There are lots of things we didn’t know and still don’t. Lately Bridget and I have been sharing stuff we wish we knew with some younger friends of ours (as I mentioned in an earlier blog) so I thought I’d keep the ball rolling here on OrthoPundit. Also we get messages and calls a couple times a week from friends and peers struggling with huge life/business issues – many stemming from difficulties in their marriages. We don’t claim to be experts but we are often able to help so we do what we can for anyone who asks. As long as you keep in mind that there are many ways of doing anything and that free advice is worth what you pay for it here goes with the next round of “The Rules” as we see them.
- You are not the same person at 30 that you are at 20. This seems like a statement of the obvious but it’s important to really think about this before getting married young. We have seen the consequences of the massive changes that take place in the third decade of life and think Millennials have the right idea on marriage and waiting until they are older before signing a binding legal contact to commit formally to another person for the duration of their lives.
- Physical attractiveness is awesome but it’s not the basis for a lasting relationship. Sex is great too and a vital part of a happy marriage but sex isn’t a strong foundation for a long term partnership either. In the selfie economy make sure your spouse has room for you and you for them. Long term, marriage is about companionship. You can take our word for it or find out for yourself but if you’re not able to communicate effectively/intimately with your spouse day in and day out over the long haul, you’ll have a difficult road ahead. Work on your communication skills before, during and after you get married!
- Make sure you and your spouse are of like mind when it comes to the big things. Kids, careers, ambition, travel, geography, saving/spending, religion… and divorce. We see all too often couples and former partners who are terribly unhappy because their core beliefs and wants are not (and have never been) aligned. The chances of achieving ailment on these things after the fact are not good so it’s best to figure this stuff out on the front end.
- Dating is not marriage. The little things that annoy you while you’re dating will become much bigger after marriage. Once you’re married the best behavior masks come off and you really get to know your spouse! This intimacy is an awesome thing but it’s not the same as before you said “I do” and that freaks some people out. Understand this and have the tough conversations BEFORE you get married!
- Make sure you like, or can at least tolerate, your in-laws and that your spouse can as well. If not and you still want to get married then move far, far away from both sets of parents. While on this topic, be sure to make your spouse a higher priority than your parents in every conceivable way – especially if there is friction there. Furthermore be sure it is apparent to your spouse that they are a higher priority than your parents. We have seen failure to do this lead to dire consequences on many occasions.
- Having children is expensive – in time, in money and in physical/mental wear and tear. Having kids will not fix a relationship in crisis. Having kids will not bring you closer. Having kids when you’re struggling with your marriage already is not a good idea for you or your spouse or your kids. Having kids younger has advantages for sure – you’re physically better able to handle it. Having kids later has the advantage of having more experience, patience and hopefully money. We don’t think one is better than the other as long as the relationship between you and your spouse is strong.
- Score keeping has no place in a marriage. As soon as you start keeping score of what you do vs what your spouse does or the sins of commission/omission your spouse has committed, you’re starting down a short road to hardship. Marriage is two people committed to doing more than their fair share. Marriage only works if you both want to be married – even when you’re temporarily upset or angry at your spouse.
- Never, ever threaten or imply that divorce is an option. Once it’s on the table, it’s an option. Once divorce is an option it can seem easier than doing the work to repair your marriage.
- Do some pre-marriage counseling to make sure you’re aligned and buy an hour with a divorce lawyer to learn the consequences of divorce BEFORE you get married.
- The Five Love Languages is a great book. Read it before, during and after you get married. Learn how to show love in the way your spouse expects it and life is grand!
Marriage is a huge topic, we are not experts and this is not a complete list. This is simply a list of some things we have discussed recently with younger friends of ours in hopes of giving them advantages and knowledge we didn’t have.