As a general rule, people don't disclose the difficulties encountered in their marriage, especially not so publicly as on a blog. But I love my marriage and adore my husband and it seems that many people admire what we have. That being the case, I thought it might be beneficial (and important to document for the journaling purpose that this blog serves) to touch upon our struggles of late to illustrate that a suffering marriage is by no means a dead marriage. Work and communication are the answer.
Since we moved here, Brice and I seemed to have grown apart a bit. Okay, a lot. Typically, we are the most fantastic part of each others day and we want nothing more than to be together. But since we moved here, there have been a LOT of demands on Brice at work and a LOT of demands on me as the mom of 5 small kids. The fact that Brice is gone at work a lot means that I'm "at work" a lot too. We've both been super busy and stretched to the max. The stress of all of that had us both becoming "me monsters." "What about me?" we've both been thinking. We each have things in life that we look to each other for but we fell into a habit of, rather than working to fulfill those things for each other, feeling hurt, angry, and victimized by the lack of fulfillment we were each receiving and the lack of recognition we were feeling for our contributions. Everyday that Brice came home without asking about my day, I played out the victim part harder, vying for his attention, interest, and compassion. I know, I know, it's the classic game girls play--we have a dysfunction where we can't just come out and say what's on our mind; we MUST be ASKED. But really, it's not that we can't tell you what's on our mind; it's that having someone notice that you're feeling down and asking you about it makes you feel cared for and loved. That compassion and concern sends us the message, "I love you enough to care about what's going on with you and how you're feeling." THAT'S what we're looking for. Lame, I know. But it is what it is. And for Brice, he wasn't feeling loved either because guys feel loved when girls hug and kiss and fawn and dote on them. But us moms, we spend our entire day fawning and holding and nursing the wee ones and by the time our man gets home, we're kinda touched out. Affection is HARD at that point! And for Brice, he's been starved for years at this point because I've been nursing or pregnant or both for the last 4.33 years straight! But in that time, man, has he felt neglected! I haven't really kissed him much in the last several years and when we hug, I'm still throwing myself a pity party and feeling sorry for myself so I'm kind of a limp noodle in his arms, hoping he'll pick up on my sorrows and say, "What's wrong?" So most days when he got home, I was sulking on the couch hoping for some love and attention and he was coming through the door hoping for some love and affection. Neither of us was getting what we needed because we were too focused on what we needed! Oh, the irony!
So finally, I decided the coldness between us (I mean, c'mon. It was frigid around here in the dead of our first Phoenix summer!) was just not okay to deal with internally anymore and hoping it would pass was just not working. I saw our anniversary coming up, our TENTH anniversary that Brice had wanted so badly to do something amazing for, and I realized I wasn't even looking forward to it. I ALWAYS look forward to our anniversary! It's my favorite day of the year! Not being excited for it was so not okay. So I wrote Brice and e-mail one week before our anniversary. And my timing sucked. I forgot to think about the fact that Brice (and therefore I too) had had the most exhausting, demanding, busy week and a half yet. Poor Brice took my e-mail like I was saying he wasn't doing enough. Ouch for him. His response was one of anger rather than compassion like I was hoping for. Ouch for me. So we had a lot of talking to do and a lot of hurt to repair. But repair we did!
We spent the week TALKING A LOT and being TOGETHER A LOT. We turned off Netflix and spent time cuddling, talking, working, and cooking TOGETHER. We were intentional about the time we spent together (time together staring at a TV or computer will not bring couples together--there is no connecting with each other there). We talked until we understood how the other person was feeling and what we each felt was missing. Ultimately, it was each other's involvement, investment, and presence in the other's life that we were missing. He needed me to show more affection and to have more to say than just complain about how hard everything was. In short, I needed to not be a bummer to be around. And I needed to feel like I was being listened to and that he cared about my day (and therefore me) even when it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine. (I doubt I have any male readers, but on the off chance that I do, here's the hint of a lifetime: listening to your partner's problem = fixing your partner's problem. Did you catch that =? I can't emphasize that enough. = = = = =. So as you sit there wishing she'd stop complaining to you because you can't fix it and that drives you crazy and makes you feel like you aren't fulfilling your role as a man, realize that just by being there (that means giving her your attention) and letting her get all of those things off her chest you ARE fixing it. Truly you are. It makes no sense to you, I know, but it is so very true. Be satisfied. You have just accomplished what seemed impossible. You fixed it. She's all better now.)
So that's what we started working on. I started working on giving Brice my affection because he needs it just as much as the kids do and it's important! And because I DO love him and I want him to FEEL like I do, not just hear the words come out of my mouth.
And we also decided to spend time each evening asking each other what the best and worst parts of our day were. For my sake, this needed to be time where I was the most important person in the room--no kid interruptions or shenanigans. I don't want to fight with them for my husband's attention or be interrupted and have to restart what I was in the middle of saying 8 million times. Sorry kids, but I'm specialer and he was mine first. Dibs. So there. Thbbbb. Y'all can take a number.
And you know what? Cuddling, hugging, and kissing, rather than being one more thing on my list of demands from other people in my family, has become fun and enjoyable again! In part because I'm doing it because I love him and I'm learning that in order for him to FEEL what I want him to from me, I have to SHOW it in a way that actually hits home. And it's partly enjoyable again because he's working on showing me love the way I feel it too: by talking to me and giving me his undivided attention to hear about my day and therefore fix the strife of that day. When I feel his love, it makes me want to show it more. Another hint for the menfolk: if you aren't getting the physical lovin' you need from your partner, she's probably not getting the emotional lovin' she needs from you. When a woman feels emotionally intimate with her man, she's more inclined to want to be physically intimate.
It's really important to learn the love language of the people you want to show love for. And even more important to learn to show love in the way they feel it best rather than in the way that's most comfortable for you to show it. That's one of the big give-and-takes of a relationship. It's not always easy or comfortable to, for instance, buy your significant other a gift if your love language is words of affirmation, but if the way they FEEL love is gifts, then, by golly, you buy them (or make them) a gift!
The other thing we decided to do was to have a weekly interview with each other that I found here. For your ease and convenience, I'll even copy the questions:
1. How did you feel loved this past week?
2. What does your upcoming week look like?
3. How would you feel most loved & encouraged in the days ahead?
4. How would you best feel pursued in sex / intimacy this week?
5. How can I pray for you this week?
I also added this one:
6. How can I help you grow spiritually this week?
Easy enough, right? So we have done this interview three times now and we've talked about our best and worst moments of the day everyday and we've spent time everyday engaged with each other instead of just sitting by each other or being in the same room with each other and it has made a world of difference. Oh, one other thing we did. I got a text messaging app on my Kindle (Brice already had texting on his phone) and we touched base with each other throughout the day most days. It helped us to feel connected and like we were still apart of each other's lives all day long instead of just in the evenings. So by the time our anniversary rolled around (just one short week after starting to verbalize our struggles), we were feeling SO much love for each other, even more than before we started struggling, and we were taking such good care of each other. Life was good again and we were both feeling fulfilled in our marriage.
Just by adding those two rituals (best and worst part of your day and weekly interview), I'm confident that we won't get into a funk like that again because every time we start to slip on being a good partner, we'll catch each other on it before damage and hurt starts to build up. I liked both of those ideas because they will keep us intentional in our relationship. My favorite marital analogy says that marriage is like each being in your own canoe. If you do nothing and just drift, the laws of physics dictate that you will drift apart. But if you paddle towards each other, even just a little, then you can easily stay together. You might have to paddle hard initially if you've drifted far apart or if you're passing through some rapids, but if you are intentional about which way you are headed, you'll get together, and then staying there requires minimal effort most of the time. But you still have to give it some amount of effort to keep those canoes together! You can't be negligent about paddling just a little all the time!
Well, whether you wanted it or not, there's my two cents on marriage. Call it a free counseling session. Log it away, file it forever. It's good stuff. ;0)
So now that we were all in love again for our anniversary, here's our story.
I realized in the midst of all this turmoil that I desperately missed having a beautiful forest nearby. I'd found myself driving aimlessly on a number of occasions, looking for something but not knowing what! Finally I realized that I needed a place that was a respite for me, a place to commune with God, a reset button when I was feeling down, stressed, and out of sorts. The mountains of SoCal and the canyons of Utah have always had these sorts of areas readily available for me. But here..... Not so much. So I wanted to go camping. We went to Payson about 2 hours from here and did just that. It. Was. Wonderful!
Brice left for work early that morning and when I got up later, I started finding post-it notes EVERYWHERE! They were hidden (and not-so-hidden) in the bathroom, on the milk in the fridge, in the silverware drawer, on the camping gear he knew I was going to pack, in my essential oils case, all over! It was SO fun and made me feel so loved!
One of the post-its I found was on the computer. Brice had dedicated a song to me and had the video cued up on youtube. I'd never had a song dedicated to me before! And it made me cry. (It was All My Life by K-Ci and JoJo, in case you were wondering) Throughout the day, as I was intermittently packing for camping, I compiled pretty much every photo I could find of the two of us and picked out a song for him and made my own video for him. Sappy and it might make you gag, but if you want to watch it, click here.
While we were there, Brice and I were laying under the stars and thinking back to all our other anniversaries and trying to remember what we'd done for each of them. It made me happy to realize that a good majority of them had involved camping and various other outdoor activities. We went to Peru (almost like camping ;) heehee) for our first anniversary and we moved to Utah on our third anniversary and once or twice we farmed out the kids and had a romantic dinner at home. Other than that, we've been paintballing, white water rafting, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, hiking and camping in Zion's (that was my very first blog post, if I remember right), and camping and hiking together close to home. I love that those are the things we want to do when it's just us and when we want to do something special together. We camp. :0) It makes me happy.
This year, since it's a lot to ask of someone to watch 4 kids overnight, we decided to just take all the kiddos with us. They love camping too. So we all went!
|Raelin is becoming a real helper as a big sister. It's really nice to see her stepping up and taking care of the littles, especially when we haven't asked her to. It warms my heart.|
|Ryker tried SO HARD to break this "twig!"|
|See the marshmallows on the end of his stick (branch)? He's so funny!|
|They hunted grasshoppers for HOURS!|
|Beauty! See, this is why I need a mountainous respite! Love it!|
|I don't know what it is about it, but I LOVE cooking outdoors! The food tastes better and it's never drudgery to cook.|
We camped for the night in one place but when we woke up, we went somewhere else that was more pine-foresty and less desert-foresty. At the second place, our lighter ran out of fluid. The car's cigarette lighter was a no-go too. While I'd started a fire with a bow drill before, I'd never had to make my own set. I'd used one that was premade by Brice or his brother and was tried and true. I decided to try my hand at making my own. I figured that we could always ask the other campers that weren't too far away to borrow a lighter if that ended up not working. I was able to make a set that I think would probably have worked if all the wood in the area wasn't soaking wet. While I worked on collecting stuff for my bow drill, Brice MacGyvered the lighter situation. He took the lighter that had no fluid and found another lighter in the car that had lost its spark and used them in tandem to get a fire going. I love his MacGyver-y-ness. And I loved watching that show as a kid.
Anyway, sparked (har har) by my bow drill pursuit, the kids decided they wanted to make bows and arrows. Brice helped some but I think they did most of it on their own. They weren't too shabby either!! I love it when my kids do this sort of stuff!!
|Okay, I've caught a LOT of lizards in my day but those little ones are SUPER fast and skittish. I don't know how this boy caught that thing, especially with its tail intact! It was TINY!|
I LOVE US!
I wrote this post about a week ago but I've been saving it so Brice could read it before I posted it. When talking about marital strife, I felt it was important for him to give the go-ahead on everything I was about to put out into the public blog-o-sphere. He read it last night and suggested I actually add MORE detail! So I have. And he also suggested that I add a bit about our anniversary weekend after our anniversary weekend.
His mom and sister came out the weekend after our anniversary and sent us off for some alone time (well, except for Ailey since she's a nursing babe, but one kid is INFINITELY easier than five!). It was great to spend some time just being together and having fun together. We don't often get time to HAVE FUN with each other. There are so many responsibilities in a family! We've been so busy with all of the things we have to do and with having fun as a family, that we haven't really had time to have fun with just the two of us. So we went and had some fun! We went to the Arizona Mills mall to watch a movie (Brice LOVES going to the movies) but we were pretty early so we walked around for a while. Neither of us are much for shopping or malls. I don't think we go to the mall more than once a year or every other year even. But this mall was SO COOL! We had so much fun walking through and going into different shops that we were late for our movie! There was even a pet shop in the mall!! Brice decided he wants a ferret. :)
|They're very wiggly little things and it was really hard to get a good picture of it. It was always blurry!|
After the movie we went to a bookstore (my favorite place to shop) and bought a couple of books. We were having such a good time together, that we decided to stay out longer and get a hotel room for the night so we went to the store to get things like toothbrushes and contact solution and whatnot. It's SO much nicer to go shopping without having kids to keep an eye on! So it was fun to do that too! Once at the hotel, Brice read aloud from one of the books we'd bought (the 3rd book in the Kane Chronicles). Then we went out for a late dinner. It was a great weekend to just be together and enjoy each other's company and to talk and to have FUN with each other and play! I hear playing together is very good for marriages!
So that's our story. Overcoming challenges in our marriage has definitely made us stronger and even more committed to each other and more in love with each other. I highly recommend it.