I take real issue with how most of our generation views relationships. We emphasize freedom and independence so much that loyalty and respect take a backseat. It’s as though completely intertwining two lives is something of an embarrassment, so everyone’s constantly trying to prove that they’re totally fine on their own, even when they’re in a relationship.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but marriage is all about intertwining your lives. It’s about putting your relationship first, not yourself. This sounds a lot scarier than it is, since if you’re in a healthy marriage, both partners will be intent on supporting the needs and goals of the other, leaving both parties completely satisfied on an individual level. When spouses focus on putting the other person first, you’d be amazed at how little you have to worry about “losing your identity” or “being controlled.”
Trust me, Aaron is even more concerned than I am about my need to eat the second that I’m hungry.
In our marriage, Aaron and I constantly strive to spur one another on in our hobbies, and are always thinking of ways to make the other person happier. (Deliver him lunch at work? Do the dishes? Encourage him to hang out with his friend? Wear tight yoga pants around the house?). Since both of us can blatantly see that our spouse is aware of and meeting our personal needs (even things that don’t directly involve the partnership), neither of us feels smothered or hindered by a “lack of independence.”
This leads me to the ugly four letter word: Rule.
Aaron and I set rules in our relationship, which seems to be a really uncommon thing for couples our age. A behavioral agreement sounds “controlling,” “untrusting,” or “unchill.” I beg to differ! When you talk with your significant other about expectations, then you avoid arguments that erupt from a simple lack of awareness, plus it’s a great opportunity to learn why each party feels certain ways about things. The more you understand why someone doesn’t approve of certain behaviors, the less it feels like you’re being controlled. Instead, because you care about their feelings and history (I would hope), you’re happy to find out more ways to love them through your actions. When both sides are more interested in pleasing the other person, everybody still feels like they can “do whatever they want”…because what they want more than anything is to show love to their partner.
Rules are also extremely helpful when it comes to guarding your relationship. So many of us are too prideful to admit– or even see– that every single person, ourselves included, is vulnerable to temptations. I completely trust Aaron and vice versa, but we’re also not stupid enough to think we’ll never be attracted to anyone ever again in our lives. Therefore, we both take precautions to avoid ending up somewhere we never want to be. It’s just common sense…don’t go hang out in a donut shop if you aren’t supposed to be eating donuts.
In my opinion, setting rules in a relationship actually shows more trust between the parties, not because the guidelines are set to control behavior, but because it shows a willingness to listen and love the other person in ways that you may not have thought of yourself. When you and your spouse are equally dedicated to setting boundaries, you’re feeding a deep level of commitment and selflessness. As long as feelings on both sides are always considered and respected (one person can’t be the rule-maker…this is not a dictatorship), then the compromises that end up becoming rules will feel like new ways to love eachother, not a list of ways you could end up in trouble.
Here are a few chapters out of the Leyko Rule Book:
1. No one-on-one hang outs with anyone of the opposite sex after dark (special exceptions are made).
2. When you get a Dove chocolate out of the chocolate jar (everyone has a chocolate jar right?), you must get one for the other person.
3. Never comment on how much the other person is or isn’t eating. (I admit that I have a hard time following this rule, because I’m constantly trying to get Aaron to eat more in order to make myself feel better.)
4. Always look each other in the eye during the first sip of alcohol for the night.
5. Any purchases over a certain $$ amount must be agreed on by both parties. (And both parties must consider the other person’s reasoning for wanting/not wanting to make the purchase, then sleep on it for a full night.)
6. Never, ever throw away unused disposable chopsticks.
7. No strip clubs under any circumstance or pressure. (I could write a whole separate post about this one, and why it’s absolutely ridiculous that women in this day and age are considered controlling for not wanting their significant others to go to strip clubs on Bachelor parties, vacations, etc. It makes me want to shake people and hug the poor girls who suppress their need for respect out of fear of not being “chill.” Lucky for me, Aaron is a grown man whose morals have developed past the point of desiring such entertainment, not only because I don’t like it or because of faith/morality issues, but because of a Ted Talk we listened to about the porn and stripping industries, which really puts in perspective how spending even a single dollar on anything to do with those industries directly supports human sex trafficking– even if your money isn’t technically being spent on something that wasn’t consensual. It still feeds the general industry, which spirals into an extremely sick, dark, and hair-raising world once you peel back just a few layers. See? Told you I could write a whole post on this one rule alone.)
8. Do not criticize the other person in public.
9. Never take off your wedding ring.
10. Never say hello or goodbye without a kiss.
Of course there are quite a few others, but I’d like to keep them between just Aaron and me. 😉 Still, you can see that most rules are actually super fun! If you’re in the kind of relationship where both people are totally focused on the happiness of the other person (which I really hope you are), then I highly recommend coming up with a rule book of your own. It’s the perfect way to stay connected and avoid unnecessary exposure to not-so-great situations.
“No rules” is for fools!
Dangit, “Rules are for fools” sounds way cooler. But listen to the first mantra. It’s more accurate.