A Writer’s Guide To A Healthy and Happy Marriage

Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Liza Kane of Redeeming the Time.

Five years ago, my husband and I found ourselves faced with the opportunity to own a “fixer-upper” house, with the potential to make a profit if we ever decided to sell it. It looked like an easy decision at first: everyone was buying a home, and, supposedly, a home never loses its value.

Yet, instead of leaping at the opportunity, my husband and I visualized what the next few years would look like. We went over the building plans for the house, the financing we were eligible for, and the estimated time it would take for him to do the repairs. For financial purposes, he planned to do most of the construction work himself, which meant that renovating the house would be his full-time occupation, and I would be the primary breadwinner responsible for paying the bills.

After careful deliberation, we bought the house.

Now, some people would look at our bohemian lifestyle and be appalled by our mismatched furniture (most of which my husband crafted together on a whim), and the piles of wood and tools scattered throughout the house. Even friends and family have begun to ask us: “So, how much longer until you’re finished?” But I know what they’re really asking us is: “How can you two stand to live like this?”

But, you know what? What others may see as an intolerable living situation, I see as a financial investment. The house we bought was not a “good-as-new” fixer-upper. No, it was a “tear-this-room-down-to-the-two-by fours-and-build-it-from-scratch” fixer-upper. Every day, I am in awe of the sweat equity that my husband puts into this house, and I’m confident that the our investment will pay off in the end and make up for all his years of hard labor.

Dreaming Together

Five years ago, I was dissatisfied with my day job. I was good at what I did, but I never felt fulfilled or content. I never acknowledged my desire to write a novel, let alone share that goal with others.

But then, one day, during one of my epic conversations with my husband about life, the universe, and everything else, he told me: “You should write the novels that you’re so addicted to reading.” His words took root my mind that day, and eventually inspired a new life goal.

So, we made a deal: once the house was finished and refinanced, he would step back into a full-time position in the work force, leaving me with the option to either change my occupation to one that was less demanding than my current day job, or, take up a part-time job.

We both understood that the publishing process would be slow, and I may not be able to see the fruits of my labor right away. But my husband acknowledged that any new venture is an investment, and he wanted to ensure that I had the time and resources I needed to create a beautiful story.

Of course I started to feel anxious, wondering if I could ever be good enough to live up to my husband’s expectations. But then he told me: “You’re no one’s idea of mediocre.”

My husband is not a person to dispense empty praise, not even to me. So, when he says something like that, how can I not believe him?

Creating Together

So, how were we able to take on such life-changing decisions in stride? How can you support your spouse’s dreams while nurturing your own? Here’s how:

Be Happy Individually.

You need to know what makes you happy–independent of your spouse. Write it all out, from life goals such as writing “The Great American Novel,” to everyday treats like a guilt-free afternoon typing away at your computer writing a story just for fun. Be as specific as possible. Then, make sure that you and your spouse share these goals with each other. There shouldn’t be any guessing games in a marriage, or underlying feelings of “my husband (or wife) should know what makes me happy.”

This strategy will make you more accountable to your own goals, and show your spouse how to support you.

Show Your Respect.

My husband and I have a win-win relationship at the core of our marriage, and this is because we respect each other. We show each other that respect by being careful with our words–both when we speak to each other, and when we speak about each other to third parties. We always assume that the other has good intentions, and we seek to understand each other’s viewpoints first, before rushing in with our own opinion.

So, listen when your spouse speaks, and let him (or her) revel in the joys of their day—even when your day has been less than perfect by comparison. Always balance your need to vent and complain to your spouse with an insightful or funny observation. Also, be excited about each other’s accomplishments (even if you don’t fully understand what these accomplishments mean to your spouse).

Creating a positive and encouraging environment on a daily basis allows for open dialogue and mutual support for your respective life goals.

Share Your Values.

Your significant other needs to agree on the same values you have because these values will dictate how you’ll relate to one another throughout your marriage. Some people choose religious beliefs and ideologies as common values to share, and, though those values are important, they are the bare minimum. There are other values to consider as well, including whether your spouse loves to live simply or more lavishly, whether or not your spouse honors fidelity, and whether or not your spouse believes children should be raised strictly or with a more “hands-off” approach.

You and your spouse will also need to decide how to prioritize your common values, and how these values will translate into your respective roles and responsibilities as a married couple. Ideally, these conversations would have taken place before getting married, but you can still discuss these things with your spouse now. It’s never too late to do so.

Oh, and remember that list I recommended that you both make at the beginning of this article? Use that as a tool to create an open dialogue between your and your spouse about both of your needs and expectations. Articulate why being a writer is important to you, and how your life goals can still support your common values. For example, if you both value living simply, share how economical it would be to work from home. You would use less gas, cause less wear and tear on your car, and spend less money on maintaining “professional attire” for work. Remember to listen to your spouse’s feedback, and assume that this feedback comes from a good place.

Happy Together

My husband and I were initially drawn to each other because we each exhibited behaviors that we valued highly: intelligence, independence, and integrity. We stayed together because we agreed on the things that matter (like values, and our philosophy of life), and we respect each other enough to know not to obsess over the things that don’t matter as much (like chores).

Whatever goal you decide to pursue, your marriage needs to be a source of strength for both you and your spouse. Your marriage needs to be an open, supportive environment where both you and your spouse can dream together—and then work together to make those dreams a reality.

Liza Kane is a full-time reader, writer, dreamer, though she pays the bills as a store manager. One day, her passion for words will eventually pay the bills. She chronicles her journey on her blog, Redeeming the Time.

How do you work with your spouse to make sure you both are accomplishing your goals? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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30 comments on “A Writer’s Guide To A Healthy and Happy Marriage

  1. D.B. Smyth says:

    Such excellent advice! Thank you, Liza, for the insight. My husband and I can definitely benefit from finding what makes us happy individually and discussing that with eath other. (I have a tendency to do all the taking and, because he’s so sweet, I forget to ask about his wants/needs.) You’re awesome! Thank you!

    • Liza Kane says:

      It definitely takes work to create that win-win relationship, but the return on that investment is beyond measure! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, DB, and I’m glad you’ve gained insight!

  2. Ollin says:

    I love this post, Liza. It gave me so much to think about. Even though I’m not married, this post gives so much great advice about relationships. It’s good advice to keep in mind for those looking for a lifetime partner. Thank you.

    • Liza Kane says:

      Absolutely my pleasure: I’ve enjoyed being able to reflect on my marriage, especially since I’ve needed a second wind in terms of focusing on my writing goals for my current project.
      Yes, I hope that readers will see that marriage is not a magic pill to a happily ever after, and that they understand that the foundation of a happy marriage starts with a happy and content You.
      Thank you for hosting this post, and all the best to you on your journey! ^_^

  3. Christina says:

    Great article! I’m also not married, but this advice can apply to all relationships, including a strong friendship.

    • Liza Kane says:

      ABSOLUTELY! I believe that the basic structure of all relationships is the same; the only difference would be varying levels of intimacy.
      A principle I value highly is Integrity: consistent actions regardless of circumstance. In that way, I “practiced” being a loving and supportive partner to my future husband by being a loving and supportive person in all of my various roles, from daughter to roommate to coworker to friend.
      Thank you for sharing, Christina!

  4. Julie says:

    This is a great article, and gave me lots to think about with respect to my own marriage. I love you’re husband’s line, “You’re no one’s idea of mediocre.” Awesome!

    • Liza Kane says:

      Thank you for sharing, Julie! I’m glad to have shared in your insight!
      PS, I’m not *usually* emotional, but I did cry a little when he said that 😀

  5. clarbojahn says:

    I was just writing a piece of creative nonfiction on my marriage to my late husband and summarized the marriage in one word- diligence. We worked on our marriage like you seem to. The same can be applied to my writing. I am diligent about my writing or it wouldn’t get done.
    The dictionary describes it as treating something with attentive care.
    I treat both with diligence.

  6. Liza Kane says:

    “Treating something with attentive care”…What a wonderful way to describe it!
    I think people hear the phrase “Marriage takes work” and automatically associate it with negative connotations, especially because the “work” part is often misapplied. One or both parties assume that the “work” involves changing (or “working”) the partner, when in reality, the couple is on the same team, and both parties ought to be working together to pursue common goals.
    I also see the “work” of a marriage as the difference between obligatory work (like my day job that pays the bills) and meaningful work (like writing my novel). I consider both things “work” but one I do for the paycheck, the other I do for the joy of it. I view both writing and marriage as joyful work!
    Thank you so much for sharing, Clar, and I will be on the lookout for that piece! I enjoy reading creative non fiction 😀

  7. […] continuing reading the post at Courage 2 Create and share your insights with me there! LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  8. Rochelle R says:

    What excellent advice. Just found your blog- very interesting. I look forward to more posts. 🙂

  9. Jenny says:

    I really enjoyed this article, Liza. It is wonderful to read about a happy couple making it in such a difficult world where it is so easy to stray from your core values and from each other. You have an amazing husband. Anyone who can say “You’re no one’s idea of mediocre’ has my vote. Good luck with your remodeling/rebuilding your home while strengthening the foundation of your marriage at the same time. You are very lucky and blessed.

    • Liza Kane says:

      I can’t imagine navigating this world without having a firm foundation, and feel lucky that I get to do so with my best friend. Thank you for the well wishes, Jenny, and for sharing your comments!

  10. Wonderful post 🙂 I am getting married soon and thinking of a career transition (the day job is not so satisfying these days) so this post comes at just the right time. Thanks for writing in such a thoughtful post.

    • Liza Kane says:

      Awesome Melissa! I’m glad to have shared some helpful insights with you! (And I hear you about the day job!)
      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  11. inkspeare says:

    Loved the post; very true and wise words. You are blessed to have found each other. We are going thru a similar experience, fixing a decrepit farmhouse a little at a time to make the move and pursue a simpler life, away from the rat race so we can both share our true passions. Most people would not understand the way of life we are choosing, but it works for us. The sweet sacrifices you make now will create the sweet life that both of you share, tons of work and sweat but worth every minute. I love this part on your post – “But then, one day, during one of my epic conversations with my husband about life, the universe, and everything else, he told me: “You should write the novels that you’re so addicted to reading.” His words took root my mind that day, and eventually inspired a new life goal.”
    Your husband saw the writer in you, and your genuine talent; and that is so profound.

    • Liza Kane says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, Maria! I agree with your “it works for us” mindset! I don’t need others to adopt our choices or even understand our choices. They just need to know that it works for us!

      And this–>”Your husband saw the writer in you, and your genuine talent; and that is so profound.” totally made me tear up. Just last night the husband told me, “I don’t know how you can’t see how talented and successful you already are. I just need to write “success” on a mirror and make you look at it.” *heart melt*

      I am truly grateful to have such a supportive spouse; I wish you all the best in your pursuit of a simpler life with yours! 😀

  12. Hartford says:

    Wonderfully written and beautifully said. I loved how you wrote about being happy individually – so key and unfortunately, I think a lot of people still go into relationships hoping/expectating that the person will “make” them happy – so untrue. I also love your exercise for keeping your needs/wants clear, having mutual core values, and respecting one another. All crucial points to a happy, fruitful marriage! Thanks for sharing!

  13. […] I discovered Liza Kane’s uber guest post at Courage 2 Create. I absolutely loved her writer’s guide to a healthy and happy marriage (…shoulda called it the everyone’s guide…) because when people ask me and hubby […]

  14. J.C says:

    fantastic post, Liza! Hubby and I have the same kind of relationship as you guys do and I am always trying to explain to people what makes it work so well – I think I’ll just direct them to read this instead!

    • Liza Kane says:

      Thank you Cassie! I’m so happy that you have a win-win relationship, too! Hopefully, more people will come to understand/experience the joy of this kind of relationship! 😀

  15. Great post, Liza!
    Excellent points. Simple ideas that couples usually fail to do.
    Often, it is the simple guidelines that make all the difference in every aspect of our lives.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  16. Thank you, Liza! I especially liked what you said about listening to each other’s day and taking joy in each other’s success, even when we don’t fully understand what our spouse is so excited about. 🙂 I’m very encouraged to read about couples who are happily supporting each other’s dreams.

  17. Michele Shaw says:

    Anyone married to a writer has to be flexible and understanding, but I also understand about what makes my husband happy, and I try to make sure he has time for himself, too. Add two kids into the mix and it takes the flexibility of Olympic gymnasts to keep things from blowing up. But, we manage quite well, and I guess 18 years of being happily married speaks to that. This is a great, honest post, Liza. I hope to meet your Mr. Wonderful some day!

    • Liza Kane says:

      Thank you Michele! One of these days, we’ll coordinate a meet up! 😀
      Also, I love this: “It takes the flexibility of Olympic gymnasts to keep things from blowing up.” I’d add that being a certified juggler would be a plus 😉
      And yes, after 18 years you can definitely claim to “manage quite well.” ^_^

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