Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work?

Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work? - #staymarriedWhenever we write or talk about boundaries that keep your marriage healthy, we hear a little bit of backlash. The overall sentiment is something like, “Why should I have to change? Why should I have to do things differently than I did when I wasn’t married? Shouldn’t my spouse accept me, flaws and all? Shouldn’t they trust me?”

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why boundaries?”, I want to make something clear to you. If you want to have a great marriage, you should really do whatever you want.

Now, I realize this sounds like it’s the opposite of what we’ve told you in the past, but it’s not. How you read that statement depends entirely on what you really want. You see, marriage isn’t meant to hold you hostage or prevent you from being yourself or pursuing what you want out of life. A great marriage has many benefits, but nobody reaps the benefits without putting in the work. Continue reading “Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work?”

What Your Husband Wishes You Knew… about what you say about him in public.

We know that men come in a gorgeous variety of shapes and sizes, not only physically, but also in the way they feel and think about different topics. Still, as I’ve pursued to understand my own husband better, I’ve found that some of the things that bother him are pretty universal to all men. This topic may not bother your husband, but I’ve heard from enough men at this point that it seemed worthwhile to share.

He feels embarrassed when you joke about him.

What Your Husband Wishes You Knew... #staymarried

Barry

I love my wife and I couldn’t be more thankful for her, but I wish she knew I get embarrassed when she jokes about my past. I grew up in an out of control situation. One of my parents was using drugs while the other was mentally ill and not willing to take care of my brother and me. My brother and I ran wild and did whatever we wanted with no real role model from middle school on. I had multiple girlfriends, a lot of whom I slept with. It is something I am now embarrassed about. I am also divorced which is something I’m extremely embarrassed about. Continue reading “What Your Husband Wishes You Knew… about what you say about him in public.”

Sometimes My Wife Complains…

Sometimes My Wife Complains - What's behind the complaint and what to do about it.There we were, a night in with the family, and I thought it would be fun to play a board game. I convinced Michelle to put down the laundry she was folding and come and join us. It was great! We were all together in the living room, the girls were having a good time, Michelle was engaged and having fun. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Then, as we were putting the kids to bed together, something clearly switched. My wife went from happy and carefree to visibly tense and frustrated. I couldn’t exactly figure out why. I asked if everything was okay and got the dreaded, “Yes, I’m fine,” from her.

I tried to leave it alone, but it concerned me that everything had been going so well and now, for no reason I could figure out, things were not ok anymore.

Do you ever feel like you are in the dark about what your spouse is feeling? Michelle is constantly processing her thoughts in her own head. She doesn’t typically talk unless what she is about to say has been thought through. In some ways, this is great. I can trust that she means what she says and isn’t trying to play games or manipulate me. In other ways, like this particular evening, it’s lame. I can see that she’s gnawing on something – something is bothering her, and she is spending her energy trying to figure out what it is and if she’ll communicate with me about it. I’m left in the dark instead of invited in to process with her. She knows I want to hear what she’s thinking, because I’m pretty sure that, often times, I can help solve it. But, I know her. She likes to figure things out on her own. I guess we’re the same that way. I just wish she’d let me in.

The next morning, after I left for work, I got this email…


Subject: Frustrated

Tony,

Last night I was trying to relax and enjoy you and the girls when you insisted I play games with you instead of folding the laundry and doing the dishes. I did have a good time, but was triggered and irritated when Claire didn’t have clean pajamas in her drawer. It was a reminder that my real value is keeping up with the laundry and dishes. I often feel like staying on top of those things, along with whatever else I need to do around the house, doesn’t get noticed until I fall behind. So, I’m constantly choosing between doing something I might want to do – like go out with my friends, or sit down and work on the blog, or even play games with you guys – and the stuff I have to do because the stuff I have to do doesn’t get done all by itself.

I so appreciated your help the other night. I felt like we were working as a team to clean up and you always do so much, especially with the girls, to keep our home tidy. I just get frustrated when the behind the scenes stuff (everyone’s laundry, dishes, pumping breastmilk, feeding the baby) doesn’t seem appreciated when it is done, but instead comes back to me when it’s not done. “Mom, where’s my pajamas? Why don’t we have any clean dish towels? The baby doesn’t have any pajamas. There aren’t any burp rags.” All of that stuff makes me feel like I am doing a crappy job and I’ll never be able to sit down and relax.

It seems especially evident to me on the weekends. I know you want to hang out and it’s not fun for you if I’m busy folding laundry, so I try to set the chores down and not rush around so much. For you, the weekends are your time to relax since you’ve been at work all week, and I get that. It’s your free time, it should be. But, with my “job,” I don’t get weekends. I don’t get to clock out and leave it all until Monday. I get envious sometimes when you decide you want to work on something – play a video game, take a shower – and you don’t have to think about making sure everything else is already taken care of before you just run to the store or head into the office to do whatever you want to do. I always feel like I have to prepare 15 things before I can do something I want to do, and even then, I always have a pile of “work” waiting for me when I’m done so it hardly seems worth it to try to take a “break.”

Anyway, this is all normal stuff and I’m under no illusion that I’m the only person that ever feels this way. I’m not trying to feel sorry for myself, and ordinarily I don’t want to complain because I know my life really is so good. It’s just that last night it felt all piled up and unappreciated and lonely.

So… that’s what that was all about.

I love you,

your wife


"Behind every complaint is a deep personal longing." - Gottman quote on #staymarried

Now, you’re not in my marriage and I’m not in yours, but I have to tell you that getting this email was a BIG deal. Most of the time, even if she is able to identify how she’s feeling and why, she may or may not ever share that with me. The fact that she took the time, in the midst of toddler tantrums and infant feedings, to put some thought into an email was HUGE. I knew I needed to think carefully about the way I responded. Here’s what I sent back…


Re: Frustrated

Honey,

I love you so much. What you do is appreciated and noticed (not just when someone doesn’t have clean PJs). I know you work really hard, really long, and without breaks, and I want to help out.

I’m here to be your teammate and partner, so let me know how this frustration can be avoided in the future.

You are right… I’m willing to let the chores go by the wayside so that we can bond as a family, but not to the expense of making you feel overwhelmed. Next time we’ll prep our chores before we play games.

In love with you,

Tony


In his research, Dr. John Gottman and his colleagues have found that “Behind every complaint is a deep personal longing.” I know my wife doesn’t want to complain, but in a strange way, I appreciate when she does. I know that when she finally lets me in and tells me the things that are bothering her, it’s a window into something more personal. I can see that what she needs is to be affirmed. We’ve taken the Five Love Languages assessment and memorized each other’s “Love Languages,” so I know one of hers is “Words of Affirmation.” Telling her that I appreciate her does not come naturally to me. I typically hope that she just knows I appreciate her without having to say it. But, she doesn’t work that way. She needs to hear it.

When I read her email, I knew that the issue wasn’t really that our kids didn’t have clean pajamas in their dresser drawers. I could figure out that the real issue was that Michelle didn’t feel appreciated for all she does to keep our family running smoothly. I realized it had been a while since I expressed my gratitude in words. One of my “Love Languages” is “Acts of Service,” so I figure that helping out around the house is sufficient to showing her love. And, by her email, I can see that she appreciates my efforts, but it doesn’t replace her need to hear from me that I see what she does and it matters immensely.

"Meeting your spouse's need for love is a choice you make each day." - Chapman quote on #staymarried

So, sometimes she complains. I’ve decided that it’s ok when she does. I believe Dr. Gottman that there is a deep personal longing behind those complaints and I do my best to try to figure that out, to acknowledge it, and to show my wife love in whatever way she feels lacking. I know she does the same for me when I complain.

If you hear your spouse complaining, consider that maybe it’s an opportunity for you to understand them better. Maybe they are letting you in on a deep need that they have, a chance for you to show them love and understanding. Do your best to listen to complaints with an empathetic ear, not to be insulted, but to reach out and meet them where they are so that you can #staymarried.

You are reading Sometimes My Wife Complains, a #staymarried blog. You may also want to read If You Really Want to be Heard and To Love is To Listen. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing.

New to #staymarried? Welcome! Check out why we started this blog and our first entry to get a little background.

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Tony

Our Favorites and a GIVEAWAY – Sensible Singles Week

<<This Giveaway is now closed>>

The very best time to improve your marriage is when you are single. Understanding who you really are and cultivating within yourself the ability to really listen to and serve other people are things that a lot of us married people wish we’d done before we made our vows. To finish out our Sensible Singles Week, we wanted to share with you some of our very favorite resources and, of course, host a giveaway to thank you all for sticking with us this week!

:: Discovering Yourself ::

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - #staymarried blog

As Dr. Rachel Terrill mentioned in her post How to Find Your Soulmate in 5 Easy Steps, Self Improvement is key to finding and making yourself ready to be in a great relationship. Seven Habits is a classic, full of insight and self-discovery about what it takes to be effective in your world. Adding even one of the seven habits that you’ll learn about in this book can really change your perspective on the world around you. It was from this book that Tony and I learned the concept, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” which we shared more about in our post Same Team.
Find out more about Seven Habits of Highly Effective People here.

Strengths Finder 2.0

Strengths Finder 2.0 on the #staymarried blog

The first time I’d heard of Strengths based research was from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. While most people become aware of their weaknesses and make efforts to improve themselves, this research instead shows that if we can understand our strengths and lean into them, our efforts will produce much greater results in life- including career and family. This book not only provides insights into the research, but an access code so that you can take the self-assessment and discover your own strengths. Having this insight has truly changed and enlightened Tony and I and helped us navigate our own daily triumphs and struggles, as well as better understand each others.
Find out more about Strengths Finder 2.0 here.

 The Five Love Languages – Singles Edition

The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition on the #staymarried blog

Gary Chapman did so much for couples with his book The Five Love Languages, but Tony and I have since learned how valuable it’s been for us to know how we best express and receive love even outside of our marriage! The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition will help you better express your emotions and affection in friendships, working relationships, or in a dating environment. Rather than being hung up on the topic of being single, Dr. Chapman will help you understand how you and others communicate love in a way that can transform any relationship.
Check out the book here.
Find out YOUR Love Language by taking this FREE online assessment.

 

:: Discovering Your Partner ::

Boundaries in Dating

Boundaries in Dating on the #staymarried blog

When I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, I knew it was revolutionary. But they made it that much more practical and personal when they published Boundaries in Dating. This book is the full picture of rules for romance that can help you find the love of your life. Between singleness and marriage lies the journey of dating. Want to make your road as smooth as possible? Set and maintain healthy boundaries – boundaries that will help you grow in freedom, honesty, and self-control. If many of your dating experiences have been difficult, this book could revolutionize the way you handle relationships. Even if you’re doing well, the insights you’ll gain from this practical book can help you fine-tune or even completely readjust important areas of your dating life. Boundaries in Dating is your roadmap to the kind of enjoyable, rewarding dating that can take you from weekends alone to a lifetime with the soul mate you’ve longed for.
Check it out here.

Date or Soul Mate?
How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less

Date Or Soul Mate? on the #staymarried blog

The author of this phenomenal book is none other than Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of eHarmony.com. This matchmaking site has now seen over 565,000 of their matches get married! In this practical, quick read, Dr. Warren helps men and women who want healthy and satisfying marriages identify the early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. Dr. Warren shows readers how to hold out for God’s best for their lives instead of settling for the first one to come along and outlines the factors that increase the chances for marital success. For those who want to become wiser in their relationship choices, this practical guide will help them find the love they want and avoid the pain they don’t need.
You can find Date or Soul Mate here.

For Men Only and For Women Only
What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of the Opposite Sex

For Women Only and For Men Only on the #staymarried blog

Tony and I first discovered these books on our honeymoon! We were both shocked by what we read, and our eyes were opened to the truth about the way we each think and feel and what really causes each of us the most pain. We shared some of those insights with you in our post The Truth About Tony. These books have since been revised with new research and information learned in the 10 years since their original release, including the brain science behind why men and women often feel the way they do.
You can find out more about these books by clicking on either of these links: For Men Only and For Women Only.

 

:: The GIVEAWAY! ::

<<This Giveaway is now closed>>

Sensible Singles Giveaway on the #staymarried blog

Five for Five

After my last post, I was challenged to move past the concept of the love languages and offer some practical tips. So, here goes…

Five tips for each of the
Five Love Languages

Words of Affirmation

  1. Be specific. Instead of “You look great” try “I really like your hair like that” or “Those jeans make your butt look good.”
  2. Send a text, just because.
  3. When you buy a gift, WRITE something personal in the card.
  4. Compliment your spouse to your friends.
  5. Compliment your spouse to your kids.

Quality Time

  1. Turn off your mobile device (laptop, iPad, smart phone) during dinner or on a date. Better yet – leave it in another room.
  2. Ask about their day and don’t be distracted while they answer.
  3. Ask them on a date and plan it out – babysitter, restaurant, a walk in the city.
  4. Block out time on your calendar, even without specific plans, just to be together. Don’t let your time get gobbled up by plans with other people.
  5. Take a walk in your own neighborhood after dinner, removing yourselves from the usual busyness and chores of being home.

Receiving Gifts

  1. Get them something they can enjoy, not just something they need.
  2. Remember their favorite candy and pick it up as you leave the grocery store.
  3. Wrap a small gift – even when it’s not their birthday or holiday.
  4. DO NOT forgo a gift on a birthday or holiday.
  5. Build a collection – make a tradition of a certain type of gift over time.

Acts of Service

  1. Take care of a chore that’s typically on their list.
  2. Wash and clean out the car they usually drive.
  3. Finish that home improvement task that’s been lingering.
  4. Open the door for her – rush to get there before her!
  5. Warm up the car and scrape the windshield in the winter.

Physical Touch

  1. Run your fingers through her hair, or scratch her head.
  2. Sit close on the couch when you’re watching your favorite show.
  3. Squeeze tighter and longer than usual when you hug.
  4. Hold hands when you’re in the car together.
  5. Initiate sex and focus on serving your spouse when you’re in bed.

Tony and I came up with these just by bouncing ideas back and forth one afternoon. The reality is, your spouse will be the best person to share with you what you can do to express love to them. Ask them about this list. Ask them if any of these ideas appeal to them. We’d love to hear some of your tips, too! Feel free to share your tips, ideas, and experiences below in the Comments section. We’re learning these love languages because we want to show love in a way our spouse can appreciate so that we can #staymarried.

Speaking my Language

My mother, sister, and I moved in with my grandparents when I was three years old, after my parents’ separation. My grandparents are from Mexico, immigrated to the US when my mother was just a little girl. Spanish is their primary language and, though I was just a toddler, it was not mine. My sister and I only spoke and understood English. My grandparents speak English also, but they are much more comfortable with Spanish. It’s their daily parlance, it’s how they talk with each other and to their friends. So, in come these little blue and green-eyed girls who are totally baffled by their language and really only respond when they speak to us in our language.

By the time I was five, I was fairly fluent in Spanish. I understood most of what my family was saying and even mustered up the courage to join in a conversation here and there. I remember how patient both my grandparents were as my sister and I ate breakfast with them. They sat together, having their usual over breakfast conversations and I constantly interrupted. “What does ‘allamayhor’ mean? What is that word? Wait, how do you say ‘yellow’?” So patient, they would stop their conversation and teach me. I was eager to learn, proud of myself when I began to grasp it. Learning to speak Spanish opened up a whole other world for me and I loved it. I even began to have dreams in Spanish and they say that’s one of the signs of fluency. Speaking their native language made me feel closer to my grandparents, whom I call “Lita” and “Lito.”

Do you ever feel like your spouse has their own language that you are on the outside of? Like you are learning how to speak “Husband” only to be misinterpreted or accidentally use the wrong phrase? Well, you might not be too far off. According to marriage expert and author Dr. Gary Chapman, there are Five Love Languages , and if we want to grow closer to our spouses, it’s pretty important that we at least learn theirs.

According to his book, these are the Five Love Languages:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch

You can take this quiz online to find out your primary love languages.

Now, you really should read the book. His insights are incredible, far deeper than anything I can sum up in a blog. But, I will share this with you:  You and your spouse most likely show and receive love using just two out of these five languages. Not that they aren’t all important, or that you don’t use them all at varying degrees, but your primary love languages are the ones in which you most easily receive and express  love.

Also, it’s likely that your primary love languages and the primary love languages of our spouse are not the same. Not the same! What that means is that you might be speaking love to him in Spanish and forget that his primary language is English – he doesn’t feel loved! I know. CRAZY! So, for starters, take the quiz. Ask your spouse to take it also. Then, when you find out what your love languages are, think together of ways you can communicate love to each other. Don’t concentrate on the fact that your language is “Words of Affirmation” and you’re married to a woman who is quiet and solitary and hardly talks. DO concentrate on the realization that your wife is “Acts of Service” and begin SHOWING your love to her by getting the oil changed on the car instead of telling her all about it.

As you learn to love your spouse the way they understand love, you will feel closer to them. Your heart will grow for them and your frustration may even go down as you put the pieces together that they may have been trying to show you love all this time, but it was in their own language and not in yours. Begin to concentrate on speaking their language and communicate to your spouse that you are eager to #staymarried.