We’ve been married almost 15 years, and you are all growing fast. We’d like to give you some unsolicited (is there any other kind from parents?) advice.
Here’s the thing. Who you choose to spend your life with is probably the single most important decision you will make. And though you are only 12, 10, 7 and 5 years old, it is not actually too soon to start learning about how to choose that person wisely and treat her (or him) well.
Marriage – and life – is about balance. In the interest of that balance, your father and I each have for you five truths we’ve learned that we want you to keep in mind as you create your own expectations for your adult lives.
- I hope, when you consider marrying a person you love, that you will picture the wonderful moments you may have together (like a wedding, babies, vacations, fun). I want you to also picture the hard moments, like losing a job, or when your Dad or I die, and make sure this is still the person you want next to you in those times.
- No one is psychic. If you need something, you’re going to have to say so.
- When your feelings get hurt in your marriage (and they will) first assume that your partner did not do that on purpose. Assuming the best of your spouse will make it easier to talk about and easier to make up.
- When you fight (and you will), only argue about what is happening now. No name calling and no old grudges.
- Lust is not the same as love. Lust does matter, but love and perseverance matter even more, and will often lead you happily back to lust.
- Just like we play “What if” with you and your brothers to see if you’re ready for a new privilege, your mom and I played “What if” when we were dating. We did this to see how the other person would handle the changes and challenges of a lifelong relationship. Don’t skip this step.
- People change as time goes on. Find a partner who is flexible enough to change with you and that you love enough to change with them.
- If there is something you want that you’re not getting from your spouse, first make sure they don’t feel that same way.
- Relationships work best when both partners know that the other person won’t try to hurt them even when they’re angry. So don’t.
- The way your parents treat each other sets up a strong expectation you look for as you get older. That means, if you want your children (someday) to pick a great partner, you need to treat your own spouse well.
If the person you choose is the most important decision you’ll make, then how you treat that person is the most important work you’ll do. Like any skill that you pursue and want to improve, you’ll need coaches. In each phase of this work – the choosing, the marrying, and then (hardest of all) the staying married – you will need mentors.
Many people are drawn to danger and drama. If you find yourself in a phase like that, be careful! A lot of these decisions will affect the rest of your life.
Look around you. Find the couples that you believe have chosen wisely and treat their partner well. Watch, ask, learn from them. And when you face a decision point, go to those people and seek their counsel. No one knows what the future will hold, but a good coach can really help.