How To Start Your Story Well
Dear Matt and Simona,
Last week I gave you a peek into the mistakes your dad and I made in our first year of marriage. Nothing fatal, not enough to make us give up, but hurtful mistakes none-the-less; errors in our way of doing our new life together that took a while for us to figure out.
I gave you two pieces of advice, things we wish we’d understood and implemented early on in our marriage. And today I have two more.
1. Say no to others so that you can say yes to each other.
This is going to be as difficult for both of you as it was for us. Anyone who loves people and values relationship will struggle with sorting through and prioritizing… which in real English means being realistic and disappointing people whose favor you care about.
There is this pervasive message heralded in magazines and conversations and just about everywhere in our culture— that we should be doing more. Work faster, network smarter, connect frequently, know everything… and of course, Just Do It!
What happens in real life with all that over-doing is a weakening of relationships. You only have so much time to go around and so you end up parceling it out in tiny, unsatisfying tidbits.
Here is a better way: sit down together and create a matrix for how you will decide to use your time. I’ll be writing more about this later, but for now just start talking about it— patiently. Look for time wasters. Figure out what “fills your bucket” and what drains you— or who drains you.
Guard yourselves from those time-wasters and soul-drainers. Let your friends know that you cannot say yes without first checking with each other— that’s what married people do—without apology. It’s not confining, it’s fun!
You are now we.
2. Be patient. With yourselves and with each other.
Resist the temptation to expect perfection—from each other or from yourselves—in all areas of your life:
- Sexually: You’re learning. And there’s a lot to learn! Be patient with the process, enjoy the process! Keep reading, keep trying, keep talking, keep laughing.
- Time management: It’s a whole other world now of taking each other into consideration as you plan your days. Be patient with each other’s mistakes.
- Conflict: Be persistent in talking to each other about why his not doing what he said he’d do… or how her not being available when you want her… is creating stress. Figure it out. Be nice. Try again.
- Home: This is a whole other area neither of you have had to factor in before. Dorms and roommates are hardly preparation for making a home. Be patient, go easy on each other. Avoid bossiness or criticism and instead work together with a mutual goal of creating a space that is a refuge and delight for both of you.
- Family: You are not the only ones making adjustments. Your families are trying to figure out how best to fold you into their changing dynamic. They may intrude on your space too much, or seem less than happy with you… give them the gift of patience as they struggle through to a satisfying new paradigm.
Talk to them! Be gentle, not rejecting. Let them know you’re both trying to figure it out, that you value them, that you need more time together to forge this new family into something satisfying and right.
- Emotions: Change of any kind wrecks havoc with moods, feelings, reactions, energy. That’s normal, plan for it. What you want is to learn to recognize that the tension you may be experiencing is not the other’s fault. It is just part of life— the underside of change. And you want to allow each other the luxury of not being “up” and “on” all the time.
Her moodiness does not mean you have failed to make her happy. His crankiness isn’t your fault.
Learning to stay emotionally connected and yet mood-independent takes time… and patience.
- Communication: This is a challenging one. There is the whole male/female language barrier, as well as completely different family approaches to solving conflict. Add two different personalities, throw in various but not always the same values, and you’ve got some learning to do. Be patient! This one is going to take a lifetime.
You’re going to blow it. You’ll need to apologize—a lot! That doesn’t mean your relationship is fatally flawed, just that it takes a tremendous amount of time to learn to talk and listen and ask questions and respond well. Give each other a lot of grace in this area. Give each other room to grow, room to grow up.
(lots more on this one later!)
A lot to think about, I know. But do the thinking now while life is fresh and your story just started. So much better than looking back with regret at your own blunderings!
I love you both!
From my heart,
P.S. For those who are reading: Have a good story about any of these areas? Or some practical advice? We’re listening!
And join us on Instagram @hespeaksinthesilence for our #norushnovember challenge as we take some time to slow down and enjoy the little moments this month!