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.
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?
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.
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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