A lot of the things I write about – minimalism, simplicity, finances, and community living, ideally involve both members of a relationship. I’m pretty lucky, I admit, to have a husband who sees mostly eye-to-eye with me on these things. We definitely don’t agree on everything, but we’ve created our own family identity and family mission together. The way we live our lives is part of what defines us as individuals and as a couple.
I realize that this takes time. I realize that very few couples are starting from the same point. Usually, it’ll be two very different people starting at different places, hopefully working toward the same goals in the end (and becoming closer to one another in the process.)
So here’s some tips that have helped me and Josh over the years as we’ve crafted our “alternative” lifestyle together.
Don’t Fear Change
When we first got married, I knew Josh was awesome. I thought, “As long as he doesn’t change too much, everything will be fine.” Looking back, that was such a silly thought! Did I really want to be married to 22-year-old Josh forever? No!
Both me and Josh have changed, learned, and grown quite a bit since we got married. And this kind of change isn’t a bad thing. It’s something to be embraced and even celebrated! We’re wiser and more mature than we used to be. We’ve changed how we eat and how we buy things just to name a few things.
If your significant other is suddenly inspired to try something new, like go on a shopping ban or stop eating meat, try not to fear the change. If it doesn’t work, it won’t stick, and you have nothing to worry about. If it does work, you might want to let them test the waters and then join them later. Either way, don’t fear fresh ideas, even if they sound strange at first.
Lead the Way
Maybe you’re not the one who is resistant to change. Maybe you’re the one who is enthusiastic about a lifestyle switch, but your partner doesn’t share your enthusiasm. That’s okay too.
Sometimes you have to go it alone for a while, but don’t be discouraged. They might think it’s just a phase that will pass. (Maybe you’ve done this kind of thing before!)
But if you’re really excited about changing your lifestyle to be more healthy or more frugal, don’t argue or waste energy trying to win them over. Rather, just show them.
Let them see that it isn’t another passing thing. Let them see how your body changes or your cravings disappear. Let them see all the money you save and the amazing things you’re able to do with it. Actions always speak louder than words.
Don’t overstep your spouse’s boundaries for the sake of getting ahead financially or being more minimal. Do not criticize them for their behavior if they haven’t agreed to do the lifestyle change with you.
For instance, don’t get rid of their things without asking because you’ve decided to be more minimal. Start with your own piles of junk. This isn’t about them unless they decide it is.
As much as I believe in minimalism and frugality, I believe relationships are more important. Do not destroy your relationships over insignificant things – like who needs to get rid of what. A clean home is nice. But a happy marriage in a messy home is much better.
Remember You’re a Team
“If one of you is winning then you’re both losing.” I don’t know where that quote is originally from, but I love it. Josh and I don’t have to agree on everything in order to be on the same team. It’s not me against him. It’s us against the world’s standard way of doing things.
We can compromise and listen to one another if we’re on the same team. When Josh is hurting, it hurts me too. Therefore, I need to have his best interests at heart when making decisions.
Make a Statement
I say it all the time, but I can’t say it enough: make a family mission statement. This is one of the single best things Josh and I have done in our marriage.
It may sound cheesy. You may not want to take the time to do it. But it’s fun to talk about dreams and what really matters to us. It gave our family a sense of identity and purpose to sit down and hash out what we’re here for and what is important to us.
There’s not enough hours in the day to say yes to everything. A family mission can help us prioritize and choose between ventures. Using our mission statement as a guide, we know what to invest in and what to say no to. Ours is just four words, but it means a lot to us: Simplicity. Generosity. Hospitality. Community.
It may take a long time for you and your significant other to find that happy middle ground, but it’s worth the wait. If the change is too much of a shock to them, it may take compromise.
If you’ve lived your whole life together “vegging” on the weekends, then they may not be ready to throw away the TV and take up extreme sports all at once. But you might be able to set media limits or take turns planning the weekend.Try easing into the changes to make the transition more natural.
Maybe you’ll never see completely eye-to-eye, but you’re with them for a reason. I know Josh brings an important amount of balance to my life, even when we’re butting heads.
Ultimately, if Josh and I are both prayerfully and honestly seeking God, then we’ll arrive at a lot of the same conclusions. It’s not always crystal clear, but it’s a big part of what’s brought me and Josh through all these changes successfully. The Spirit tugs on our hearts, usually at the same time. It’s pretty miraculous.
Sometimes I’m resistant to something Josh wants to do, but then I pray about it and God tells me the same thing. So there’s no denying that the spiritual aspect is huge. Seeking God together without reservations is both a huge challenge and a thrilling adventure. Life will never be boring as long as we’re seeking and living it out together.
Do you have a spouse with a different set of lifestyle goals? What are your tips for bridging the gap and keeping the relationship strong?