3 things I wish I knew before I got married. #3 could have saved a lot of heartache.

Copy of 3 thingsI don't do a lot of “what if” thinking.

Most of the time it's not productive.

But “what if” blogging can help people who happen to stumble on this website while planning their wedding or preparing to propose.

Maybe one of these 3 things I wish I knew before I got married will help you no matter where you are in your relationship.

1. Your marriage will only be as good as you make it.

How many articles do you read a week about your favorite sports team? How many sit-coms did you watch this week? Medical dramas? House Hunters?

How much time have you spent at mlbtraderumors.com this week?

Now tell me how many words you've read about having a healthy marriage this week.  (“week” was word 126 of this post if that helps…).

What does it tell you if you spend more time comparing the per-square cost of toilet paper at Costco than you do learning about how to be a good husband?

The more you read, the more people you talk with about marriage, the more healthy marriage podcasts or shows you listen to or watch, the better a husband you're going to be.  You will learn great lessons. They will be repeated. Reinforced. And eventually applied.

The less you do the worse it will be.

Do yourself a favor and carve out at least an hour per week of alone time to learn about how you can be a better spouse.

2. It doesn't matter who emptied the dishwasher last.

I spent the first 5 years of marriage counting pretty much everything each of us did.

I'm pretty sure it's because I worked so much that I felt the need to justify my existence at home considering how little I was there….

And when I emptied the dishwasher the whole world knew about it.

But it didn't make anything easier. If anything it caused more frustration, arguing, and resentment around the house.

If you empty the dishwasher that's great. But it's nothing to celebrate.

It's just something you did. You contributed to the household. Congratulations!

3. Her family is your family.

I'm blessed that I come from a great family. My wife's family is large, about twice as big as mine (at least in the U.S. – don't get me started counting the Pavlidi (is that the plural of Pavlidis?) in Greece….). And they're great, too.

For the first several years we were together we argued about “family time.”

On Christmas, spending 1/2 the time with my family and the other 1/2 with hers didn't work out because her parents had divorced and remarried when she was young.

So we had three full houses to visit.

It frustrated me because I thought it was “fair” to divide the time up 1/2, 1/2 between my wife and me.

She thought it wasn't fair because then her parents would each only get 1/4.

She thought it was “fair” to divide the time 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.

I didn't think it was fair because then we'd be spending 2/3 of the time with her family.

Yes, we argued about stupid things like that.

At one point I even “offered” 40%, 30%, 30%.

I thought that made me the righteous one…

It didn't sound as stupid back then… at least to me it didn't…

After a few years of arguing about this (seriously…) 3 things about this caused me to think and act differently.

First, it doesn't really matter how much time you spend with a particular person on one particular day. Even holidays.

What matters most is how you treat them every day. So who really cares if we spend 2/3 of the time with “her family” and only 1/3 with mine, or whatever?

Second, they're not going anywhere.

They are her mom, dad, sister, brother, cousins, whatever. It just so happens that they're all really nice. But even if they were jerks, they're probably not going anywhere. She's going to want to spend time with them. And I happen to enjoy spending time with them, too. In our case, not only are they not going anywhere, but I'm actually happy about that.

Third, her family blessed our marriage. They welcomed me to the family. They love me. They support me. They support us.

Sounds like family to me.

And while I've always loved spending time with her side of the family, it was “her family” for a while and I felt the need to “defend” time with “my family.”

Once I accepted those two things, it didn't matter what percent of time we spent with whom. We see everyone. They know we love them. They're all family.

I was pretty much arguing for the sake of arguing after a while. To win, so to speak.

Man, how many stupid fights I could have avoided if I had just realized that six years ago….

So there you go. 3 things I wish I could have told Young Nick as he got down on one knee to propose that brisk April evening in New York City.

What do you wish you knew before you got married?

Is there anything you argue about that's probably just an exercise in winning an argument at this point?  Maybe it's time to let it go.  

Congratulations, you've now read 888 words about improving your marriage today!

How are you going to apply those words to improving your relationship?

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