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I’m no relationship expert. I’m not a therapist, a counselor, or the perfect wife by any means. But I AM determined, communicative, and open to new ways to strengthen my marriage. I am open to learning something new about my husband, whom I’ve known for six years, every single day. I want to learn what makes him feel loved. What he needs to feel fulfilled in our relationship. What can I do that he appreciates the most.
Because, you guys, marriage is hard. Some days, you sit in the same room, one of you on your phone scrolling through Instagram and one of you watching a 20-minute battle scene on TV where the only noises are people dying and swords slashing and desperate screaming. You’re not talking, not connecting – it’s almost like you’re living separate lives. And some of that can be fine (you should have your own interests and not have to spend every second together), but what if this type of night becomes a habit? What if you start to feel more like roommates than lovers or partners?
Before it gets to that point, surely there will be plenty of conversations. But, for us, it’s hard to really focus on what the other person is saying without letting emotion partly control (read: hijack) the flow of the conversation. And, for us, the conversation isn’t productive this way. We’re not really listening to each other. We’re thinking about what WE want to say next, to make OUR hurt and OUR points clear.
Something I like doing is re-grouping to write down our thoughts. So the other night, when we were both a little frustrated with each other, but were unable to voice exactly why, I created (a much sloppier, green Sharpie and cardstock version of) this. I wasn’t planning on sharing it, even, but the conversation that arose was SO productive that I really wanted to.
What’s hard for me is the comparison to perceived perfect relationships I see on Instagram and Facebook. I’ve talked about this before. OF COURSE no one is going to post a picture of a fight, or complaint about their boyfriend (probably not, anyway), or air their “dirty laundry” on social media. But the biggest goal for me in this blog is transparency. I want to portray the messiness of life in an honest – and hopefully still overall positive – way. I want people to know it’s OKAY that you wore the same leggings three days in a row, that you threw together mac and cheese for your family last night because it’s all you had time for, that you don’t do your hair and makeup every day the way they look on Instagram, that you get into text arguments with friends over stupid things, that some Saturdays you just sit and binge-watch Wentworth because YOU’RE EXHAUSTED, that your relationship is hard but you still love that person fiercely. Life is really tough, and it’s even harder when we constantly see perfection on social media. You start to self-doubt. You start to feel like you’re not doing enough, like you aren’t enough, because you didn’t have time to make your kids’ sandwiches into little animal shapes and your husband didn’t take you on a trip to Hawaii for your 3 year anniversary like everyone else’s did. You start to wonder what is wrong with you. I’m just here to tell you that YOU ARE ENOUGH. What you’re doing is enough. You’re making it through each day and you’re doing the best you can, and not every moment of your life is Instagram worthy. In fact, most of it probably isn’t. And that’s OKAY.
And if you need help, ask for it – whether that be therapy session, a doctor visit, advice from a trusted friend, a tough conversation.
I am ashamed to admit that Valentine’s Day was hard for me, because all I saw on social media was huge bouquets of flowers, extravagant date nights, boxes of chocolate, notes… And I love seeing other people be happy! I love seeing these posts! But as the day wore on, I started to resent my husband because he wasn’t doing all those things for me. And that’s totally unfair. He got up before work and helped me make a wonderful breakfast, and we sat down at the table and ate together. He cut out hearts from watermelon when he served my food. We have totally different love languages, so for him, this was very heartfelt and genuine love. His love languages are Acts of Service + Quality Time, and this was the way he poured out his love. Mine are Words of Affirmation + Giving/Receiving Gifts, so I made him some stationary and wrote a heartfelt note for him, along with giving him a customized name plate for his new office.
We were doing it backwards. We were giving the other person what WE wanted to receive, which left both of us probably feeling empty and maybe even unappreciated or unseen. I should have been the one making breakfast and sitting down over coffee in the morning to do a crossword with him. He should have been the one to write me a love note and give me a small gift.
So last night, when we were frustrated with each other over something small and the conversation wasn’t going anywhere, I had us sit down and fill out the answers to these questions (which are now listed on the printable I created to share with you). We put thought and effort into our answers. We went one-by-one, speaking the affirmations, looking into each other’s eyes and really listening and connecting.
And do you know what we found?
Our frustrations with each other, almost everything we wrote, required both of us to commit to fixing it at the same time. What I mean by that is… he would read something, and I would say, “but I would be totally fine with that if you just did THIS thing on my list!” For example, he wanted me to be supportive of his interests and the time he needed to de-stress – TV shows, videogames, etc. And I wanted to spend quality time together when he got home from work. I would be supportive of those habits if I felt like we had, say, dinner plans together. And he would be more cognizant about planning that together time if he felt like he had my support to de-stress first, instead of my resentment.
Needless to say, it was an incredibly enlightening conversation. It may have even been one of the most productive ones we’ve had, since we had this template to follow, took turns explaining our points and asking the other person questions, and discussing how to implement these things in our daily lives.
So we have to work in tandem. It can’t just be one of us putting in the effort and making the commitment.
From this conversation, the other thing we decided to do is have one “unplugged” night a week – probably the same night, for consistency. No cell phones, TV, videogames… just time to make dinner together, go for a walk, play a board game, get out of the house. We plan to use this time to revisit our “worksheets” and do a short relationship check-in. So I even included a special bonus surprise in the printable that has to do with this very idea!
And this is something you can definitely do with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse EVEN IF you’re not having a particularly tough time. It’s nice to give them a sheet that basically states clearly the ways in which you feel loved and fulfilled.
If you click any of the pink links above, they printables will send to you automatically when you enter your e-mail. You’ll have to visit your e-mail and confirm your subscription to get them. They’re pretty simple, but I hope you find these questions to be as effective as we did!