upset by how he handled it, I called my best girlfriend. She processes things like I do. That’s what I needed. This didn’t make my husband any less loving or capable (because goodness he is the most loving)it just gave us both the space to do what we needed. He supported me by not leaving my side and holding me while my best friend talked me through my emotions. 

It’s healthy to have people you can depend on outside of your own home. Having an opportunity to navigate this so early in our marriage really got us on the right track. Even though it was a painful and tragic thing to happen, it was so good for our marriage because it reminded us that we don’t have to carry the weight of being the only source of stability for each other. It takes a village!

Misconception #3. You’ll hang out all the time because you live together.

Would be nice, but isn’t exactly as it seems. I hope I’m not breaking any hearts here—I’m just wanting to be honest with you. Though you do spend a lot of time together, it looks different than while dating. Your love life and work life are a little more separate when you aren’t married. I love the perks of coming home to my handsome man. We share bills, chores, meals over candlelight, and a bed! 

Despite coming home to each other, if you both work a full-time job, that’s 40 hours a week apart (let’s set COVID-19 aside as the exception here for a moment) you aren’t together. Then you come home, if you work out after your job, have to make dinner, clean up, shower or prepare for the next day of work, you begin to notice how coming home at 5 and getting enough sleep leaves only a few hours to get everything done. 

Just breathing the same air or sitting on the same couch doesn’t mean you’re really connecting. We are so guilty of being on our phones while next to each other and look up at the time and just ask where it went. We’ve gone to bed saying “I missed you today” or “I feel like we didn’t even see each other!” while being in the same house. (Let’s bring COVID-19 back for a moment because this was recent while working from home!) 

Quantity of time together doesn’t equal quality. Quality time takes being intentional and showing an effort. If you are blessed enough to have the same schedule, use it to your advantage and enjoy each other and enjoy meaningful time together. There are many couples who don’t have the luxury of sharing meals together with one person working the night shift and the other the morning shift. I’m not trying to guilt trip you into hanging out… ok, maybe I am just a little, but you’ll thank me. Have a family meeting and talk about your schedule. Pencil in quality time together.

Misconception #4. The first year is the hardest year.

I’m going to be honest. Hearing people say this frustrates me. Your first year does not have to be your hardest! Take it from someone who has dealt with: losing and starting a new job, losing their father, my husband being crashed into while driving my car (that we just had fixed), my mom getting in a wreck, my husband’s trip to the ER (an expensive date for four stitches lemme tell ya), my husband getting more responsibility at work which meant more work at home, unexpected bills, family members in the hospital, COVID-19 and quarantine… I could go on. That all sounds like a recipe for conflict and stress—but it wasn’t. Each situation that went wrong was an opportunity to grow closer together.

Was it hard? Some parts, but it was also so sweet. In the midst of all of those things: we fell more in love, rescued two of the sweetest kitties, got to travel, went  camping, played tons of games, experienced new things, danced in the kitchen (many times) while making dinner, laughed at each other and ourselves, came home to our best friend, spend more uninterrupted quality time with each other than ever before (thank you, quarantine), learned new things about each other, shared stories, made a lot of memories, and the list could go on. 

We consciously made an effort to continue pursuing each other, assume the best of one another, have a good attitude, resolve conflict, and be romantic. 

We have been together almost 8 years and this year topped them all. If you put in the work and continue to pursue each other, I bet your first year can be wonderful despite whatever life may throw at you.

Misconception #5. Your spouse will know everything you want.

So remember how I said your fiancé, once you marry them, will still be human when they become your spouse? Yeah. This remains true a few paragraphs later. Unfortunately, when you reach husband or wife status, you don’t become a mind reader! (Mind-blowing, I’m sure.) I am SO guilty of this, and I definitely have a natural ability to pick up on feelings other people don’t. (For you Enneagram people out there, I am a 2!).

I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have had the conversation about needing to tell each other what we need and what we want. Sometimes, when we assume, we get it wrong. You know how the saying goes. Even though you two know each other better than anyone else, it’s dangerous to presume that they know what you mean without saying or explaining it. You’re going to have to keep working at communication.

This goes back to the expectations thing I mentioned before. You have to play your part in informing the other person what it is that is really on your mind and heart. Communication is king. If there’s one thing to become a pro at in marriage, it’s communicating (I’m sure you could think of a few more areas to be well-versed in). 

Communicate often and clearly. Never put yourself in the position of thinking you know everything there is to know about your spouse. You’ll get bored! Being married isn’t a finish line—it’s the beginning of an ongoing process.

*Helpful hint for the ladies: they still don’t pick up on hints. Just save yourself the trouble and ask very direct questions, *wink wink.*

With these common misconceptions about marriage out in the open, I hope you have a better understanding of what not to expect. Truly, perspective and expectations are everything. You and your fiancé will navigate all of it together—you aren’t alone! As some of these things try and sneak their way into your marriage, I hope you feel equipped to kick them out! Oh, and smooch along the way… it’s good for you.

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Being engaged is like being in limbo. You’re excited to be engaged but more excited to be married. It’s a season of anticipation and possibly a lot of frustration if you aren’t careful.

My husband Tyler and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I can confidently say that being married is way better than being engaged. As we reflected on our first year of marriage, we also talked about the time leading up to the wedding. We also discussed what we would’ve done differently during our engagement.

Do yourself a favor, and consider some of these tips so that you can enjoy more and be annoyed less.

1. Set Strong Boundaries ASAP

You’ll be surprised who comes out of the woodwork once you’re engaged. People you haven’t talked to in years ask when and where the wedding is (fishing for an invite). Relatives say “we’ve waited so long for this” (like they also got engaged). Plus, family members have a list of questions a few hours after a ring is on it (wanting to take control and get the ball rolling.)

Before you start trying to answer all of the questions rolling in, have an intentional conversation with your fiancé. Decide together what you’re going to say to the random friends in your DMs, to the distant relatives, and most importantly, the role you want your parents to play. 

One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to delegate some of the tedious legwork to your parents or go-getter friends (bridesmaids, groomsmen) on the front end. This will give you time to think about the questions that will follow. (All the while, you still get to make them feel important and a part of what’s happening!) For example, ask your parents to start making a list of who all they think needs to be at the wedding. Of course, mention you and your fiancé have the final say, but I would really appreciate their help. 

One important boundary to set for yourself is permission to say no, I don’t know, and I’m not ready for that yet. If you don’t want the help, don’t have the answer, or aren’t at that place in the planning yet, then speak up about it. You don’t have to decide on the spot to appease someone.  

2. Spend Quality Time Together

Tyler and I had opposite shifts at our jobs and didn’t live together before we got married. I would go in to work as he would get home from work. Unfortunately, this left very few times (normally once a week) that we could see each other during our six-month engagement. When we did see each other, wedding planning dominated our time. We didn’t get to enjoy being engaged as much as we wanted to because we prioritized work and sleep, which hear me out, I recognize is super important. However, some sleepy workdays would’ve made a world of a difference. If a day full of yawns here and there meant we got to hang out and just do life together rather than only plan a future life together, I think our relationship quality would’ve been better. We both do.

When you’re engaged, if you’re not living together already, you are ready to. That’s a part of the excitement about getting married! So we fought against the nature of what we wanted and felt like we needed by not squeezing in more time to date each other. Plus, when you are only answering questions from family, friends, vendors, etc., it’s easy to get overwhelmed and be short with each other. I promise you won’t regret setting aside time. I suggest that you spend time together at least once a week (whether it’s in person or over FaceTime). Here’s the catch though—like a game of Taboo, you can’t bring up the wedding!

3. Have A Couples’ Shower Or Party with Close Friends

Brides get a lot of the attention during this season and on the wedding day itself. I’m not saying I didn’t love it. Looking back though, I wish I had made celebrating my man just as much a priority. At the time, he so didn’t mind. Tyler is humble and never wants to be the center of attention. In fact, it was a win-win to him that someone could throw me a bridal shower and he could get all of the gifts without the small talk.

We also thought the rehearsal dinner would be the perfect time for everyone to celebrate us together. However, we recently decided that as perfect as our rehearsal dinner was, it was hard to talk to everyone! And, we loved being celebrated together. Looking at each other from across the room and talking to our friends and family as a couple was so sweet. We’d had a taste and wanted more!!

If you have a lot of friends that live near you, I would consider doing a local Couples’ Shower, pre-wedding party, or whatever you want to call it! Embrace the joys of the engagement together.

If we had been better about those three things, we could’ve really enjoyed our engagement season for all that it was. Congratulations on your engagement! 

I hope your engagement season has minimal stress and maximum joy!

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This engagement season is something you’ve looked forward to. Being able to tell your family and friends that someone loves you so much that they want to spend their life by your side. In this season of excitement, planning begins and you ask each other questions about what you want your life together to look like. 

However, for some of you, this season is weathering you. You’re tired of your fiancé saying, “What’s the rush on getting married?” “Why do we need to pick a date for the wedding? Let’s take our time.” Or something along the lines of, “Can we just enjoy being engaged for a while?”

I understand how frustrating that can be. You’re ready to run with the momentum. You’re committed and you don’t feel the need to postpone the inevitable. 

If you feel like there’s something getting in the way of your fiancé wanting to continue forward, be a compassionate investigator and figure out why. 

One reason could be that you were planning to marry during the pandemic and have had to rethink your wedding. This planning shift can muddy the conversation because it is something that has been outside of your control. If you two aren’t wanting to do an intimate wedding and would rather keep your plans, choosing a new date is in order. However, that in itself can be stressful. There is uncertainty right now with the ever-changing guidelines from the CDC. Plus, you’re in the midst of navigating a new normal. You are not alone, though. You are with 64% of couples having to postpone due to COVID-19. What should encourage you is that only 4% of those have completely canceled the wedding according to Forbes

You have an opportunity to evaluate the next steps together. If you have been quarantining together and have been struggling to get along, take some time to evaluate what’s going on. Talk about what you two can do to fix the problems. Acknowledge that this could be a part of the hesitation to set a date. Here is a blog with questions to ask each other before coming out of quarantine.

Dig Deeper

If you know quarantine isn’t the culprit in the feet dragging to pick a date, here are some insights from relationship experts.

Psychologist Dr. Seth Myers is the author of Love Prescription, frequent blogger for Psychology Today and guest on “Good Morning America” and “The Early Show. ” He has spent years working with couples at his private practice in Los Angeles. Meyers suggests having a sit-down dinner with your fiancé with a calendar and notebook in hand and discuss the wedding. If you have an idea of when you want to be married by, lead with that. If your fiancé says that it’s too soon, ask why and provide solutions. 

For example, if finances are a concern, be willing to compromise. Suggest a smaller wedding that you two could afford given your present financial circumstances. If your fiancé says that finances aren’t the only thing keeping him/her from setting a date, pull out your notebook and say you’ll make a list of what needs to happen in order to move forward and start planning. Give him/her a reasonable timeline and be as flexible as possible.

Dr. Meyers says if your fiancé keeps making excuses as to why the goals cannot be accomplished and continues in the “What’s the rush to get married?” mindset, it may be an appropriate time to consider having a conversation about calling off the engagement.

Be careful of letting “buts” get in the way of what is best for you both. Author of How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk,” Dr. John Van Epp reminds us that it’s easy to make ourselves think that we have to stay in a relationship. He says that’s not true, though. Just because you’ve dated forever, live together, you don’t want to break their heart, and/or love their friends and family doesn’t mean you need to be together. It’s a tough call to make when you’re invested, but it’s necessary if it’s best for the both of you. 

Your feelings are valid, and what you’re going through others have experienced as well. At the end of the day, you are making a life-changing decision, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you want to continue to get to know your fiancé better and navigate this season in a way that gets you to a wedding date here are two blogs to help. One is on expectations and the other is on questions to ask before “I Do.”

Marriage is a beautiful thing when both people are all in. I hope that this helps guide you in what you need to do next.

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One-bedroom apartment.

Two newlyweds working from home now.

Multiple video conference calls (sometimes simultaneously).

Only two options for “getting space”: Bathroom or the balcony.

Lots of uncertainty and anxiety in the air amidst a pandemic.

Time to work on those healthy communication skills.

I’m sitting on the couch with my husband when the phone rings. We pause our movie, he answers and all I hear is “Mhmm, yeah…okay, yeah.”

His family friend has a nice car and is offering it to us before anyone else and for a good price. Hmm…

Mind you, we have been saving for about 10 months now to replace my husband’s car. It’s been on our to-do list before all of these COVID-19 precautions. We both were antsy to check it off.

Now normally, I love a good deal, but I had to ask myself (and him), “Is this good timing?”

To be honest, a lot feels unknown. We don’t know the ramifications COVID-19 will have on the economy and making a big purchase scares me a little bit…a detour from our original plan feels necessary. To him, we’ve had a goal in mind, we’ve worked hard and this is a great opportunity. 

This could be a difficult conversation.

During this pandemic, I’m sure you can relate to having your fair share of challenging conversations, too. There are lots of new, important things to talk about. Money is a touchy subject as it is, and during a time when no one wants to handle money and is quarantined, the irony felt all too coincidental. For us, this was a potential relationship landmine. 

The last thing we need to take up space in our little apartment is tension. There’s not enough room for the distance created by the lack of good communication.

If you create distance because one of you or both of you are pushing away your feelings, rather than pushing through them, then you create an opportunity to have that gap filled by things that only make matters worse. Disappointment, resentment or misunderstandings start filling the gap and then you two have enough tension to fill a guest room that you don’t have. 

You can’t fix a problem you don’t know is there and neither can your spouse. Neither of you is a mind reader. Conflict isn’t comfortable—I won’t sell it to you like it is. But I will be honest—it’s often a chance for growth and a better understanding of each other.

You aren’t doing life on your own anymore. Important decisions are made together. I mean, as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” 

And we had to put our heads together on whether this is a good time to buy a car or not. Who knows how this conversation will go? We often have to work to not get defensive of our own opinions. We agreed that at the end of this difficult conversation, both of us need to feel heard and cared for.

Before we tried to come to a conclusion, we set ourselves up for success.

We made each other feel safe to share opposing opinions and we listened with the intention to hear each other and respond—not just make a rebuttal (as tempting as that can be.)

  1. We made sure we had time to start and hopefully, finish the conversation. 
  2. Both us of put our phones aside, made sure our schedules were clear and we made resolving our conflict a priority.
  3. We chose a spot where we felt comfortable talking. 
  4. We reminded each other before we started making our points that this is our decision to make, no one else’s, and that we are on the same team. Win together and lose together. We replaced the “me” in mentality with “we.” What is best for us?
  5. We actively listened. (Meaning, we “listened” between the lines of each other’s answers and made sure to ask each other clarifying questions. Call us compassionate detectives.) “Are you scared of spending the money we saved for the car because of what’s unknown in the economy or are you really worried about your job?” “Are you not worried about using our savings just because we’ve been saying we would get a car, or because you feel secure in the foundation we laid for ourselves?
  6. We found a solution and made a plan where we both compromised a little while still reaching our goal. We are going to try and sell Tyler’s car before we make the purchase of the new-to-us car. That way we won’t drain our savings during an uncertain time and we are still marking off something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making happen.

Maybe it’s been a stressful, exhausting week already and you don’t want to add to it. It’s possible you fear what the other person may say or worry they won’t see your point of view.  Maybe it’s as simple as you don’t know where to start.

Make good communication a priority, now more than ever.

Remind yourself to push through and have those difficult conversations rather than push away the emotions. Remember that good communication will help both of you grow and find better ways to love each other.

In marriage, you should be able to rest confidently in the fact that your partner chose you, chooses you and will continue to as you do all the same things for them. If you both put the effort into making your marriage a safe place where you two can fully express and be yourselves, then the rest, even a difficult conversation, becomes easier.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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My wife Kristin reminded me last night that we have our wedding anniversary coming up next week! Let me be real with you – it would have snuck up on me anyway. However, with everything happening with working remotely, the kids being home, and the pressure to practice healthy social distancing, it honestly slipped my mind. Really – that’s my excuse! But not my wife, obviously. Nothing gets past her.

After nonchalantly acknowledging her reminder as if I knew it all along, she joked that we may be celebrating by eating fancy steak dinners in our car served from the curbside delivery that area restaurants are starting to offer – especially since they are closing their dining areas and only offering to-go orders. And then it hit me – we can’t celebrate like we really want to.

There are so many occasions, celebrations, and events that people have planned – that you have probably planned – that now we can’t go through with or do the way we originally wanted. Birthday parties, special trips, anniversaries, graduations, religious services, kids’ sports events – even enjoying the professional and college basketball seasons – all put on hold, canceled, changed.

I get it. In addition to our wedding anniversary, we’ve canceled our original plans for one daughter’s birthday party, a special trip to New York for me and our other daughter, a trip to Denver for my wife, and most of my daughter’s track meets for the season. It stinks. And it makes us sad, and maybe angry. Not to mention all the other emotions stirred up by the current circumstances. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re beginning to lose things – a sense of normalcy, the thrill of celebration, the expectancy of fun and new experiences. And all that time and energy (and possibly money) you’ve spent making plans. It’s disorienting. And it’s unfair.

When you lose something, you grieve. Right now, we’re grieving normalcy. We need to acknowledge that and call it what it is.

Among many other things, we are in a time of grief for plans that have gone down the drain. Let’s think about that for a moment. You’re grieving the loss of expectations and dreams of things you would be doing just like you’d grieve the death of a family member, or a pet, or the loss of a job.

Try not to think of grief as a single emotion like sadness or sorrow. Yes, it’s perfectly normal to have some strong feels when you know you can’t celebrate your child’s birthday like you were hoping. But it’s helpful to think of grief itself as a process that involves complex emotions. And contrary to what some may believe, grief is valuable and healthy. It reminds us of what we care about. Grief helps us come to terms with the loss we feel and the emotions that follow. Which is why it’s so important to talk – and give our family members the chance to talk – about what it is you’re grieving. Giving words to what you’re feeling about losing that trip or that party or that graduation ceremony is healing.

That being said – grief is not a place where we want to camp out. The grieving process should help us to move forward at a healthy pace. So what does moving forward look like for you as you grieve plans made and lost for these next few weeks?

Here are some ideas:

1. Don’t not celebrate.

(Ok, I know that was a double-negative.) On the contrary, replace the plans you had with something. Can’t go to the jump-park for your son’s birthday party with friends? Celebrate at home with the family and a Nerf gun war and serve some ice cream. Graduation ruined? Conduct your own graduation ceremony, complete with a “Pomp and Circumstance” processional, a commencement speech by a family member, the throwing of the cap and lots of pictures. Baseball games canceled? Two words: backyard kickball! Make the best of alternate plans with creativity and a shift in your attitude.

2. Be sure to take pictures and selfies of whatever you do.

Although the memories you expected to make aren’t happening, there will be a day you look back and remember this crazy time. Having the visuals of how your family persevered through this will provide strength for challenging times in the future. It’s a way of reinforcing the idea that “we came through that – and by golly, we even had some fun.”

3. Shift your focus from the plans you weren’t able to do and onto the people you are now with.

So you’re eating anniversary lobster from the front seat of your sedan rather than a candlelit restaurant table. Switch your attention to the person eating lobster in the passenger seat next to you, enjoy the moment and just have some great conversation. Don’t forget to wear your lobster bib.

4. Finally, have hope.

We know that times are uncertain, but I think it’s important to keep in the forefront of our minds that there is an “other side” to all this. Birthdays and anniversaries come around about once a year (from what I understand). The beach will be there after COVID-19 has run its course (I’m no doctor, but I do think it will run its course if we all do what we need to do and stay home). And let’s face it – we won’t have to watch professional bowling or darts on ESPN forever.

Share this hope with your family. You’re all grieving to some degree. Allow the grief process to move you forward, make memories, and focus on the ones you love rather than the plans that were lost.

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Even after being married for 30 years, I vividly remember our first argument after we got married. It was intense and to be honest, it scared me. In my mind, I thought, “Wait, we are happy and we love each other, but happy couples don’t argue, do they?”

I wish I knew then what I know now: Happy couples do argue.

In fact, they actually argue about the very same things unhappy couples argue about – money, children, in-laws and intimacy.

Amy Rauer, associate professor of child and family studies and director of the Relationships and Development Lab at the University of Tennessee, along with three colleagues—Allen Sabey at Northwestern University, Christine Proulx at University of Missouri and Brenda Volling at University of Michigan—looked at two sets of couples who described themselves as happily married. One group averaged 9 years of marriage and the other group 42 years of marriage on average.

Couples ranked the issues they tended to argue about from most to least serious. Intimacy, leisure, household chores, communication and money were among the most serious, as was health for older couples. Jealousy, religion and family fell on the least serious end of the spectrum.

Researchers saw that these couples focused on the issues with clearer solutions. These solutions included division of household chores or how to spend leisure time. The couples rarely chose to argue about harder-to-resolve issues, which Rauer suggests could be one of the keys to their marital success.

“Focusing on the perpetual, more difficult to solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship,” says Rauer.

Longer-married couples reported fewer serious issues and argued less overall, which is consistent with previous research suggesting that older partners’ perceptions of spending less time together may lead them to prioritize their marriage and decide some issues are not worth fighting over.

When it comes to not discussing the more difficult issues such as health and intimacy, researchers said that part of the challenge is when spouses believed talking about it might make the partner believe they were challenging their competence or it would make the spouse feel vulnerable or embarrassed, which might result in more conflict.

“Since these issues tend to be more difficult to resolve, they are more likely to lead to less marital happiness or the dissolution of the relationship, especially if couples have not banked up any previous successes solving other marital issues,” Rauer says. “If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues.”

There are several really useful takeaways from this study.

  • Learning to choose your battles matters. Early on, it might be a little more difficult to discern what is a mountain and what is a molehill. Some of this can happen through conversation and some will happen through experience. The most important thing? Focus on the issue and don’t point the proverbial finger at your spouse.
  • Differentiate between issues that truly need resolution versus those that you can set aside for the time being. Sometimes timing or taking time to process can make all the difference. Some challenging issues really do require an amount of simmering to figure out what you think before you can even talk about a helpful resolution. Plenty of long-married couples could tell you that sometimes there is no quick fix. It may help to talk and think, then repeat the process over time in order to solve certain problems well.
  • Seek solution-oriented. Clearly, couples who focused on working together to find a solution seem happier in their relationship. Also, working as a team to solve less-challenging issues builds confidence that is helpful when tackling more complicated issues.
  • No matter what stage of marriage you are in, there will always be something to argue about. Remember – your spouse is not the enemy. Choosing the issues you will focus on matters. And making some intentional decisions together about how you will engage around those issues will impact your marital happiness, for better or for worse.

Even after 30 years of marriage, obviously there are issues that still arise.

We have learned over time that many of the issues we spent a lot of time and energy on were molehills. Ultimately, we began asking, “Is this something that will matter a month from now or six months from now?” If the answer was yes, we began to problem-solve together. If the answer was no, we stopped letting it distract us from what really mattered – our marriage.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 15, 2020.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Let’s be honest—boundaries can be hard to talk about for everyone. “Can we talk about boundaries with opposite-sex friends?” or “We need to talk about boundaries with social media. Both of those topics can easily be construed as passive-aggressive suspicion or even a flat-out accusation. 

So, let’s change that. Let’s take a look at why we need boundaries in the first place.

For any relationship to be healthy and thrive (and I do mean any relationship– marriage, in-laws, friendships, co-workers, even your relationship with yourself) there need to be some boundaries that are in place and respected.

These boundaries not only help us avoid uncomfortable, hurtful, even relationally destructive things, but they also help us feel safe and secure and allow our relationship to grow and deepen. They define and celebrate our relationship.

Boundaries are both a sign of and a byproduct of emotional and relational health. Boundaries show that we understand and respect where we end and where the people we care about begin. Saying “I do” is by definition saying, “I won’t.” A spouse that thinks they should be able to do whatever they want doesn’t understand marriage. But we’ll get to that…

Now, here’s the good stuff…

Boundaries help us avoid things that could damage our relationship, but they also allow all the good relationship stuff to happen. They help provide an environment where intimacy can grow and thrive. They are what makes us uniquely us. So, if we need to talk about boundaries with our spouse, let’s lead with the positive.

Even if your spouse really does hate boundaries, hopefully, they are down to talk about how your relationship is special, can grow, and how you can achieve deeper levels of intimacy. Try framing the conversation that way and see what happens.

Don’t forget the flip-side. Even if your spouse “hears” negative things when they hear the word “boundaries” rest assured they have their own list of things that help them feel safe and secure in your relationship. That’s just Being Human 101.

This can be a great place to start the conversation!

  • When do you feel the safest and most secure in our relationship?
  • What do I do that makes you feel guarded or uncomfortable?
  • When do you feel the closest to me? What do I do that hinders that?
  • What situations feel like a threat to our relationship being the best it can be?
  • What are your expectations when it comes to _____?
  • What are some healthy goals for us when it comes to _____?

When you start a conversation like this, you are showing how much you value your spouse and your relationship.

The word “boundary” is nowhere in sight. BONUS: you are leading the way with trust, respect, and vulnerability. You are starting with their needs. Also, notice the phrasing here. These aren’t “yes” or “no” questions like, “Do I ever do anything that makes you feel insecure?” You don’t want to stop the conversation before it has a chance to start.

Knowing your relationship goals, expectations, comfort-zones, and well… boundaries show that you are self-aware, emotionally mature, and value your spouse and your relationship with them. Even if your spouse hates talking about boundaries, don’t be afraid of these conversations; navigate them like the positive conversations they should be.

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

Need some guidance in creating good, strong boundaries for your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How to talk to your spouse about opposite-sex friends
  • What a good boundary for your marriage looks like
  • Practical ways to build trust between you and your spouse
  • 4 ways to connect well with your spouse & strengthen your relationship well
  • How to create boundaries with the parents and the in-laws
  • The 4 main thefts of intimacy and how to protect your marriage from them
  • AND MORE!

What people believe about marriage may surprise you.

At the 2019 NARME Summit in Nashville, Dr. Scott Stanley shared what people are thinking about marriage using the latest marriage and cohabitation research.

If you’ve heard that married couples have a 50% chance of eventually divorcing, did you know that this statistic pertains specifically to Baby Boomers—the most divorcing generation ever in U.S. history? The news is better for those marrying today—their lifetime risk for divorce is only around 38%.

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