Podcast: Beginner mistakes in marriage

What do you tend to fight about with your partner or spouse?

In this episode, we’ll travel back nearly 20 years to identify the bad habits of early marriage. We’ll see how these mistakes still manifest today and what to do about them.

If you’re willing to turn a critical eye on your own relationship and are looking for a mutually beneficial partnership, this episode is for you.

Episode 40: Beginner mistakes in marriage

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Episode transcript:

My beginner marriage mistakes

  1. This is the Bad-Ass Dad Pod
    1. The podcast for upping our games physically, financially, and relationally
    2. And living a great life, no matter what age we are.
  2. We’re getting relational in this episode.
    1. As we we explore the little expectations and ideas we cling on to in our important relationships
    2. That sometimes cause us a whole lot of conflict and pain.
    3. Specifically, I’m going to look back at the early days of my marriage and identify 5 things I was doing that led to a whole a lot of conflict.
      1. And truthfully, though I’ve been married for nearly 20 years now.
      2. I still do some of these things and toss some unneeded struggle onto our marriage from time to time.
      3. So this episode is a primer in exploring relationship conflict and how to bring a bit more piece to your important relationship.
  3. Thanks for joining me.
    1. I’m Ryan Dunn
    2. A fellow sojourner on the way to awesome.
    3. Seeker of the mighty dunk.
    4. Destroyer of toxic masculinity
    5. Finder of lost eye glasses
    6. A level 6 relationship ranger
    7. Level 3 debt mage
    8. Level 7 (at-home) gym warrior!
    9. And your lawful good podmaster.
    10. [Music out]
  4. [Arguing SFX]
  5. The sounds of love, right?
    1. I think my 1st year of marriage–way back in 2001–sound much more like this than what we might assume would be the sounds of love.
      1. Sorry if that got a little gross.
    2. The first year of marriage was actually really hard on us.
    3. We fought a lot–much more than we’ve fought since.
    4. We might have fought more in that first year than we have in the remaining 18–
      1. OK, that’s probably not true.
      2. But the proportion isn’t too far off.
    5. We had a lot of adjustment to do towards one another that first year.
      1. We didn’t live together before marriage, so just learning to do life together was a challenge.
      2. I remember we fought about sharing responsibilities, time expectations for each other
        1. And specifically there, I mean that she wanted me at home with her more and I wanted to keep on doing all the bachelor-y stuff I’d been doing.
      3. Let’s see, we fought about money–of course. We still fight about money.
      4. We fought about our attitudes
        1. Like, if we were being nurturing enough or supportive enough of one another.
        2. That might sound like a weird thing to fight about… but we did.
    6. Now, don’t get me wrong… our entire first year of matrimony was not one long argument.
      1. Obviously, as we’re still married now, there was plenty of good stuff in there.
      2. But there was a lot unneeded conflict involved, too. There were many rookie, newby mistakes–on both sides.
      3. I asked Mrs. BADPod what annoyed her most about me in our first year of marriage.
        1. She reported that I never picked up after myself.
        2. That’s true.
          1. But it’s not that I didn’t ever pick up after myself.
          2. It’s more that I assumed I didn’t need to pick up after myself right away.
        3. You see what’s happening there? 
        4. The conflict came because of differing expectations.
          1. And, in this case, my expectations were quite selfish.
          2. ‘Cuz I thought I could get away with picking up whenever the hell I felt like it.
  6. All couples argue–even happy couples.
    1. eHarmony did a happiness survey amidst American couples.
      1. 64% of us are happy in our relationships.
      2. Men are more likely to be happy in the relationship than women
        1. I thought that was interesting
    2. Despite the happiness numbers, everyone admits to getting annoyed, though.
    3. The top four annoyances, or stressors, according to  eHarmony’s 2017 survey were 
      1. Stress from work: 35% of you all said that impacts your relationship
      2. 33% said they were stressed from being too tired for sex
      3. 27% said that money was a key stressor
        1. Which I find interesting, too.
        2. I actually thought money would be hit #1 on the list.
        3. I guess not as many people are as money-grubbin’ as I am.
      4. The fourth most common stressor–way down the list at just 5%–was politics.
        1. Insert your own commentary on that.
        2. I’m tired of political commentary, so I’m moving on.
          1. Actually, no, I will offer these two things:
          2. FIRST, if you and your spouse see things differently politically, it’s not merely a decision–some of it is brain chemistry and how that affects the ways in which we see the world. I talked about this in my dopamine episode. 
            1. It’s really super-interesting stuff and has kept me from totally assuming that people who don’t share my political preferences are demonic a-holes.
            2. There’s some great info on this in a book called “The Molecule of More”
          3. ALSO, another podcast I produce, called the Compass Podcast, just did an episode about communication and bias with author Brian McLaren. 
            1. And he talks about how we can communicate when our biases keep us from totally understanding where someone else is coming from.
            2. Or when they can’t understand where we’re coming from.
            3. That is the Compass Podcast and the episode is communicating and bias with Brian McLaren.
      5. In this episode–on this here podcast–I want to address the stressors I made early in marriage that I did and do have some control over. 
        1. So, the mistakes that were made on my side.
        2. The jagged little nuggets of dissatisfaction I sowed in our little townhouse end unit in Lake in the Hills, IL, way back in 2001 and 2002.
  7. Probably the biggest stressor for me was that I kept score. I tallied.
    1. When I did the dishes, that was a point for me.
    2. When I brought her a treat from Culver’s, another point for me!
    3. And when I sensed I was kind of getting ahead on the points, I stopped trying. 
      1. Because I thought it was her turn to catch up.
      2. She needed to do some nice things for me in order to show that we were equally balanced in our relationship, you see?
    4. I was totally into the idea of marriage being 50-50.
      1. I do my 50% and she does her 50% and we’ll be happy.
      2. And I got irritated when I felt like things went out of balance.
      3. I got irritated with her when I looked around the house and felt like I’d been doing 60-70% lately while she was lagging behind.
    5. And often that meant I stopped doing nice stuff around the house.
      1. Like I would refuse to wash dirty dishes because, get this, “I washed them the last time.”
      2. I refused to cook dinner because I cooked last night’s dinner.
      3. It did get that petty.
    6. Of course this whole I was oblivious to my wife’s keeping score–and that her scoring system was completely different than my own.
      1. She was racking up points on her system that I was totally unaware of.
      2. And vice, you know, vice versa.
    7. I had to realize that the 50/50 perspective of marriage was bullshit.
      1. First, I realized that there’s a lot of cycling in marriage.
      2. Meaning that some seasons, I’m going to feel like I’m doing the heavy-lifting in household maintenance. 
      3. It’s going to feel like 75/25
      4. And that can be OK.
      5. It doesn’t mean I’m getting taken for granted.
    8. Probably the best point of view I’ve heard, though, is that marriage is really 100/100
      1. Give selflessly all the time.
      2. One of the beautiful aspects of marriage is that the institution teaches us selflessness. 
        1. It teaches us to do a relationship without keeping score.
        2. Giving 100% in marriage for me means that I can tally my own points, but I don’t concern myself with whether or not she’s keeping pace.
        3. When I do the dishes, I don’t wait for her to do the dishes next time.
    9. My takeaway here was not to keep score on my partner. 
      1. Because my scoring was always biased towards me.
      2. And it made me selfish in our relationship–because I became overly concerned with how I was getting served.
  8. You know, the scoring system was really unfair because Mrs. BADPod didn’t know I was keeping score. That’s the second newby mistake I was making… and actually probably the mistake I’m still most prone to make:
    1. I hold her to unspoken expectations.
    2. Take last night for example–I’m moving our timeline to the present day.
      1. Our boy had a Scout meeting yesterday. Actually, I’m a leader and need to be there, too.
      2. In order to get there on time, we need time to change into our uniforms, we need to eat dinner, the dogs need to go out.
      3. I’m working until 5:30. We need to get out the door about 6:20.
      4. Wifey comes home from work and disappears into the bedroom.
      5. So at 5:30 I’m signing off and thinking about all the things that need to happen to get me and the boy out the door on time.
      6. I throw on the griddle to scorch up some gosh-darn quesadillas for dinner 
      7. Then saddle up the dogs for the after-work walk… and I’m wondering why I’m doing all this without help.
      8. When I get back in, the boy needs help finding his Scout book.
      9. And the quesadillas need tending. I still need to get changed, too.
      10. And I’m angry, because I held an expectation that Mrs. BADPod knew that all these things needed to happen–even though I didn’t mention one word about it.
      11. You see, the issue wasn’t that Gina was ignoring responsibility–it was that she straight up didn’t know.
        1. If I went in there and asked for help and she denied me, maybe then I could be pissed.
        2. But being pissed that I was doing all these things that she didn’t know I was doing was stupid. 
        3. I either needed to ask for help or let it go.
    3. I did that kind of thing all the time when we were first married.
      1. If she had an off-day while I worked, I expected she would take care of all the household chores.
        1. I never told her that… 
        2. and then I got pissed when she didn’t meet my expectation.
      2. I really wanted her to meet my needs before I communicated to her what my needs or wants were.
      3. Which is a really unfair expectation.
  9. I think I refused to communicate my expectations because I was desperately afraid of conflict. Which is weird because my refusal to name my expectations actually caused more conflict.
    1. But it was delayed conflict. And that seemed better, I guess.
    2. That was really my third big rookie mistake in marriage: I delayed conflict whenever possible.
      1. So I wouldn’t name my expectations because she might resent me making demands of her.
      2. BUT, then I would stew in resentment because she didn’t do some of the things I expected her to do.
      3. Then it would compound, because I got resentful that she didn’t react sympathetically to my bad moods.
        1. So I’d storm around the house because she didn’t do something I assumed she should.
        2. And then when she had the nerve to ask “What’s your problem?” I got agitated for her not knowing exactly what my problem was.
        3. A lot of agitation would’ve been saved had I just straight up said “Could you do the dishes today?”
    3. That’s one example of delayed conflict. But there was more to it than that.
      1. Sometimes I knew that certain situations might be disappointing to her… so I would try to sneak them through.
      2. Take this hypothetical situation: a guy friend calls on Monday to say that he and some of other friends are getting together on Friday to celebrate a birthday.
        1. It sounds like a stag party kind of thing. Like a guy’s night.
        2. And I wanted to go celebrate my friend’s birthday.
        3. But I also didn’t want to disappoint my new wife by telling her that I was doing something without her on Friday night.
        4. So I simply delayed that conflict by not telling her.
        5. Tuesday and Wednesday would go by… and I wouldn’t mention doing anything on Friday.
        6. Thursday she might mention doing something over the weekend and I wouldn’t respond.
        7. Friday would roll in and she’d say: “What do you want to do tonight?”
          1. And I’d say “Oh, it’s Ted’s birthday, so I wanted to meet the guys for a drink.”
          2. How do you think that went over?
        8. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to piece together how unpleasant that conversation got.
          1. Let’s just say, I likely ended up going out for Ted’s birthday.
          2. And I was distracted and sullen the entire time because I knew there was more conflict in store at home.
      3. Now, how might that whole scenario worked out if on Monday–when I was presented with the invitation to go out with other fellows–I told my wife of my weekend plans.
        1. There was certainly a chance that she would have been disappointed that I was choosing that instead of a Friday night date with her.
        2. But the conflict involved there likely would have been miniscule compared to the conflict I faced through my policy of delayed conflict and then trying to just sneak it on by.
        3. But I’ve had to learn the hard way. Conflict is best faced as soon as possible.
        4. So don’t defer that stuff, my friend.
        5. Open up about it.
        6. I’ve found that the more I embrace this philosophy, the more my wife trusts me.
        7. She can sense I’m not just trying to sneak stuff by.
  10. Now, during this time, there was something I was doing that fed into the conflict around plans I made that did not directly involve my wife: I totally let go of personal time and space.
    1. It seems that I was just totally set against disappointing my wife. S
    2. So I tried to hide that I had a life outside of her.
    3. And at other times, I just denied that I had that outside life at all.
    4. I started to resent my wife because of that.
      1. I resented that I didn’t feel free to what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.
      2. I resented that I felt like I needed to ask for permission on so many things.
    5. All of this was born out of my fear of facing conflict.
    6. If I felt confident in facing the discomfort of conflict, I could have set some healthy boundaries up.
    7. But I was unwilling to risk that discomfort–that is until things boiled over.
    8. So here’s what would happen:
      1. I’d face a decision–like whether or not to join guy friends for a night out.
      2. I would make my decision based on what I supposed my wife wanted… so I would decline the invitation from friends because I didn’t want to have that conflictual conversation with my wife.
      3. Then I would resent my wife for the decision I made.
      4. Eventually, I would blow up at Mrs BADPod, accusing her of being too controlling.
        1. And usually that blow up came about through an unrelated situation.
        2. Like she just asked me to walk the dog.
        3. So you can see, not a healthy situation at all.
        4. All because I didn’t want to face up to conflict.
        5. This really makes it sound like I laced backbone.
        6. Maybe I did. 
        7. I also lacked trust. I lacked trust because I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable enough to trust my wife not to leave me when we fought–which, as we see, just led to more fighting.
  11. OK, I got one more way I was messing up the works during those early days of our marriage.
    1. It was this: I made gender-role assumptions and hoisted them upon my bride.
    2. Now, some of these assumptions were born out of expectations I formed by watching my parents’ marriage.
      1. Now, my parents are not ultra-conservative by any means.
        1. My mom worked full-time out of the house for most of my childhood. 
        2. I never got the impression that my dad expected her to defer to him on everything.
        3. By the standard of the day, they may have been considered fairly liberal.
      2. But there were some definite gender-assumptions at work in their relationship.
        1. There were definite husband tasks and defined wife tasks.
        2. Husband tasks included yard work, fixing things, operating the grill, doing more things outside the house–like church boards and stuff.
        3. Wife tasks included laundry, dishes, most of the meal prep–basically, all the shit that nobody would want to do.
    3. I carried assumptions into my own marriage that our household would run the same way–my wife did not carry those assumptions.
      1. She definitely did not embrace doing my laundry for me.
      2. So I simply didn’t do the things I internalized as being her domain–and she resented me for not doing them. 
      3. I really wouldn’t do them until she got mad. So… you know… that’s some fighting and conflict there.
    4. But I’ll tell you, there was more conflict in store when I did start doing those things… because, you know what, I didn’t do those by the practices she established.
      1. And overcoming this might have been our biggest issue that first year.
      2. Because I found that when I DID start doing that other stuff, she held expectations for how I would do it… which led to more conflict.
      3. For example, she had expectations of how the laundry would be folded:
        1. In her mind, there were right ways and wrong ways to fold tshirts and towels.
        2. Towels are folded in thirds…
      4. Now, I’m not saying she was right to be unwavering on that stuff. 
      5. But I exasperated the situation by being an unwilling participant in the first place.
      6. Taking care of a household is not a female-based job.
      7. Had I embraced that from the get-go… it would have created for much smoother sailing.
  12. But… uhhh… we’re through all that stuff now.
    1. Yeah, that’s it. We’re all good and happy all the time.
    2. No, we still have our moments. And it’s not uncommon for these early conflicts to resurface. 
    3. I may from time-to-time fold the towels in the wrong fashion–but at least I’m doing it Mrs. Gap!
  13. ANYWAYS, what habits plague your relationship?
    1. Give a shout and share:
    2. Ryan@thebadpod.com
    3. [Music in]
  14. This has been therapeutic.
    1. Thanks for hearing me out.
    2. If this podcast episode has been meaningful for you, mash the subscribe button on your podcast listening platform.
    3. I’d appreciate your positive review there, too.
  15. Hey, I’m doubling down on episodes for a bit.
    1. The holidays create a need for change.
    2. And rather than give you a big empty episode-shaped hole in your life.
    3. I’m going to give an extra episode–coming next week!
    4. So watch out for rookie mistakes I made in building a budget.
  16. Thanks for listening.
    1. I’m Ryan Dunn, the writer, host producer of the Bad-Ass Dad Pod.
    2. There’s all kinds of goodies on the BADPod web site: www.thebadpod.com.
  17. The music is by Eyoelin. OK BYE!

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on RethinkChurch.org, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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