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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.