But then it dawned on me that a young wife doesn't want to hear about where I have gone wrong...what use is that? We can all go wrong by ourselves, we have no need of anybody to tell us how to do it. So I changed my track and decided to tell those young women, many of them in their 20s with small children, how to nourish their marriage in practical, bite sized and do-able ways. A treatise on the value of marriage and how it is good for the spouses, for the children and for society is useless without some ideas of something I can do today and now.
Well anyway the talk went well and the girls were bursting with resolutions and plans and asked me to come back soon and speak again. So I've decided to share here the gist of what gems I came up with which so enthused those young women. Lots of the ideas I have gleaned myself and put to effective use in my own marriage from my two favourite sources. Dr Ray Guarendi and Hallie Lord who blogs at Moxie Wife so I just want to acknowledge and thank both of them. Others are just things I came up with myself which I found worked well.
Now just note, this was a morning talk for young mothers/wives so my ideas in this are mainly aimed at women. I'm considering asking a special guest blogger (my own husband) to write from the husband's point of view on the same topic.
So for your perusal, here's the gist of what I said...
First of all...and you can do this if you're reading too...just pause and close your eyes for 20 seconds...which is actually a long enough time...and think to yourself about your own marriage and where you think the holes are. Everybody has things that jump out as the most obvious flaws or shortcomings.
Now, thinking about those things I'm willing to bet most of them began with
'I wish HE'd...'
'I'd love HIM to...'
When I said that every single one of the girls nodded and laughed guiltily. This is exactly what I expected because it's exactly the way I think too.
So here is where we start..it's very very easy to see the faults of the other. The more we know them, as in our spouse, the more obvious they are to us. What's not so easy to see is where I am going wrong. I bet not a single girl thought to herself...'if only I was more patient, less petty...or whatever it is'.
Not one of us can or ever will reach the point where we can say 'Ah yes, I'm perfect now!' No human relationship ever reaches that point either. We need to chip away, chip away all the time. Struggle against our weaknesses, try to build up our qualities. So too with marriage. Whether we're hot off the press and rockin'...or whether we're floundering...or nice and comfortable but nothing to write home about...every one of our marriages can be better. But as we've heard time and again, we can only improve ourselves. And funnily enough, a change in ourselves often precipitates the desired change in the other.
So now, pause again for another 20 seconds and this time think what is the one thing I could most do better in. Painful and all as it might be, it'll probably jump straight into mind. Try it...
So number one is start with myself. And here's a few ideas.
Don't Presume Ill-Will
I worked in a place for several years that had such a horrible toxic atmosphere. Everybody was suspicious of everybody else. The problem was that ill will was the default presumption. If someone parked in a particular spot the presumption was that the intent dad been to get at someone else rather than it happened to be just an available spot. It made for such un-necessary suffering.
I know I've been guilty of this in my own marriage. There have been days when my husband has gone off to work completely oblivious to some action or slight or omission he has committed. Of course, as hour passes hour the misdemeanour blows out of all proportion. By lunchtime I'm in a rage which has softened to a silent simmer by the time my poor innocent husband arrives home not realising that when he made his coffee that morning it was with the water I had earmarked for my coffee...and he did it on purpose...and if he loved me he would have put me first...so he doesn't love me...and so on and so on. And he has no idea why he's getting the silent treatment.
You don't need me to tell you it's babyish, unfair and wrong and just too typical.
Nip those negative presumptions in the bud!!! Resentment is poisonous to marriage.
So simple. Please. Thank you.
Surely if strangers are due our manners, how much more so should our spouse be treated with manners.
Yesterday in a busy moment and eager to catch my husband before he had passed the shops I sent him a single word text.
That was it. Milk...we needed it...get it.
He arrived home a bit later he put the milk on the fridge then slumped into the chair burning up with a fever. He had turned his car around to go back for the milk I had asked for with such a lack of finesse.
So remember manners. They really make a difference.
And sorry goes a long way too.
This is so obvious and yet so easily forgotten. We notice the one thing that's undone and not the millions of things that are done. As a mother I know it's a bit deflating whenever I go to a lot of effort to cook a meal and everybody eats it without so much as a simple 'this is nice'. Husbands are people too and everybody appreciates being acknowledged. If your husband does something nice, or good, or well...or if he looks good...tell him!!
I have come to the conclusion that neglecting date-night is bordering on negligence. Here's how I came to that conclusion. Find a babysitter, maybe start a swap arrangement with another couple so both can get a night out from time to time. Or maybe at least an at home date and pull out all the stops. Which brings us nicely onto...
This is interesting, and sad.
I was looking for a picture to add to this piece in relation to marital intimacy. I keyed in a few different words hoping to find a nice romantic picture depicting marriage. Emm...looking up marriage, better make sure your children aren't looking over your shoulder if you are trying to bring them up with the thousands of years understanding of Christian sacramental marriage. Try 'lovers' the last thing you'll see is a married couple depicted as lovers. Romance...kiss...nuh! Look up married couple you'll find jokes about henpecked unhappy husbands and domineering nasty wives.
Ok..I'm exaggerating to make my point, but not that much. How is it that married sexual love is understood in our culture to mean lack-lustre, non-existent or perfunctory. Why is that? Is it because it's true? The most recent research tells us the opposite...married sex is more fulfilling, not less so. But when babies are small and we're busy busy busy, intimacy and romance can be put to the bottom of the list or looked at as just one more 'task'. This is a mistake because it is precisely through the physical relationship of the spouses the bond is most accurately expressed...and if you believe in the Christian understanding of marriage, a source of grace and blessing for both husband and wife and for the marriage itself.
So it's not something that should be put on the back burner due to lack of time or tiredness. When we're busy and overwhelmed there is nothing wrong with earmarking time for this. Spontaneity is all very well but did an amazing meal ever make itself without being planned for, thought about, ingredients bought? Maybe in the castle of Beauty and the Beast that happened but in real life the best things are often pre-arranged.
First of all...tidy your bedroom (so you're not noticing the piles of newspapers, laundry and overflowing cupboards.)
Candles, music, thinking nice things during the day, some new massage oils, extra care with our make up, remembering why you married him...go for it. It is not demeaning to make an effort to look nice for your husband.
And in one of my favourite tips from Moxie Wife, have a little peep into your undies drawer...what's in there? Are they cotton, comfy, washed out...? How about your 'boudoir' attire? Is it the t-shirt and shorts you've been wearing since you were 18? Baggy? shapeless? When I read this post by Hallie I had to admit that comfort was my priority. Silky luxury didn't seem to match six children and a busy life and I realised that whenever I visited TKMaxx, the lingerie and sexy nightdress section were simply sections that it didn't even cross my mind that they might apply to me. Well...why not me? Why not you??
I have to say, this was the tip which most of my young wives liked the best and discussed the most afterwards. I think there were a few unscheduled stop-offs at the lingerie shops on the way home.
Finally...my last tip (for now)
I think it's fair to say that as wives we all love foot massages, back scratches, to be romanced and complimented. We love our husbands to fulfill those lovely wishes. How about us? Men are not women. Can we stretch ourselves a bit more in generosity? Forget that 'headache'...you know you haven't got one. Laziness is often a more correct term. Send him a text telling him you're looking forward to time together instead of something he's almost afraid to suggest because we can make it so clear we're being 'put-upon'. For a wife emotional intimacy is the preferred route to physical intimacy. For a husband it is more often physical intimacy which reinforces the emotional bond. Be generous...it won't go un -noticed.
Well. Good luck with those few ideas. Our next door neighbour has two rose trees in his front garden. I will never forget the day he planted them. It took him the whole day to dig the enormous holes he planted them in. He had a trailer-load of fertiliser delivered and every last bit of it went into those rose roots. He spent at least an hour watering the trees once he had dug them in. To be honest I thought he was a bit over the top at the time. I don't think that any more. Those two rose trees are magnificent. Marriage is like that you know. It thanks us according to our effort.
Who knows where the road will lead us
Only a fool would say
But if you'll let me love you
It's for sure I'm gonna love you all the way all the way
(All The Way. Frank Sinatra)