I wrote The Boyfriend’s Manifesto some years back. This is its followup. It took some time to write this because I honestly felt I’m not an expert at being a husband. A lot of people have been at this longer and have gone through much more. But I also can’t deny that I’ve learned several things from my marriage. And the best way to deepen learning is to talk about it. I’m also writing this for myself and for my wife, and plan to add to it every year, like a rolling record of our learnings.
Since we’re 6 years into our marriage, here are 6 lessons I’ve learned in our marriage thus far:
Invest in a good foundation: focus on both of You
The first year of our marriage, we spent in China, away from everyone we know. While this is not possible for everyone, the following concepts were very helpful that first year:
(a) we learned to depend on each other as a first option, not a 2nd or 3rd option.
(b) we learned to have adventures together – how you are during travel tells you a lot about how you are as people and partners; we learned to navigate this, and we always enjoy our travels together.
(c) we learned to live together and became real partners — not just as husband and wife, but partners in business, and complements to each other’s competencies. Here we learned to think of our marriage as a Startup. We learned to be as professional–if not more professional–in our marriage as we are in our respective work. We manage our finances like pros, invested in a budgeting app to track our expenses. We don’t slack in household management — we plan our menu, grocery lists, cleaning and maintenance schedules; we always strive for efficiency in household management so we are free to do other things, we have a shared google calendar and a shared trello board for example. We go through planning sessions when needed. And we have ideation dates where we discuss each other’s business ideas.
All those years of practice in China helped us when the pandemic began and we were forced to stay home here in SG. We manage our household as best as we can because a lot of the friction experienced in marriage are catastrophised versions of poor management that lead to fatigue, stress and arguments. When the basic things are managed well then you free yourself up to fly.
Always remember: God brought you together
I learned that we are at our best when our relationship with God is at our best. Sometimes we get lost and focus on ourselves too much, and that always ends up badly. The great thing about having a good personal relationship with God is that you stop thinking of yourself as the centre of the universe, you have the grace of stick-ability, you don’t catastrophise problems and you don’t make things about yourself.
Marriage is a marathon. Don’t treat it like a sprint.
You don’t have to solve ALL your problems. You don’t have to over analyse. You don’t have to have everything right now. You can wait, and dream together, and figure things out as you go along.
Learn to fight like adults. No sulking allowed. There’s a pattern to the fighting. Solve the pattern.
One of the graces of reflection is pattern identification. I learned to pay attention and identify personal patterns in our arguments. I worked on myself instead of paying attention to what my spouse is doing. I learned those patterns and became better at catching myself.
By the way, if you’re thinking you want to win the next argument, there’s a problem. Seek professional help. NOW. When one person wins, you both lose.
Prepare to be surprised. And expect miracles.
Sometimes, our expectations of relationships are not just high, they’re also arbitrary and imaginary – conjured in our minds based on some weird fantasy. We then project those expectations to our spouse. I learned that the only expectation we should have is the expectation for miracles to happen in our lives.
When I’m in that mode — of being in the lookout for miracles — I’m more joyful, less controling, more at peace. I don’t demand that miracles happen, we just say yes to the surprises that happen, and we are able to see miracles happen every day. And they do in ways we least expect.
I’ve stopped expecting anything from my wife, and I think she’s stopped expecting from me. We’re just living in a state of constant Yes.
Love is so much better than being “in love.”
Being in love is a great feeling to have. I like my wife a lot. I like being with her. I like our conversations. Her fire is contagious and I’m in awe of her brilliance. If we were high school students, I know I would be in love with her. And throughout this pandemic, I am just grateful I’m quarantined with her.
But there’s something much better than being in love. It’s the loving commitment we gave when we said we’re going to be with each other in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, in times of happiness and sadness. Coupled with #3 (Marriage is a Marathon), you get a lot of stability in being with the one right partner for the rest of your life by exploring the depths of each other’s personalities.
I’ve always heard (and known) that marriage is a vocation. This past year, I finally understood in a deeper way why that is. Throughout the course of your marriage, you become more patient, forgiving, accepting, and loving. I now see how being married can lead you to God!
There’s a study of thousands of married couples celebrating more than twenty five years of marriage. They found out that after twenty five years of being together, the couples resemble each other in physical appearance (they look alike), and they found one other very curious thing: a significant percentage of the couples even have their wrinkles and smile lines on the same spots! I would like to think that those wrinkles and smile lines are physical proof and natural ‘tattoos’ of shared experiences between the couples — shared experiences of pain and frustration, but also of joy and happiness. There–in each other’s faces–are the maps of how life is navigated, and struggled with, and won. You really become what you behold and who better to resemble than the person you wake up with every single day!
Download a printable copy of the Husband’s Manifesto here.