Talking through Tough Times

My husband and I have been doing some soul searching lately. We don’t make a lot of money, and we’re beginning to realize that the things that we’re passionate about aren’t going to make us any.

We are passionate about our family and making sure that we raise our kids without sending them to day care. Neither of us went to day care and were taken care of either by our parents or relatives and we want the same for our kids. Unfortunately, that means that they’re going to grow up having to sacrifice things for time. We will get to spend time together, but they probably won’t have the nicest clothes or coolest toys. I’m struggling with how to negotiate my desire to give them everything they want and be there for them as much as I believe we should.

Last night, we had a hard conversation about what we wanted to do job-wise. We’re both frustrated and both took things personally. Nothing was meant as a personal attack, but when strong emotions are involved it’s difficult to not take things personally. But we kept talking anyway, always reassuring the other that what we were saying wasn’t meant to be taken personally. Being honest is hard and looking at your life and realizing it may not be exactly what you wanted is hard, but the important thing is that we’re talking about it.

Ultimately, nothing was resolved last night. And I think that was ok. I’m one that likes to have a resolution at the end of a conversation or argument, but in this case, there really wasn’t one. We weren’t arguing even though we felt like we were, and eventually, we just had to go to bed, knowing that we’ll have to pick up the conversation today but hoping to gain some clarity in the meantime

I guess my advice is to build a relationship with your spouse where you can be honest even when it’s hard and know that, no matter what, you’re in it together. The only way to really do that is to build a lot of trust by being honest from the outset of the relationship and setting honesty as an expectation for yourselves and each other. That way, when a hard conversation has to happen, you know that there’s integrity in that conversation and that you’re working together to do the best thing for your family.

Psalms 30:5 Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

A Controversial Stance on Marriage

Here it is: marriage can be easy.

It seems that everywhere I turn people say “marriage is hard work,” “it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do,” “you have to work at it everyday.”

To that I say, false.

When I think of things that I’ve considered hard work throughout my life the list includes: my landscaping job in college, juggling full time school and 3-4 jobs, renovating our house, and statistics class.

Being married to my husband is not on the list. Not even close.

I knew when I was dating that I didn’t want a relationship that was hard work. Life is hard enough on its own without adding stress in a relationship.

A partner is supposed to relieve some of your stress, I thought.

But all I ever heard when I would question friends about their stressful relationships complete with a heavy work load was “you’ll understand when you have a boyfriend.” Because I had never had one, I thought that maybe they were right, and I lived in a naive world where boyfriends and girlfriends actually liked each other and got along. I thought that loving someone should be a pleasant experience that came with support and laughter and companionship. This point of view was usually met with derision and a shake of the head filled with pity for the ignorant bliss of someone who had never had to deal with the hardships of a relationship.

After my husband and I had dated a few months, I started to worry because we didn’t fight. After a few more months I really started to worry. What was wrong with us that we were still having fun and were truly happy when my friends fought almost immediately with their boyfriends?

How messed up is that? I was genuinely concerned that we didn’t fight and everything about being together was fun. To that some would say that we had only been together a few months, we’re supposed to still be in “the honeymoon stage.” But here we are 8 years and 2 kids later and I still get excited when I hear his car in the driveway or see him walking towards me in the store.

To be clear, I’m not saying this to brag about my relationship. I’m saying this because I never heard anyone say this when I was dating. Ever.

So there I was fumbling around the dating world figuring that if I really did want a relationship, I would have to settle for one that required a lot of effort, stress, and work. To me, that conflicted with the supportive, happy, loving experience I wanted in a relationship. It was frustrating to have people look at me like I was insane when I said that I didn’t think a relationship should easy and fun.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have disagreements. I’d even go so far as to say we’ve had a few arguments. But we don’t fight. We don’t storm off. We don’t stop talking for days or really even minutes.

What we do is talk all the time about everything. We are receptive when the other person comes with an issue or doesn’t like the way we handled a situation. We handle our money together. We decide how to raise our children together. We decide how to run our business together. And guess what? It’s easy. And it’s so much fun having someone to walk with through life.

My point is don’t settle for someone who makes you fight for his attention or to be heard or to feel good about yourself or the relationship. Hold out for someone that is your equal and partner and best friend because that’s when things get fun.

 

A Life-Long Sleepover

Remember that feeling when you were little and your parents told you that your best friend could sleep over?

Ahead of you was a night full of talking, giggling, and gossiping. You had as much time as you could want to hang out and have the fun that was usually restricted to passing time between classes or lunch in the cafeteria.

When I was getting ready to start college, I ended up with three random roommates. I was excited as I told my high school best friend their names and talked about how much fun it was going to be to live in the dorms.

“You know it’s not going to be like having a sleepover every night, right?” my pessimistic friend asked.

“You’re probably right,” I responded but secretly held out hope that it would be like a sleepover every night with no limit to the amount of talking and laughing we could do. Turns out, it was like a sleepover every night. Granted, I really lucked out in the roommate department, but the great thing about getting married is that you get to choose that person and more or less ensure that you get to have a life-long sleepover.

Why couldn’t marriage be like a sleepover every night?

I remember thinking about this a lot as my husband and I started dating.  As our relationship grew, and we stayed at one or the other’s house almost every night, that’s what it felt like. We got to stay up late talking and laughing. We got to get up in the morning, pick up where we left off, drink coffee, and have breakfast together. It was awesome, and it still is.

Many years later, we still stay up late talking, now about kids and work, and we get to wake up together, picking up where we left off. Sometimes we collapse into bed at night, too tired to talk, but we know that the other is just arm’s distance away if we want to.

I was going to list a bunch of keys to finding this kind of relationship, but really it just comes down to knowing how you want to feel in a relationship and not settling until you find it.

I’ve always thought that marriage was just getting to spend your life with your best friend, and after finding the right person, it turns out I was right. And it’s like getting to have a life-long sleepover.

 

Let’s Talk Toilet Seats

I have a confession…

I don’t care if my husband puts the toilet seat down.

I really don’t. In the grand scheme of things that I care about, that ranks really, really low. I figured that was fairly normal. I’ve heard that women get really weird about the toilet seat, but never thought it was for real…and then when we were dating, my husband left the toilet seat up in the guest bathroom in the house I shared with a roommate. She flipped out. Like legitimately got mad at him.

I couldn’t figure it out. Just put it down yourself. I feel like I don’t have any right to do less work in the bathroom than a man. Either I have to put it down or he has to lift it up. Who owns the rights to toilet leisure?

I made a similar comment to my husband’s roommate, and he just stared at me. He said he had never heard a woman say that. I especially didn’t understand why my husband or his roommate would have to put the toilet seat down in their own apartment when I was there. I certainly didn’t have bathroom rights there.

On a related note, I’ve recently realized that my husband doesn’t refill the toilet paper dispenser, and I don’t care about that either. I just put a role on that he had left on the sink, and it literally took about 3 seconds, and I was sitting down anyway.

All this weird toilet talk to say, I think people, men and women, get way too hung up on little details like this to really enjoy their relationship. You’re obviously going to be unhappy in a relationship if you’re constantly worried about whether or not you’re going to have to put a toilet seat down before doing your business.

Unfortunately, it’s really easy to get caught up in these kinds of little details until that’s all you see. A husband that doesn’t put the toilet seat down. A wife that doesn’t rinse her dishes. Once those things start taking over, it becomes hard to see all of the great stuff that your spouse does. He may not put the toilet seat down, but does that trump when he teaches your kid a new song or folds the laundry?

If you feel yourself starting to fixate on the little annoyances, widen your view and focus on the amazing things that your spouse does. In the grand scheme of things, does the toilet seat really matter?

 

Why We Didn’t Want a WEDDING {and why it was ok}

My husband and I are generally pretty private people, and we keep our friend group small. I definitely don’t want to be the center of attention. Our relationship is ours, and we don’t bring other people into it. When I was little, I had the typical wedding day dreams of what colors or flowers I wanted, but when it came right down to it, I just wanted to marry him and I felt like all the other “wedding stuff” would get in the way.

When we seriously started talking about getting married, I was really torn. I wanted to marry him more than anything, but I didn’t want a wedding. Deciding that was ok and planning it our way was something that took some time to be ok with. I definitely felt some guilt when I told certain family members that it was immediate family only, but we needed to start our life together in a way that was best for us.

I had no interest in picking music and flowers and colors and bridesmaids, and for us, that was exactly right. We got married in a field on his parents farm and had our eight immediate family members there. We were married by a lawyer and had a photographer that was cheap and gave me all the proofs (he later disappeared from the face of the internet, but after we got our pictures *whew*). Our reception was a year later and very casual. We did our wedding in a way that fit us exactly.

To this day, when I tell people about our wedding, they’re surprised. For the people that really know us, however, it made total sense that we did it the way we did.

Marriage should be between the two people actually in the marriage. It seems to me that a lot of times couples bring way too many people into their relationship and on their wedding day, it becomes more about other people than the actual two people getting married. Between welcome parties, gift bags, wedding parties, etc. it can get to be too much and the two people that are supposed to be there end up getting lost in the shuffle.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want a big wedding with all of the normal wedding things, that’s awesome, but it’s important in a relationship to decide what it is that the two of you really want, not what you should do or worry about what others think you should do. It’s easy to succumb to pressure from friends and family, but keeping in mind that the two people who truly matter are you and your future spouse will go a long way in maintaining a strong relationship.

In the end, it’s important to communicate so that you both know what you want and to keep that at the forefront of wedding planning.

The Road Trip Test

I was having a conversation with some women awhile ago, and one was talking about a road trip she and her husband had recently taken.

She complained about the trip, saying “Well, we bickered the entire way. You know, like married couples do.”

I kept my mouth shut, but all I could think was my husband and I have never bickered through an entire road trip. She said it like it was a given in a marriage, that you can’t be in close proximity for any real length of time. I beg to differ.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had to drive 12 hours together for a funeral. We left on a Tuesday and drove back on a Thursday. We left our son with his grandparents. I had to miss 3 days of work and worry about travelling while 7 month pregnant. None of that sounds exciting, but I was excited.

We were going to get to spend 24 hours in the car together. That meant 24 hours of uninterrupted conversation, quiet moments, and laughter. Despite all of the things I wasn’t looking forward to, knowing that we were going to have that time together made it bearable.

Taking a road trip together while you’re dating is a way of doing your due diligence when deciding if that person is marriage material. If you can’t handle being in the car together for an extended length of time, you might not be right for each other.

We figured out early on in our relationship that we could handle road trips together. A few months after starting to date, he was going to an event in my hometown and asked if I wanted to tag along. I immediately agreed, but then started to think about the 12 hour drive. Could I be in a confined space for hours and hours and hours with this man? What would we talk about? Would the silences be awkward? We got along really well, but how does that hold up during 12 hours of face time…and 12 hours back?

It was not a problem. We talked. We laughed. We played punch buggy for 8 hours. When it was over, it was one more thing that kept him firmly in the category of marriage material.

These are the kinds of things to keep an eye on while dating. If you don’t want to bicker on car trips when you’re married, make sure you don’t bicker on car trips while you’re dating.

The more I think about it, a road trip can be a microcosm of a marriage. You’re in it together for a long time, and you want it to be fun. There are moments of quiet, moments of laughter, moments of conversation. There may even be unpleasant moments. Just like a marriage it’s not going to be one thing for the entire time, there’s going to be variety. And that’s what makes it fun. So testing it out during dating can be a peek into what marriage could be like.

 

My Husband Can’t Read My Mind {but sometimes I forget}

In our vows, we said that we can’t read the other’s mind. Reminding each other of this periodically makes sure we keep lines of honest communication open, but sometimes we mess up.

Last week was one of those times. I’d been sick for a week, I’m 8 months pregnant, and then I got an ear infection which prompted a trip to urgent care on a Sunday afternoon. On the way home, my husband asked what my thoughts were for supper. When he asked if I was cooking, I responded with a snarky “do I look like I want to cook?”

Turns out all week I’ve been wanting him to read my mind and take care of things without me asking. He didn’t know this. Because I didn’t tell him.

I don’t want to appear weak and have a tendency to push myself too hard and feel like I have to do everything, so I was waiting for him to figure it out. It wasn’t fair to him because he never knew what I was thinking, and it wasn’t fair to me because I would have gotten help had I just asked.

He reminded me that he doesn’t know when I can or can’t do something, and said by the time we got home he wouldn’t be surprised if I felt a little better and did make supper. When we got home, he had things to take care of outside and I did feel better. By the time he got inside, I had supper ready.

The next day, I took a sick day, and I told him that he’d have to take care of everything.

In the morning, he brought me tea. He took care of our son and cooked the meals. All I needed to do was tell him what I was thinking instead of expecting him to read my mind or just know what I need.

So remember, your spouse cannot read your mind. Even if you’re having a bad day. Openly communicating what you need from each other makes things go a lot more smoothly. If my husband is anything like other husbands, the best thing to do is just tell him what you need instead of waiting for him to figure it out.

 

Reclaim Your Room

How many people do you share your room with?

5?

10?

It depends on what shows you watch while in bed.

Long before marriage and even before dating my husband and I decided we would never have a TV in the bedroom. It sounds weird, but when we were just starting to get to know each other, we were having a conversation with a few mutual friends, and he said that when he was married, he would never have a TV in the bedroom. When asked why, he said that that should be time to talk to your spouse about the day and just relax together.

I hadn’t really ever thought about it, but I was really impressed that he had, and it made sense to me. After a long, usually hectic day, the time right before bed is a perfect opportunity to talk, and if you have kids, it might be the only time you have alone, so why invite the cast and crew of your favorite sitcom to join you?

At this point in our lives, I work full-time and my husband is a stay-at-home dad getting ready to start a part-time evening job, and we’re getting ready to welcome our second child soon. Our son is 2, so we don’t have any school functions, homework, or extracurriculars to juggle, but our days can go something like this:

Throughout the day, he takes care of our son, doing naptime, meals, errands, cleaning etc. By the time I get home he’s tired.

I leave at 6:30am, work all day and get home around 4:30. By the time I get home, I’m tired.

I spend a few minutes hanging out with him and our son and then start supper. Our son runs around wanting attention from me and my husband, and we try to catch up on our day while we try and keep him out of mischief.

After we eat, we play a little more and then it’s bedtime. I put our son down for bed, and then we usually end up watching TV in the living room or working on the computer before we go to our room.

I can’t imagine how busy things will be when our kids get older! It’s always nice knowing that when we go to bed, that’s time just for us. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we read, sometimes we just pass out. But we’re the only ones there, and that is a rare feat when you have a family.

So, if you feel like life is getting too hectic or you and your spouse don’t have time for each other, reclaim your room. Grab those last few minutes of each day and turn it into a time to focus on each other.

 

How to Handle Different Financial Styles in a Marriage

My husband and I talked a lot about finances while we were dating (you can read about that here), and after we were married we combined our finances and started budgeting and handling our money together (you can read about that here).

One of the best things we did was to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, a nine week class that walks you through the basics of budgeting, communicating about finances, choosing insurance, saving for retirement, etc. Doing this class together gave us even more to discuss and really kept us on the same page about our goals.

An entire class was dedicated handling money with your spouse, and it breaks people into two categories-Nerd and Free Spirit (this article on Daveramsey.com explains this a little further).

The Nerd is the one that delights in spreadsheets and budgeting and calculating.

The Free Spirit doesn’t really care about those things and wants to spend money as the need arises without quite as much planning.

According to the old saying “opposites attract,” and generally a marriage has one of each. The weird thing about my husband and I is that I wouldn’t fit us into the category of “opposites attract.” We’re very similar in a lot of aspects, and I don’t necessarily think that marrying your complete opposite is a great idea. So when we took the quiz in class, we were scarily similar and both Nerd (he tended a little more Free Spirit than I did).

BUT, there is a but, there are two more categories that you can fit into-the Spender or the Saver. THIS is where we differ. Big time.

Spending money makes me very uncomfortable, which is one of the reasons I LOVE budgeting. It gives me permission to spend money on things and know that we can afford it. I’m a saver and want money tucked away so I can see it and know we have it.

My husband is much more comfortable spending money. It’s generally on things that we need, and it’s always on quality products, but he’s very willing to spend. He’s a spender and wants money to work for him and buy things that are going to make things more efficient (I’m willing to struggle through things if it’s cheaper that way).

So here’s how we handle these differences: We talk, talk, talk.

I make sure to communicate my discomfort, and then I ask a lot of questions which he answers, and this leads to an honest discussion. Some questions I’ll ask include:

  • How much do you think we’ll use this?
  • Will we use it enough to justify the purchase?
  • Is there a cheaper way to accomplish the same goal?
  • Where will we store it? *We have a small house*

Sometimes, even if I’m not entirely comfortable, I’ll agree to a purchase because I trust him and his decisions.

Sometimes, even if he thinks we really need something, he’ll hold off because I’m not comfortable.

The important thing is that we communicate about what we need and how we can both be comfortable with the money we’re spending. If we do buy something, and it doesn’t pan out or we don’t use it, I don’t gloat or say “I told you so.”

If we don’t buy something and it turns out we do need it, he doesn’t throw it in my face. We just put it in the budget and buy it.

Communication is key and being “right” doesn’t matter because you’re not competing over how to spend money. Working as a team and talking through purchases makes you stronger as a couple and staying on the same page about finances keeps your money working for you.

To Test or Not to Test [the relationship]?

I ran across this article in Cosmo awhile, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. In it, the author talks about her resolution to stop testing people this year, throwing out an ultimatum to see if her partner will take the bait, and saying “I make an impossible demand or an empty threat to see if they’ll put their emotional cards on the table in a way that I can’t, or won’t. It’s okay, if they really love me, they’ll fight for me, I rationalizeJust kidding! That trick has worked exactly zero times, but I still keep doing it. And I want to stop.”

Then, I saw a comment on an Instagram post-I can’t remember where it was-asking for advice about the same topic.

So, I figured I’d write about it!

Being that I like to keep things very simple, this kind of game playing seems exhausting. But this is a habit that many people fall into when “testing” their relationship. They hurl ultimatums and cross their fingers that their partner will come through for them, hoping he’ll overlook the juvenile cry for love and attention profess his undying love and willingness to put up with crazy.

While the answer to whether or not you should test your partner is a resounding no, you definitely need to do your due diligence when in a relationship, especially one that is on the road to marriage.

My husband, who is former military, likens it to a vetting process. Vetting is making a careful and critical examination of (something), and you should definitely be making a careful and critical examination of someone who you could spend your life with.

Making sure that the person that you’re with is a good fit for you is imperative to your future happiness as a married couple. When my husband and I were dating, both of us paid close attention to how we fit with each other and into each other’s lives, and when we started to get serious, the transition to being a “we” was pretty seamless. It fit.

There were a lot of opportunities to find out how we fit together-our first road trip, family functions, money conversations, how he reacted when I had a bad day and vice versa, how he treated kids, whether or not he did laundry and cooked and cleaned. Every step along the way, I checked in with myself to make sure he was the right one for me. When the answer was a resounding yes every time, I knew I had found the man that I was going to marry.

So, don’t be afraid to vet the person you’re dating. Ask questions. Observe. Make sure that he is a fit for you. But don’t fall into the trap of testing him, waiting with crossed fingers that he’ll take the bait.

What are some things that you looked for in your spouse?