Tag Archives: wife

Marriage: Why It’s No Good to Keep Score

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

My husband has one big rule for our marriage. Babe, if you’re reading this, I know you’d say it’s not a rule – perhaps more of a guideline. But for me, it’s a rule. If I don’t follow it, I go down an extremely unhealthy path, and I know it. So here’s the best “rule” or “guideline” I’ve ever heard for a husband-wife relationship: Don’t keep score.

You might begin explaining this by saying that any healthy relationship can’t be seen as a game. The only reason you’d keep score is if it’s a game of some sort, and if you’re serious about it, you’d better not call it a game. Right? You might follow up with the fact that keeping a record of rights or wrongs is just not a good idea. Let’s ask a few questions about this concept… because I think it’s important.

If you happen to “win”, what are you actually winning? The game of who does more laundry? Or who gives more meaningful compliments? Is that a worthwhile competition? Why or why not? (I’m guessing it’s why not.)

What’s your “winner’s” criteria? Who was the last one to load the dishwasher? Maybe he had a lot on his mind from a tough day at work, or he gets tired of you re-loading it when he’s done. Or is the criteria which one of you usually texts the other one first? All that leads to is fear of not being loved enough, or inaccurately thinking that you love the other person more, just because you send more messages.

What’s the prize? Getting to taunt your other half about how you changed more diapers this week? Or likely being shunned because you’re on your high horse about how you always clean the toilets? That’s not a very good prize.

What if we shifted our thinking to loving our spouses as well as we can, as often as we can? Instead of waiting around to receive love in the way that we’re expecting, maybe we should consider showing them love in the best way we know how, whatever that is. It’s always a good idea to know how your spouse best receives love from you, and how you best receive love from them. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is a great place to start if you don’t know each other’s “love languages”. Taking the initiative to show love first, no matter the circumstances, can’t end poorly. Being the first to say, “I love you!” when communication is hard, or the first to forgive after an argument might feel like a submission, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually, it shows that you’re willing to work and sacrifice to strive for health in the relationship. That’s what marriage is: work and sacrifice. Love comes first, and is quickly followed by commitment – often a “head” matter rather than a “heart” one. You keep choosing love over fear or anger or hurt feelings every single day.

There are always possible scenarios where we need to have a sit-down about issues that don’t seem to be resolving themselves. There are always times that bringing our feelings calmly to the table is the only way to move on from a hard season. But if we stop keeping score, stop trying to play a game of little chores completed and well-meaning jabs delivered, those bigger issues might just stay away longer. Being the first one to show love, forgive and forget might make your spouse feel more comfortable doing the same.

Married with Kids – It’s OK Not to Like Your Spouse Sometimes.

This piece originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

This is what being married with kids looks like – sometimes you don’t like each other and that’s okay.

Sometimes, I think back to the first couple of years after my husband and I got married. It was so… easy. We didn’t fight like many newlyweds might, over who should take care of dinner or why there were clothes left on the floor next to the hamper. However, when we started having kids, we realized the times of things being quite that simple were over.

For starters, we were exhausted. Correction: we are exhausted. There hasn’t been a day (that wasn’t some sort of child-free vacation) that has gone by since 2012 that both of us have felt “well-rested”. Either one of us gets the rest, or neither of us do. Which, as you can imagine, leads to some stress in our household, and our relationship.

But what we’ve figured out (and learned from wise friends) is this: even though some days you don’t like each other, it’s important to still love each other, and furthermore, to show it.

You have to prioritize your marriage, even though in a lot (let’s be honest, most) situations, you’ve got to put your kid – or all your kids – first. Their needs seem more pressing (butt-wiping, feeding them, keeping them from falling off ledges, you know the drill) and so you neglect the other relationship in the household while you’re meeting the more immediate needs – or simply, the ones that are shouting at you more loudly.

You see, there are more than a few reasons to take care of your marriage, even when it means putting aside the other stuff for a little while at a time.

One of the most, if not THE MOST  important reason to show the love, spread the love, and take care of your marriage even after you have kids is because those kids are always watching.

You’re setting the number one example of a marriage in their eyes, and you want it to be a positive and healthy one, right? Set an example for them of the importance of marriage, the teamwork it requires, and the love that it stems from. Show them a healthy relationship so they know what it looks like. Even have healthy disagreements in front of them sometimes; they need to know about that, too. They don’t need to see only the “good stuff” or they’ll have unrealistic expectations. Healthy dialogue, PDA (yes, affection is important to show!) and the importance of spending time alone together are important things for your kids to know about!

Among the myriad of other reasons to nourish your relationship with your spouse, I think the next biggest reason is this: one day, your kids will be grown and live in their own homes, and it’ll be just you and your spouse. Again. Alone.

Don’t wait until then to try to fall deeper in love with your spouse.

Don’t wait until there’s not the glue of parenting young children binding you.

Don’t wait until your lives have been growing apart for years to really cherish your relationship with your spouse.

I won’t say that won’t work – but I will say I bet that it’s harder that way. Communicate with your spouse, about big stuff and small stuff. Practice honesty – even when it hurts.

Say “I’m sorry.” and “I forgive you.” Do the easier things too, like dating your spouse! Have date nights or early breakfast together. Chat on the phone when you’re in the car. Send sweet text message to each other during the day.

Take a weekend away somewhere from time to time if it’s possible for you. Those things aren’t reserved for “dating” relationships unless you let that happen. “Dating” your spouse is a way to rekindle, reconnect, and intertwine your lives again when you feel like you haven’t been so “together” recently.

Make time in your schedule and room in your heart for your spouse. Even when you’re exhausted, feeling frumpy, and thinking it’s the last thing you want to do. Chances are, you’ll be so glad you did. Make sure to kiss, to chat, to hold hands, and to have sex! Those things are important… Don’t let them wait until the kids are gone.

The Boy I Loved. 

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus!  
Not that long ago, I was a silly, young girl, head over heels for a boy I had just met. Not long ago, that boy was a breath of fresh air to a girl who’d sworn off dating for a while. Not long after that, the boy and girl decided they’d get married. And buy a house. And have kids. And never sleep again. 

Really, 8 1/2 years -since we met- isn’t long in the grand scheme of things. But it feels like an eternity sometimes, when I think of what’s happened since then. When I think of places we’ve traveled, jobs we’ve had, people we’ve grown closer to or drifted apart from, it feels like a lifetime already lived. There’s so much water under that bridge we’ll have to raise it if anything else happens. 

But every now and then, there are glimpses of the silly, young girl and the boy who was a breath of fresh air. For instance, last week, Hubby and I had a lovely date night planned, going to a nice restaurant in the neighboring city where Hubby attended college before seeing a concert. Long (frustrating) story short, dinner at the nice restaurant didn’t work out, and we were a little too pressed for time to try making new plans. We ended up at a pizza and beer joint where we ordered dinner by the slice at a counter, and ate in a dirty booth. Not that I had anything against pizza and beer (I love it! Promise!), it just wasn’t what we’d had in mind. We were dressed up and ready for a fancy meal. But you know what? We had a great time. We’d gone to that pizza joint a hundred times while we were dating, with and without friends, and it was a fun little throwback to our younger, freer selves.

You know what else? After a couple of hours of music and dancing, before we headed back home to responsibilities and a babysitter to pay, we went to the location of our first “hang out.” (I’m hesitant to even call it a date.) We ended up right there in another dirty booth, eating gargantuans at the Jimmy John’s on the edge of his college campus. We giggled and flirted and touched our feet under the table with butterflies in our tummies, remembering who we had been 8 1/2 years ago. We reminisced about those old times, and talked about how we love where we are right now, even when it’s hard. 

I looked right across the table and into the eyes of the boy I loved. And I was thrilled to see that my husband looked just like him. 

Reconnecting With Your Spouse

Photo Cred. our amazing wedding photographer Eleise Theuer (http://www.eleisetheuerphotography.com)
Photo Cred. our amazing wedding photographer Eleise Theuer (http://www.eleisetheuerphotography.com)

How is it that Hubby and I can live in the same house, have mostly the same friends, work often from home, raise the same kids, and feel like we haven’t had a real conversation recently?! It seems silly that we could spend a lot of time together, and not feel like it’s quality time. I’ve actually heard, in the past two days, two other couples say that same thing: we haven’t gotten to really talk recently. For Hubby and me, it goes like this: sometimes, by the time we are alone together, it’s 8:30pm, there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, and we are bone tired. Other times, it seems that we have so much to talk about that we can’t stay on one thing for very long. We’re trying to talk about life and feelings and opinions, but we end up talking about grocery lists and “don’t forget EK has preschool tomorrow.”

As a wife who needs some connection and conversation from her Hubby (who also craves that connection), I’ve thought of a few things I’d like to try.

First of all, Hubby’s going to be out of town this weekend. That means that the only way to connect is to talk. We can’t snuggle, we can’t do things for each other, we can’t share a meal together. But we can ask some of those questions, or share those feelings over the phone. It’s definitely a different beast to talk on the phone rather than in person (can’t see the body language or facial expressions, can’t get hugs or see smiles – aka the worst) but it’s a start. Sometimes, conversations can be started on the phone and finished later.

Secondly, I’m going to try to keep the “housekeeping” items concise and necessary only. I have realized that I can use up all of Hubby’s energy and patience on what needs to be cleaned, where the kids’ this-and-thats are, and what we are doing for dinner tonight. I can clean it, I can find it, I can make a plan, and require much less of him in that department. I’m not saying he won’t have input about dinner and that he won’t have to clean anything. But I’m saying I’m going to nag less and communicate more intentionally.

Thirdly, I need an attitude adjustment. Sometimes my role as nag (see #2) can drown my role as wife. I neeeeever want that to be the case, but my OCD and planner’s brain take hold of me, and all I can see are to-do lists and calendars. It’s a vice, for sure, to always think this way, especially because I really do love spur-of-the-moment activities. I love when my sisters-in-law call me and invite us to dinner or to a play date on the spot, and I love when Hubby wants to go out for drinks or to hear music in two hours, leaving me scrambling for a last minute babysitter. I am okay with it! But sometimes doing that too often creeps into the “I never know what’s going to happen” realm, and I freak out.

Last one… speaking of going out for drinks or to hear live music, Hubby and I often go on dates with friends or to places where we know we will run into people we know. We have wonderful friends that we love, and we really like going out on dates to places we can’t take our kids. But it has dawned on me that we need a few dates soon that are just the two of us. Luckily, we aren’t one of those couples that those words (just-the-two-of-us) scare us. We love time with just us, we have great conversation, and (at least) I always feel fuller and more complete when we’ve had time to connect and talk by ourselves. So that’s on my radar for the next week or two, also. At least one date. Hubby and me, out together, alone. That’s it.

How do you reconnect with your spouse during a busy season? If you’re a parent of small kids, how do you find time for adult conversation, past grocery lists and holiday plans?

Getting Out of a Slump

Recently, I’ve been going in and out of a slump. A gray area. An in between. MAN I hate it. I have a lot on my plate, just being wife, mom, keeping house/laundry/food under control, and keeping up with my part-time church job. Usually, having a lot on my plate makes me productive… I do what I need to do and more. But in the past few weeks, we’ve spent two weekends away from home, added thinking about moving/renovating/etc and I’ve added a few more hours a week to my church job. I love those things; they excite me and they are positive things in my life. But on the other hand, I’m getting a little too overwhelmed. I’ve passed “busy” and am headed towards “drowning”. My response? Take a day where I’m really sad, feeling blue, and don’t do anything. Was that the right response? Probably not.

I did some talking to my sister-in-law (relational clarification: one of my best friends) Holly and our friend Nikki, and we just decided it was normal. Whatever stress or problem or other thing you’re dealing with, it’s normal to have a day or two where you just kinda shut down, press the reset button, and have a kind of culmination of the emotional and physical toll that stress can take on you. Boy, that was good news. My brain had been spinning all afternoon like “Am I depressed?” and “Should I be on anxiety medicine?” but truly I think I just needed a day to shove off my responsibilities (thanks, Hubby!) and do some resting.

I want to be a good mom for my kids… every single day. I want to be a good wife… every single day. I want to be good at everything I do, to spread truth and be a blessing. And I know the only way I’ll accomplish this is to stop trying to do it myself. I am too busy trying to do and do and do to remember to let God work through me, to let him order my steps and speak through me with love and kindness.

It’s a shift in my thinking that I need. To call on God when I start to stress out, or feel low, or lose my temper. To pray without ceasing, as Paul said. To keep God first in my mind, and He can help me through. He created me, and He has ordered my steps to this point. I know He has also given me the tools that I need to do these things He has called me to – I need only to let Him help me.

Looking for Patience and Grace

This post appeared on MyBigJesus.com

I’m constantly reminding myself to chill out. I’m always noticing a pan that didn’t get washed well enough, or seeing that J’s third shirt (of the morning) is dirty, or remembering something I forgot to do, or… you get the point. I immediately want to freak out at these things. My life is full of messes I can’t clean up and accidents I can’t prevent. O ye of little patience, I am your leader.

Being a parent, a wife, a human, is a lesson in patience for me. Being a teacher for six years was as well. I’m all about some deep breathing, counting to ten, and clasping my hands very tightly in my lap. Patience is the biggest thing for which I’m constantly asking God. Sure, I say it different ways: “Help me get through this traffic without succumbing to my Atlanta-bred road rage!” or “Help me not to yell at EK for spilling the sunflower seeds all over the floor because I know she didn’t mean to.” I come by it honestly; I can be high-strung and short-tempered (just like my parents – sorry, Mom and Dad). Hubby is a saint for putting up with me. But I don’t want my kids to grow up afraid of me because I lurch quickly into frustration. I don’t want them to have memories of me flying off the handle over small stuff. But how exactly do I extend the patience and grace that have been extended to me?

Hubby is a wonderful example for me in patience.  When I said he’s a saint, I was serious. He is able to absorb my craziness and let it go. He shows me endless support, patience and grace for my quick temper and my OCD nature. I see his patience with the kids and with me, and I know I can try harder to give others (okay fine, my kids) a little more grace.

I don’t have it perfected yet by any means, but I start by repairing my thought life. Toxic thoughts just multiply unless I change them. Changing the way I think changes the way I react. Changing the way I react changes how I feel. Often, if I have no patience in a situation, I notice it immediately, and then I get angry with myself for having no patience! It’s a vicious cycle if left alone. However, if I can wait, change the way I’m thinking – extend a little grace and a little patience – it makes all the difference in the world. When I feel like I have no patience or grace to give, I sit back for a moment, and draw from the boundless stores we’re blessed with every moment of every day.