Today marks our 19th wedding anniversary. The past 19 years have been spectacularly wonderful, and we feel lucky to have found each other. But, before we got engaged, we had to pass the MAT, or what Rick has dubbed the “Marriage Aptitude Test”. This test evolved from a conversation we had with my friend Bob and his partner. Bob’s idea was that before getting engaged you should experience all four seasons together. Rick expanded the “4 seasons rule” to include several other tests intended to help you learn about each other in ways you might not think about. Initially, I thought this was rather silly. 19 years later, I appreciate Rick’s foresight. Hopefully, you will too.
Rick & Laura Lowell, Vida Buena Farm
1. 4 Seasons Before getting engaged it is wise to experience each of the four seasons with your partner. How do they behave in the dead of winter? Do they have terrible Spring allergies that make them unbearable? Do they set the AC to 62 degrees in the summer? These are subtle things that can cause stress in a relationship if you don’t know about them. Better to know and adjust than be surprised to learn that decorating for every single holiday is a strongly held tradition, not to be trifled with.
2. Get the Flu No one likes being sick, but how you deal with being sick is very telling. Rick and I are complete opposites. I need to be checked on every hour to make sure I don’t need tea, or a cold compress or more Advil. Rick, on the other hand, wants to be left alone…completely. The first time he had the flu (oh so many years ago) I tried to check on him and make sure he had water and Advil, just like I would have wanted. He shooed me out of the room and told me not to come back. Ok…lesson learned.
3. Crisis Life has its ups and downs. Knowing how you and your partner react to significant stress is a good test of your long term compatibility. A good crisis would include things like involvement from law enforcement, a trip to the ER, or the passing of a loved one. While we don’t wish any of these things on you, life happens and how you deal with it makes a big difference.
4. Home Remodel Project This one is rather specific to Rick since he is a builder by trade. For us, we remodeled the master bedroom of Rick’s house after I moved in. We insulated the walls, added a ceiling fan, wallpapered and replaced the window with a French door and a deck. The logic behind this test is to learn how each of you handles disruption and decision making. We didn’t sleep in our master bedroom for weeks. Our stuff was everywhere. The house was dirty. There were tons of decisions to be made – wallpaper, paint colors, fixtures, door trim, blah blah blah. Making decisions under the best of circumstances can be challenging for some people. Doing it while your home is in chaos adds a layer of complexity that reveals a person’s true nature.
5. Take a Long Trip Traveling, while wonderful and exciting, can be very stressful. For Rick and I, we learned that Rick’s idea of fun is camping in a two person tent on the beach in the rain with weird bugs and sand in our spaghetti. I, on the other hand, would have preferred the 4-star lodge across the bay with a restaurant, shower and air conditioning. Good information to have before starting your life together. We’ve learned over the last 19 years how to compromise; 2-stars are just fine and big tents with blow up mattresses make camping much better.
Rick and Laura in 1996 on a camping trip that started out badly, but had a happy ending.
These 5 tests provide valuable information about how you handle stress, communicate and make decisions as a couple. These tests are not hard and fast and can be adjusted to suit your personalities, lifestyle, and relationship. How you and your partner react in stressful situations is really important to a long and happy marriage. Theses rules have served us well and we hope they do the same for you.