Thursday, January 26, 2012

Advice is Good

Whenever I think of marriage, I only know of one way to describe it. Marriage is an adventure. It isn't a goal, it isn't an achievement, it is an adventure.

How does this apply to advice? Well, before you go on an adventure, you make sure that you get prepared. One of the most important aspects of preparation is getting advice and interacting with those who have already done whatever adventure you are embarking upon.

You get skiing lessons from a ski instructor the first time. If you are going scuba diving, you receive instruction and get certified. When you go skydiving the first time, you are linked to an experienced skydiver.

When you get married, get advice from married people.

It's not a bad thing to get advice. In fact, the advice that Courtney and I have received from other married couples has been absolutely wonderful. We have looked toward couples who stability and wisdom we know and trust. You can find a lot of valuable advice and recommendations from those who have been married twenty, thirty, forty years or more. And I don't just mean older married couples.

Getting advice from couples who are similar in age and at a similar point can also be very gratifying. There are differences between generations, and some of the differences mean that you have similar understandings to those your own age. However, don't think that these same differences mean that couples of older generations don't have anything to offer--they tend to lack the same blind spots and bring more experience to the conversation.

Of course, the biggest question is why get advice? As much as we would all like to think that we are completely unique and that every couple is unique, there are always similarities. Couples tend to face similar challenges because the biggest challenge in being married is becoming accustomed to your significant other. Conflicts between the two sides of a couple are unique in the particulars but very similar generally.

Last point to remember: be fair towards each other. When you look for advice, always cast your significant other in the best light possible. When you go to other couples for advice, you are not looking for referees to decide who is right. You aren't looking to correcting your significant other. You are asking what you should do to help ease the conflict, not what your spouse should do.

So, don't be afraid to get advice. It always helps.


(Here's Court's post)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sleep: A New Beginning

Perhaps one of the most notable changes when you get married is that you no longer sleep in a bed alone.

I know. Shocking, right?

What is difficult to adjust to is starting to share a bed with someone else. We all have different sleeping habits before marriage, and whatever your typical arrangements are, it is unlikely that they resemble that of your spouse in any way.

For example. Growing up, I slept in a bunk bed, the kind that has a twin bed for each level. I grew up using only a certain amount of space. And even then, Blackout (that dear old cat that I had from age four to twenty-three) would commonly take up more than the necessary amount of space at the end of my bed. I was used to a fan running all night because I struggled to sleep without background noise.

Now. Courtney grew up having a queen bed all to herself (which, I have noticed, is much more common among girls than boys according to my knowledge). This results in some difficult moments when it comes to figuring out how to have space--especially since we now share a queen bed.

Oh, and the final point before we put all this together: most doctors agree that seven and a half hours of sleep is the minimum--that's right, the minimum--amount you should be getting at any age.

Two people sharing a bed can be difficult. There is a lot more tossing and turning and a lot more snoring that goes on. As someone who has struggled with getting to sleep in the past (I have spent far too many nights unable to get to sleep despite being exhausted), I know that it can be extremely exasperating to not get a sound night sleep.

How does a couple get used to it?

Patience is the biggest part. For us, being married means that we sleep in the same bed. It is just part of the deal. So, it is a lot of adjusting--a lot of creating and modifying and changing boundaries and expectations. Is it okay to to tell the other person to sleep on his or her side if that dreading snoring begins too early on? When is it time to stop talking after the lights go out? How do you address different sleeping schedules if they don't match?

However, it is also important to remember that every once in a while, it is okay to utilize the couch. There are some nights when one person just can't sleep. If a move to the couch helps both people get a better sleep, it can be the wise choice.

But, as usual, communication is the key issue. Talk about it. I know that sleeping arrangements can seem trivial, but it is easy for emotions and feelings to build up and take any of us by surprise. Talking over these things and establishing boundaries is important. It helps both of you get a better night's sleep and enjoy each other's company a little bit more.


(Court's blog post on this is here)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Than Good Enough

It's easy for anyone to bring some baggage to a relationship. After all, who hasn't been called inadequate in a romantic relationship? Who hasn't been plagued (if even just for a moment) with asking his or herself why he or she is not good enough? We all desire to feel adequate. We all desire to be fully accepted.

As you get deeper and deeper into a relationship, your own securities are more easily brought to the surface. It is easy to feel like you aren't good enough. It is much more easy to feel this way in a serious relationship than any other. For myself, I have always easily handled the remarks and opinions of other people. I care what my friends say and think, but it won't sway me from what I choose to do if I feel like I should do it.

However, my relationship with Courtney gives her a lot more power over what I feel and think. Because we are so close, I find myself much more likely to heed what she says. And while I still tend to remain my stubborn self and do what I think I should, I tend to feel much more conflicted when her opinions differ from my own.

It is an easy temptation to question your selfworth. The real truth is that you both are more than adequate for each. You both have strong value--especially to each other.


The most difficult part to remember is that you owe it to each other to build up each other's feeling of selfworth. You owe it to each other to build up more than you tear down--on a daily basis. It is your responsibility to make sure that your other half continues to belief in his or her own value. After all, you are in a relationship together because you both believe that the other person is worthy.


(Court's post is here)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

Maintaining a marriage relationship is a lot of work. It requires a lot of effort and attention, but it is a good and healthy sort of work. But what does it look like to work at being happy within the boundaries of a relationship?

Sometimes, people try to give up on what they like to do to support a serious relationship. They follow the idea of self-sacrifice in a way that is often self-destructive. It is always important to remember that being in a serious relationship should never require you to give up on the things that are hardwired into you, those things that make you feel happy and fulfilled.

I love to read. I have dreamed about having a fairly extensive personal library since I first started reading chapter books (and have had many a conversation about God with the possible materialistic temptations that go along with that.... ;). I enjoy playing Halo with the guys. I have other hobbies and habits that I enjoy as well.

Now, don't get me wrong, pursuing your hobbies doesn't mean that you can do whatever you want whenever you want. Within any relationship, there are times when you need to give of yourself. Your hobbies are fine, but the timing needs to be appropriate. This doesn't just begin on a marriage day, but a marriage day can change this dynamic.

For some reason, couples tend to be a lot more willing to do what the other person wants before marriage. There are a myriad of reasons that make this so. It has to do with how much time you spend with your significant other, with the changing of commitment during different stages of life, and even how much you try to impress each other. After all, getting married comes with this feeling of success.

After getting married, it can become more obvious that one side of a couple likes to go hiking a lot more than it seemed. Different hobbies and past times can become a little more difficult to deal with (such as my unceasing desire to read during almost every free moment--Courtney didn't see much of that in college because I didn't have any free time!).

But, if you are careful to balance the joys you get out of your favorite past times with making sure that your relationship is healthy, you'll find that you enjoy being married much more and feel more like yourself. The balancing act can be difficult at times, but it is always worth it.


(Court's post on this topic is here)

Chores, Chores, Chores.....

So, we thought that we'd take this one and run with it.

Chores are one of the most difficult parts to divide up within a household. With roommates, it is honestly really straightforward. You are all living together and you divide up chores equally. Different groups define what equally means and do it in different ways, but it starts with that basic premise. The chores are the only thing balanced in the scale of equality.

However, in a marriage it is no longer quite so simple. Yes, equally is part of the idea, but no longer are you simply roommates. Equal division of labor applies to everything, and chores are simply a part of the list of things that become part of the equal labor.

Part of what has made this a unique challenge for Court and I is that we have such different schedules and commitments. This is mostly because of the unique challenges created by combining a fairly typical work schedule with a fairly typical college schedule. During the semester, who has more time for chores and what chores should each of us do?

And, of course, that's the easy question. When Courtney has extra breaks that I don't have, then what does that do to chores? How does that shift responsibilities? It's a complicated question that has no simple answers.

Then, besides just dealing with the question of how to divide up the household chores equally, there is also an ingrained idea in all of us about who does what chores.

In some households, the mom is the one who typically goes to the grocery store (like my parents). For others, the dad is the one who typically goes to the grocery store (like Courtney's parents). So, who goes to the grocery store in our new family? The list of these sorts of things can go on and on. The important thing to remember is that you need to talk through all of these.

Who does different chores in your family? Does a particular parent clean the bathroom? Vacuum? Dust? How will those chores get broken up after you get married? Will you need to divide up all the chores because you both work? What responsibility is there if one works and one stays at home? How does having kids effect that? There are so many different life circumstances that you won't be able to address every possible occurrence. Just remember that chores are the responsibility of both people within a marriage. Dividing up the chores is not just a single event but can change depending on what's going on in life.


(For Court's, click here)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Getting married is probably the biggest decision you'll ever make. Few decisions that you make have the ability to impact your life for as long and as completely as marriage does. Marriage is an exciting, wonderful, exhilarating, and often difficult adventure.

But, just like any adventure, marriage requires preparation.

As you get engaged and prepare for the big day, it is easy to get caught up in planning the wedding. It always fascinates me how big a price tag goes with a wedding celebration. There is so much time, effort, and money put into starting a marriage that the toll of it often becomes overwhelming. However. How does that compare to preparing for the marriage relationship?

Here's a few statistics (and if you haven't figured it out yet, I tend to use statistics and definitions):

If done through your church, premarital counseling is often free, minus the cost for whatever book is chosen as a resource. If a couple chooses to get very ambitious about it, a full set of sessions with a marriage counselor runs at a maximum of one thousand dollars.

The cost of a typical wedding? $26,542.

To prepare for the wedding day, your average couple in America spends $26,542. This is a wonderful day that goes by quicker than any other (because of how much you don't want it to) but it is also the easiest moment in a marriage. It's easy for a couple to make it through the wedding day.


More than half of couples don't even begin to prepare for the new, changed relationship that will effect the rest of your life. That's right--as best as statistics can agree--less than half of couples getting married for the first time have any sort of premarital counseling at all. I find this astonishing considering how easy it is to get free counseling. Is a little of your time too much to ask?

And let me tell you, you need preparation. It just doesn't matter how open a couple is with each other or how fantastic a relationship is going into marriage. There are so many different things that you would never expect to matter that to do. Some of the conflicts are expected, but other conflicts often completely blindside any couple. So, find a premarital counselor. Look towards married couples you both know for advice (best piece of knowledge we got: more fights happen over who does what chores than anything else).

The need to prepare for a marriage relationship does not begin the day that you both say "I do" to each other. It begins the day that you become engaged.


(For Court's, click here)

Monday, January 9, 2012

A New Family (with a lot more members)

Integrating two different families is perhaps one of the most interesting and challenging parts of getting married. It isn't that it is bad. However, you and your significant are creating a new family that combines ideals and traditions of two other families that are often drastically different from each other in almost every regard--the particular traditions that the families celebrate, the different ways that families spend their free time, and sometimes even drastically different cultural backgrounds.

The first and most important thing is to set one boundary in particular: the two of you make a new family. It seems obvious at first glance, but after spending your entire life answering to your parents first, it can be difficult to realize that you no longer answer to your respective parents first. You answer to each other first. No longer do you ask your parents' opinion and then your significant other. Your responsibility is first to each other. Everyone else comes second.

The list of changes this can cause is practically endless. It means that, especially when surrounded by your family, your significant other comes first. You defend him or her before anyone else. Making sure you are both comfortable around your respective family lines becomes important.. And it isn't easy--trust me. I'm still working on it. No longer can you randomly wander around family gatherings from one group to another (a fairly old habit of mine), but you need to stay with your significant other. Remember--it is possible that he or she feels really uncomfortable around your family even if the reverse is not true.

Now, some of the issues you have to deal with are pretty straightforward. The question is not whether or not you need to divide up the holidays but how. Which family will you go visit and when? But the harder part is remembering to help keep each other patient with the differences between your previous families. Some families spend their time at home being around each other and playing as many games as possible. Some families tend to spend time apart from each other and gather for particular, arranged events. And then there are so many different cultures and traditions. Some families are very structured with a strong male presence leading the family. Some families have a strong woman directing a lot of what happens in a family. Families have different cultures and different ideologies. And there are so many different ways and varieties that families are different that it is impossible to prepare for all of them ahead of time and often surprising when some of the differences can cause friction.

However, what is important to remember is that you are no longer defending how "your" individual families do different things. Instead, you are combining your two families and creating an entirely new way of doing absolutely everything. Now it is about defending how your family decides to do things (sometimes against your previous families).

Oh, and just so you know: it's okay for the two of you to leave the house if you need some time--whether it is positive or negative, some developments are just surprising. Starbucks is a great place to get some time for the two of you.


(For Court's page, click here)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Boundaries: Cross-Gender Relationships

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." -Proverbs 4:23

Boundaries become increasingly important as a relationship continues--in particular, boundaries with all members of the opposite gender change most of all.

For Courtney and I, this has honestly been an aspect of our relationship and marriage that we have handled well but carefully. Honesty is the key. Growing up, I was always the guy who had a lot of female friends but with a close group of guys that I relied upon. Courtney came from the opposite, similar background, relying on a small group of close girls while hanging out with guys predominantly. This made it all the more important for us to discuss boundaries.

Guarding your heart "with all vigilance" means one thing when your single and another when you're in a relationship, and changes even more as the relationship deepens and progresses. When you're single, there's the ever-present possibility of someone earning a spot in your heart. And as obvious as it sounds, entering a relationship gives someone in particular access to your heart in a way that no one else is allowed access--and that in varying degrees as the relationship deepens.

As that relationship deepens, it is important to guard your heart more and more carefully. Being in a relationship means that you have chosen to give one person particular access to your heart. As the relationship deepens, that access deepens. Getting married is the point where that access is unfettered and unrestricted.

Before Courtney and I started dating, one of my best friends and I were extremely close. But even then, we recognized that there was an element of our relationship that would change when either of us entered into a relationship. We cared and still care for each other strongly. And while she and I both felt some sadness when that change occurred, we both recognized it as a good and necessary change.

But how do you make sure your heart is guarded once in a relationship? As I mentioned before, honesty--complete honesty--is the key. For Courtney and I, we are purposeful in guarding our hearts--or perhaps better put, our heart. We both talk about it before we hang out with friends that are of the opposite gender. We make a point of acknowledging to each other when we feel the need to be careful around our own friends and when we feel like the other needs to be extra careful. We are honestly accountable with each other and are actively honest. Neither of us hang out alone with members of the opposite gender unless it is in a public place. And most of all, we recognize that boundaries often change and continue to change as we feel the need to guard our hearts in different ways.


(For my wife's take click here)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Compromise: Meet Reality

An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

It is a word that is so frequently tossed around in discussion of marriage that it has almost lost its meaning. Almost.
Compromise is not easy. It is not simple. And it is the basic foundation of every single marriage. Without compromise, marriage just wouldn't work.

Learn to be a pro at compromising--and I don't mean, you trade this favor for that favor. I mean the art of recognizing when a particular decision means more to one than the other. Compromising should be motivated first and foremost by the desire to value the other more than oneself. It means giving up the tv so that your wife or girlfriend can watch E-News. It means acknowledging that sometimes you both think you are wrong and that it is more important for someone to give in rather than be right.

Oh, and failing to compromise can results in conflict completely by accident. Figuring out holidays is something that seems obvious but is much more complicated than you might think. Yeah, you get through the when you are going where because the need to solve that is obvious. But how about the timing of a holiday? On New Year's Eve, Court and I blindsided each other without even realizing. Being the native Tennessean that I am, I have seen the ball drop in Times Square a grand total of three times in my life (as of this past New Year's Eve). Since it has always corresponded with 11:00 where I have lived, it just has never meant much. Celebrating it with my wife this year, I assumed that midnight (as the actual mark of the beginning of the new year) was the most important. Well, unbeknownst to myself, Courtney celebrates when the ball drops and not a midnight. Stage set: conflict.

Moral of the story? Compromising takes effort and work. It isn't always easy. And the most important thing to remember: never assume that you understand why the conflict happened. It could be a simple as the person really didn't know a moment was supposed to be important. Compromising takes knowledge, communication, and effort.

Oh, and celebrating New Year's? Looks like it'll happen at 11:00 and midnight for this family.


(For my wife's corresponding take, click here)

Finding That Leading Lady

It is easy to become overwhelmed when approaching relationships. In a world where marriage means so little, a world where living together is often viewed as the wiser alternative, what does it take for a guy to find a real relationship? How do you find that leading lady with whom you can build a relationship that can stand the test and the trials of a real relationship?

In an attempt to organize my thoughts, here are a few steps that any guy can take in the pursuit of that leading lady.

Figure out what it means to be yourself first and foremost. I cannot stress this enough. You need to first begin to understand who you are to become the man worthy of that strong of a relationship. I'm not saying that you have to be perfect or even perfectly understand who you are. However, if you find yourself tempted to pretend you likely something you don't care about when around a particular girl, you are fooling both her and yourself. As a man, you need to be able to articulate your preferences and how you feel without bending to the temptation to pretend to be something other. Only a girl who sees who you are can appreciate you for who you are.

As juvenile as this sounds, make a list of what you desire in a woman. Don't base this list on a particular girl, but stop and really think about what you want in that girl--and note what is really important and necessary to you. It doesn't have to be long or short, but the act of making this list will help you realize what you really want in a woman. Don't be afraid to value physical traits, but I can confidently promise that a blonde, skinny airhead wouldn't make a satisfactory list. Make sure to value the mental and emotional above the physical. Before I met my wife, I created a list of traits I wanted in my future wife. The list didn't always stay the same and wasn't that long. But it mattered. I prayed over that list and placed those desire before God. And I can honestly stay that every single one of those traits and characteristics have been met in my wife.

Look for this list. That woman exists. Don't budge on the traits you know that you need in a woman. And refuse to accept ones that you know you can't stand.

Pursue her. Woo her. Make sure that she knows that you are interested in her and that you desire a relationship with her. This is the hardest and most important part of finding that leading lady. You will feel more confidant in the relationship and so will she if you both know that you are willing to step forward and take the lead. Now, be ready to give her space if she needs it and respect every woman's boundaries and concerns. Pursing a woman means that you personally tell her that you are interested--not over text message, e-mail, or phone but face-to-face. If she says that she needs space, give it. I'm not saying give up, I'm saying acknowledge that sometimes the woman needs the opportunity to clarify her own feelings. Keep pursuing her--but accept the friendship boundary until she is ready for more.

Patience. Patience. Patience. Pursuing a girl takes time. Within the first week of meeting Courtney, I learned that she had every single trait on my list. I knew that I was interested in her--and I made it clear to her as well. Unfortunately (from my perspective), she was not yet ready for a relationship. She was unsure of how she felt about entering a relationship at that time, especially concerning she had known me for a week. I never stopped pursuing her. She wanted us to remain firmly friends, and we did for a couple months. But because I was willing to give her the time and space she needed, our relationship was able to start when she was ready for it.

Never give up on finding the right girl. She's out there. Keep trying and looking. Never give up.


(For my wife's take on the same topic from a woman's perspective click here).