August 21, 2013

The Power of Two: Keeping Your Marriage Vibrant

Thanks for joining me on day three of the encouraging "How Do I Teach..." five day series! As I introduced on Monday's post, this week I'm spending time discussing a question near and dear to many homeschooling mom's hearts--
how do i teach and still fulfill my role as wife and mother
Yesterday we began our discussion by talking about how checking our priorities is a huge part of eliminating that feeling of being overwhelmed--ESPECIALLY by making sure your #1 priority every day is God. Making time for God is the absolute best thing you can do to have everything else fall into place in your life. By including Him, you give yourself the foundation you need to help you fulfill your roles as wife and mother--even with the responsibilities of homeschooling your children.

Today we are going to talk about how to work in more time for one-on-one with your husband who should be in that Priority #2 slot... 
Keeping Your Marriage Vibrant
Let me start with a HUGE disclaimer:
I am not, nor have EVER been a marriage counselor. Anything you read on my blog is absolutely without a doubt my very own opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt and not as a "This will work--do it". I am just offering up suggestions or ideas that maybe you haven't thought of yet...do with them as you will.
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I love my husband truly, madly, and deeply. We have a crazy "how-God-brought-us-together" story that everyone loves and one we like to share (just not sharing it right now! But I promise I will soon!). My husband is my best friend and my boyfriend. We are two sides of the same coin. We read each other's minds, can summon each other with just a look and are madly and passionately in love with each other. We celebrated 10 years together in December so we have a few years of experience under our belts now. Of course I know many of you have MUCH more than that, but we are quite tickled that we've hit our first big marker.

One thing that people always seem to notice about the two us is that we love to be together as much as possible and that we always have time for each other. 

And THAT is what I want to talk about today...
My husband and I have what I think is a very vibrant and blessed marriage. We try to keep it fresh and fun. We recognize that we are stronger together than apart--we believe in the "power of two". Two people working together get a lot more done than working alone.  The power of making each other #2 in our lives (#1 belongs to God). As a couple we also try to fulfill our responsibilities to each other, given to us by God, to the best of our abilities...

"Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
Ephesians 5:33

I know without a shadow of doubt that he loves me and he knows that I respect and will submit (as God designed!) myself to him. Each of us puts the other above themselves and that's what makes it work.

For me--that means never allowing myself to get so overwhelmed by my daily routine that I forget to spend time with my husband. Or, when I know he's on his way home from work, I hurry and make sure that I have at least brushed my hair and sprayed myself with something smelly good so that I'm not looking all frazzled and worn out--even if I FEEL that way

But I don't want him to come home to a wife too tired to spend time with him...so that means tweaking what I do and letting some stuff go so that I can give him...ME. 

He married me for me
Not my child rearing skills. 
Not my housekeeping skills
 (good thing! LOL!) 
Not my cooking 
(though he begs to differ sometimes) 

He married his best friend who cheers him when he's sad, who loves him unconditionally through all his strengths and weaknesses and who is his biggest cheerleader ever...He works so hard for our family (he's out of town every Monday-Wednesday working 40 hrs in 3 days) that when he comes home I want to greet him with a smile and a kiss. I want coming home to me to be the #1 thing he anticipates while he's gone and that means that I have to keep myself from getting overwhelmed in daily stuff so that it doesn't carry over into my relationship with him!

This was especially true after I started homeschooling 2 years ago...suddenly I lost about 4-6 hours of my day..which meant juggling and reworking my daily routine and sacrificing some things that I "need to do". Because spending time with my husband was infinitely more important than keeping the bathroom spotless or the floor mopped or the windows washed or the furniture dusted. 

I remember reading in an article once (from Good Morning Girls maybe?) about how a woman worked herself to the bone trying to make the house presentable every week--to keep it spotless for her husband. She also cooked three hot meals a day including fresh bread and desserts. She did this with young children in the house AND homeschooling responsibilities. She even made a list of things she thought her husband would want and asked him to circle the ones most important to him for her to do. Because she thought this was what he wanted--what he expected from her...until after seeing the list, he told her he was okay with dust, cold cuts or leftovers and store bought bread if it meant he could spend more time with HER.

So what about you? 
Have you put household chores, homeschooling or even your children above your husband? Have you lost that spark and spontaneity that you had when you were first married before all this other stuff came into the picture? Are you so frazzled from pouring so much of your time into your children's needs or the household chores or education planning that "spending time with your husband" involves you sliding into bed next to him every night after he's already asleep because you were putting to bed all the children--then doing one last load of laundry--or cleaning the kitchen one more time? Is he getting mere leftover scraps of your time instead of the cherished #2 spot (remember that God's got #1!)?

Honey, I am guilty of it too!!! Yes, even though I said that I've juggled things around, I still fall into the same traps...thankfully my husband is not shy about taking things out of my hands and telling me "do it tomorrow" or to just call me on it and tell me "I just want you to sit with me awhile."

So what can you do? Well I asked several of my friends--some homeschooling, some not--what they do to keep their marriage vibrant...and I am going to share their responses with you in hopes that something they share will work for you!

Carrie: "I remember that the number one best thing I can do for my kids is to have a healthy marriage- I was raised in a family with my mom and step father...my mother put me (and then when they came my siblings ) FIRST (before my step-father) all the time and it was really obvious and difficult and stressful...my sister has denounced the whole idea of marriage and my brother isn't so keen on it either b/c our parents marriage was fraught with tension. My go-to tendency is to put my kids first and I have to really consciously stop and try to put my husband/marriage first. We do Friday night tea/bible study/talk in front of the fireplace or outside on the deck and that has been really great for us and we try to get away overnight once a year and try to do mini dates whenever we can.."Ooh we have doctor's appointments--let's get a babysitter and go for lunch afterwards" kinda thing."

Diana: "My mom lives really close and so we can pawn off the kid for regular date nights (whether a real date or at home). We also stay in contact during the day via text/messaging. Even if it's just sending little hearts and "I love yous". It's nice to have a simple reminder of each other throughout the day. It also gives me the reminder that while I may be frustrated at home, he's working so that I can BE at home. It also gives him that focus to get through the rough parts of the day."

Rebecca: "We also have a good network of people (praise God!) that we are able to schedule a weekend date once a month, which I find to be imperative. I'm in a little different place than most of you in that I am a 50 year old with a 5 year old boy who is bundle of energy and my energy and patience level is just not what it used to be! I've also learned through life's circumstances that there are some things I have to learn to let go, and that's okay."

Tina: "Date night, usually pizza and a movie at the house, don't feel the need to go out like I used to...LOL.....also love dancing around the living room , and sometimes after our son goes to bed, we like sitting up and baking cookies and watch a TV show together ....our idea of grown-up fun!! haha"

Megan: "We've never had a weekly date night, in fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of times we've gone out without kids since we started having them 10 years ago. But I do think we still have a great relationship. Almost everyday when my husband wakes up (in the middle of the afternoon, he works nights) I take him his coffee and we sit in bed and talk. We talk some about the kids, plans for the day/week, how things are going for him at work, the news, politics, everything. It helps to keep us connected as husband and wife, not just mommy and daddy."

Jennifer: "My husband and I work very consciously to never put the kids between us, physically or emotionally. One example is in church. We have 3 little boys 7,4,and 2. My husband and I will sit it the middle of the aisle and have the kids on either side of us. The same goes for snuggling in bed. When all of the boys pile in they have to pick who they want to snuggle with while mommy and daddy are in the middle. My husband is also very good about making plans for date night. I tend to get bogged down with the kiddos and he steps back and realizes before I do that we haven't been alone in a long time. I am also a huge advocate for having a healthy sex life! When you and hubby are connected physically then EVERYTHING seems to go more smoothly."

Teresa: "With my husband working 3rd shift, most of our time together is either right after he gets home and right before he goes to work. We do get to spend the Sabbath together, but also like to socialize. What I've found throughout the week that makes my husband happy, is not "forgetting" him for dinner. I've made dinner before and waited until he got up (so he got enough sleep) to fix him a plate, but planning dinner and waking him up to make sure he eats it with us seems to make him feel special. I also try not to let my emotions get the best of me when I miss him. I get sad without realizing it and will begin to be blunt with him. To combat this I've started asking him to involve me in his wind down time or at least come and join the family in the living room for some quality time before he gets ready. He seems to have a better day at work when we spend quality time together as a family (even if he doesn't see it or admit it :P).We've only been married for a little over a year and are still working on quite a bit of this."

Mandie: "Ways we try to connect at the end of a day include: 1. Surprising the other with a special treat to share (could be sushi, fresh chips and salsa from Chipotle, or sometimes I pick up fun stuff from the store like a special cheese and crackers or an artichoke or other special veggie/fruit/ice cream treat); 2. Having a show that's just for you two. It's fun to race to get the kids in bed on Sunday evenings in order to be on time for "our" show - The Amazing Race. Now we live in a place where TV isn't available without getting cable, so we own the DVDs but we still try to keep the anticipation alive even though we can't technically be "late"; 3. Physical touch and/or closeness (not necessarily sexual) is very important to my husband. So, my inviting him to be with me somewhere means a lot to him. This can be just doing our evening activities in the same room, or if we are watching our show making sure to cuddle up to him on purpose. Or if I need a shower and hadn't gotten to it that day, inviting him to take one with me almost always gets accepted heartily. LOL!"

Tammy: "I think it's important to remember this: You both "worked" all day long, you're both tired, and you both have equal obligation to one another to, at the minimum, acknowledge and respect each others 'work'....There are days, where the best either of us can do is acknowledge the day was crazy and cuddle at the end of it. And that is OK, it's a phase of life--but we do have plenty of evenings where we have adult conversation, drink wine together, laugh, and bond once the girls are in bed. I think having a sense of humor is key--and treating each other as team members in your family...At least for our marriage, remembering we are partners and being willing to help the other in anything that the other needs--breeds the sense of intimacy, trust, and connection that every marriage can flourish under."
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I think all these ladies have great ideas for keeping your marriage vibrant!

Let me share some of the things that my husband and I do...

I make sure that I am the first one to greet the Love-Of-My-Life when he gets home. Even when I'm up to my elbows in flour or dishwater. The minute he comes through that door, I clean off and greet him with a hug and kiss. The boys have learned that THEY get to greet daddy AFTER mommy does. My husband loves this and it cements his place as #2 in my life.

If I have something to do where I can sit down with it, I make sure and do it NEXT to Love-of-My-Life. So whether it's lesson planning, fixing a button, folding/sorting laundry, or even just reading a book or typing on the laptop. I make sure I sit next to him. It seems simple, but he enjoys it very much.

Sometimes our date night means we actually get a dinner and movie while my in-laws watch our boys...sometimes date night is us alone doing GROCERY SHOPPING! LOL! One time we didn't have time for dinner out, so we just grabbed fried chicken from the store and gobbled it in the car. We were greasy and giggling at our "dignified dinner" but it was so much fun. Not all our dates are outside the home. Sometimes we just put the boys to bed and then go out on the porch and sit together under a blanket and talk.
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By now I'm sure some of you are thinking--"I would do more to be with him, if I wasn't just so tired from having to DO everything." or "but I get no help at all! He wants me to do everything AND still drop everything spend time with him!"

I'm going to address some of that in tomorrow's post...but for right now let me remind you...

It takes two to tango.

For it to work...for your marriage to have vibrancy and be fresh and fun and alive---BOTH of you are going to need to put forth effort. It will not work if you are already exhausted from a full day of being teacher and mommy and maid AND he expects to come home, sit on the couch and have you wait on him hand and foot because HE'S tired. Or he comes home and just wants to be "left alone"--and that means no kids, no you.

And that is where putting God-time (like I discussed yesterday) as a priority comes in handy.
Pray.
Pray about it.
Pour your heart out to God about your desire to have a vibrant marriage. Ask Him for guidance so you can talk to your husband about it. Ask Him to open your husband's heart to be one of giving and sharing of burdens and responsibilities. Then have a heart-to-heart with the man you love...

Explain to him how you want to and feel the need to spend more time together as a couple but are just overwhelmed with everything. See if you can work out ideas to make changes to make it happen. 

Sometimes husbands are more than willing to help--if they are TOLD there is a need...Yes, even if it's blatantly obvious to you or if you've dropped a million hints. They can be a little dense about the obvious sometimes. Ahem. I know mine can at least.

Most husbands would adore having non-frazzled wives to take out on dates, have "at home" dates with or to just sit on the couch with...so see if you can communicate a plan to make it happen.

Perhaps he could take over dinner clean up so you could get your children moving in the direction of bed. Or maybe HE can take over getting them ready for bed so YOU can clean up or finish up things. 

I know that when I'm cleaning up the dinner stuff, my husband takes over getting our boys into the bath and cleaned up. Oh how they frolic and play with daddy when it's bath-time. Then Love-of-My-Life takes over reading their bedtime story. This gives me a moment to just sit and rest my feet before I join them for prayers.

We are a team. We understand the "Power of Two" and are both doing our best to support each other...even when I'm at my most frazzled and stressed, I know that all I have to do is ask and he will help me out.

Here are some posts from other bloggers about this subject: 
Adventures in Mommydom: A Treasure Hunt Date Night
My Nearest and Dearest: Adding Romance to Movie Night
and for a host of ideas check out 

Thank you for joining me today! I hope you will return tomorrow as we dive into the aspect of our responsibilities as a mom and caretaker of our households!
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