5 Ways Minimalism Can Help Create a Stronger Marriage

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Brett Oblack of Step 1 Minimalist.


“Marriage is not a word – it is a sentence.” – King Vidor

This week marks my third wedding anniversary, which also happens to be roughly my third year of following a minimalist lifestyle. The two are very much connected for me.

In the weeks before I got married, I had a bit of a panic attack. No, not the kind you see in romantic comedies where the groom sneaks out a window on his wedding day and runs off. My attack occurred during a moment of clarity when I realized that I needed to get my spending under control or it would cause a serious rift in my upcoming marriage. I sat down at my computer and began listing my debts versus my assets. The result was not that cheery. Right then and there, I cut up my credit cards and decided to stop buying so much useless stuff.

This was before I had read anything about the minimalist movement and I certainly had not applied that term to it in my head. But there I was, promising myself to spend less in order to create a happier life and better marriage. Since that day, I have become more and more dedicated to pursuing a minimal lifestyle and it has continued to benefit my marriage in many ways.

Here are five ways minimalism has helped us create and maintain a stronger marriage:

  1. Better control of our finances. My initial motivation for starting down the path of minimalism still remains an important reason. Despite some disagreement on what the actual divorce rate is, no one denies that financial problems are still the number one cause of divorce in America. The more open a couple can be with their finances at the start of their marriage, the more chance there is for long-term success. As Joshua wrote in his post “Your Life is Far Too Valuable to Live Like Everyone Else,” 46% of Americans suffer from debt-related stress. The earlier in a relationship you can openly discuss finances, the better.
  2. Honest communication. Being able to openly and calmly discuss money with a spouse can be a hard thing to learn. After that, every other aspect becomes easier. Personally, because I am a nerd, I like to think of my marriage as an open-source project. All the parts of our relationship are visible and up for discussion. Minimalism has taught me to examine and acknowledge some of the less positive aspects of my personality and habits and adjust them accordingly before they cause problems for myself or in my marriage.
  3. Less stressful and expensive holidays. Our anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas have become more about spending time with each other and our families rather than expensive gifts. Typically, we try to find a fun activity or mini-vacation to do together to celebrate these occasions instead of exchanging gifts. This means more time with each other, less money spent and more shared memories. After all, the thing we both want most is more time to spend with each other anyway. The overall stress of the holiday season is also reduced because we spend less money overall and do not have to worry as much about finding the “perfect” present.
  4. Better health. Minimalism led me to realize that the programming phrase “garbage in, garbage out,” can also be applied to what my wife and I eat. Since the start of our marriage we have made a shift from eating meals out of a box to eating home-cooked food made of fresh vegetables, grains and legumes. Our health (and grocery spending) has improved dramatically as a result.
  5. Support for our passions and values. In the last three years, both my wife and I have left higher paying jobs in order to pursue careers and goals that were much more aligned with our passions in life and business. The amazing part? We are actually saving more than ever. None of this would be possible if I hadn’t originally began to use minimalism as a tool to get control of my finances early in our marriage.

I’m certainly not claiming that my marriage is perfect or that I have all the answers. But I do truly believe that any marriage can benefit from adopting and applying the basic principles of minimalism.

***

Brett Oblack is the author of Step 1 Minimalist, a blog about focusing on priorities and goals and not spending money on useless crap. You will enjoy following him on Twitter. And today, he is celebrating his third anniversary. Congratulations.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Awesome guest post, Brett.

    My wife and I are coming up on our two year anniversary, and my story is quite similar to you. My roots in simplicity go a lot further back than that, but not long before I got married is when I really became enamored with the idea of living a simple life. It became even more clear when I started to pack!

  2. Marianne says

    Perhaps one reason people fill their lives with so much needless stuff is because their primary love relationship is empty. I don’t think it is a coincidence that so many minimalist bloggers seem to have extremely satisfying marriages/ love relationships. My hope for my own children is that they too “get it” early and never have to wake up one day and wonder, “where did all this junk come from?!”

    • says

      I do agree that people try and fill voids in their lives with possessions or unhealthy eating habits or other vices. Sometimes doing that seems easier than confronting the true problems we have.

  3. says

    I’m getting married in two months(!) and my fiancee and I are already working to include a lot of these ideas into our relationship. Thanks for the post, Brett.

  4. Deb J says

    Joshua and Brett, I’m not married but I wish everyone getting married would have this revelation so that money would be less of a problem. What a great way to start out. Brett, congratulations on 3 years.

  5. Emily says

    This is wonderfully put! My husband and I got married when I was only 20. I had my bachelor’s and a full time job, and he was 26 with his bachelor’s and a full time job as well. Unfortunately, I was the “saver” but only had about 6 months of “real” income to have practiced with and quickly fell into the spending pattern he had been used to as more of a “spender.” A year later we bought our first house (mistake number one) even though we could barely afford it at the time and planned for me to be a stay-at-home-mom once we had children. Oh, and we bought right before the housing market crashed, not quite at the peek of the expensive scale but close.

    Children came earlier than expected (number one last March, number two tomorrow). We found out I was pregnant with our first daughter one month after he started graduate school, which he has been doing while working full time. We decided school was our best bet at him finding a better paying job so he has stuck with it and will be done in the fall. But that has meant that he hasn’t been able to pick up a part-time job to cover the loss of my income.

    Enter minimalism. This past year as been about us getting rid of stuff, stopping buying stuff, changing our eating habits, etc. Although we wish we had made better decisions from the get go, we are choosing to learn from those poor decisions (mainly buying our house before we were financially stable enough and also wasting money on stuff we didn’t need). Like the commenter said above, we’re hoping to instill these values in our children so that they don’t have to make the same mistakes we did (though we’ll be there to love and guide them if they do). And we’re continuing to learn and re-evaluate our priorities. Some of the best conversations we’ve ever had have centered around this new minimalist lifestyle we’re adopting.

  6. says

    A beautiful post, and very timely – it’s my two year wedding anniversary today, in a marriage that has definitely beaten the odds (long distance relationship, costly immigration process) but which brings me constant joy that we succeeded in being together. We could never have done it if we’d have lots of stuff and debt dragging us down. And our goals are very similar – to live a simple, stress-free life.

  7. says

    What a refreshing philosophy! This is a great way to bring to the surface what is most important in a marriage: each other. As you mentioned, communication is key to any major successful transition. How did you approach your wife about this lifestyle change? Were there any disagreements as to the degree to which you wanted to become minimalist? Were there any slip ups? At my work (http://pweroftwomarriage.com), we focus on helping couples develop stronger communication skills and I was wondering how you dealt with conflict with your spouse during the transition.

    • says

      I am definitely much more of a minimalist than she is, but the main thing is compromise. I know she won’t always be as simple in her possessions as I would prefer and she knows I strongly prefer a good reason for each new purchase we make. Finding the middle ground between what we both believe is the key I think.

  8. Gil says

    My wife and I were just married this past Sunday and are also moving into a new town home. We definitely want to start on a clean slate, hence, the adopted life of mininalism comes in.

    Brett, you more or less wrote in your last post what our situation is now. Mine isn’t as much of a minimalist as me, but she is super organized. She also rejoiced along with me that we did not get saddled down with gifts we don’t need or want.

  9. Jenn says

    Loved this! It sounds like my house! My husband and I decided before we got married that we didn’t want money and finances to become a burden in our marriage. Money is not as important as love!! We agreed to live without credit cards and to be smart and frugal in our “wants.” It works well for us and there is never a reason to get upset about money. We are still working on cleaning out the clutter and things we don’t use. We spend more of our time playing outside with our kids, camping and enjoying nature than maintaining the material things we don’t really need.

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