Moving is a pain! I think we can all agree on this. Gathering up our belongings, throwing away trash, having yard sales, packing precisely, securing a truck, finding people to help us move, finding people who will actually show up to help us move, loading and unloading the truck, and then, living out of boxes for weeks until our new home is finally (… ~deep cleansing breath~)… home.
The process of moving does not conjure up happy feelings for the majority of us, but there is one aspect of moving that thoroughly excites me.
Moving gives us a chance to declutter our lives and reorder our worlds.
Last May, I watched as one of my friends packed up her home for a “short” move. Though she and her family were only heading two miles down the road, it still required months of preparation. Selling this. Trashing that. Giving away boxes of baby clothes and toys. As I saw the contents of her house disappear one by one, I was actually a little jealous (a feeling that quickly resolved itself when she and her husband were in the thick of moving Hades.)
In fact, I fantasized a little…
If we moved, we would have an excuse to go through our belongings and decide what we really need and what we can live without. We could finally dispel some clutter! And, we could start over from scratch with freshly painted walls, less-is-more decor, and optimal furniture arrangement in each room. We could make a plan as to which items will not be allowed into our bedroom (i.e., our fortress of solitude) and we could devise an entirely new, completely workable organization plan! ~insert evil laugh here~
We Are Still Stuck in Some Bad Habits!
New couples have such potential (I cannot emphasize that enough!) not only to make an impact on the world, but to create the inner world they want to experience. Habits are created very early in a couple’s marriage and I wish I had realized this when I was preparing to be a bride!
Dating couples focus on getting to know each other and enjoying each other’s company. Later, engagement brings an avalanche of stress, decisions, and attention from others. Though hopefully a wonderful and memorable experience, the engagement season tends to steal attention away from the relationship and place it heavily on the wedding process.
The wedding comes. It happens. It is over! “Whew! We made it. No more wedding planning. Now we can settle in and finally begin our married lives.”
And that is just what Eric and I did. We flew to Lake Tahoe for our honeymoon, spent an additional week in California with some of Eric’s family and friends, and then we flew back home – exhausted, without any vacation days for the remainder of the year, and with four more years of graduate school looming!
So, we fell into life instead of creating a plan and following it. We did not establish a night-time routine, we stayed up way too late, and we rarely went to bed at the same time. We did not institute daily connection-building opportunities such as eating dinner together at the table, having fifteen minutes of uninterrupted talk time, or praying together. We basically started our marriage by existing as we previously had been.
This is not uncommon. Many couples prepare for the wedding but do not have a first-year plan to get their marriage off on the right foot; and, it is often the small details and not the bigger issues that point a couple in the wrong direction.
In the spirit of hoping you all can learn from our mistakes, here are four habits I wish we had instituted during our first year:
- Snooze. When Eric and I were dating, I remember telling him, “You know you are not going to be able to stay up all night and play video games once we are married, right?” You know, the joke was on me! Eric may not stay up all night playing video games anymore, but he certainly has a knack for finding excuses not to sleep. And, lest it may appear that I am judging him, I do it too! Even if I declare, “Tonight, I will be in bed by 11pm,” it is usually after 1am before my head hits the pillow – and even that seems early! We did not begin our marriage by going to bed at the same time, creating a warm and comforting bedroom haven (I think friends and family snuck their clutter in here when we are not looking!), or prioritizing rest. Because of this, we still struggle with getting enough sleep. It is hard to undo a habit once it is set. This is why newlyweds have a small but glorious window of opportunity to set their marriages up for success with relatively small amounts of effort!
- Unpack. When we moved into our house, we did not fully unpack. We had stuff in boxes in our basement for years (and still, have some packed to this day), and random items without a home placed haphazardly in each room. When we neglected our unpacking, we created a greenhouse for pending disorder. Since our place was thick with clutter, we had less motivation to “unpack” other items – opened Christmas presents, mail, suitcases, etc. Much of what we bring into the house stays where it lands, and this is in large part because we did not create an organization system before we moved in. Unless you relish the excitement of living in a storage unit, I would encourage you to have this plan in place before your wedding. Agree on it, of course, but have a plan! Do it! Do it, I say!
- Talk. Our marriage is that of a workaholic and an introvert…aholic. After work, I wanted to do as close to nothing as I possibly could – much to my husband’s horror. He needed downtime too, but he also felt the weight of all his responsibilities – one of which was graduate school. We were both enrolled in the same graduate program, but it is funny how two people can have such opposite reactions to the same event. Eric felt compelled to read, study, and learn. I felt compelled to procrastinate until the last minute and focus my attention on more amusing activities. So, between his busyness studying and my busyness introverting (i.e., recharging my emotional batteries each night), we spent many hours not communicating. This habit followed us and to this day we have to intentionally talk and connect. We are naturally comfortable separating and seeing to our own tasks (especially due to our opposite personality types).
- Pray. Perhaps my biggest regret of all is that we did not cultivate a daily habit of praying and reading the Bible together. As I was telling a friend of mine the other day, when it seems like everything in my life is not working, I know the answer to my problem is at least 80% spiritual. When I begin my day with God, in prayer and His word, the rest of my life falls into alignment. Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). This is not to say that those who love God and spend time in His presence encounter fewer obstacles – quite the contrary; but, those who give Him top billing have an easier time prioritizing their lives correctly. When I spend time with God, I am inspired to love and serve my husband. Then, I am reminded of the tasks in my home I need to tackle and of ways I can be a blessing to my family and friends. God’s love trickles from the top and works its way down into every area of my life. When couples make this a habit from day one, it is much easier to remember to do it and it makes it more difficult to stay angry with each other. It is hard to stay out of sorts with someone with whom (and for whom) you are praying. This daily practice keeps couples’ hearts from growing hard towards one another and serves as a constant reminder that God is Lord of their marriages. If you were to poll a thousand divorced people, I am willing to bet you would not find one who could honestly say, “Yes, my ex-spouse and I read the Bible and prayed together every day.”
As long as you are still breathing, it is never too late to change a habit; however, it is so much harder to change a habit than it is to create one. So, take the opportunity to intentionally forge new routines when you are newly married. While you are still dating, or even single, begin thinking about how you want your home to run and start creating a plan to see that you reach your desired result when the time comes!
What are three habits you want to start on day one of your marriage?