Updated: Dec 6, 2021
The Early Years“
“This is the beginning of the rest of your lives!”
That is what many say as a couple enters into marriage. Full of hope, promise and big dreams. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you end up getting married, the initial feeling is most often the same. Excitement and great joy. Fuel that helps propel a couple into their future.
There are some other things that will help to pave the way for a couple’s future. Things that we don’t often consider in “The Early Years”. In the beginning, it is the big picture stuff we talk about, envision, and pursue as we look through “rose-colored glasses” and sing “Everything is beautiful...”
However, the devil is in the details. Details that don’t often get the scrutiny that is beneficial for the relationship looking at the long haul (meaning a lasting marriage.)
The experiences and first-hand knowledge that can be passed on down from those who have made it to those “Golden Years” to those just starting out is priceless. Sadly, many do not have someone like that in their lives. Broken homes, divorced parents and grandparents (believe it or not) blended and single-parent families often don’t provide examples, nor the ability to share successful stories to guide a new couple.
Possibly these posts then may help to provide an alternative and fill in some of the gaps. To offer some guidance, share some experiences and pass on some examples to think about.
Not always does a picture “paint a thousand words”. We find a senior couple walking along a beach on a beautiful, sunny day. And yet, the picture cannot tell their history, their story of what they went through together to get to this point. The seasons of life that they encountered. The storms they struggled through. The challenges, the wonderful surprises, the mistakes, as well as the things they got right, the victories won and the successes they enjoyed. With it, the memories of all those moments in their journey together that only the two of them share. This couple made it through.
What might their journey sound like if it could be put into a song?
The early years. We start out with a blank page. Song lyrics are yet to be written. Some that you will write down will be specific to just your relationship. Those make for a good love song.
The other, general experiences that each couple will face doesn’t get much press and aren’t sexy or ear candy enough to get put into a song. However, they will end up being the more important things that will require their eventual expectation in a relationship. And the preparation to navigate through while on love’s “natural high”.
In the early years, you will have your hands full of the more immediate things that occupy your minds and time. The first few “honeymoon” years makes it hard to get too serious about much more than just enjoying life together. And by all means, you should. As you do, there are few things to consider early on that one cannot afford to be naive about or pass on as one of those things you will get around to “eventually”. This comes around much quicker than you think. And, without realizing it yet, these are also the years that you will be setting the initial tone and direction of what your marriage is going to be like.
First, most couples will eventually face certain financial challenges. It is only a matter of time. Some couples are more risk-takers than others. Nothing wrong with dreaming big and taking shots that may be a gamble. However, there is one thing I would always recommend a couple consider starting while on your pursuit in reaching out to grab for the brass ring. It is the idea of establishing a “rainy day” fund.
This is something I learned from my parents. They witnessed as teens during the Depression the struggles of layoffs, lack of work, soup lines, long employment lines and “banking holidays” where banks closed to stop a run from people coming to access their money in their accounts due to fears of the economy collapsing and losing everything. In fact, they were also big on maintaining a food pantry as well.
We all end up facing a rainy day or two. We don’t want to live in fear, but we do want to excercises some prudence. And, if we have done some preparation beforehand in anticipation, it will have helped to minimize the blow.
So, consider what you could put aside on a monthly basis. Maybe you can only afford at first putting $50 a month in a bag, box or something that can hold the cash for you. This is separate from any savings bank account you might be depositing funds into. This is cash-on-hand that you have immediate access to, and cash money that you tuck away and use when you are faced with something unexpected. Try getting up to and maintaining a $1,000 balance. If you can, and want to have more on hand, do so. Trust me, you will be glad you got into the habit of doing this. Replace any funds you use to maintain that balance.
What could possibly come up? Well, the list is endless. As one example, we had used ours to pay for an emergency service call to have our furnace fixed during one cold winter. It was nice being able to pay cash rather than add another bill or run up a charge card balance. Keeping the number of monthly bills down and staying out of as much debt as you can in your “early years” will lessen the financial pressure that causes marital stress. Life is full of curves. You will not be able to avoid all of them, so, prepare.
This is the time to experiment with finding out what you want to do in life. Just know that as you get closer to the “Rock n Roll” years (the mid-thirties through the late fifties) this can begin to work against you so just be aware. By the time you enter into the “Rock n Roll” years, you will want to be at a point where you can focus on stability, advancement, growth and steady increase. Or, to make a career change if you realize what you are doing is not what you really want to be doing.
Whatever it is, it should be something you really enjoy and makes you happy, whether you make a lot of money at it or not. Now, I probably need to define that a bit. Whatever it is that is legal, ethical and that your spouse accepts. Job misery can only feed misery at home. If you are down, you will bring your spouse down. That can be depressing and can lead to the eventual collapse of what you have. A spouse that is accepting of what you do gives you the support and encouragement that you will want. If they are not, well, you are in for a rough ride.
When we are cruising down the road on a nice summer day, we are enjoying the scenery nearby while also glancing down the road to keep an eye on what lies ahead. This is what we want to practice in the early years and maintain throughout our lives and marriage. That is, enjoying the immediate things while still having an eye glancing at what is coming down the road.
Football teams don’t rely on just having one learned play that they run on every down. They have multiple plays they can use in order to find success. Likewise, discuss a back-up plan, and what that might look like, in case things don’t go the way you hoped. Or something comes along that change's things. Don’t get caught with your pants down (an old-school phrase). Unplanned pregnancies, accidents, health issues, dried up opportunities and more can alter your path. Be flexible, adaptable and open to change. As a very wise saying goes, “Hope for the best but plan for the worst!”
It is during these “Early Years” that some couples encounter a period commonly referred to as the “Seven Year Itch”. This is a topic worth spending some time on in a separate blog. For now, we will simply note that it is a term used to identify a time frame where a couple may find themselves facing a dry period, or lull, in their relationship that has the potential of torpedoing a marriage. It creeps up on a couple undetected unless one can notice the signs. Therefore, it is worth being mindful of, and for us to explore further at a later time.
The person we fell in love with is also a person that is going to continue to evolve, change, grow and mature. We may like to think the person we fell in love with will always act the same, look the same, be the same. However, none of us stay frozen in time. The first few years in a marriage may seem just like time has stood still. But as the years move along, we will age, and we will change. You included. So, the key is to acknowledge early this fact, embrace change, grow along with your spouse and keep each other close. The changes will only seem dramatic and foreign to us the further we live separate lives under one roof. Knowing this in advance, you can expect it to happen, and allow it to be the natural flow of things, as it should be. This actually can lead to falling in love all over again and again as you find yourself discovering new things about the one you are with.
This leads to the topic of “time” once again. During the “Early Years”, we start out making time regularly for each other in a relationship. In fact, we put in loads of time. But slowly that time starts to get sucked up with added work responsibilities, the arrival of children into the mix and simply packing in more of what life has to offer. It is way too easy for us to stop blocking out time for what started out as the most important thing in our marriage, being with each other. Don’t stop investing the time. And don’t allow anything to take a higher priority. Obviously, there may certain times where in order to get ahead or for other particular circumstances this may have to be altered temporarily. However, it should be done with both parties in agreement and being aware that it is, and must be, temporary. If not, you can anticipate problems and temptations to seep in.
So, to summarize. Enjoy the freedom of your early years, but while doing so, begin the habit of keeping an eye on the horizon ahead for things that may be looming. Start putting a “rainy day” fund together. And, think about what some contingency plans might look like in case your dream life is thrown a curve or two. Chances are, you will need to make adjustments as time goes by. Be sure to keep investing in quality time within your relationship. And finally, know that individually you both will change but loving someone is loving who they are, and what they will become as they grow old with you.
Up ahead, the “Seven Year Itch”. See you down the road!
Until then, we wish you LOVE, JOY and PEACE!
Brad & Yvonne Adams