Read the introduction and an excerpt from The Minimalist Marriage: How to Have Less Drama and More Happiness in Your Relationship
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a quiet but exciting revolution happening in our society. Many people have had enough of having too much and are consciously, even courageously, choosing a more minimalist lifestyle. They are learning to distinguish between what they need and what they need to get rid of. And they are finding profound freedom in that. They are also finding more time, more money and more peace of mind.
It’s the same thing with married life. When you learn what to cling to and what to let go of, married life is simpler. When you learn how to interact with your spouse, how to prevent and respond to conflict, and when you learn how to do those things in the simplest terms possible, married life is happier. When you work together to clear the clutter – physical, emotional and mental – you’re left with just the good stuff. That’s what a minimalist marriage is all about.
So if you’ve ever stood back after cleaning out your closet or garage and thought “Wow, I feel better,” and you’d love to feel that same sense of streamlined simplicity and accomplishment in your married life, this little book is for you. In the spirit of minimalism, it isn’t a page longer than it needs to be.
That’s why you won’t find drawn-out chapters here. Instead, you’ll find a stream of practical strategies – bright ideas – that you can use starting right now. These are the bare minimums – the keepers! – in the cleaned-out closet of your marriage.
If you can master these basics, if you can live them day in and day out, you’ll have a minimalist marriage that works. They aren’t presented in any particular order; however, they are numbered so you can easily revisit the ones that most resonate with you.
I want this little book to start a big revolution.
A revolution against the patronizing, indulgent and theory-burdened marriage-saving business. Against labeling every marital interaction, dynamic or conflict as a syndrome or disorder, or making up a cutesy pop-culture term to describe it. Against blaming our childhood, our spouse, our job, whatever, for our own shortcomings or the problems in our marriage.
Against the magical “3 (or 7 or 10) steps to save your marriage” that someone has made up and that you don’t get access to until you sign-up for the newsletter. Against trading in our own accountability, decision-making, personal judgment or preferences for someone else’s opinion or advice.
Against making an excuse instead of doing some soul-searching and acting in the ways that we know, deep down, are right and mature and decent.
Against spending our hard-earned money, valuable time and precious energy on things that make other people rich and happy, while filling our own marriage with debt and drama.
And so on.
You’ve heard it said that “marriage is hard.” That is a lie. Rocket science is hard. Marriage is, or at least should be, easy. Easygoing. Simple. The best things in life are simple.
But for your marriage to truly be simple, you need to strip away the excess. You need to minimize the distractions, complexities and superfluousness that vie for space in your relationship, regardless of where they come from.
Yet nowadays, that’s easier said than done. Our society and culture are supersaturated with every form of excessiveness.
The pursuit of more – more stuff, more success, more money, more tech, more excitement, more sex, more validation, more reassurance, more solutions, more perfection…it’s exhausting. It sucks the life out of, well, a life. It sucks the life out of a marriage, too.
Because it all leads to drama.
I see a lot of relationship drama in my private practice as a marriage conflict specialist. Emotional and sexual affairs, inappropriate friendships, self-indulgent midlife crises, chronic arguing and even pure apathy and indifference.
I see conflict in every shape and form. Conflict between spouses, with the in-laws, with the kids or step-kids, with the ex, with the bank.
My goal in this book isn’t to oversimply these or other types of marriage problems. It isn’t to offer a “one size fits all” cure. Rather, my goal here is to help you minimize the chances that your marriage will fall into conflict and drama. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Yet if your marriage is presently struggling with conflict or drama, don’t panic. This book can complement the work you’re doing in a larger sense to get back on track. Things may be complicated right now, but the goal should always be simplicity. You can get there.
In The Minimalist Marriage, I want to help you recognize what is essential and what is excessive. And I’m not just talking about physical things like cars or clothes. I’m talking about emotional, mental, behavioral and even spiritual things.
What is essential to a marriage’s success? What is essential to keep and what is essential to do away with? Those are the simple questions we’ll be answering here.
If you’re familiar with the previous books or programs in my Marriage SOS series, you may recognize some (not all) of these strategies. If you aren’t familiar with my previous work, you’re going to love these no-nonsense insights and ideas.
All right. It’s time to simplify and downsize. To minimize the excesses, distractions and complexities that cause unnecessary problems in marriage and life. To trash what doesn’t work and treasure what does work.
A minimalist marriage is a reliable way to experience less drama and more happiness in your relationship and in your life.
Yet a minimalist marriage does ask something of you – change. It asks you to change, or at least challenge, the way you’ve been doing things to this point. And as we all know, change can be hard. Some people resist it. Some are downright defensive when it comes to facing it.
So as you read, I’ll ask only one thing of you: keep an open mind. A minimalist marriage does fly in the face of many ideas, opinions and relationship habits that have become entrenched and expected in our society. Your knee-jerk reaction may be to say, “No way! I’m not doing that! I’m not giving that up!” You might even feel offended or indignant.
That’s okay. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do and there may be concepts or suggestions that simply don’t apply to your situation. But if you’ve read this far, you are searching for something. I hope you will keep reading to see whether you can find it here.
BRIGHT IDEA #1
I just did a little experiment. I did a Google search for “how to have better work-life balance.” There were 652, 000, 000 results. If a subject ever needed a minimalist approach, it’s this one.
There are a few prevailing reasons why people struggle to have a healthy work-life balance. One common reason is because they’re in so much debt that they’re living hand to mouth and are in survival mode. It’s hard to come home from work early and relax if you’re worried you’re about to lose your home.
This is of course one reason why minimalist marriages are so popular. Lose the financial pressure and sheer panic that comes from buying too much “stuff” and life is so much more livable!
Couples in a minimalist marriage make a conscious choice to rid themselves of excessive clutter, both in terms of physical items and marital conflict. They make a choice to reject the materialism of our society and the marketing culture that makes us believe, falsely believe, that we need more stuff – expensive stuff – to be successful. We are constantly made to feel that we must live up to some artificial, advertising-driven ideal of success.
A perfect example of this is the so-called “starter home.” The name itself implies that it isn’t quite good enough. You need a bigger house, a more expensive house. Yet when we stop to think about this, to challenge this, we realize that we don’t need a bigger house. Who says we do? Your realtor. He wants his commission.
Other major industries from automotive to technology do the same thing. We are constantly being pressured to trade in our paid-for vehicle and buy the newer, more expensive model…for which we of course need to take out another loan, with interest.
Think of the last time Apple or Samsung came out with their newest phone. For some inexplicable reason, this makes worldwide headlines, right alongside news about this country’s nuclear arsenal or that country’s human rights violations. It’s just that important.
Except that it isn’t. Couples in a minimalist marriage know consumerist bullshit when they see it and they’re just not buying it anymore.
Couples in a minimalist marriage don’t want to work their asses off or delay retirement another five or ten years to pay a realtor’s commission and yet another mortgage.
They don’t want to stay late and miss out on events and good times to pay off that unnecessary high-interest loan for the new car they didn’t need. They don’t want to delay a vacation to pay for some trendy phone that has one pointless extra feature than the previous one. They don’t want to work to make someone else rich. They want to live their own life, not finance someone else’s.
So if you’re looking for a better work-life balance, this is my first bit of advice: take a critical look at what you are buying and why you’re buying it. Who really wants you to buy it?
There’s a certain concept in the law called cui bono. It’s Latin for “who stands to benefit?” We use this when we’re trying to figure out who committed a crime.
Oh, this elderly rich woman just died under suspicious circumstances? And her new husband just inherited her fortune? Hmm. Let’s take a closer look, here…
The next time you feel a twinge of unworthiness because you have a starter-home, ask yourself: “Who stands to benefit if I buy a bigger house?” Your realtor. Your bank. Not you.
The next time you feel tempted to reach into your wallet because your car is five years old or you don’t have the new headline-making phone, ask yourself: “Who stands to benefit if I buy these things?” The car dealership. The tech company. Not you.
Another common reason that people can’t achieve that peaceful work-life balance is because they’re in the “rat race” mentality. Some people truly love that lifestyle and want it – and that’s great. Know thyself. But other people find they’re in a race they don’t remember signing up for.
If you suspect that you fall into the latter category, I want you to do the same thing: take a critical look at why you’re running the race and then ask yourself: “What do I get if I win this race? Is the prize worth the effort? Will it really make me happier or more fulfilled?
It’s remarkable how simply slowing down and taking a more critical look at our lifestyle – our working and spending habits – can make us realize just how much we’ve been snookered.
Having a better work-life balance is simple. You don’t need to sift through millions of search results. You just need to do two things. First, stop buying stuff you don’t need. Second, stop running a race you don’t even care about winning.
© Debra Macleod 2018. Excerpted from The Minimalist Marriage: How to Have Less Drama and More Happiness in Your Relationship