I was the Anti-Bride. That’s no secret.
Wedding planning wasn’t something I was ever going to love doing. It’s just not in my nature and I didn’t care enough about the wedding to try to pretend that I loved it. I was very, very excited to marry Jonathon and spend the day with our friends and family. I was less excited about the traditional roles that come with wedding planning.
That may sound terrible – after all, the traditional wisdom is that if you are happy and excited about marrying your future husband or wife, you should also be excited about planning the wedding. Theoretically, it makes sense.
The traditional archetypes of the bride and groom, though, belie this: the stereotypical bride is a monster – “Bridezilla” – dragging her poor, put-upon groom through the process that he doesn’t really give a shit about.
So the expectation isn’t for both parties to be excited, then, it’s mostly for the bride.
I think this is, of course, bullshit.
Regardless, though, I wasn’t going to pretend that I wanted to step into the traditional role of the bride. Instead, my now-husband and I had very real conversations about what I could and couldn’t do for the wedding, given my work schedule and my hatred of wedding planning. We worked it out.
It got me thinking, though: along with all that bullshit we hear about the wedding being the “best day of our lives,” we also – as a society – place so much importance on the planning and perfection of the wedding that we seem to forget what comes after it: the marriage.
So, somewhere along the way of helping my husband plan our wedding, I decided to start planning for the thing that was more important to me: our marriage.
But I ran into a bit of a problem: you see, you can scour the internet for hours at a time and find article upon article about how to plan the “perfect” wedding or “tips and tricks” for wedding planning or wedding planning “on a budget.” You can even find these same “tips and tricks” articles for planning the “perfect” proposal.
But what about planning the “perfect” marriage? Any rational adult knows that perfection is an unattainable, unrealistic goal – but the point is, if we’re writing and reading so much about proposals and weddings, where are all the resources for planning a marriage?
Since I was already existing in a fairly committed state of “Anti-Bride,” I decided I may as well spend some time figuring out, for myself, how to plan our marriage. In other words: I wanted to take the importance off the wedding day and place it, instead, on the rest of our lives. And though I found a few resources about planning a marriage, there weren’t nearly the volume of resources as existed for planning a wedding. So, I decided to do it myself. And because I’m me, I wanted to share.
Of course, this list is subject to change as we change as people and as a couple – and it’s subject to change as we get out of the honeymoon/newlywed phase and into the deeper phases of love. I don’t claim to be an expert on everything marriage – in fact, I’m barely a beginner and I have already been divorced once, so at least I know what NOT to do – but I do want to continue to share things I’m discovering along the way. And I hope you’ll stay with me on the journey.
So, without further ado, here are the 10 ways I’ve discovered to start planning a marriage – instead of a wedding.
1. Write down the little reminders you find along the way.
The featured photo for this post is a page out of my Bullet Journal. I’ve talked about my Bullet Journal before – how it’s my lifeline and I use it for everything since my bestie introduced me to it a few months ago. Since I use it so much for things that I love and things that relate to me, why wouldn’t I also use it for my marriage – one of the most important things in my life? So, I created a “Love & Marriage” page (photo below without the blog heading so you can see what’s on it). This page is simple – it’s just very easy, short reminders of things to remember while being married. Examples include: “Respect each other’s need for space”, “Communicate about it all,” “Explore with each other.” I look at my Bullet Journal every day, and I now have this page specially-tabbed so that I can refer to it and add to it constantly.
2. Save resources you love – electronically, so that you can both access them.
There are, of course, loads of articles on the internet about relationships. Some are about how to predict good ones, some are about how to avoid bad ones, some are about keeping the spark alive. Some of these, are well, bullshit. Others, though, are very helpful and can serve either as reminders or as tidbits of new knowledge. I tend to go down internet rabbit holes – not a very productive thing – so I decided that instead of letting myself do that, I would gather the resources I like in a place we could both access. (I haven’t actually started this organization yet). We use Google for our shared calendar and our shared grocery list, so I will likely end up creating a folder for “Marriage Resources” and dumping the articles in there!
3. Create some code words.
This was also an idea given to me by my best friend, who shall rename nameless to protect her privacy and my selfish need to keep her as my bestie: code words. Jonathon and I have a few special code words for a few different situations: we have a code word we use when we want the other to rescue us from a conversation with another person that is becoming too much and we have a code emoji we text to mean “let’s pause adulting and bang!” I also want to develop a code word with him to use if we’re overwhelmed by life and one of us just needs space to stop and think or self-care or whatever – no questions asked. Of course, these things can be done or said without code words, but sometimes, setting up a word that means something very specific to both of you – that you both plan to respect – can be the perfect trick for remembering to respect the marriage and each other.
4. Develop a visible space for individual self-care.
Keeping in line with my prior point, planning for a successful marriage doesn’t just mean planning for a successful marriage – it means planning for a successful YOU. One way to do this is to remember to take care of yourself. I am – self-admittedly – notoriously bad at this. I can go for days or weeks at a time running around trying to do everything without stopping and making sure I’m okay. The one routine I rarely break is my workouts – but even that fell to shit during the pre-wedding and honeymoon process, so I’m clearly not that good at it in general. I combat this by keeping a self-care page in my Bullet Journal (pic below) to remind me what works for me in the moments that I am overwhelmed.
5. Keep lists – so you can keep healthy space.
I am not a daytime texter. When Jonathon or I leave the house, I am not into texting all day. I am more into letting the activities of the day build up and being in the moment so that we can talk about things later. I have been in relationships before with people that loved to text all day every day – not my thing. That said, I often have moments during the day where I think to myself “I need to tell Jonathon this or that.” Instead of texting him immediately, I started keeping a list in my – what else – Bullet Journal. I call it my “Prince Charming” list (puke if you must, but that’s how I think of him!) and it’s made up of Washi-taped in pages. When the list is up, it gets tossed and I paste a new list in. It can be anything from daily, life things (like “Remind Jonathon of X”) to more relationship-oriented, feely things (like “Tell Jonathon about this marriage book to read”). I really like keeping my thoughts in one place and avoiding the all-day texting (in case you can’t tell, I’m big on personal space – even within a marriage!).
6. Check in – daily.
Sometimes, when Jonathon is cooking or running around the house, I’ll go over and wrap my arms around him (as much as I can, because I am little and he is not!) and just say “Hey, are you good?” And he does the exact same thing to me – if he thinks I seem tired or out of it or moody for some reason, he’ll be like “How are you doing, babe?” And you know what? It’s really, really fucking nice. Sometimes I don’t even realize I AM out of it, and sometimes he doesn’t realize he’s being a bit in his own head, so the random, tiny check in his really nice for both of us!
7. Ditch the expectations.
Expectations are the mother of disappointment. It’s natural, in any long-term relationship – even a friendship – to start to develop expectations. He’s “supposed” to do the cooking, I’m “supposed” to take the puppy out, we’re “supposed” to do the budgeting together. Bullshit. Let me repeat my first sentence: EXPECTATIONS ARE THE MOTHER OF DISAPPOINTMENT.
He’s not “supposed” to do anything. Neither am I. We do things because we love each other and want to set the other up for success. We do things because we want to contribute to our marriage and our life together. We do things because we like to.
Sure, patterns develop: I normally take the puppy out in the evening, he normally does the cooking. But that’s all they are: patterns. I’ve reminded myself every single day that Jonathon doesn’t have to do anything for me. Just because he’s my husband now doesn’t mean he owes me anything. And vice versa. When he does do something nice or contributory, then, I get to be pleasantly surprised and grateful. I get to appreciate every single thing my husband does, because I am not expecting any of it. I get to walk into the kitchen after he’s made me a perfect breakfast, kiss him on his perfect lips and say “Thanks for making breakfast, you are the best husband in the world.” I get to see him in his best light, every single day.
8. Plan to be kind.
Okay, you aren’t always going to be kind to each other. You will have shitty days, and feel shitty, and act shitty. That doesn’t mean you can’t PLAN to be kind – this is a marriage PLAN after all. Don’t plan to be the basic bitch “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” blah blah bullshit bullshit. That stupid meme-oriented quote may be true, but even if it is true, does that mean you need to put forth your WORST to test people? It certainly does not. Plan to be your best, every moment of every day and let your partner be their best as well.
9. Scan for positive behavior – instead of negative.
So, I’m really messy. I leave shit everywhere. I’m also a neurotic Type A that hates tardiness. I’m also a helicopter parent for my dog. I also suck at letting people help me, and I can be pretty selfish and self-absorbed. If Jonathon wanted to, he could constantly be pointing out these negative traits and asking me to improve on them. But he doesn’t – in fact, he does just the opposite. He’s constantly looking for ways to notice the good things about me. Whether he does it on purpose or just sub-consciously, he’s constantly looking for reasons to call me “the best wife ever” and call himself the “luckiest man alive.” And you know what? Because he does that, I WANT to improve on the ways my behavior sucks, because I want to continue to be better for myself and for him, since I know he loves and accepts me. Weird how that works!
Don’t be one of those people constantly nitpicking your partner – it doesn’t work and it’ll lead to discord more than harmony.
10. Talk…constantly. About everything.
I may be guilty of wanting to overshare. But I’m okay with it, because my pushing Jonathon with all my words has led to a lot of really awesome conversations (like this one – “Oh hey, I was serious about that eloping thing…”). When it comes to talking, err on the side of too much – because it won’t be too much! It’ll be exactly what is needed to continue understanding each other – so you can love and support each other as well!
If this sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. I don’t believe that any of us come out of the womb prepared for an entire life spent with another human being – monogamously or not. Living with one person forever – considering how long we live now versus how long we used to live as humans – is not going to be easy. It may not even be biologically/evolutionarily natural, for fuck’s sake. We may be doing something totally weird and against our nature when we decide to commit to a life with someone forever – even if we recognize our need for emotional/physical/sexual interaction with other humans. Because of that – why not take some time to plan for the bumps ahead? There will be unexpected bumps that can’t be foreseen, of course, and we will fuck up, of course, but isn’t it wiser to try to set ourselves up for success, rather than taking for granted that we know how to do this “lifelong relationship” thing?
I am, after all, a newlywed – and previous divorcee – that knows nothing about what will work and what won’t. But I can still try my hardest to figure out ways to make my husband happy forever.
What are some of your favorite relationship tips and tricks? Let me know!