It’s not abnormal for people to want to protect themselves. After all, self-preservation is the natural instinct of most human beings. Since most of us have been single – unmarried – for at least eighteen years, we’ve spent a good amount of time learning to meet our own needs. In the teenage and early adult years, self-preservation is a good thing. It means making the education, career, and financial decisions that guide and direct your life’s path.
Single people, and for the sake of this article, I mean unmarried, make a life-changing transition when they marry. When you choose to make a life with someone, your heart is now completely attached to another person. You have to learn to feel vulnerable, to place your complete trust in your partner, and to put another person’s needs ahead of your own. It seems like the opposite of self-preservation, right? It isn’t – because your spouse is experiencing that same vulnerability as well – and the self you’re preserving is the single-minded couple you’ve become.
The key to a successful marriage is a full commitment. In other words, stop planning for an imaginary ‘what if’ and painting a picture of the worst case scenario. The first way to do that is to not have a “just in case fund.” If you read our recent blog on sharing bank accounts, you learned the importance of trusting each other completely and having one bank account. Keeping a stash – secret or otherwise – to yourself means you are not being 100% truthful with your partner and you’re subliminally preparing for divorce. Take the possibility of divorce off the table, and your whole understanding of ‘what if’ changes in your favor.
Whether they’re ‘what if’ plans, clandestine purchases, or private friendships – even purely platonic ones – stop keep secrets from your partner. Unless you’re planning a surprise birthday or anniversary party, any secrets between spouses are a no-no. Open sharing and communication is critical to the success of your relationship and your marriage. Make it easy to share by being your spouse’s loudest champion and quietest criticizer. Talking is significantly easier when each of you feels the freedom to share without shame or blame. While you’re doing all this talking and sharing, be sure to laugh together. It really does do the heart good like a medicine.
Your Marriage, Your Business
Stave off being cajoled into a divorce by well-meaning people by not telling others all your business. Avoid the all too common practice of telling people outside of your marriage the things you’re dealing with inside your marriage. When you tell single friends, they cannot give you the perspective you need. Also, when you complain about your spouse to family and friends, they may not be ready to forgive your spouse when you are. This can lead to hostility toward your spouse and place you in a position where you now have to choose loyalties.
One last piece of advice. Pretend you’ve never heard the silly notion that marriage is a 50/50 partnership. That’s just nonsense. Divorce is 50/50 with each partner walking away with half of what took the life of the marriage to build and accumulate. Marriage is 100/100 with each partner giving their absolute all, not half their all. When that happens, you’ll find that love is not halved to create a whole. Instead, it’s doubled to create an abundance.