The Road Home to You

Finding faith in a broken world

Self-Care for Your Marriage

June 18, 2019
The Road Home to You

Self-care is quite a little buzz phrase these days. We’ve all heard the term and use it to mean anything from taking a nap to going on vacation to spending quality time getting lost in a book.

But what does self-care for your marriage look like?

Listen to the full episode here!

Matt and I sat down and compiled a list of 10 things we think qualify as marital self-care. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, we believe it covers some of the most important (and often overlooked) ways you can nurture your marriage and your spouse. Let’s face it, we could all use a little more tenderness in our lives and who better to give it than your spouse?

Here’s our first ever Top Ten List:

  1. Date Night – This goes without saying, right? Dating your spouse is super important, especially if you have children who you’re also trying to raise. I mean honestly, kids are pretty attention-seeking and if we’re not careful they will easily pull focus. But your relationship deserves the time and attention it got back when you were trying to impress each other.

    It also goes without saying that most couples can’t do a once-a-week date because that can cost a TON of money! So find creative solutions: go for walks, take long drives on roads you’ve never explored, have a picnic, light some candles and take a soak in the tub, give massages. Now, if you have kids, you’re going to have to get even more creative…or bold. Don’t be afraid to ask another couple if they’d be willing to swap kids once a month. That way you both benefit from a night (or at least a few hours) free of kids without the expense.

  2. Find ‘Hidden Moments’ – This goes along with the first suggestion. You’re not always going to have a lot of time to enjoy each other’s company, so use the time you’ve got. Maybe it’s just a quick changing of the guard as you pass by each other on your way to and fro. Take a minute to exchange a meaningful moment. Check in with each other.

    Maybe you have a little bit of downtime while the baby is asleep. Go ahead and take a nap also, but do it together. Pack the kids up and head to McDonald’s. While they play, enjoy a Coke and have a conversation. Even if it’s in fits and starts, it’s better than nothing. Or do like we do…our kids are older but our daughter still isn’t driving herself and we’ve had some moments sitting in the car waiting at the pick-up line at school or while she’s in dance class.

    These aren’t the moments that will likely be full of great memories, but they are the moments that remind you both that your marriage is valuable and worth putting effort into.

  3. Pray for Each Other – It’s really such an easy thing to do, but how often do you we simply forget to pray for the person that matters most? When was the last time you asked your spouse, “How can I pray for you today?” Those few words show your mate that what’s important to them is important to you, too. They speak volumes. Ask this question at least once a week. (Note to Self: Be sure to ask Matt how I can pray for him this week….)
  4. Plan A Future Together – Whether it’s figuring out what you want to do for your next date, planning your dream vacation, plotting your next move or talking about the career you’d like to step into, planning for future events together keeps your eyes out ahead of you.

    It’s easy to get consumed with the day-to-day and only focus on the tasks (or children) that are right in front of you. But you are more than the next crisis your face. You have hopes and dreams and big ideas and so does your spouse. Celebrate those together by talking about something that’s coming up or something you’d like to see in the future. It will help stoke the fires that drive your passion toward a common goal and towards one another.

    Listen to the full episode here!

  5. Share Your Calendar – It’s not a glamorous suggestion, but just checking in with each other and sharing what’s on your calendar can keep you casually informed about any number of things. It’s great to be able to glance at the calendar and see what big events are looming because it reminds us how to pray for one another but it also can be an indicator as to why your favorite person in the whole world has turned into a monster. If your work presentation that’s happening on Thursday is written on the calendar, it just might help your spouse understand why you’re a little on edge.
  6. Pick Up the Slack When Your Spouse is Weak – There are going to be those days (and weeks and months) when your spouse just isn’t going to be able to do all the things you’ve grown accustomed to them doing. You’ll have those days, too. And when they happen, nothing feels better than knowing that your spouse has your back and is willing to step in and do the dishes or run the carpool or cook dinner. Especially when those things are done without expectation or guilt trips. Nobody needs that foolishness.

    If your spouse is sick, help out. If your spouse is depressed, let them rest. If your spouse is going completely postal because they’re sick and tired of being the only person in the entire house who seems to know how to wash a dish and put it in the dishwasher….wait, I’m sorry. I think I started to wander….

  7. Find A Mutual Hobby or Interest – We really like to watch TV together. It’s a great chance for us to escape for a little bit then come back to reality with some funny one-liners from whatever show we just watched. We could repeat show and movie lines all day long and just giggle. It’s our jam. We also really like playing Pathfinder together with a group of friends. We get to pretend to be heroes doing brave and amazing feats. Then we talk about the shenanigans our characters got up to until we play again. It’s how we unwind.

    Those things might not interest you at all. But what about hiking? Or beekeeping? Or going to antique stores? Video games?

    Whatever you both enjoy, jump in and do it together. If you haven’t found your thing yet, keep looking. Maybe try cooking or gardening. The point is, find “your” thing and then make time to enjoy it. The bonding that can happen in these moments is worth its weight in gold. I honestly believe that one of the reasons our marriage has survived through all the garbage is because we shared so many common interests and that kept our friendship alive.

  8. Compliment One Another – This shouldn’t be that hard, but for some it truly is. Some people just have a hard time remembering to say out loud the things that are in their heart while others simply can’t find anything worth complimenting in their spouse anymore.

    If that’s you in that latter group, dig deep. There was something in your spouse that initially drew you in. See if you can find it. If you can’t, look for something else. Anything else.

    The fact is, words have power. When we receive compliments, it bolsters us. It strengthens our confidence. It encourages us to do more of the same. Words of praise can soften the hearts of both those who give it and those who receive it. Compliment with sincerity and do it often.

  9. Have Meaningful Physical Touch – It doesn’t have to turn in to sex, but take time to hug and kiss and hold hands and give massages. These little displays of affection say everything without saying a word. You don’t have to put on a show in front of others, but simply hugging your spouse for a good 2 minutes will do amazing things for your emotional well-being and theirs.
  10. Have Sex – Yep. Just do it.

    Sometimes couples have vastly different sex-drives. That’s not uncommon but it’s also not an excuse. When we said “I do” we committed to loving our spouse and putting their needs above our own. We promised that what was ours was also theirs. That includes our body.

    It’s important to be attuned to your spouse’s sexual needs. Even if you’re not in the mood, you may just need to do what you can to get there because it’s been 3 months and your spouse is starting to look a little green around the gills.

    The fact is, you are a gift to your spouse. You are the gift that keeps on giving.

    Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean you have to get your funk on every single day, but it does mean that you need to do your part to show up for your spouse in order to show them that their needs are important to you.

    Have some conversations. Find out what’s best for you as a couple. Work together to find a compromise and then enjoy your time together. This kind of physical intimacy is unique and wonderful and a beautiful celebration of your love and commitment to one another. Relish it.

Listen, that was a LOT! The bottom line is this: if you are married, you are in it for the long haul. Wouldn’t it be better to do what you can to nurture your marriage and keep that spark alive rather than watch it burn out, having wasted time and energy on someone you “fell out of love” with?

Listen to the full episode here!

You don’t fall out love. You let love go. You give up on love. The fact is, marriage is really, really hard. It takes courage and tenacity and dedication and sacrifice and a thousand other things. You never get to a point when you can simply coast.

If you took the next 2 months or so and focused on one of these tips at a time, adding a new one every week, you might just be surprised at how your attitude and heart have changed. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

 

Summer and Smoke

September 7, 2018
The Road Home to You

“Life is full of little mercies like that,
not big mercies but comfortable little mercies.
And so we are able to keep on going.” – Alma Winemiller
Tennessee Williams; Summer and Smoke

We were sixteen years old when we met.

He was a transplant student, having arrived part way through our Junior year of high school. I was introduced to him along with a group of my friends, as we sat at our usual lunch table. Our theater teacher led him over and told us we had a new student in the drama program, would we please take him under our collective wing and welcome him into our group.

It wasn’t hard to do. He had shaggy blond hair, golden sun-kissed skin and dimples that melted my heart with his first smile.

Within that first year, we did a scene together from Tennessee Williams’ play, Summer and Smoke. He played the naughty little boy, John and I played Alma, the sweet minister’s daughter next door. (Our roles should have been reversed.) In that scene, we had our first kiss, a quick peck on the cheek.

Six years later, we walked down the aisle and promised to love, honor and cherish each other till death do us part. What easy words to say and mean when you’re caught in the throes of love and wonder.

Slightly harder when reality crashes in and you’re suddenly met with the very real fact that your life now includes caring for someone else’s needs more than your own on a daily basis. Oh, sure, you still mean what you said that hot June day, but actually living it out is harder than you’d imagined it would be.

And then one day, those vows get lost in the selfishness of your own desires and soon, the life you’d always imagined you’d build together begins to crack in a thousand different ways until you’re looking at nothing more than a pile of rubble.

When we sat across from each other 15 years into our marriage and decided that we were going to stay side by side and fight for what we’d built, we started with a very practical exercise.

We went back to the beginning.

What made me “me” and what made Matt “Matt”?

We shared stories of our childhoods. Going back to the earliest memories we could muster. We shared the first time we were let down by someone we loved, we shared the moment we first realized that Mom and Dad can’t always protect us from the bogeymen that walk among us. We talked about rejection and shame. We cried over the memories that scarred us, leaving us damaged, broken adults.

And what we realized in the space of a few hours was that, though we’d grown up in different places under different circumstances, we were really, pretty much the same little kid deep down inside.

We were both insatiably curious about anything and everything. We both loved a good story and had rich imaginations. We both felt really small and often unheard in a world full of giants.

litle Brandy little Matt in barn

Brandy, approx. 5 years old; circa 1978                Matt, approx. 4 years old, circa 1977
What we realized was simple: we were two adults that had been hurt in life as little kids (because let’s face it, we all get hurt in one way or another) and we had carried those hurts and fears into our adulthoods and ultimately, our marriage. Those places of childhood hurt had resulted in us each seeking different ways to fill or replace whatever we felt had been lacking.

It didn’t make us bad people. It just made us broken people.

Seeing each other through a new lens, that of a child has helped us to understand and appreciate each other more. We’re more patient and understanding than we used to be. We recognize more easily when the other is being reminded of a loss or hurt that reaches the depths of the subconscious. We’re gentler, kinder and more sympathetic.

We’re not perfect.

We still have our moments, but more often than not, when I look at Matt now, I don’t just see the adult version that stands before me, with a beard and a job and a mortgage to pay. I see a little 4-year-old, crouched in the barn, with a head full of dreams and a heart already feeling the effects of living in a broken and fallen world.

And it makes me love him even more.

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