We’ve been married just five months, but it didn’t take much time at all for us to uncover a few things that have become part of our sort-of “secret sauce” in our marriage. These are products, activities, and ideas that allow us to live peacefully together while maintaining emotional and physical intimacy. Some are lighthearted and others are more serious, but this is what’s been working for us as we’ve navigated these newlywed waters!
1 | Time Alone
I am a raging introvert and Riley is a moderate extrovert, so I assumed that I would be the one who craved more time alone in our marriage. This, however, has not been the case in our current season of life. Why? Because Riley works with a group of people who he knows well, and they both communicate about work and chat about their personal lives all day long. By the time he gets home, he’s up for a light dinner conversation (I’ve learned that this is not the time for making plans/discussing heavy things), and that’s about it. I, on the other hand, am by myself most of the day. I really enjoy my alone time because I’m able to write and get things done, but by the time Riley gets home, I’m ready to chat! It’s been interesting to see the way this has played out for us. Whereas when we were first married we tried to spend every moment of the evening together, we’ve realized that on some days, that doesn’t actually work for us. So, sometimes, we’ll spend time at dinner together, and then watch a little TV or a movie together (without much chatting), and then one of us will go into the bedroom and read/call a friend/etc. while the other stays in the living room doing something else. About an hour before bed, we’ll “reconvene,” so to speak. This time alone (albeit brief) makes our marriage stronger.
As far as finding time to communicate outside of the evenings, some solutions we’ve found are: scheduling lunch dates once a week (this is a great time for us to make plans or have deep conversations), planning a date and time to discuss a particular issue/topic/trip, emailing back and forth during the day (this works especially well if we’re planning a trip or something logistical), or designating one of us to make the final decision on something without discussion.
2 | Charging Station
We have a silly little built-in desk outside of our bedroom door (you can see it here in our home tour) that we’ve turned into a charging station for our phones and iPads. This helps us in two ways. First of all, we have a drop spot. We’re never looking for our electronics because they “live” on our charging station. By now, we naturally and automatically put our phones and tablets back on the desk after we’re finished using them. Secondly, we have a “no technology in the bedroom” policy. It’s something we decided on in premarital counseling before we got married, and we’ve done a good job sticking to it, if I do say so myself! Before we enter our room at night, we always plug in our electronics and then enter the bedroom. Because of this, we actually communicate (read number eight below) and spend time together (wink) when we’re in our room as opposed to mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook or diving into the black hole of researching random curiosities. We use old-fashioned alarm clocks to wake us up in the morning and they’ve never failed us!
(The charging station is also where Riley keeps his wallet when he’s not carrying it, which has proved to be a huge timesaver when we’re leaving the house.)
3 | Key Hook
Much like the charging station described above, having a key hook by our door has likely disarmed many potential arguments. All of our keys are always hanging on the key hook. Period. As soon as we walk in the door, we instinctively hang our keys up. (This is also where I hang my purse.) We are never, ever searching for keys. And there’s nothing that makes me annoyed and angry faster than wasting time searching for my keys. There’s nothing else to say about that. Amen.
4 | Designated Places For Our Personal Stuff
Since Riley and I had both lived in our own apartments (without roommates) for several years before marrying and living together, we both had lots and lots of our own stuff when we merged our lives. It was a process to cut the clutter in half, but once we did, our home was a much happier place (you can read about the big purge here). After we had gotten rid of all of the extraneous stuff, we were left with what we actually used/wanted/needed, but not much space to put it (our home is 773 square feet!). Being the labeled-bin lover that I am, I found plastic bins and baskets, and labeled them with our names for the bathroom, which was a small space that became a big organizational challenge. Now, we each have our own shelf with our own bins. Oh, and there’s no need to root around in the other’s bin for, say, a cotton ball, because there’s a third shelf with everything we share…and all of that, of course, is in neat bins and labeled too! 😉 In our bedroom, the closet and dresser are both split in half 50/50 and we each have our own nightstand. The simple act of designating places for his stuff and my stuff has saved both of us a lot of time and potential frustration.
5 | Poo-Pouri
I’ve written about this before in this post, and as I said there, I can’t think of an appropriate explanation. Just trust me when I say that this will save you a lot of marital drama.
6 | A Morning & Evening Routine
We have had a set morning and evening routine for months (which you can read about here and here, respectively), and both have made for a smooth beginning and ending to our days. Since we do the same thing every morning and every evening, there’s no guesswork. I know when Riley wakes up and leaves for work, and he can count on dinner to be ready when he arrives home. Because of our consistent schedule and routine, we don’t have to communicate constantly about daily logistics. Aside from a rogue morning when one of us has to go to the DMV or an evening when we have dinner plans out, we can rightly assume what the flow of the day will be. This consistency has been a major ingredient to our healthy marriage!
(We also sync our schedules/calendars on our phones and use a synced Wunderlist account for things like groceries. This has been hugely helpful!)
7 | Common Interests
Though our values are solidly the same, Riley and my interests are extremely different in many ways. For example, he absolutely loves all kinds of music and concerts for bands that I’ve never heard of, and I find great joy in crafting, baking, and little DIY projects–none of which particularly excite him. This is completely normal (we are two different people, after all), and many times, it’s precisely our differences that add interest and fun to our marriage. That being said, it’s really meaningful to do things that we both enjoy together. For example, we both love coffee, so we greatly enjoy weekend afternoons in a local coffee shop, we have TV shows that we both love, so we’ll anticipate them, watch them together, and then debrief all week until the next episode, we listen to many of the same podcasts, which is another great topic of conversation, we both like to play board games, so we break out Monopoly or Scrabble every once in a while, we both love to eat, so we’ll get excited about trying a new recipe or restaurant, we both enjoy long walks, so we take them when we can…the list goes on. We have found it to be so important to make time regularly and often to do things together that will refill both of our tanks!
8 | Pillow Talk & Prayers
I love this one. At night, after we’ve unplugged for the day and gotten ready for bed, we’ll lay together and talk. Sometimes for just a few minutes, other times for hours. (The other day we stayed up chatting until 3am! Oops!) Charley will usually cuddle with us during this time (he puts himself to bed in his crate once the lights turn off), so the three of us spend time together, just our little family, no phones or tablets or noise. It’s lovely. Once we’re ready to sleep, Riley and I pray together. Every single night. He promised to pray with me often in his wedding vows (which you can read here and/or watch here), and he is a man of his word! Even when it’s been a hard day, even when we’re exhausted, even when I’m struggling with the move, we always, always pray. This is the real marriage-maker: to put Jesus in the center.
\\ This is what is working for us during our current season of life. What would be on your married life must-have list?