Chances are, you’ve been in a relationship and you know they are hard work. And no matter how happy you are or how long you stay together, there will always be smaller issues surfacing. But I’ve learned in my marriage over the last few years that living a simpler lifestyle creates a better relationship. While there are definitely other factors involved, Bryan and I enjoy each other much more today than we did two years ago, mostly because of our added time, money, and energy to spend exclusively on our relationship. Through some reflection, I’ve thought about why this is true and this is what I’ve come up with:
Committing to minimalism gets you away from entitlement. Most of us live our lives thinking about ourselves and what we can do to get ahead. What do I need to do to get that raise at work? How do I get my wife to see my need for this expense? We rarely think first of the people involved in our lives and how our decisions will effect them, and instead become set on an idea and try to get others around us to see our “needs”. I’m not sure where this mindset started, but most of us fall victim to it everyday.
When we decide to change our focus from work to family, from money to memories, and from big to small, we end up making a relationship change as well. We stop accumulating things in our lives just for the simple fact that we feel like we should have them. We start appreciating the fewer clothes and dishes we have and we take better care of them. The same is true for how we start to treat our spouses. This kind of a life makes it hard to keep convincing yourself it’s all about you when you spend so much time and energy with your partner making your dreams a reality. It becomes harder to overlook your husband riding his bike to work everyday to save money. And slowly, we start to think more about what we can do for our partner than how we can serve ourselves.
Gets you away from a “Next Big Thing” Mentality: Most of us have spent our whole lives being told by advertisers in fancy offices what we need to have a full life. We will need a new car to be respected by our neighbors, the latest runway trends to make people want to sleep with us, and the new iPhone so our coworkers take us seriously. Living a simple lifestyle by rejecting these lies is a huge step forward, but we should also attack this notion in our relationships.
We become people who reject the status quo of bigger and better, and we say what I have is enough…especially when it comes to our partner. We make the bold statement that we don’t want the new car or big house, and neither do we want the skinnier, younger wife. We get out of the mindset that we have to keep looking for something better and become fully satisfied with the person we come home to, and our relationship deepens because of it.
Unplugging makes us have to think and communicate: Part of living a minimalist lifestyle is learning to unplug from the television and internet occasionally not only to save money, but to quiet your life. Fortunately, this also has a huge, lasting impact on your relationship. Learning to unplug creates more discussion time, less chaos and background noise, and more meaningful time together.
When we are no longer zoning out with the television every night, we begin to really think for ourselves and develop better communication skills. We no longer spend hours listening to people telling us where to go, what to buy, and who to look at. Instead we start asking ourselves the same questions with no influence to answer them, and they start to look much different. And when you and your partner spend these evenings together discussing these issues, it can only better a relationship. You will never hear your wife complain that you don’t spend time with her, because she will know that not only does she have your attention over the tv, but she is being listened to and engaged in meaningful conversation.
We will also get to a point of such invested time and interest in our partner, that we start to really feel like we are living our lives together. Instead of being two people sharing a house, you will become two partners who look to each other for advice and insight, and who form opinions together. You will begin to really love and enjoy each other once you’ve put in the time and hard work to build your lives together.
I know so much of this is easier said than done, and a lot of what I’m suggesting takes years of dedication to get to. But I challenge you to really start building a smaller life and see what the effects will be. Take baby steps by riding your bike to work one day, unplugging the television one night and asking your spouse to just talk with you, or looking at your budget and seeing how much you spend on shopping and extras.
*If this post has helped you in any way or you just like the ideas, please share it with your friends and spread the idea that our lives can be better than we know.