Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shaken and Stirred OR On The Rocks

I've been talking about love and marriage all week in honor of Valentine's Day. I've talked about the meaning of love in my relationship and how to keep your love life going, and I today I want to talk about something that is just as important-what do you do in rocky times?

No marriage is perfect. Infatuation is perfect blindness, but it only lasts a moment-marriage is forever. You all can't hold your farts in forever. Eventually you're going to find out that your husband still picks his nose and wipes his boogers on the underside of the couch cushion. Eventually he's going to find out that your "adorable little habit" of XYZ is actually really obnoxious when witnessed every day for the rest of his life.

It's easy to get annoyed and bored with someone that you see all day every day, and that's why the big fights never happen with people you see once a week for a few hours. The real epic on going battles happen with people you see every day...hey, you got the rest of your lives to fight about the same thing over and over so why not?

I'll tell you why not-because that's not how anyone wants to spend forever.

I am not advocating that you get divorced, I'm advocating that you choose not to be miserable. There are those few cases in which I absolutely respect divorce, but except in cases of abuse or abusive habits my vote is always for working it out. [Yes, even for infidelity.]

Being miserable or being happy in your marriage is a choice. Your partner does not make that choice for you. Your church does not make that choice for you. Your parents or friends or kids do not make that choice for you. The only person who can make you be happy in your marriage is YOU. You are the only person in the whole world who has control over and responsibility for your emotions.

So your marriage is in a slump. You just aren't feeling it anymore. You're too busy to care. Maybe you're fighting all the time. It happens to all of us-so what do you do to pull yourself out of it? Grab the bull by the horns people! Try a few (or all) of these...[by the way, I am writing as a woman, but this advice goes both ways!]

Forget Trying to Make Your Husband Do Something
You know that thing you've been trying to get your husband to do for years? Buy you flowers, take you on a cruise, give you a back massage, put their laundry in the basket, finish the Honey Do list, stop picking their nose and wiping it on the couch...well forget it. You can't make a full grown person do anything and you're just going to piss yourself off if you try.

Remembering that not making your husband do something means more than just not attempting to verbally command him to do things. It also means no manipulating, no pouting, no guilt trips, no with holding sex, no boycotting your own duties...basically if you've seen it on TV don't do it. The laugh track might roll when Sexy Housewife A tells her husband "no sex until you clean out the garage" but attempting to over power your husband that way is no laughing matter. Trying to assert that kind of control in your relationship undermines the respect and trust that is so vital to a good relationship.

If you ask your husband to do something and he doesn't do it, go ahead and take care of it yourself. Don't see it as a rejection or a power play-99.99999% of the time men really aren't thinking that way. Remember, men are not built to multitask the way women are. Most of the time they forget, but if they consciously choose not to do it they are usually thinking one of two things "that doesn't seem that important right now" or "I don't want to do that, but I don't know how to tell her".

Which brings me to my next point.

This involves, for the most part, only two things. One-you must realize that your husband is not a mind reader. Two-nagging is not communicating. The first point seems pretty self explanatory, but I can't even tell you how many times I hear women saying "I wanted my husband to XYZ but he never did and I was devastated" and when I ask them if they TOLD their husband about XYZ they said "well, that would have defeated the whole purpose". Believe me when I say IT DOESN'T. Your husband is not Miss Cleo and you are not a Magic 8 Ball. He can't read your thoughts on your face. If you want a back rub, or a clean garage, or a romantic vacation you're going to have to look him in the eye and say so. Guys are just like everyone else-they appreciate honesty and straightforwardness.

Now, as far as nagging goes-DON'T. Telling your husband something 6 million times is no more effective than telling him once-unless your goal is to piss him off in which case it is much more effective. When you nag your husband you are treating him like he is incompetent, or like he is one of your children. Your husband is a full grown adult person. He is your equal and your partner and deserves to be treated as such. If you treat him like he is your child, or like you believe him to be incapable of doing something unless you follow him around and tell him over and over again, all you're going to end up with is a very grumpy man.

So we know not to nag-how do you get him to do something without nagging? The first step is to accept that some things might not get done, and to learn to be okay with that. The second is to show him how or why something is important and why he is the best person for the job. Your husband loves you, he wants to do things that will make you happy and above all he wants to take care of you. Next time you need the garage cleaned don't follow him around saying "Did you clean the garage yet? Did you clean the garage yet? Did you clean the garage yet?" Instead try something like this,

"Hey, honey do you remember how Billy wanted to set up the garage so that he could practice with his band in there?"


"Well, I think that's a great idea. I mean, if he practices here we don't have to worry about him running off and getting into trouble-but the garage is a wreck. I was hoping that you could clean it out for me. There's a lot of your old stuff in there that I wouldn't know what to do with and I don't want to accidentally throw something away that was important. Plus a lot of the stuff is high up and I'm way to short to grab it all."

I can almost guarantee you that if you approach your husband in a rational way like that, explaining why he is needed and the good it will do for you/your family, he will do it. Maybe not on your time frame, but it will get done.

Now it's your turn...

Do Something Nice
Who would you rather to bake cookies for-your Nana Boo Boo who used to read you bedtime stories and have tea parties with you, or your older sister who picked on you your entire life? It might be holier to be kind to your enemies, but it's much easier to be nice to people who are nice to you and this applies in your marriage. If you are kind and thoughtful to your husband he will return the favor. Remember-he really DOES love you or else he would not stick around...even if he doesn't always show it.

Don't wait for him to make the first move-start now! If you know your husband likes coffee in the morning, go ahead and make him a cup just the way he likes it every morning. Take the kids on a walk when he gets home from work and let him rest for a half hour in silence. I challenge you to do at least three thoughtful things a day for your husband. Even if you don't want to. Even if you're fighting and you're ready to scratch his eyeballs out. Think of it like brushing your teeth if you must-once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening go out of your way to do one special thing you know he'll enjoy purely for his benefit. Do this every day for a month and soon it will become a habit. Just remember-do unto your husband as you would have him do unto you and eventually he'll start doing back, I promise.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:38

Husbands are As-Is
Marrying a man is kind of like buying a used car in that what you see is what you get. The man you married will change in some ways-he'll get older, go through some ups and downs, require some maintenance, and become little more worn in-but it's likely that no major changes will ever occur in him. So rather than beating your head against a wall trying to make your car magically change from a La Baron to a Mustang, or your husband magically go from a Adam Sandler fanatic to a Lifetime Movie buff, learn to love even the less-than-ideal.

A good basic rule is if he isn't hurting anybody or doing something that is morally wrong let it go. That's right-overlook the dirty laundry, climb over the tools in the kitchen, and accept the fact that he is obsessed with fart jokes. This is the man you married for better or for worse-and they weren't kidding about that last part.

We all have our flaws. You, me, my husband, your husband, our kids, our parents, our pastors, their wives-no one is perfect. No one is enjoyable to be around 24/7. No one is free from bad habits or annoying hobbies. A good rule of thumb is to your best to accept your husband's down falls with the same grace that you give your own.

Sometimes you can't though. Sometimes you've just been dutch ovened one too many times and you MUST say something or you will start bleeding out of your eyeballs. It's okay, I understand-say something. But keep in mind...

Absolutely NO Sniping
What is sniping? Well I guess it depends on who you ask. When I talk about sniping, I mostly mean talking badly behind your husband's back. Almost without exception, if you want to say something negative about your relationship to your girlfriend, sister, or mom you should be saying it to your husband instead-in a constructive way of course. Think about it-if your husband really REALLY pisses you off, what is more effective? If you call your mom and complain you might feel better, but nothing in your relationship will change. No real remedy has been brought to the table.

Sniping is different than seeking advice. Going to someone you trust-your pastor, your parents, your siblings, your friend-and seeking guidance in hard times can be very helpful. I also recommend a lot of prayer and meditation, if you are so inclined. However, there is a big difference between sniping and seeking advice-when you are seeking advice you are going in with a serious heart and you are looking to make changes in your actions. When you are sniping you are angry and looking to unload on somebody.

Sniping can cause really big problems in your relationship. First of all, when you vent your anger to another person you are circumventing your husband (an actual partner in your relationship), which can lead to hurt and distrust. Secondly, when you're letting someone in on your anger you are doing so because you want them to take your side and be angry at your husband with you-and if they actually are, the results can be disastrous. These outside people then have the ability to use those angry words you gave them to drive a wedge in your relationship. It becomes you and them against your husband, and there is nothing worse.

In a marriage it is so so important for it to be you and your husband together against the world. You must be together in everything, even if you're just together in your disagreements, or eventually you won't be together at all.

"But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one." Mark 10:6-8

The last piece of advice I can give you is...

Fake It 'Til You Make It

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:13-14

It's easy to say that we should do ABC to maintain a good marriage while it's on the rocks, but sometimes your heart just isn't in it. I know mine isn't. Sometimes I'm too angry. Sometimes I feel like I just don't care enough to put in the effort because I'm too busy or too tired. It happens to everyone.

Hubby said that it was okay to share our biggest fight with you (don't worry no sniping!), so I will. We have one on-going sticking point in our relationship right now. I call it "who does the most with the least". When we are tired (which we often are) and over worked (which we nearly always are) and the kids are being insane (which they can definitely be) we often fall into the fight of "WHY AM I THE ONLY PERSON DOING ANYTHING AROUND HERE?!" It becomes a battle over who does the most on the least amount of sleep and why the other person is such a jerk for sleeping that extra hour/being on the computer/not doing the laundry/never helping with the kids. We have actually spent more than an hour trading "Yeah, well I do THIS"s.

"Yeah, well I work in the middle of the night"

"Yeah, well I'm up with the baby in the middle of the night and then I have to be with the kids when they wake up at six am"

"Yeah, well I'm at work then-working after I've only slept three hours"

"Yeah, well I've only slept five hours in the last three days"

"Yeah, well I've worked 40 hours in the last four days AND I did the laundry. You NEVER do the laundry"

"Yeah, well I'm sorry I'm too busy homeschooling the kids all by myself..."

It gets even uglier from there. We have this fight probably twice a month-do we stop to think that maybe if we weren't spending time fighting after the kids are asleep we could maybe rest up and not be so stupidly grumpy?

Yeah no. We're far beyond rationality at this point. It usually takes us two or three hours to get from there to the part where we admit that the other person does do a lot around the house and with the kids and that we are both just stressed out. From there we kiss and make up and go about our business. Still, for the next couple of days we aren't up to full capacity. We are still kind of testy (because we're both still exhausted) and are usually not feeling super keen on going that extra mile for the other person...but you know what?


Not because we particularly want to. Not because we are really feeling it at the moment. Not because we're really extra people or something. We do it because marriage is a lifetime investment. Just because we're not bursting into musical song about our love at the moment doesn't mean that we don't love each other anymore, or that we are any less committed to being together forever. We have faith that God brought us together for a reason, and that what God has brought together no man or woman can tear asunder (not even us, no matter how much we fight). We have faith that no matter how we feel today we will feel differently soon and that we will grow old together-so we bear with each other, we fake it 'til we make it, and in a day or two we've got that lovin' feeling back.

Marriage is not easy. Call me cliche, but love is a rose-it's got thorns and something sometime is bound to stick in your paw...that doesn't make it any less worthwhile or any less beautiful.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing...And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 & 13


Samantha said...

I've really been enjoying these post :) Great advice...and I made my Hubby coffee this morning! That made me happy.

Bossy Betty said...

Great insights!

Melissa aka Equidae said...

its a great post with a wonderful insight...thank you for remnding me sometimes i do tend to forget ;O)

Helene said...

This is such a wonderful post with lots of good information and advice. Why are you NOT writing for a woman's magazine? I could easily see this article in Redbook!!!

Lisa in Oz said...

Totally agree with everything in this post!

And about the nagging/communicating effectively, I've found something like this to work: "Hey honey, would you please take the trash out before dinner?" This is about a million times better than, "Would you take the trash out?" and a *billion* times better than, "The trash needs to be taken out." 99% of the time, when I talk to other women who say their husbands never do anything, they're using one of these other phrasings - problematic because the second one is just a statement, not a request, and the first one could mean anytime between now and next Tuesday. :-)