Wednesday, July 27, 2011

el matrimonio

I used to dream about marrying a boy who could pick&sing...

There are a few things I wish we talked more about at Bloom - one of them is marriage. We devote a lot of time to motherhood, but most of us also exist in this extremely important other dimension of wife-hood, and we hardly talk about it. Today I'd like to talk about it.

Nate and I had a huge pow wow this weekend about our marriage. It was eye opening and a little bit painful if I can be totally honest. I need to be less selfish. And I need to be more warm in our day to day interactions. I want to work on both of those things. I want to be a cheerful, kind, supportive, sexy wife because I think my husband is about as fine a human being as there is and he deserves that kind of wife. He has things to work on, too. We reminded each other that we don't want to be enduring marriage because we have promises to keep -- we want to be enjoying it. And even for two people who are very compatible and very attracted to each other, that takes a monumental effort.

I want to open this up to a forum, but I realize that the questions I want to ask are kind of personal, so if you feel more comfortable answering anonymously, please do.

* What do you quarrel most over in your marriage? Or what do you feel is keeping you from being happier in your marriage?

*What do you think you could change about yourself or your circumstance to improve your marriage?

* What have you learned that has helped you be a better wife/have a happier marriage?

* What would you like to ask others about marriage?

As I type this, it is ridiculously late.
I will hop on the comment thread tomorrow
and answer these questions about my own marriage....



Sally said...

So interesting that you posted this today, because just two days ago I was in bed crying to my husband that he doesn't tell me I'm beautiful anymore. (Most of that was pregnancy hormones) It got me thinking though about how selfish I am to want him to do and be all these things but when I really stopped to think about it, I wasn't doing any of them for him. We both resolved to do better at just letting each other know how much we appreciate them. And I would actually like a little more fighting in our marraige. Not the kind where you say mean horrible things that you regret, but just the honest this is how I'm feeling kind of arguing. We never actually fight at all and it's mostly because I am a keep it all inside kind of person, which is never good. Basically I just need to work on more open communication.

Susan said...

The way we orient towards conflict can be a huge source of conflict in itself. My husband was raised in a family where arguments and disagreements between his parents were intentionally done in private. To him, disagreements spell trouble. I perceive conflict differently and in fact find it somewhat cathartic to debate, argue and even fight (not always, but sometimes). So, even how we disagree and argue has been a source of conflict. Add to this that I'm fiesty but resilient (that makes is sound cuter than it really is) and my husband takes a while to recover from a disagreement and it can be complicated. Gender, family and cultural differences underscore the way we talk, the way we think, and the way we interact with each other. Anyway, it's been hugely helpful to talk through topics like this when we're NOT in conflict and discuss more effective ways to manage (but not avoid) conlict. As you note in your original post, I've realized over 12 short years of marriage that many of our problems stem from selfishness (although it isn't often apparent at the time). Consciously putting a greater effort into caring for your spouse in a way that they need has really been helpful. Like most of you, this is something that I think about a lot (not to mention I teach college classes on communication), and I look foward to hearing what others have to say.

Amber said...

We fight because each of us thinks we do more than the other. And we fight over money. Basically, problems arise when we think more about ourselves than about our spouse. So the solution is to serve each other, speak kindly to each other, pray for each other.

I hate that it feels like we're the only couple in the world that fights. So thanks for this post.

Genean said...

Everyone fights, that's for sure.

My marriage dynamic echoes Susan's perfectly. I feel strongly it does your children a disservice to only have disagreements/discussions behind closed doors. Likewise, it also is harmful to have heated arguments in front of them, as it causes contention. When each spouse comes from a different background, experiencing the opposite can seem alarming. It can be frightening.

Selfishness seems to be a basic component: who's doing more, who gets down time, etc. In our 10 years of marriage, we abandoned "who's doing more" a long time ago and have reached the conclusion that we're both doing a lot--as much as we possibly can. Occasionally we'll have to decide who gets a little alone time/downtime/nap time and try to take turns with it.

Also another issue for us is pride/power: who calls the shots (for us pertaining to the kids, but I know its also easy for some to struggle with this issue over finances). It's easy to quietly discuss it and come up with a plan together, but... when you're in a moment when 3 kids and the baby are crying/screaming and some of them will not eat, and you're running late, and things are getting destroyed or messy--it's incredibly challenging. Facing that kind of stress, it's a struggle to quickly figure out which of us gets to do what his way or her way.

We're both trying to help the situation as best we can, as quickly as we can, but we may have different ways of doing it. If it seems ineffective to the other, we can get annoyed and critical (admittedly, me more so than him).

One great way to appreciate each other is time apart. My husband was gone for a month doing some extra summer work. When he came home, I appreciated having him back all the more, as well as his sacrifice.

Karen said...

I am like Sally...we don't fight because we don't talk to each other about our feelings and that is something I would like to change I just don't know how to go about doing that. I could never imagine having a pow wow like you and Nate did. We just don't discuss feelings and we need to. Our biggest issue is that (I) feel like we have nothing in common anymore. It's really sad. We always seems to be in separate rooms and barely talk anymore.

Jennie said...

Our biggest problem is that we don't necessarily speak the same language. I mean, we both speak English, but our communication still comes out very differently. I am a say things directly kind of person: "I love you", "Thank you", "I'm sorry" are all very important to me. He is not a man who verbalizes ideas like "I appreciate what you do everyday" because "I think you should go get a massage" is the direct translation for that in the family lingo he grew up with. Sometimes I just want him to use words! And sometimes I need to not talk so much... What we seem to be slowly learning about each other is how to merge these two communication approaches together. Like everything else, there are points I (he) need to just embrace his (my) efforts, points where i (he) need to adopt his (my) methods, and points where we just have to start from scratch. Wish us luck?

Miggy said...

Great topic.

Before I address actual marriage, may I just say that one of the biggest obstacles I faced in our early married lives was the feeling of isolation and that we were the ONLY ones who had problems. Often in the LDS community it is highly frowned upon to openly discuss problems of your marriage outside of your marriage. Most of the time I think it's a good thing to keep martial problems between you and your spouse. I do not advocate bashing your spouse behind their back (or at all), or sharing sensitive information with others, etc. BUT when you are struggling and you really need a third party person to talk to and get a little perspective, you can feel really alone in your feelings. Luckily I have a couple friends now that I can speak to, albeit *carefully* about some of our issues and usually the best thing that happens from those talks is hearing "oh yeah, we've gone through that too..." and suddenly it doesn't seem so overwhelming/isolating.

As far as our marriage, I know for me date night is BIG. We need time to just be a couple. A couple having fun on the town without having to feed a baby, wipe bottoms, oversee a tantrum, etc. I think a weekly date night is one of the best pieces of council we can follow for a more successful and happy marriage. My husband and I genuinely like each other and enjoy each other's company, but if it's been too long in between dates we sorta lose that. We definitely don't have the "we never fight" problem, and for the reasons others have stated I'm really glad. We get things out on the table and discuss. However, we don't see eye to eye a lot, so we try not to micromanage each other (there is more than 1 way to solve a problem!) and then we try to go on dates where we can just be us.

Of course I also agree with what a lot of people have said above as well...when we both try to think of the other person first, things always go a lot smoother.

Anonymous said...

Everyone always says how having kids changes your marriage. But we wanted kids and seeing that our friends were still happily married (and even having more babies) we decided it must be worth it.
But it did change things. And it was hard. I was (and still am) tired all the time, struggling to find piece with my new body, trying to get used to this new life, at home, taking care of another human being. I found that by the time my husband got home from work, I was worn out, feeling exhausted yet having nothing to show for my exhaustion. I wasn’t the person I was before: happy, flirty, and romantic. It scared me a lot to change so much in just a few months.

Now she is 4 ½ months old and I am coming to the realization that a lot of where our “problems” come from is me only worrying about me. I don’t feel attractive. I didn’t get dinner ready. I don’t know where my place in the world is. I... I… I… I… It was all about me. I had gone through a hard pregnancy. I had to give birth. I have had to give up my lifestyle and my body. But I am not the only one making sacrifices. So is he. All in different ways but he is making sacrifices too. I should acknowledge that and love him for it. I should not just expect him to shower me with kisses… I should shower him with some too. Because he sure deserves it.

That is what I can change. To stop thinking about me and think about him and us. And even the little I have done in the last few weeks to make the change, I feel a difference. A difference in our relationship and in me.

Amanda said...

The only thing we ever fight about is money- mostly because I can't stick to our budget:) The best thing I have learned in my marriage is to be 100% accepting of my husband- the good, bad, sweet, ugly- every thing. I have lots of friends that complain about their husbands little quirks and it makes me sad because if you love someone- you love ALL of them. I still remember exactly how I felt on our wedding day and the love I have for him grows more each day because I look for the good in him. That doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated at some things- it just means that I get over it and move on because I love him more than the little frustrations. Also NEVER complain about your spouse to any one- EVER! If you have a problem go to them about it. The other thing that I wish I was better at is giving my family my best self. I am always doing things for other people- which is great- but then I have nothing left for my own family. I use to clean the house like crazy when guests would be coming over or make yummy treats and meals for the neighbors that needed help and never do that stuff for the people that mean the most to me. Now I do that for them first. Lastly I try to NEVER share my heart with anyone but him. There is nothing and no one that I love more than him- not even our kids. Of course I adore my kids- but I know too that one day they will give their heart to someone else. I make sure that things, activities, other people, even our extended families neve come before my relationship with my husband.

Robin said...

Most of the conflict in our marriage centers around two issues: the first is our tendency to criticize each other. Whether it's me always nagging him about his driving or him getting on my case for not being as structured and consistent in making the kids do chores, it becomes a habit, and it brings up hard feelings. We forget to look for and comment on the good things that each of us contribute to the family.

The other issue that comes around again and again in regular cycles is just falling apart from each other emotionally. He gets caught up in work, and sometimes has a bad spell for a few weeks, and it puts him in a bad mood that he can't pull out of at home. I get bogged down in the day to day tedium of child-rearing and housekeeping.When he comes home at night, all either of us wants is to relax and have some down time. Sometimes we don't even smile or make eye contact with each other all day. If this goes on too long, we become emotionally isolated, and it usually doesn't resolve itself without some sort of emotional explosion. Fortunately, we've gone through this cycle enough times that I can recognize the signs, take a step back and remind myself to stop expecting him to read my mind and then have a nice calm discussion with him about getting back on track.

I found a great reminder in Reader's Digest this month, of all places, which has an article on stuff your marriage counselor won't tell you. The author said: "The big thing most women don't understand: Men are not mind readers. If you don't tell him how your feel, he's not going to know. The big thing most men don't understand: If you hardly acknowledge your wife all day, she's not going to want to get intimate with you at night."

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned sex yet! Maybe because there are no anonymous comments? Well, here's the first one. My husband and I have it as our goal to make love once a week. At least. Some weeks it's 2-4 times.

We made this goal after our first baby was born and I was all healed up. He expressed how important it was to him since we had gone so long w/o it after the baby (obviously).

It amazes me what he's willing to do to help me out around the house of his own will and choice (no prodding from me) when his emotional love tank is full. There have obviously been weeks when I haven't really felt up to it but, did it anyways as a form of "service" for him and then realized that I needed it just as much as he did.

But, we still fight almost daily. Sometimes multiple times a day. But, we can resolve the issues quickly because we are so in love with each other and we realize that we are just being stubborn and selfish.

It's so important to be intentional about your marriage. We try to tell one another why we love each other every night while laying in bed before falling asleep. Sometimes we forget. But, I can say that this has helped me feel appreciated and when I'm vocal about acknowledging what he's done that day I realize that he's sacrificing just as much as I am for our family.

I love this quote from Pres. Eyring: "Pray for the love which allows you to see the good in your companion. Pray for the love that makes weaknesses and mistakes seem small. Pray for the love to make your companion's joy your own. Pray for the love to want to lessen the load and soften the sorrows of your companion."

I really feel doing these things have saved our marriage!

Anonymous said...

The best marriage advice I got was this-
If you start to fight or get annoyed by each other, eat or take a nap, you're probably just hungry or tired.
In essence, treat yourself like a toddler! It's amazing what taking care of your basic needs will do for your relationship.
I completely agree with anon. about having sex regularly and I bet my husband would too ;)
Last, I want to suggest a book called The Love Dare. I think it was on Oprah awhile back. It's a 40 day challenge with each day teaching a different aspect of love along with a challenge to complete. I have to admit after a couple attempts I haven't made it all the way through yet, but it really helps me focus on my husband instead of myself. My husband was not doing the Dare with me, but I noticed he unconsciously reciprocated the thoughtfulness! And I don't think you have to be having troubles to use the book- you can never do enough to make your marriage better!

Ihilani said...

This has been on my mind a lot as I've watched my sister in law's marriage fall apart. It didn't start off the right way...they got pregnant in high school and got married a couple years later. Still, I know other couples who had similar starts but really worked toward success.

Seeing her failures however, prompted me to think (and consequently blog) about the things I saw them doing that contributed to the marriage not working. It made me think of what I could do better to make my marriage work.

As for my husband and I, we have a very strong, peaceful marriage. We are each others' favorite person to be with. Any disagreements we have don't last very long. We're pretty mellow people. Right now I'd say money is our biggest issue because he's unemployed, but we don't take it out on each other. We vent to each other and listen. We're staying with family at the moment, so autonomy is a little tough. The three of us crowd into one bedroom. Mostly we just want to be on our own, come and go as we please, have our own space and be financially secure. Once we fulfill that basic need, it's pretty safe to say that we'd be three happy peas in a pod.

rae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rae said...

I loved all of these comments - so insightful ya'll! Thanks!

@ ALICIA FISH - oh how I hear myself in your comments, I'm just a little further down the line than you (I now have three little girls). I can promise you that you will adjust, things get MUCH better from here on out, and you will go back the self you miss so much (can't promise the stretch marks will fade entirely, but perspective on how awesomely blessed you are with your daughter can help you feel much more empowered and sexy in the trade-off!). I felt incredibly jolted in those first few months. I couldn't believe what I had to change and sacrifice to bring a child into this world! It manifested in my marriage by me constantly needing to state how much "I" had sacrificed. But you are so right when you say that your husband sacrificed too. Your insights into yourself and your marriage really resonate with me as well, so thanks.

I need to work on not being so stinkin' sassy with my husband. He might like it in the bedroom (wink wink...oh the scandal!), but I can quickly turn a perfectly good day nasty when I speak to him in a less than respectful tone. I think it was Dr. Laura who said "Women will speak to their husbands in such a tone that they would NEVER DREAM OF USING WITH THEIR FRIENDS, OR EVEN WORST ENEMIES..." That really resonated with me. I am much better today, but still very much a work-in-progess.

I also think I have to be careful of what I call THE SECRET PSYCHO CARD. I think it is the tendency in {almost} every female...a parallel to it in the male department could be a wandering eye. Just as men seem to have a propensity to notice other attractive women and must keep guard against it, I think that women have this weird ability to date and enter marriage giving the impression that they are spontaneous, giggly, flirty, sexually inviting, etc.
After marriage, and the realistic and time consuming trials of life (with motherhood in the mix), we suddenly become so darn serious and bossy and controlling and mama-bearish and c.r.a.z.y...

I have to remember it is still okay to laugh, be silly, and forget that I am 'a mother' sometimes!

Great topic Em!

Megan said...

It sounds like we could all write novels about this aspect of our lives. To answer the questions asked: we do quarrel over little things, but it usually has to do with our own attitudes and how we are treating each other or the children. I tend to be sarcastic too often and we both get angry quicker than we’d like. Also in the assuming that the other should be helping when one feels like cleaning. I am very happy in my marriage. Happier? I actually need to be a little more selfish in regards to wanting to have my husband on his own without the children and making sure that we are taking care of our spiritual sides together.
I have learned that communication is key. For Karen: Do NOT be afraid to share your feelings. About anything. About how you feel, about how your husband is feeling, about sex, about children, about life. You two are on a team. Teams don’t work without talking about what you are trying to achieve…happiness as a whole.
I am one of the luckiest girls in the world in that I know my husband loves me. I am not insecure about whether or not he “approves” because he tells me that I’m beautiful when I’m not feeling it and even though I need to improve myself in certain ways. I agree with one of our anonymous commenters in that making love with each other is so important in keeping your bond strong and it helps you both.
Don’t forget to talk to your spouse and ask questions in order to get those difficult topics going. Even if its starting with: I feel really awkward asking you this or bringing this up, but I’m bothered by this aspect of our lives together. Please help me understand or help me fix it. And then with a follow up of is there anything I need to change or improve? Etc.
I could go on, just like everyone else, but this is probably a topic we could all sit and talk about for hours together. Hooray for improving our relationships with one of the most important people in our worlds!

Christina said...

I've been thinking about/blogging about marriage all week because today is our 9th anniversary. It's been really good for me to reflect on lessons we've learned together and growth that we've achieved as a couple. I think my lack of affection is definitely one of the hardest things in our marriage- it's hard for me to think about cuddling with my husband at the end of the day when I've had kids on me all day long! I have learned to let the little things go. When I think about the eternal marriage that we're working for, so many things that can be the small day to day frustrations don't play any part in that eternal perspective. I want to know how couples reconnect at the end of the day. So often we're off to meetings or going in different directions or just wanting down time that we're not hanging out/reconnecting as much as I'd like.

Great topic, and I agree one that we don't discuss enough! And I love the reference to the secret pyscho card. I could so relate to that!

Bloom said...

Boy, is there some good wisdom here. I agree with so many things that so many of you have said.

Miggy - Date night is sacred around here. It is just sooo important to reconnect. There are so many interruptions and distractions in everyday life. I also appreciated what you said about being able to talk about marital issues with friends - that's delicate, but so important not to feel isolated. And it's so empowering and helpful to be able to get advice from others - some new tools to work on your marriage with.

And like a few others of you have said, really seeking after the well-being of your spouse is so important. Putting yourself in their shoes, thinking about how you would want to be treated. That takes so much emotional effort, but I think it is so important. and it's just amazing how reciprocal that is - seems like when i make an effort to really love Nate and be a kind wife, the benefits come back a hundred fold. i guess i'm lucky that he's so responsive.

If I might say a word about sex (blush!) - that used to be a huge issue for us - big discrepancy between our desires. I used to feel that if I wasn't in the mood, well, then I just wasn't in the mood and there was no changing it. But I'm learning that if I just give myself a little time and try to keep my mind open to the idea -- I'll often warm up. And then it's fun. And I swear our marriage is a million times happier when we're rollin' in the hay ;)

Rae - I like what you say about lightening up, too. Who wants to be around a sassy, serious, grouchy pants all the time? We don't have to be victims of our lives, we can take charge, we can be happy and fun.

one last thing - just like we want to feel beautiful and desired by our husbands, they want to feel that from us. they want to feel like we feel lucky to be the girl on their arm. they want to feel like superman a little i try to help out with that instead of nagging/whining him to oblivion.

that's it! i'm sure i'll spend the rest of the afternoon wondering if this comment came out right, wishing i'd said something differently or not shared so much as soon as i publish this...

thanks for all you've shared! it really makes this a meaningful, helpful forum. i hope maybe some of you feel a little less isolated knowing that we all probably struggle with similar issues.


kami said...

I am so glad you posted this too! We have struggled lately a lot and I was surprised that nobody had mentioned sex yet either!! *Blush*

I think the most comforting thing is to know that we are NOT alone in our struggles. So often I feel like (although our marriage is really very good) our marriage is horrible compared to everyone else's perfect marriages. It is nice to know that each couple has their issues and each couple has to work very hard.

Our big issue is sex because our desires are so very different, but like you Em, we are SO much happier when we're rollin' in the hay too :) We have decided to schedule it, as dumb as it sounds. We compromised on the frequency and decided we'd both be happier if we just had set days. I think it's going to work well.

The other issue we struggle with is that we are both internal people so when we have problems, we keep them in and don't confront each other until they get blown out of proportion. We are working on being more open and honest with each other when our feelings are hurt or when we're annoyed.

5 years and almost 3 kids into marriage and I can just say that it is a lot more work than I ever imagined. But I also love him more than I did the day I married him, so it must all be paying off :)

Thanks for this forum!

Oakmoss said...

Great post filled with wonderful advice. I recently heard/ read somewhere about how important it is to help make our husband's roles lighter. Their roles as fathers, providers, husbands, etc. I've been thinking a lot about that, and the things I need to change about myself to help make my husband's life easier. This in turn will make everyone in the family happier.

Mickie and Matt said...

Wow! I just read through all the comments. Sounds like all of us have things in common and I gleaned a ton of information and new ideas!

2 books that I would recommend anyone and EVERYONE to read who is married or getting married is "The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love" by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. This one is written in a way to help you understand the sanctity in it all, WHILE explaining the feelings and ways it can be done. I buy it for all brides to be, my sister bought it for me and it cleared up a lot of worries or questions I had about that sort of thing before getting married and I still think about it during marriage and have re-read it quite a bit. My sister got it while taking a marriage course at BYU, so it's not smutty or disrespectful at all, a VERY GOOD resource! The second book is "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" by Dr. Laura. That book kicked my trash and made me realize how selfish I am. Not that I EVER had a bad marriage, it just made our marriage that much better! The book is amazing especially for parents trying to keep that flame good and strong.

This post made me think of that new country song by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, "Remind Me" I love it! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I don't know any of you but I love the blog! :)

* What do you quarrel most over in your marriage? Or what do you feel is keeping you from being happier in your marriage?
My answer when we first got married would have definitely been communication problems, on both parts. When he got upset, he would shut me out and when I was upset, I acted really upset and used tactless language and would raise my voice. I am still the major drive for communication, but I learned to talk nice, and he learned to talk. Now when we fight, it is usually because we are stressed because of some life situation that does not involve whatever we are getting in a tiff about, we just get edgier when life throws stresses at us.

*What do you think you could change about yourself or your circumstance to improve your marriage?
As touched on by so many others, sometimes I get so caught up on what I want from him instead of thinking what more can I be doing for him.

* What have you learned that has helped you be a better wife/have a happier marriage?
Give him space when he needs it, a real challenge for my personality, but I realize I need space to cool off too sometimes. But I do have to break his silence at some point or he will stay in it forever.

* What would you like to ask others about marriage?
In-laws!? Particuliarily the mom-in-law. She is really nice, but we our personalities have some major clashes. In my eyes it's like talk about something unpleasant (a confrontation), or being honest when the truth isn't pretty, is bad. And it drives me nuts because it is so opposite my nature, and I think honesty is a good thing. I resolves things much quicker, and it's not a big deal if both people can see that. My hubby use to get extremely upset with me whenever I felt anything negative towards anyone in his family, but he has become more accepting of my feelings and also realizes that they are not perfect after all. But still, they are attached to him, so loving him. I can't just erase the in-laws I clash with from my life because they are a part of him. They are also relatives to our children. But sometimes my self-esteem struggles around some of them. I am still figuring out the balance there.