Dear Younger Me,
You pulled off that dream wedding! Just wanted you to know the next 22 years will be an adventure like nothing you can imagine from those church steps. Yes, you’re going to learn some things the hard way, but oh, they are going to make the later years of marriage so much better. Hang in there, and hang onto one another! XXOO, Older Me
Yep, this weekend was my 22nd wedding anniversary. On a crisp January day, I became Mrs. G. McLeod Glass, Jr. at a charming 100-year-old chapel. With Mom’s help, I had meticulously planned the event and then joined the Sisterhood of 90’s Brides, relishing my puffed sleeves, sweetheart neckline, and full skirts. McLeod, in his suitable-for-daytime-festivities morning suit, wasn’t looking too shabby himself.
Especially since the man wore a cravat for me.
He could have gone straight from the wedding to Royal Ascot.
It was the beginning of a series of concessions he’s made for the last 22 years. Thank you, honey!
Of course, I’ve made concessions, too. Marriage, unlike that well-orchestrated wedding, can sometimes seem like a series of ongoing negotiations, peace treaties, and a few complete surrenders by both parties. If I could give Dear Younger Me a little advice before she headed down the aisle, I’d gently tell her not to get too hung up on controlling everything or measuring marriage success by the absence of conflict. That just stresses everybody out more.
I’d probably tell her a few other things, too (though she wouldn’t hear me because she was waaaaay too giddy that day). Nevertheless, here’s the advice I’d give 90’s-Bride Me, and some great tips YOU’VE shared, too, that might help anyone who’s realizing marriage is equal parts crazy and beautiful.
Stop keeping personal scores. Start acting like a team. McLeod and I try not to waste time tracking who’s “working harder” or “contributing more.” In the hubbub of marriage, work, parenting, and plain old living, some days are just frustrating, but constantly tallying up who’s pulling their weight on any given day creates a breeding ground for discontent. We definitely try to discuss what we need from each other because lo and behold, we really can’t read each others’ minds no matter how much we wish we could. Developing a team attitude means, however, that we’re learning to approach challenges as allies rather than adversaries.
Susan L. says, “This is something we learned during a class or a marriage retreat during that time. If one of us caught the other doing it, we would jokingly yell, ‘Scorekeeper!’”
Don’t fight over ugly-squeezed toothpaste or other trivialities. Not everything has to be discussed and dissected within an inch of its life. JUST BUY SEPARATE TOOTHPASTE TUBES if you can’t share without angst over a squeezy disaster. Put up a door or screen if the chronically cluttered desk drives one of you crazy. If housecleaning help will create a little peace and sanity, eat more rice, ramen, and beans to save the money to make it happen. Nitpicking each other to death serves ZERO PURPOSE.
Figure out how to talk about money without judging or blaming. Then, agree on a budget. Take advantage of good books and coaching on the subject, and if you constantly run aground, get solid Christian financial counseling. What I’ve found, too, is that if you can speak to each other openly and honestly about this tough topic, you will find it easier to talk about other topics, too.
Kerri M. says, “My advice? Live within your means. Don’t let the ways of our current culture influence you to do otherwise, even if it means you don’t have the newest or best “stuff” — and appreciate what you do have.”
Don’t discuss highly-charged, emotional issues (like money!) after 10pm. Agree to put the thing to bed and return to it tomorrow. I used to take the Ephesians 4:26 “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” verse to mean I had to get every issue resolved (to my way of thinking) before the day was out. Yes. Younger Me was a bit misguided.
But holding onto wrath and bitterness is not the same thing as choosing to say, “Babe, I love you and I know we can figure this out when we are rested. Let’s table it for tonight.” Go with me on this—the older you get, the more you find that a lot of things look simpler in the light of a new day.
Avoid criticizing each other to your family of origin. This was advice from my dad just before our wedding. He didn’t mean we shouldn’t look to trusted people for advice about struggles, but he was cautioning us about running down our spouses to our parents and close family because even when we as a couple have patched things up, Mom and Dad will still be stuck siding with their child against his or her spouse. Not a great way to strengthen a young marriage.
And a final word on those inevitable mistakes and shortcomings: learning to forgive each other and extend grace to your own self in the process is at the heart of good, strong marriages. If forgiveness is something you struggle with, check out my friend Cayli’s article on what it really means to forgive and forget.
Janell C. says, “Don’t waste time on past mistakes. They are over and you can’t undo them. Just remember, you tried and did your best in the moment. Learn and move on.”
Maria B. says: “Forgive yourself — you are perfectly made and mistakes are shaping your soul.”
Next week, my friend and fellow-writer Dena Douglas Hobbs jumps on the blog with what she’d tell her younger self about the race for success. In the meantime, keep sending me your “Dear Younger Me” ideas!
Want to make changes in how you approach ALL the relationships in your life? Looking for a new devotional book for the new year? New Woman, New Clothes: Outfit Your Soul to Live, Lead, Love is available on Kindle as well as in print. Check it out!