Today, July 23, is our wedding anniversary—our 31st — and it’s more than a little strange to think about how long I’ve been orbiting the sun with my person because, cliched as it is, it doesn’t seem that long.
Like it’s been DECADES since we were engaged, awaiting the big day, and doing the premarital counseling schtick with the pastor who married us.
During our meeting to go over the details of the wedding, the pastor talked with us about all the big things like money, religion, children, and life goals, and afterwards said he figured we knew what we were getting into.
Marriage is like going into business for yourself, having children or doing a home remodel — you only think you know what you’re getting into when you’re starting out.
In the early days of marriage there are all those things you need to decide how to handle…as a couple. Things like what is the correct color for lights when decorating a house or tree for Christmas? Or do you enjoy camping? Does the toilet paper roll go on the holder toward the front or toward the back? Are you a night owl or an early bird?
I remember the first time I ever gave marital advice — I was teaching Madame Bovary in a literature class. At the beginning of class one day, I asked my students, “What’s the correct color for lights when you decorate a house or Christmas tree?”
Hands went up for white lights. Different hands went up for multi-colored lights. The two groups looked at the other with horror and disdain, then without any prompting on my part, things got a bit heated with each side unable to believe the other could be so utterly and completely WRONG.
After the squabbling had gone on for a while, I asked them to imagine being married to someone from the other group and decorating their own home. They quickly decided to make sure they knew their beloved’s stance on Christmas lights before saying “I do.”
Then I told them one of the questions that had actually been on my “things I need answers to before I get serious about a guy” list: what do you think about camping?
Immediately, they wanted to vote again, and another show of hands revealed the class was pretty well equally split between campers and glampers, though there wasn’t a correlation between anyone’s light color preference and camping/no camping preference.
Pretty soon we had a list going on the board: Christmas lights, camping, preferred music (opera took a real beating!), bath towel folding and toilet paper roll direction, board games or no board games.
At the end of that class I decided I’d done my job. We talked about Madame Bovary, but more importantly, we’d talked about some of the big drivers of conflict in marriages.
From a vantage point further down the road, I understand the importance of sharing values on those big ticket items the pastor discussed with us, but there are a gazillion little things that matter, too. Like the philosophy of not sweating the small stuff but realizing halfway down the road that it’s all small stuff.
So what’s on your list? What “small stuff” questions should someone get answers to before getting married?