A lot of the struggle that comes with married life is the transition from being an individual to being in a family setting where traditions are foundational. Growing up is chock full of traditions, and these traditions shape you as a person. Since no two families have the same traditions, clashing can happen when your foundational traditions don’t line up with your spouse’s.
Here are some things to consider when merging your traditions:
- Explain to each other those traditions that have been most influential in your lives and why you would like to continue practicing them. Think about the effect your family’s traditions had on your life and rate them on a scale from neutral to highly beneficial. Talking about this with your spouse will solidify feelings you have about these traditions, and indicate to your partner how you feel toward them. This discussion will help you to ease the merging of your traditions without having a potentially destructive argument when things don’t pan out as you expected.
- Make new traditions. If you and your spouse don’t agree on a certain tradition, your best course of action might be to create a new one for just your family. And who knows? Maybe you’ll like this tradition better than the one you grew up with. It’s always good to take a minute to re-evaluate your traditions and tweak them to better suit your needs. Also, I’ve found that compromise is always a good way to go in your marriage; not everything can be just the way you are used to. Now that you are a ‘we’, you have to look out for your spouse and make sure you are accommodating their wants and needs as well.
- Remember that no amount of traditions is too many. Just because you’ve established the amount of traditions your family had doesn’t mean you have to stop there. You can have as many traditions as you want, as long as you can handle them. For example, my husband grew up memorizing hymns to sing as a family as they drove to church each Sunday, whereas my family didn’t do anything like that. Even though there was no compromise that needed to be made because there weren’t any conflicting traditions there, we can still add it to our tradition list. Small traditions like that can benefit your family greatly, so don’t leave them out just because your family never did anything like them.
There are many ways to merge traditions in your new family. Just be sure that however you go about doing it, you’re not being insensitive or stubborn. Go into your new family with the mindset that a lot of things will be different, and that’s okay— keep your mind open to new possibilities that will enrich and enhance your life. But with all this change, don’t forget the experiences you had with your family traditions that made you who you are today. Those memories will always be priceless to you, and no amount of change or compromise should take those away.
By Caroline Averett
This is the first post in a series about making the transition from single life to marriage. Each post will highlight a topic about marriage that begins with a letter in the word. As we work our way through M.A.R.R.I.A.G.E with you, whether you have been married for a while, are a newlywed, or are just preparing to get married, we hope that these posts will help you to make a smooth transition.
by Alissa Holm
My oldest sister and her husband on their wedding day, August 21, 1999.
The experience of marrying another person is likely the biggest transition a person will ever make in their life. Each person goes into a marriage with their own set of values, beliefs, traditions, experiences, and testimony, and is expected to join with another to create a united eternal unit. While this experience may sound blissful from the outside, often this “clashing of minds” isn’t quite so easy from the inside.
Before I write any further, I should probably explain that I am not married, nor do I claim to know much about the subject. But in my associations and conversations with the married couples that I do know, I often hear them sticking in their two cents here and there about what they wish they would have known before they got married. Each of them has developed advice based on their experiences that they want to impart to us “unmarrieds” to help in our relationships and future marriages. And I’ll be the first to admit—I love hearing their tips so that I can better know what to expect once I reach that phase too.
I have polled my close family, friends, and coworkers to come up with a list of ideas and experiences LDS women say they wish they would have know prior to their own weddings and marriages. No matter your relationship status, try reading through at least a few of these. You might be surprised at what you can learn!
- Surprises are inevitable. “No matter how well you think you may know your future spouse, you’re bound to find out something new the first day you’re married,” says my co-worker Sarah.
- Recognize that differences will emerge. “I wish I would have known that when two people get married, they bring two entirely different cultures into one house,” says my friend Kaitlyn. It’s important to understand that while your spouse may cook rice differently, clean the bathroom differently, or do the dishes differently, it doesn’t mean that their way is wrong. Be willing to compromise on these things!
- “Any traits, positive or negative, you see in your future spouse will be amplified as soon as you’re married,” says my sister, Lara. The old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin rings true—“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-closed afterward.”
- Take some time for yourselves before you have kids. While this is a topic that is personal to all couples, most of the people I talked with expressed the importance of taking the necessary time before having children to enjoy each other’s company, get to know each other, and travel. Once you have kids, your lives will never be the same.
Your Married Relationship
- You don’t have to be brutally honest with each other all the time. “Sometimes, things are better left unsaid if they will hurt your spouse,” my sister, Lara, tells me.
- Fall in love with your spouse on this inside as well as the outside. We all age and change physically over time, usually for the worse. This bit of advice comes from my sister as well, who has been married for 11 years—enough time for a few new wrinkles and grey hairs to appear. Yet, I still look at the two of them and can see that they are just as in love now as they were 11 years ago.
- Put his needs in front of yours. “When you are single the only person you really need to worry about and take care of is yourself—making yourself the best possible,” says my friend Jani. “But when you’re married, you have to cook, clean, budget, earn money, etc., with someone else.” She explains that this works well if you have a Christlike attitude, but if you don’t, Satan will try to find his way in and change your attitude to one of selfishness.
- Remember, he can’t read your mind. If you have something on your mind, just tell him, don’t bother dropping hints. Communication is key!
Your New Family
- “Kill your in-laws and new family with love,” says my friend Kaitlyn. She also recommends not complaining to your spouse about their family—these are the people, other than you, that they love the most. “Be kind and love, love, love,” she says. “Chances are, you’ll end up falling in love with them as well.”
- Remember, you marry the family too. “As much as you want to think that you two get to run away and live happily ever after by yourselves, that is not true,” says my friend Jani. “He will want to spend time with his family (which is a good thing), and you will want to spend time with yours.” And remember to be yourself—don’t try to be someone else just to impress them.
- Don’t keep score. “If you spend time with his family one year, don’t think that it’s your house for Christmas the next year. If you see one family every week and the other once a year, it doesn’t matter because everyone wins—it’s not a competition,” says Jani.
So there you have it: a few basic tidbits of advice from married couples of all ages.
Whether you’re single, engaged, newly married, or have been married for several years, hopefully you can benefit from or at least relate to these points.
Have any advice of your own? Feel free to comment below—we’d love to hear from you!