House rules -- shoes off at the door, pick up after yourself, the one who didn't cook does the dishes -- these are the things you start thinking about when you're getting ready to marry someone and realize that two independent lives are coming to a glorious collision of dependency. As we have been stretched to learn and grow with each other, we have started the habit of having some "rules" that help us stay connected and on the same page, even if we're not physically in the same place.
Oh the places you'll go! The fiance is a youth pastor, which means he often goes on trips for a long period of time in places that take a long time to get to. An early "house rule" for us is that anytime one of us goes on a trip where we change zip codes and/or cross state lines, we are greatly encouraged to text each other and let the other know when we have: 1. left home base and 2. arrived at new and/or intended destination.
Thanks to this rule, we have grown accustomed to letting each other know where we are and where we're going. This has been especially helpful since we have been long-distance; you would think that it wouldn't make that much of a difference (since we're already apart), but I think I care more about his safety since we've been long-distance than when we're in the same place. Once we're married, I'll still want to know when he's arrived, but I will have known when he's left (because he'll be leaving my sweet embrace, duh).
Oh the people you'll see! Related to the above house rule is this house rule about who we spend time with and what we spend time doing with said people. This past summer, I got to join the summer bible study/small group for young adults at church. We started the summer off by going through Andy Stanley's "Guardrail" series. This six-part series defines guardrails as "a standard of behavior—that’s a behavior you choose—a standard of behavior that becomes a matter of conscience" (Part 3: Flee Baby Flee!) and in this series, Stanley discusses how we can set-up "guardrails" in our daily life that not only help tune our thoughts and actions to the beat of God's heart, but also to help guide us when we start making decisions in our daily life and in our relationships with others.
Example? One of the guardrails Stanley recommends for married couples is to not have coffee, lunch, dinner, etc with a member of the opposite sex alone. Some may read/listen to Stanley's "Guardrail" series and consider his suggestions ridiculous or extremely strict. However, I, like many others, have come to value his suggestions and have taken what he has said and made it work for me and my relationship with my fiance.When I first read that I thought to myself, "Well, duh! Obviously I wouldn't go on a lunch-date with a guy friend, that's not a problem I should be worried about." Then I realized how many friends I have that are male, and I began to realize that, while I am not physically or emotionally attracted to these friends, I have ample opportunity to become unhealthily invested if I didn't set up a guardrail that cautions me when that type of interaction is about to happen. Now, I have to confess, I have not taken Stanley's advice; I have met up with my guy friends sans fiance since hearing this message. It is hard to meet up and keep up with guy friends and not be alone, thanks to our long-distance relationship. However, the fiance and I have done our best to start the habit of letting each other know when this type of interaction will happen. It's as simple as texting that I might grab coffee with "Bob" and then calling if/when plans are being made with "Bob" to make sure it's ok and that everyone's on the same page.
Some may see this pattern of behavior and think, "That is foolish, why do you feel the need to let your fiance know who you're going to see and what you're going to do?" But here's the thing -- by letting each other know who we're with and what we're doing, there should be no surprises. I should not be surprised if someone comes up to me and says, "Hey I saw your fiance with female-so-and-so and they were having lunch and blahblahblah." It protects me and my relationship with my fiance, and it protects our ability to trust and respect each other in our own independence.
There are still more house rules to be thought of and created. I feel like we're just hitting the tip of the iceberg. And honestly, I don't really know much about this...yet. I don't live in the same state as my fiance and I'm not married yet. But I know this - if I am able to get in the habit of respecting my husband and respecting our marriage and our covenant to each other, then guardrails and house rules are just what comes with the territory.