Dear 100 Hour Board,
What's one important piece of advice you would give newlyweds? For example, my dad told me, "People will tell you to never go to bed angry with each other. But that's dumb advice. Just get some sleep. Sleep will make things feel better in the morning."
-it's me, i'm newlyweds
Congrats! I first thought that I agreed with your dad, but I'd like to qualify that after reading Goldie's answer - not going to bed angry only works for some people. I always end up crying and feeling sorry and waking Pebble up to apologize so we can sleep properly. So really, my qualification to "don't go to bed angry" is "don't start arguments when you're tired."
Frankly, most of my advice comes from reading The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman & Nan Silver... so the best piece of advice is to just buy and read it together. It's the best marriage book out there, and it overviews all the stuff they'll teach you in the Family Life classes. Plus, it's backed by the science of marriage satisfaction literature. It's a winner. Here are 3 highlights that have helped us the most:
- Maintain your friendship. Just be best friends. Sometimes using the 'marriage' label makes everything feel so serious and complicated... and it is more consequential, but it doesn't change the fact that the root of a happy relationship is friendship. Spend time together doing hobbies, do the things that made you like each other in the first place. Go on adventures and learn new things about each other. (This is principle #1, enhancing your 'love maps')
- Get good at disagreeing. You're not going to get along all the time, even if you feel on cloud nine right now. After a couple of arguments, it should be obvious what your "patterns" are. Pebble and my arguments tend to start when one of us makes a complaint and the other person gets overly defensive. So, based on the Gottman stuff, we've been working on assuming the best of the other person, making good complaints (I'll explain that in a second), and actively trying to stop being defensive in response to a mostly harmless comment. It's working VERY well. To this point as well, learn to recognize when they offer you an "olive branch" during an argument. Take any opportunity you can to de-escalate conflict and apologize. Both people need to apologize, say I love you, and understand the feelings of the other person.
- Learn how to make a good complaint. Instead of being accusatory when your spouse does something you don't like, use this formula: "I feel ___ because ____ (not 'you did ___'), and I need you to _____". Example: "I feel frustrated and flustered because there is laundry on the floor. Could you please pick up your clothes from the bathroom?" The point of this type of complaint over "You always leave laundry on the floor and it's so annoying!" is that you're taking ownership of your feelings, identifying your needs, and removing blame from the situation. This allows both people to effectively communicate and meet each other's needs. (Principle #3 is 'turn toward each other, not away')
Other things I've found to be really important in our marriage:
- Stay organized. You'll quickly get frustrated when there's no method of knowing who's going to do what and every day is an endless cycle of "what do you want for dinner? / I dunno." You will be happier if you talk about it and agree on a process/routine. It probably doesn't apply equally to every couple, but we have a whiteboard and chalkboards where we write down our to-dos, menu, goals, and grocery list. Every other week, we create a menu of items for lunch and dinner, which I use to create the grocery list. Pebble gets to pick dinner off of the menu, and we do date nights on Thursday or Friday. The organization reduces frustration and provides necessary structure to our family. You'll need it when you have kids, but it's best to establish it now.
- Learn to focus on the positives of your person. I've found that personality is a double-edged sword. Every personality trait you love about your spouse also has a "dark side" that will drive you crazy - but you can't pick and choose which parts of them you get, so focus on the good side. For example, Pebble is VERY funny. He cracks jokes about everything and always has me laughing. It's one of my favorite things about him. But for this same reason, he cannot hold a serious conversation to save his life. When I want to talk about something serious like our budget, he starts joking around and it used to make me feel like he wasn't listening... but I've learned it's just part of who he is, and I wouldn't trade his humor for anything. The other person can get better at addressing these differences, but ultimately you will be happiest when you are grateful for their quirks.
- Budget for each person to have personal spending money that has no rules attached. Some people call this MAD money, I think it doesn't need a name. You need to be able to get yourself something without justifying it in the budget. We budget $50 a person a month, which doesn't all get used - but it's there if you need/want to use it. I normally buy stuff like face masks or bath bombs, Pebble likes to save his up for fishing gear.
- Assuming you're LDS, get off the 'sex is awkward and I don't want to talk about it' train as soon as you can. You've been conditioned your whole life not to talk about it, and so when you start talking about it, you might feel weird. You don't know what you want, you might feel awkward or self-conscious, maybe guilty, and all of that is normal. But if you don't communicate what you want, when you want it, or how you want it, you will ultimately feel frustrated and sex will not benefit your relationship like it should. So even if it has to start out a little silly or timid, I would encourage you to get more comfortable talking about your sexual relationship with your partner.
My biggest piece of advice is that every marriage is different. What works for one couple might not work for another couple. I do, however, feel like there are some tips that are as universal as I can think of:
- Treat each other with respect. This should go without saying, but it happens all the time where one spouse doesn't treat the other spouse like an equal partner.
- Realize that just because you had an argument or fight doesn't mean you have a bad marriage. It can mean that, but it doesn't always mean that.
- Don't be ashamed or embarrassed of your body. No matter what you think is wrong with your body, your new spouse doesn't care. They just like seeing you naked.
- Communicate clearly and frequently. Don't assume that your spouse knows what you want or need. If you want or need your spouse to do something or not do something, you are responsible for communicating that.
- Do something selfless for your spouse every day and don't expect anything in return.
- Keep pursuing your interests, hobbies and friendships. Marriage shouldn't mean only doing things with your spouse.
Anyway, I hope these help. You're going to have a great marriage!
-Sunday Night Banter
Dear It's Me,
So... I actually think your Dad is wrong *for me*. I take some time to myself when we're disagreeing and tired. I cool down, process everything, and then I go back to Carl and we discuss it calmly. I've tried falling asleep angry but it doesn't work. Carl falls asleep and I just lay there and then I have to wake him up to talk it out. It's so dumb and I get irritated that he can fall asleep and I can't. I think each couple needs to decide what works best for them. Whether it be to go to bed angry or to stay up, spend some time apart, and then go back together and talk about it civilly.
My parents just hit their 40th wedding anniversary and I had to ask them what marriage advice they would give. They stated two main points.
- Have a spiritual foundation in your marriage. Have your couple prayer at night, read the scriptures together, or go to the temple (right now you can walk on temple grounds during the COVID era.) If the Spirit can dwell in your home then you're already setting yourself up for a successful marriage. Do things that invite the Spirit.
- When you get into arguments, have both of you say "I'm sorry" to each other. Don't be shy about saying it! Realize that sometimes one of you contributed more to the argument and other times it was the other spouse. Talk about what you can do better in the future. Communicate these things so there isn't any pent up frustration.
Am I married or do I really know that much about being married? NOPE! But I DO listen to a lot of podcasts that cover a variety of topics. So my advice is to check out the episode, "What Makes Love Last" from the podcast "Unlocking Us with Brené Brown". The guests for that episode are Drs. Julie and John Gottman, who are literally experts on marriage and how to make them last. I think you'll find some great gems from there.
First of all, congratulations!!! Isn't it great? Yay for being married and props for getting married during the whole COVID mess. Marriage is great and you don't have to wedding plan and you can go to sleep at 9:30.
As cliche as this, I would have to say the #1 piece of advice is to communicate openly, honestly, and charitably. My wife is a therapist and has done relationship counseling and she is amazing at communicating. It makes everything easier. If you can earnestly listen to your spouse and empathize with them it will make everything better.
Hope this helps!