Marriage Is Awesome
Hearing people say bad things about their spouse is always awkward for me, because I can never relate to the conversation. I've been happily married to Megan for 12 years and we've been together for 18 years. While we both have faults and we've had disagreements, I'm unable to join in on the "complain about your marriage" conversations that can happen. I hate that this sounds like I'm bragging about having it better than everyone else, but that is not my intention. Rather, my goal is to counterbalance the human nature of the loudest voices being the complainers by being a voice that is proclaiming that marriage is awesome.
I think there is a societal narrative that paints marriage in a bad light. We experienced this ourselves when we were first engaged, as we had multiple people tell us how "the first X years are the hardest" and it will be a constant battle and you'll hate each other. While marriage certainly takes constant work, I think framing it as a battle sets the wrong mindset for people who are planning to enter into a marriage. In my case, these comments made me wonder if I was going to be fighting against Megan constantly and I had to prepare myself for that, when the reality of our marriage has been that we have been fighting WITH each other instead of against each other.
Be On The Same Team
A few engaged or newlywed couples have asked for our advice in the past, and I've summarized it down to one core idea that you are now one team and one unit. I don't think this is mindblowing on the surface, as Christian wedding ceremonies often have this idea of "two becoming one". The part that really makes this work for us is making it a core part of how we treat each other and how we act. Our income isn't "my money" and "her money", it's "our money". If one of us doesn't want to participate in a social event, then it's not "they don't want to go", it's "we can't make it this time".
If you're able to internalize this concept, it starts affecting a lot of things for the better. Interactions and conversations between you are much more united, even if you disagree. Your view of your spouse isn't that of an adversary or someone who is blocking you, but rather of a teammate and someone who is working with you. Ideas can have a fresh perspective that is augmented by your spouse. Times when you're feeling out of it and can't do your part are covered by your teammate, and you are able to cover for them when the situation is flipped.
Make Decisions That Benefit The Team
This mindset manifests itself for me personally by affecting how I make decisions. While I certainly still make some decisions that are aimed at benefitting me, I try to think about how the outcome will affect both of us. This safety mechanism in my thought process has stopped me from doing a lot of dumb stuff and caused me to think of options that I wouldn't have if it were just me. Finances, chores, careers, and family have all been affected in a positive way by this belief.
Small decisions and actions can be affected by this as well. As an example, I used to eat a lot of one single thing for each meal. Cereal and frozen foods were common staples of my diet. However, when I cook for both of us, I start thinking about how it should be a balanced meal with proper portions and actual vegetables and something that we both like. Any given meal is very minor in the long run, but it's these kind of mindset shifts that help make our team better.
Trust That Your Partner Is Helping The Team
The other aspect of being on a team is that you can trust your teammate to be helping the team in their decisions and actions. That trust provides a comfort and peace in our relationship that keeps things calm and prevents resentment from building. I've noticed that it becomes much easier to trust over time, as you have experience and data to show that the trust is warranted. This feeds into my decision making, as I want to make sure that Megan trusts me and can rely on my past actions for that trust. I find that giving that trust can help decisions for the spouse, which in turn makes the team better.