“Some men want their hell before death.”
That was my younger self’s wise-ass explanation for why men got married. Fortunately, I no longer possess such a dreary view of marriage. In fact, anyone familiar with this blog knows that I’m a big proponent of marriage.
Marriage is the best tool you have to build wealth and achieve financial independence. Consider household expenses. Before I met Mrs. Groovy, these unavoidables commanded a huge portion of my income, and I struggled to spend less than I earned. But once she came along, spending less than my household earned became a breeze. I now had two incomes to wage battle against my household expenses. Can I get a “woot woot” for the time-honored adage that “two can live as cheaply as one”?
But marriage is hardly just a way to subdue your household expenses. A functioning marriage will make you and your spouse more focused and more disciplined. And focus and discipline are precisely the traits you’ll need to effect the three key components of any successful FIRE run—increase household income, lower household expenses, and make ever-increasing monthly contributions to savings and retirement accounts.
So what’s not to love about marriage?
Unfortunately, if our country’s divorce rate has anything to say, a lot. To paraphrase the great George Washington, “marriage is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” In other words, when done right, marriage is a great builder of wealth and happiness; when done wrong, it’s a great destroyer of wealth and happiness.
Here, then, are ten Groovy ways—and one bonus suggestion—to make sure your marriage becomes a blessing and not a curse.
Ten Things to Do to Make Sure You and Your Spouse Become the Ultimate Team
1. Don’t abuse your spouse. This goes without saying, but it bears repeating. Don’t physically or verbally abuse your spouse. And don’t cheat on your spouse. If you do any of these things, you’ll not only render yourself a low-down dirty rat, but you’ll also destroy the trust that is essential to any well-functioning team.
2. Don’t roll your eyes at your spouse. Early in my marriage, I was a habitual eye roller. I didn’t do it to belittle or humiliate Mrs. Groovy. I did it to soothe my frustrations whenever our interactions became difficult (how dare she fail to recognize my awesomeness!). And most of the time, I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it. But to Mrs. Groovy, my eye rolling was a dagger to her self-esteem. It said in effect that she didn’t count, that I found her thoughts and concerns to be frivolous or childlike. Not good. If you’re an eye roller, rid yourself of this loathsome tic fast.
3. Be gracious when you’re wrong. If you have a disagreement with your spouse, and he or she turns out to be right, you need to look at him or her and loudly proclaim, “You are right! You are right!! You are right!!!” Yep, that’s correct. You must prostate yourself three times before your delighted spouse. Performing this ritual will hurt. Believe me, I know. Mrs. Groovy is more right than wrong in our “discussions,” and the sting I feel when admitting defeat never dulls. But it must be done. Gracious defeat does more to solidify a marriage than just about anything.
4. Help your spouse clean. No two people have the exact same tolerance for chaos. I, for instance, see an unmade bed and feel nothing. Mrs. Groovy, on the other hand, sees an unmade bed and feels consternation. If you’re the “messy” one in a marriage, be magnanimous and help your spouse clean. Better yet, sit down with your spouse and devise a cleaning schedule. Helping your spouse maintain a tidy house not only shows that you’re a committed partner, it shows that you care about your partner’s mental health.
5. Compromise—a lot. It’s your spouse’s marriage too. His or her wants and desires—providing they’re not unethical or immoral and don’t put an important marital goal at risk—are therefore worthy of respect, and should be accommodated if possible. And here’s the good news. Rarely are the wants and desires of a husband and wife mutually exclusive. In other words, with a little thought, and a willingness by both spouses to compromise, there’s no reason why one spouse’s wants and desires should ever take a backseat to the other’s. Dedicate yourself to making sure both sides always “win.”
6. Be sensitive to your spouse’s fears. If something is really unnerving to your spouse, and it concerns his or her physical or financial safety, drop it. Having that something isn’t worth the added anxiety your spouse feels. Case in point. This past weekend, Mrs. Groovy and I were in the Chattahoochee National Forest driving on a dirt road to the Long Creek Falls trail. And the road was abysmal. It was overrun by monster potholes and lacked a guardrail to separate unwary drivers from the steep drop that lurked just beyond its edge. Mrs. Groovy was clearly worried for our safety. And rather than press on to the trail head, which my manly stupidity commanded me to do, I turned around. Torturing Mrs. Groovy for the sake of a nice but hardly spectacular waterfall would have been an incredibly heartless thing to do.
7. At least once a day, ask your spouse if there’s something you can do for him or her. Nine times out of ten, your spouse will say “no.” And when your spouse does have something for you to do, it will usually be trivial. That’s right. The price of marital bliss is hardly dear—unless, of course, you think emptying the dishwasher is as burdensome as surrendering a kidney.
8. Don’t keep separate finances. Nothing says “team” more than joint checking, savings, and brokerage accounts. And nothing says “team” more than each spouse knowing every financially-related pin and password of the other spouse. And here’s a good trick to make sure your finances aren’t just united in name only. One month, you balance the check book and pay the bills. The next month, your spouse balances the check book and pays the bills.
9. Don’t commit financial infidelity. Never buy something of consequence without the knowledge and consent of your spouse. Mrs. Groovy and I have the $100 rule. If something costs less than $100, and you want it, you’re free to buy it. There’s no need to check in with schmoopie. But if it’s more than $100, you have to clear it with schmoopie before you buy it.
10. Have either a big hairy audacious goal or a big mother-of-all interests that you and your spouse are excited about and committed to. For the bulk of our marriage, Mrs. Groovy and I had the big hairy audacious goal of financial independence. Now that that goal has been reached, we have gravitated to a big mother-of-all interests: blogging. Just what big hairy audacious goal or mother-of-all interests you and your spouse concoct for yourselves is immaterial. The point is to always have one or the other. A team functions best when it has something to strive for or something do. A rudderless team, on the other hand, will eventually dissolve.
Bonus suggestion: pick up your spouse, literally. I don’t know why it works but it does. Is it because its comical? Or is it because it requires a fair amount of teamwork? All I know is that whenever I lift Mrs. Groovy off the ground, the bond between us becomes invigorated, re-energized. So if you’re the physically more imposing one in the marriage, pick your spouse up once a week. You can hug your spouse and lift him or her off the ground, or you can pick your spouse up like you’re carrying him or her across the threshold. Just rap your spouse in your arms and get him or her off the ground. And if you’re the physically less imposing one in the marriage, enjoy the ride.
Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. What say you? Does the Groovy Guide to Having a Great Marriage make sense? Or does it strike you as largely undoable and far-fetched? (After all, my suggestion that you engage in weekly spouse-lifting is downright weird.) Let me know what you think when you get a chance. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Peace.