by Kelvin Belfon
“Love is a partnership of two unique people who bring out the very best in each other, and who know that even though they are wonderful as individuals, they are even better together.” – Barbara Cage
Recently I had the privilege of reuniting with a good friend. I drove 12 hours to the destination, stopping only once for 10 minutes. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to see him and his fiancée.
I met my friend when he was only 16 years old in our youth group. He had a timid and reserved disposition. Over the years, I’ve witnessed him blossomed into a leader and thinker.
About year ago, Camilla and I had a surprise visit from him. We met for lunch and he talked about life, being almost done with his bachelor’s degree, and a girlfriend. He dreamed about his future with this girlfriend by his side, as his wife.
Within the year, he broke the news to me. They were engaged…and happy about the prospect of building a life together.
On Saturday, July 18th, Kevin and I stood at the altar side by side. Oh, I felt so old. It had been 8 years since we first met; he had become a man, and would soon be Savannah’s husband. It was a proud and emotional moment for anyone who knew him well.
During the ceremony, I was consumed with thoughts that lasted the duration of my 12-hour drive back home, “What might minimalist marriage advice for newlyweds be someone like Kevin?”
In my car, driving across the country, thoughts about my own marriage and so many others held my attention. I thought about the destination of some I knew back home who were seriously dating and a few friends who are newlyweds.
I thought about my own children. I know, they are so young but I couldn’t help wonder what their ideals might be when the time comes for them to start a family.
Camilla and I had our share of ups and downs since our “I do” moment about 16 years ago. But we’ve grown and continue to be best friends. The idea of trimming the fat in our lives and separating wants from needs is an ongoing exercise in precision. I’m no expert yet, but I thought it to be appropriate to share a few thoughts to newlyweds out there like Kevin and Savannah.
Minimalist Marriage Advice
Value your spouse more than your possessions. Relationships are more important than things. However, our actions tend to reveal the opposite when we spend long hours working and caring for excessive material possessions. In a report on the Psychology of Materialism, research finds a connection between struggling marriages and high levels of materialism among couples. Materialism can lead one to become less focused on nurturing his/her relationship with the opposite sex. Your spouse should never play second fiddle to the things in your closet, living room, garage or wealth. Value and love your spouse more than any of your possessions.
Take control of your finances. Couples bring unnecessary strain in the relationship when they start off their marriage living beyond their means. Bad financial problems continue to be one of the leading causes of divorce today. It addition, it can lead to distrust, constant conflict, depression, stress, and even bankruptcy. The obvious but not so fun solution – live on a budget, set aside an emergency fund, and start paying off debt. Another time-tested bit of advice – avoid credit cards, get-rich schemes, other forms of debt (gambling, opening lines of credit, etc), and learn to pay yourself first from every paycheck. That is, save at least 10% of your income. A great read is Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.
Consolidate but stay true to who you are. It is conceivable that both partners could potentially bring together enough stuff to crowd out a home from the start. As such, you need to be even more ruthless in taking inventory, consolidating and pitching duplicate. Ask yourselves, “What do we really need?” Then minimize, keeping the things you absolutely love and can’t live without. Giveaway or donate those that will only junk up the new life you’re trying to build.
Broken, outdated, and personal items from past relationships should be purged. It’s a new season, be willing to let go and make room for the new person in your life. You are now one, a unit, and a team. Yet don’t feel threatened about losing your individuality.
Chose quality over quantity. Better quality items will last longer and save you time and money. If you received similar wedding gifts, pick the better quality item and exchange the rest for something you need. Better still, if you can, get the cash and pay off debt or save the money. When purchasing new furniture, appliances and other home items, select those that can serve multiple functions as they can sometimes conserve on space. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t rush the process. Exercise patience in accumulating good quality items instead of buying things you’ll need to replace frequently.
Do NOT compare your marriage with others. It’s a common mistake for newlyweds to compare themselves with other couples. Judging your marriage based on the examples of your parents, friends, mentors and even fictional characters in a book or movie is a distraction from discovering the potentials that lie within the walls of your own home. Don’t try to live up to the Joneses either! Some people have accumulated what they have through inheritance, gifts, or years of handwork. What they have may even be an avatar of the level of their indebtedness.
Another thing, don’t embrace negative marriage stereotypes. “When the honeymoon wears off, you’ll experience reality.” “When you start having kids things will get harder.” “When you…. [fill in the blank]. Sure you’ll encounter difficult seasons in life but every marriage is unique. You don’t have to live up to traditional expectations. Expect the best, be positive, patient and forge your own path! When you encounter a pothole, deal with it as a team and move on.
Spend your time making memories, not accumulating things. There is nothing wrong with material possessions. Newlyweds need certain basics possessions. But along the marriage journey, treasure moments with your spouse. Be intentional about seeking to create memories. These are more significant and long lasting. Avoid trying to impress each other with things tied to their monetary value during anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. Invest in things with value tied to what your spouse means to you.
Stay healthy together. Do you remember the Freshman 15 syndrome? It’s when students would gain an extra 15 lbs in their first year of college as a result their unhealthy diet and more sedentary lifestyles. Well, the same can be true for young married couples. Studies find that newlyweds are more likely to gain weight after the “I do” moment. As such, newlywed should stay active by exercising or walking regularly. They should also eat a healthy diet that focuses on fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Avoid eating box meals loaded with processed and GMO ingredients. In general, limit dining out on fast foods.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. I saved this one for last for a reason. It’s probably the most indispensable advice that you want to chew on after you’re done reading this article. The more newlyweds can share with each other, the more likely they’ll stay together for the long haul. Avoid keeping each other in the dark when it comes to your fears, career expectations, children, finances, frustrations and dreams. Keep the lines of communication open, constructive and honest. Be specific, not even the most talented spouse can read minds. Lastly, communication involves actively listening to your partner, even when you already know the answer to their question. It’s more about honor and respect than being right or having the last word in every verbal exchange.
What minimalist marriage advice would you like to share?