“So how’s the old ball and chain?”
“Are you sure you want to be tied down for the rest of your life?”
These are two of the many question you may have been asked before you chose to get married, or they may be questions you are asking yourself currently.
Marriage is choice.
And I believe this choice is a tremendous blessing.
Every person has within them a desire to be with others. Hanging out with friends, talking about life with coworkers, sharing serious thoughts with close friends, and sharing intimate moments with a lover. Whatever it may be in life, it’s often better when shared with another person.
But what about the other side of things? The side that each of us have that longs to be the designer of our own life. That doesn’t want to submit to the tyranny of others.
The truth is, we fluctuate back and forth between these two extremes. We move towards the togetherness side of things until those needs are met then we move to the separateness side.
Take a look at your life the past few weeks.
Can you see when you sought time alone?
Or time with another person?
Chances are you will be able to recognize this process in your own life when you look for it. This also plays out in conflict, as usually the conflict stems from this thought, “I want to be with you but don’t tell me what to do.”
The key to lifestyle design for married people rests in the ability of each person learning to handle more time together as well as time apart.
Let’s use sex as an example.
One of the most intimate aspects of a marriage. Where you are physically as close as you can get to another human.
However, often this physical closeness does not correlate with emotional, or mental, or spiritual closeness. During sex you may be miles apart. Fantasizing about someone else, going over the day’s to do list, spectatoring (focusing on performance), or any number of other ways to disconnect from your spouse.
The point is, you’re not connected. Often the reason for this disconnect is you can’t handle the anxiety that is produced from a close connection.
Whenever you get too close to another person, it’s common to do something that will create distance and separation in order to feel better.
For instance, you may want your spouse to be more emotionally open and share their feelings, but you interrupt them when they say things you find unpleasant or disagree with (in your view, you may just want to keep the conversation “accurate”). You want a more expressive spouse, but want to control what (or how) they express.
Another example involves asking your spouse to take more responsibility for initiating sex, but you want to dictate when, where, how, and why sexual initiations should be made.
You want a spouse who can think for themselves – and you want to tell them what they should think!
So how does all this tie into lifestyle design for married people?
1. Marriage is choice. Whenever you fall victim to the idea of being stuck in marriage, you give up your power. You still have an amazing amount of control over your own life in marriage. Granted, this control comes with natural consequences. But it’s control nonetheless. By choosing marriage freely each day, and allowing your spouse to do the same, you up the ante in what you could experience in marriage.
2. Include your spouse in the design of the marriage. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’m amazed at the amount of couples who’ve never had this discussion.
Marriage often seems to happen by chance with most people. Take charge of your life and marriage and design it!
1. Baselining your marriage.
Sometimes, wiping the slate clean and dreaming is too daunting a task. The quintessential lifestyle design question is the “money question.” And the money question goes something like: “What would you do if you had all the money in the world?”
The problem with this? It feeds the notion that monetary abundance is the primary freedom enabler.
Try starting with the idea of Baselining. The process of baselining involves writing down everything you don’t have to have, be, or do, to live a happy and fulfilled life.
For example, I don’t have to fill my house with the nicest things, I don’t have to get the latest techno gadget, I don’t have to be able to tell a coherent story about how I make money. If you’re serious about doing a thorough job of baselining, get out a notebook and write down how much money and time you’ll eliminate by doing away with existing possessions, obligations, and self-images.
Cutting back on things may actually increase the passion and energy in marriage. I realize cutting back on things and simplifying life runs counter to popular culture, but it really is helpful. Living simply has been a tremendous blessing for my marriage, my family, and myself.
2. Dreamlining your marriage.
This involves spending some time with your spouse and dreaming. What are some of the things you both hope to do? Own? Become? Put them all down on paper.
Anything goes at this point. It could be family dreams, marriage dreams, and even personal dreams. They all need to be included. Have fun with this step. A couple of our dreams include living in the mountains one day, having our children experience a service project on every major continent before they leave for college and traveling the country exploring America.
3. Go to work.
Now that you’ve determined what are the things you can do without, and some dreams to aspire towards, go to work.
Not your job or your career, but working towards your dreams. Plan out each other’s roles in the process. Hold each other accountable for making things happen. When you are both working towards similar dreams, a synergy will be created in the marriage.
Then when these dreams are realized, you get to share them with a co-creator of them as well as someone you love. How great is that?
“So how’s the old ball and chain?”