I knew marriage was about the commitment, not the swag, but I have to admit I was partly disappointed when I opened my wedding gifts. I didn’t get one place setting of the nice dishes I’d wanted. Instead, there were practical tools. The blender, a mixer, and a crockpot were nice, but I’d been hoping for crystal stemware. (Don’t all married people have crystal stemware?)
Of course, years later I realized why people didn’t give me the fine china. They knew the basic tools are the things that actually get used. It’s true for marriage, too.
When we start a marriage, we think we know what tools we need to make it successful. <click to tweet>
- We need love and understanding to help during the transition of those first married years.
- We need life-long goals and a plan for starting a family.
- We need to save money for a house and figure out whose family to visit for Christmas.
And those are all important things, but the truth is it’s the unnoticed, practical marriage tools often overlooked that are the tools you’ll need the most.
Here are three marriage tools you might need most:
- A colander to sift out what really matters. One of the things that shocked me when John and I got married was his need to have order in our home. I was a single mom, so I came with a toddler. Toys scattered all over the living room drove John crazy. And after being married for twenty-four years and having six kids, they still do. If I was smart, I would have asked sooner what things John appreciates most when he comes in from work. Honestly, it doesn’t matter to him if the laundry is done. It doesn’t even matter if he has to wait for dinner. Being able to walk through the house without stepping on toys does matter. Not having the trash can so full and compacted that he has to wrangle the bag out (tearing it in the process) matters, too. And he doesn’t like anything sticky—this includes door handles and surfaces. There could be a layer of dust, but as long as it’s not sticky we’re good to go.
- In marriage I’ve learned to communicate better. To ask direct questions like:“Do you expect me to have dinner done/the house clean/items put away when you get home?”or
“What makes you happiest when you walk in the door?”
The answers sometimes surprise me!
- An egg timer to give time to unwind. John doesn’t like to be bombarded with problems, questions, or even dreams/ideas as soon as he walks through the door. Or even as soon as we sit down to dinner. Or as soon as we’re sitting side-by-side in the car.One thing I’ve found helpful is to send my husband an email or text message giving him a warning of something we need to discuss. For example: “There’s a possibility for a work trip coming up for me; can we talk about it at dinner?” And sometimes I give him even more forewarning. “I think we need to go over our budget; can we go out for breakfast on Saturday?”Giving my husband time to unwind and giving him an understanding of things we need to discuss makes discussions go 100% better. I find myself sitting across from my spouse who is ready to listen and solve problems and who’s had time to push his own work problems aside.
- A recipe card for what I’ve got cooking. I’m bad about filing away vital information in my head. I work from home (and work for myself), so I’m the one who sets my agenda, follows it through, and evaluates my work. Too often I know what the plan is for dinner, for cleaning out the garage, or for vacation, but I forget to clue John in. What helps is just giving him an update to let him know what I’m thinking . . . otherwise he assumes that I don’t have a plan and I don’t care.
Focusing on what really matters, giving time to unwind, and letting my husband know about my plans and schedule have been tools that have helped us during these 23 years of marriage. These aren’t the “fancy” marriage tips that everything talks about. But they’ll be helpful for years to come!
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