This is an article I wrote for White Magazine in Australia. It's written for men and women as they enter marriage---but I have taken my own advice a few times reading this and thought I'd share it here with all of you, too. I decided to leave a few of the edits they made that were a little "aussie English" because it's fun. Tire you'll see is "tyre." Pretend I have an australian accent---just for this post. So fun. ;)
Imagine two meteors zooming through the atmosphere and one day they meet in the middle of the universe. Two fiery balls of energy, life and direction who decide that instead
of continuing in their own directions they’d like to come together and be a planet. A happy, beautiful, thriving planet, of course. The intersection of the two meteors is exciting, intense and good—but as you can imagine, becoming one entity will be no easy feat. This is often the way I have described our first few years of marriage.
We wrestled through every decision that would integrate our lives. We loved life together, and we had also created independent lives on our own for years and years that we also enjoyed. We knew the way we liked things, the places we liked to bank, shop, live and who we spent our time with.
Coming together as one was not without its conflict, tears and confusion. The good news? Day by day we’ve created quite a happy planet to live on. Together. It took time, patience and a lot of communication but we’ve found our way into a rhythm that is our safe place to live together: home.
David and I met and married within a year. Our connection and relationship moved fast and we were in our mid-thirties and were ready to live our lives together. As soon as we were engaged, I was eager to register for glasses and cake plates and all the lovely kinds of gifts I’d given 200 of my closest friends at their wedding showers over the last decade. My turn … wait … our turn. This is where my journey towards interdependence began. Independence had been my strength as I created a life on my own as a single woman. I’d purchased a home, chosen a career and changed every light bulb or tyre all on my own. There wasn’t really anyone weighing in on the decisions I made—I had the freedom to choose and create almost every aspect of my life. Now, sharing my life with David would mean things would shift and change. I had another person to consider and had (and still have) some growing to do.
I remember standing in a home store in front of a display of 50 different silverware patterns. I imagined our future children eating off of these forks. I considered years and years of dinner parties and holidays with beautiful linens on our table and carefully placed forks, knives and spoons lined up next to a shiny white plate. Choosing our silverware pattern suddenly felt like such a huge decision. I turned to David with expectation: “Which one do you like best?” I searched for approval and direction. He said, “Honestly, I don’t care. I trust you.” I was annoyed by what I perceived as his apathy. Finally, through my prodding and insistence he picked a favourite pattern. Just as soon as his finger began to point towards the shiny fork, spoon and knife I said “Oh, not that one.” I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating this was for him. He didn’t actually care. He likes my style and choices. I wanted him to care, so he made the effort to have a preference and I instantly shot it down. He gave me a frustrated look. You know the look—the kind that lets you know that you’ve crossed the line and pushed him over the patience threshold.
My desire to include him in the wedding planning process was strong. I didn’t want to be the kind of girl that charged beyond her partner and planned her own “personal princess prom”. I wanted the wedding to reflect us, not just me.
What I learned through the process was that there are simply things he will defer to me on, and others I will defer to his judgement. There will be many decisions we choose to make together. Deciding how to approach a decision, big and small, is sometimes easier said than done.
I suppose that these are the little things: fork patterns, the colours for your wedding, or even which restaurant you choose for dinner.
“Don’t miss this important truth: the little decisions create a pathway into the bigger ones. Think of them as training wheels on the marriage bike.”
Learning how to communicate about decision making can be tough work, but it’s good work. You’ll get there if you keep working towards finding a smooth rhythm in your relationship, but it can be awkward at first.
Here are a few things I want to suggest as you learn to make decisions together:
Listen and be curious
If you can learn to listen and ask questions, you’ll get to the heart of your partner’s preferences, motivations and viewpoint. Don’t interpret right away what you naturally intuit to be true. Be curious and discover the heart of the matter before you move forward together.
Keep calm and communicate
Let your words be true and clear. No-one likes to play a guessing game about what you really mean to say. Passive aggression in the name of people pleasing can be a great barrier in the way of good communication. Be calm, patient, and clear. If you need a moment to figure out what you’re thinking and feeling—take that moment to process and return to the conversation. Take turns communicating and listening until you feel you’ve both been well understood.
Decide how much you care
In the case of the forks and spoons—David didn’t care which one we registered for. He wasn’t apathetic, he trusted my judgement. Learn to let go when it’s not important to you, especially if your partner has a gift in this area or a strong opinion. There will be many more
decisions that you’ll make together. Don’t fight every battle. Decide how important something is and then proceed together.
Seek out mentors and friends
Welcome a few trusted friends into your life to be a sounding board and mentor. Without breaking the trust of your spouse, it can be good to have wise women to lean on as you grow in marriage. Seek out women who have healthy, thriving marriages as a place to learn strategies and best practices. No two marriages are the same, but there are challenges common to most of us. Why not learn from someone further along on the relationship road? Mentors and friends can be a great resource as you navigate the tough stuff.
Understand your conflict and personality styles Decision making can be a place ripe for conflict. When you feel hurt or frustration well up in your heart, learn about how you each naturally react. The more you learn about what makes your spouse who they are, the better you will be to love them and communicate well.