In my previous entry, I gave a reflection on some of the things that would've been helpful for my wife and I to have known before we got married.
If we're really honest, we stepped into a lot of landmines our first year of marriage. That's not to say the second year was a walk in the park but the perspectives we gained each passing year made a difference.
So with that being said, here's part 2 of what we wish we knew:
1. It's about Financial patterns, not just payroll.
We know money isn't everything. It can't buy happiness.
We also should know money is still something and it can buy other things. Money is a necessity.
So you should at least take a moment and consider the financial situation to-be and even his or her occupation before you tie the knot.
"No! We're in love and we'll get through anything!"
"Anything" in theory sounds romantic. "Anything" in reality is terrifying. Unexpected health issues and medical bills can be very costly. Car accidents happen too and children are expensive.
But outside of what you want your spouse to make (if he or she works that is), equally important if not more so, will be his or her spending patterns.
Here's what I mean: Imagine a woman marrying an investment banker whose passion and hobby is sports betting and weekends at Vegas as opposed to her having married a school teacher whose hobby is running.
Ok, dumb illustration. But the point is, who's really better off financially? The person with a higher income potential who spends lavishly or the person who makes a decent amount but is frugal with his money? I think the latter. Especially, with a little time, and a few wise decisions, the frugal person could amass greater wealth.
Earning potential is important, but spending habits are more important.
Remember, earning potential reveals one's field of work, but spending habits reveal a person's heart. Pay attention to a person's spending habits and you'll see what they truly love despite what he or she may say.
2. COMPATIBILITY IS really A VALUES GAME
When you hear people talk about relational compatibility, have you noticed how it's often within the categories of personality or interests?
They'll say things like, "We're having conflict because one person is expressive and the other isn't." Or they'll say, "Our interests are just way too different."
Though I get it, I'm not convinced those differences are as big a deal as people make it out to be. After all, we learn to cope with different personality types and frankly, it's not hard to adopt other people's interests. Isn't that part and parcel to functioning in society?
Values on the other hand? A bit more complicated.
Values are a person's internal life pillars.
These are pillars that have been forged on account of time-tested beliefs and convictions which have been seared through childhood experiences, dyed with key emotions.
And these pillars become the building blocks and guiding principles which begin to reach out and shape a person's decision-making and therefore, reality.
People don't get that sad or angry over a divergence of interests or personality type. They get sad or angry over someone misunderstanding or belittling their values. So it's important to get clued in to your future spouse's true values.
If he or she says "family" do they mean nuclear family or extended as well? Does it mean living close to his or her parents and what implications does that have during holidays?
If someone says "career" do they mean simply "having something of their own on the side" or does it mean upward mobility as far and fast as possible?
It also means being aware of your own values as well.
Married couples can have a friendly banter over chick-flick vs. action, but it can be World War III when it comes down to something like family growth vs. career growth.
Can values change? Yes, but only with time and some pain.
Looking back, I don't think my wife and I were fully cognizant of the other person's values as much as we thought at the time, but we're thankful we share key values such as family, the local church, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
3. expect moments of buyer's remorse
Married couples may hesitate to share this but there will be moments in your marriage when one or both of you will have regrets about marrying the other person.
And you know what, that's totally ok.
I know some sub-cultures paint a picture of marriage that's rosy and shiny, but marriage is tough. It's two broken people trying to make life work so that already invites a wide range of emotions.
In fact, it's okay to feel a lot of things in marriage. There may be moments of fear, worry, anger, sadness, loneliness, and so forth.
But that's where individuals must remember their marriage vows. You know, the whole being faithful in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, stuff? The very things every marrying couple promises to each other on their wedding day?
I think this is what I love about the Christian view of marriage as being covenantal rather than contractual.
Contractual can say, "I feel this way, therefore, I'd like to exercise my rights in my contract." Covenant says, "I feel this way, but regardless of how I feel, I will honor the covenant."
When my wife and I returned from our honeymoon, we felt buyer's remorse pretty early on and often. I think there were moments when we felt that way during year 1, year 2, year 3, year 4, okay you get the point.
The amazing thing is that if you will hold on and hang on, those moments of regret can be displaced by even greater feelings of gratitude and love.
Though our marriage today is far from perfect, I cannot imagine life without my wife.
4. early chemistry frustrations can become healthy solutions later
Pun intended and I could totally be wrong, but I sometimes wonder if our perceived chemistry issues with someone are overblown and perhaps revelatory of our own issues more than the relationship itself.
Here's what I mean.
My wife is a really strong planner.
This drove me nuts when we were dating because events and days felt suffocated by her planning. But I've realized overtime how much of my life had been squandered due to a lack of planning. She wasn't being suffocating, I was just accustomed to slothfulness. Today, I am so thankful for her planning prowess. She makes our life as clutter free as possible while maximizing and optimizing situations for our family's benefit.
Here's another one, I am an encourager by nature. Early on in our marriage, she felt like I was just giving empty words and stuffing the pillow of optimism. She's more grateful today for my encouraging disposition and my verbal re-coloring of situations on her behalf.
So when I hear dating people say things like, "Yeah, it's going well, but I'm not sure if we have real chemistry," I can't help but think they're pointing the finger at what they don't like about the other person while ignoring their own idiosyncrasies.
Because maybe the perceived chemistry problem is actually more indicative of their own issues than the other person's.
Maybe it's a "you" issue.
I'm not saying put up with every quirk in your dating partner and be okay with everything. I'm just saying before you blow the whistle and call foul on chemistry issues, be open to the possibility that it may be your own faulty interpretation and even more, it might be an uncomfortable thing you actually need as a person.
Relational chemistry is a long distance run. Don't treat it like a 100 meter dash.
5. Your Marriage starts long before you say "I do"
Someone shared a funny story with me a while back about running a 5k (3 miles) but didn't bother to train.
He said he literally went from couch to 5k, got through the run, but didn't feel so good afterwards.
Granted, a 5k isn't strenuous, but I can't help but wonder if we treat marriage this way.
We live however we want, put on our wedding suit or dress, and start running while thinking, "This doesn't feel so good."
The irony of the wedding day is that every groom and bride is trying to look as good as possible. They're trying to be the "best version" of themselves because the race is starting, but doesn't everything feel hopeful during warmups? Will they be ready for the runner's wall on mile 13?
My wife and I shared a laugh the other week when she joked, "After 31 years, you've finally blossomed honey."
I can laugh about it but I think the single biggest regret in my marriage is not having been the best 23-year-old version of myself on our wedding day. I just kind of showed up.
I wish I had given her a wiser, stronger, more disciplined, more thoughtful version of myself when we had gotten married. Instead, I was training while running the marathon with her.
A good friend of mine used to always say, "There's no light switch." And he's right.
There's no light switch when it comes to our character and habits.
We can't "turn it on" all of a sudden. But we can fan the flame of greater godliness everyday through small moments where we don't cut corners, tell the entire truth, wake up 5 minutes earlier, eat an apple instead of fries, and so forth. Actually fries are ok, you get the point.
When I compare and contrast our first year of marriage to year eight, it's not even close. We're exponentially healthier today than back then. But it took some time.
If you're single or dating, don't be so hard on yourself. Take a deep breath and take one tiny step to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday by God's power.
If you're married, take two deep breaths. Every marriage has its ebb and flow and if you'll look at your spouse long enough, you'll see him or her as being more beautiful and mature today than wedding day.
There's a lot we wish we knew before we had gotten married.
We're really glad Jesus knew it all.