When it comes to marriage, are disagreements and disputes a requirement? Marriage blogger and best-selling author Fawn Weaver says they shouldn’t be. In her new book, The Argument-Free Marriage: 28 Days to Creating the Marriage You've Always Wanted With the Spouse You Already Have (Thomas Nelson), Weaver offers a 28-day road map to marital bliss. ESSENCE.com Relationships Editor Charli Penn and her husband Gibran Watkins will celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary this month. We asked them to test-drive some of Weaver’s best tips and report back. Here’s how it went.
CHARLI PENN-WATKINS AND GIBRAN WATKINS
AGES: 32 and 35
LOCATION: Bloomfield, NJ
OCCUPATIONS: ESSENCE.com Relationships Editor/Marriage Blogger and Retail Supervisor
TOGETHER: 12 years
MARRIED: 5 years
What they argue about most: "What we should spend our money on, when to have kids and who's responsible for keeping the house in order when we're both exhausted and busy," he says.
Their goals: "We're best friends and I want to make her happy. She's not happy when we argue over the same things," says Gibran. "Less arguing means more time for us."
Their strengths: "We enjoy each other," says Charli. "We've never stopped having fun and appreciating each other."
• Dream a new dream! Throw out others' expectations of what marriage should be (in-laws included) and go with what feels right to you.
• Come up with a "daily routine" that you do together every day, no matter what.
THE HARD PART:
"Dreaming a new dream has been challenging," Charli says. "We've been together for so long that we're both committed to the "plans" we made when we first fell in love, so it feels as if we're cheating ourselves to rethink them, even when we obviously need to."
She says: "We chose an unexpected daily ritual, which is to shower together every night [my husband's idea!]. It has become an excellent place for us to be more vulnerable with each other and talk about things we normally can't get past before bed. It's tough to argue when you're naked!"
He says: "Repeating the same arguments about money wasn't solving our problems. Instead we have to create a new definition of what works for us and focus on how to get there, then do it, not just keep talking about it."
WEAVER'S NOTES: Gibran's answers echo how most husbands feel. They just want their wives to be happy but don't know how to ensure that. Your success will continue if you create the time and space for it. Make your marriage a "still point in a turning world." Don't allow the world to encroach on the love and life you are building together.
NEXT CHALLENGE: After 24 years of marriage, this happy couple was still able to learn how to love each better. See how!
This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of ESSENCE magazine.