After a haitus for our son’s marriage, we’re back in the saddle! Thanks for your patience.
Today is a blog post from Jeremy. The same topic from the wife’s perspective was posted last week by Kari.
It’s sometimes difficult, especially after a long marriage, to remember to do “the little things” that make for a happy wife and a happy home.
We men can become very complacent in long-term relationships. It’s easy to believe the “hunt” is over, and now we can get comfortable.
The problem is, when men get comfortable, women get bored.
Here are five things I’ve not always been perfect at, that have meant a great deal to my wife over the years. You wife may have different needs, or find different things more valuable (and if you don’t know, share this blog with her and talk about your marriage with her).
After a haitus for our son’s marriage, we’re back in the saddle! Thanks for your patience.
Today is a blog post from Kari. The same topic from the male perspective will be posted later this week.
Think about when you first started dating your spouse. For some of us, we may have to think waaaay back. What did you do that was special for your man that only a girlfriend would do? What did he do for you that made you fall in love with him?
Now ask yourself, do you still do any of those things for your man? Does he still do those little things for you that made you know he was the one?
One of the main reasons people fall “out of love” with their spouse is because they stopped being the person that they fell in love with in the first place. Many people think that once you are married, the “dating” stops. I’m not talking about “going” on dates, although that is one thing you can do.
Jeremy and I went through a time where I stopped being his girlfriend and he stopped being my boyfriend. This was probably the most unfulfilling time in our marriage. We fought a lot and I actually asked him to go to counseling at one time. In the process of discussing this, we started to communicate and realized we were not doing the things for each other that a couple who are dating, do. We decided to change things going forward and have not looked back.
Here is a list of five things I do to show Jeremy how special he is to me. Some of these are things I did when we were dating, and some are new things I’ve learned along the way. You have to decide what will work for you. Better yet, talk to your husband and ask him what he remembers you doing when you were dating that made him fall in love with you in the first place. You might be surprised at what he says.
I tell him that I love him and I’m so proud of him.
I was always pretty good about telling Jeremy that I love him but was terrible about telling him that I was proud of him. Girls, your man needs to know that you are proud of him and that you are glad you married him. I always thought it but was terrible about saying it. Then Jeremy and I talked about it and I found out how important it was to him. This is what makes it worth going out into the work world and killing himself for you and the kids. Trust me, most men do not go out into the corporate world because they like it. They go out there and fight the good fight because they LOVE you.
Just a quick, “Thinking about you,” goes a LONG way.
I text him during the day to say that I’m thinking about him.
Most couples spend eight or more hours a day away from each other at work. If you’re like me, you might have a two-hour commute. Then add in the time we spend getting ready in the morning, putting the kids to bed, cooking dinner, any other after-school extracurricular activities, doing the dishes, and then it’s time for bed. Add it all up, and it’s a wonder if we have time to sleep. Marriage takes work. Jeremy used to spend hours talking on the phone at night until we HAD to go to bed if we were going to get up for work the next morning. This is one of the few times where I am so happy to have cell phone technology. Some days it just makes the world a different place when you receive a text from your spouse saying that they are thinking of you and love you.
I fix his dinner plate and bring him coffee in the morning if I’m up before he is.
This is one that I didn’t do when we were dating, but I’ve picked up over the years. It’s my chance to “serve” my husband. Not because I’m beneath him, but because he’s worth it, and I like taking care of him.
I touch him.
When you’re first dating, you can’t keep your hands off of each other. I’m not talking about sex. I mean touching so you can be close to the one you love. I hold his hand, I come up behind him and give him a hug, I put my hand on his leg in the car. Human beings need to be touched. It’s important that the person who provides that for your husband is YOU.
Put forth an effort.
I am far from a supermodel and I definitely have my “dumpy” days, but I try to put forth an effort to look my best for my man. If I know I’m going to be spending the day with Jeremy, I will wear makeup and try to wear decent clothes. I’m not talking about heels and a gown, but I don’t go around in sweats and PJs. I want Jeremy to be proud to be seen with me. This is not always easy, especially if you have little ones at home. But it’s worth the effort. Don’t save the best of you for your co-worker’s at the office, and leave your husband with the tired leftovers.
Ladies, what things do you do for your husband that I didn’t mention? Any here you disagree with? Share your stories in the comments below.
We started this blog as a premarital advice blog for our son, Joshua, and his lovely bride-to-be, Anjelika. And we will continue the blog indefinitely, and hopefully, build a community of people who value and cherish the institution of marriage.
BUT… the time for their wedding is almost here! With a houseful of guests coming this week, last-minute projects and chores, our full-time day jobs, and two puppies, we’re going to take the rest of the month off! We’ll see you with our next new post the first week of May.
Happy Passover and Easter, everyone, and CONGRATULATIONS to our son and the love of his life.
In every marriage, there will be times of conflict. One of the ways we believe you can help create a marriage that lasts is learning how to “fight fair”.
Last week, we gave you the first six of our Dirty Dozen rules of fighting fair. This week, we’re exploring the other six.
Be willing to be wrong, and be willing to say you’re sorry.
This sounds like common sense, but it’s actually very difficult for some people to do. No one likes to have to admit fault (or error), and, “I’m sorry,” is one of the toughest sentences to utter in the English language.
A successful marriage is based on trust, and trust is earned over time through a series of interactions that have honesty at their core. If someone cannot honestly own their mistakes, and apologize for the all-too-human temper or harsh words, then trust will be eroded until it’s gone. And as the foundation of a marriage, when trust doesn’t exist, neither does the marriage.
The root of an inability to admit a mistake or ask for forgiveness is just foolish pride. It can also be hidden vindictiveness – you don’t want to say you’re sorry because you never intend to accept anyone else’s apology. People who don’t let others off the hook will find it very difficult to ask for that grace from others.
But more often than not, it’s the right thing to do. Admitting the other party is right, and we are wrong, is a sure-fire way to diffuse tensions and allow you to work toward an actual solution. As we mentioned last week, a fair “fight” within a marriage isn’t about winning; it’s about resolving the issue.
When you’re wrong, or maybe were a little too passionate in your argument, or said something unnecessarily hurtful, say you’re sorry.
Forgive when it’s asked for (and sometimes when it’s not)
The flip side of being able to ask for forgiveness is being able to grant it – meaningfully – when it’s asked for.
We’ll all screw up from time to time. Whether it’s something pretty innocuous like forgetting to run an errand, or really egregious like hurling hurtful words in the middle of an argument, whenever our spouse realizes they owe us an apology, we need to accept it, and mean it.
That’s not always easy if in the heat of the moment, the wound they caused still stings. But forgiveness isn’t just about absolving your spouse of whatever they did that hurt you. It’s about removing a huge emotional barrier to bonding and intimacy.
We’re both practicing Christians, and one of the primary tenets of our faith is to forgive others as we were forgiven by God. As Christians, the Bible tells us that whenever we humble ourselves and confess our sins to God, “…He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We need to do the same for others.
There is debate about whether you should forgive someone who hasn’t asked for it, but even if they haven’t asked, it’s still possible to let your anger subside and “lay down your sword”. Do this for your own sake, and for peace in your home.
And like we mentioned last week, if you’ve forgiven, then the transgression you forgave needs to stay in the past.
Not every hill is worth dying on.
We know some couples who fight over every little thing: where they are going out to eat, what corner to put up the Christmas tree (and white or colored lights), how long to cut the grass.
We even had a decent argument last fall about which specific tree branches Jeremy was going to cut off that Jeremy is pretty sure will happen again in a few weeks, because he wants to cut two more off of Kari’s peach tree that she doesn’t want to lose.
Ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, if the thing you’re arguing about is actually worth the effort. Or more importantly, if it’s worth the emotional toll it takes on your relationship.
One way to determine if the issue is worth doing battle over is to call a truce for an hour or more, to let tensions simmer. You can always reapproach the subject later, in a calmer atmosphere and with more clarity. Often, after a period of time spent focused on something else, that little annoyance suddenly doesn’t have the same grip on you that it did earlier.
Learn how the other person fights.
After 25 1/2 years together, we know each other extremely well. So much so that we often have entire conversations without saying a word to each other. We can be at a dinner party somewhere, and just by swapping glances, we know that our spouse is enjoying the conversation (or hating it), if we want to leave, if they find a person entertaining or dull, etc.
Getting to know another person so completely is one of the best parts of a long marriage. It’s actually really fun to be able to have meaningful interactions in a crowded room, without saying a word to each other.
Coming back around to the subject of fighting fair, you also get to know how your spouse engages in conflict, how they disengage, and what their recovery process typically is.
Kari was reminded of some Glory kickboxing matches we watch occasionally while we’re going to bed; specifically, the fighting styles of two of the heavyweight contenders we see regularly.
Rico Verhoeven, the long-time Glory heavyweight kickboxing champ, is a very good-spirited, very athletic 6’5″ guy who likes winning his matches by out-scoring his opponent in points. He thrills to use combination punch-kick-knee attacks and loves to go the entire 3 or 5 rounds with his opponent. And because he’s in amazing physical shape with high stamina for a man his size, Rico tends to out-last his opponents in the ring – he doesn’t have to go for an early victory. In fact, though Rico has been the Glory heavyweight champ for 6 years straight, he’s only had 16 knockouts in his entire career.
In contrast, one of the other heavyweight contenders, 6’8″, 260 pound Jamal “The Goliath” Ben Saddik, tires quickly with his lumbering stature, so he needs to try to take his opponents out early in the fight with a knockout. He’s had about half the fights of Rico, but has almost double the KOs.
Each fighter has a style that matches their training, experience, and skill set. We believe it’s critically important to know that about your spouse, because knowing how our spouse fights helps us to understand the best way to approach and resolve conflict in our marriage.
For instance, Jeremy (by his own admission), is much more short-tempered than he was as a younger man, quicker to get crabby (he calls it, “not suffering fools gladly”), but also usually quick to realize when he was a little too hot-tempered. He’s quick to apologize and forget the argument even happened.
Kari, on the other hand, is very slow to anger but when she’s really steaming, she also takes a longer time to calm down.
It’s important to respect that your spouse may anger differently, argue differently, and release that tension differently. Just as you cannot expect them to see everything the way you see it, you can’t expect them to feel things the way you do, either.
On that note,
Respect the other person’s recovery process
One the fight has reached its peak and some agreement is reached, there’s going to be a process of healing and recovery and return to intimacy, and that’s different for each person.
In our marriage, Jeremy is almost always the first to forgive and forget, often to Kari’s bewilderment.
Jeremy describes his process this way:
Often, as the fight reaches the ridiculous peaks (like they often do), I will suddenly tire of the fight and switch emotions at the top of the “hill”. I’ll tell a joke or make some physically funny gesture that stops the fight cold in its tracks. It’s like riding an argument up like an elevator. Whenever we reach the floor I think is high enough, I’ll step off the “anger” elevator and get one another one, and ride that back down. It’s not deliberate – it’s just a way out of tension that works for me.
Kari’s process is very different:
I have to internally process the argument afterward and review it in an internal monologue. Sometimes I know I’m too mad to think objectively, so I like to step away, review the situation and what happened, and think about how I really feel. I have to let the anger subside, sometimes by talking myself out of being angry.
The anger doesn’t stay, but it can take hours before I feel back to normal.
Neither process is better than the other. But both have to be respected and understood. Jeremy can usually move on very quickly but that doesn’t mean Kari can do that, and he has to respect the time it may take for her to feel better.
Your spouse has a specific process of recovering after a fight. Learn it and embrace it as part of what makes your spouse that wonderfully unique person you married.
(By the way, we envy those couples who have wild make-up sex after a rip-roaring argument; that’s never been our process, dang it.)
Having it out is better than holding it in.
The last rule of our Dirty Dozen about fighting fair is pretty simple: it’s always better to have the argument than it is to bottle it up.
Little problems grow into massive ones if they are left unattended. It’s never fun to bring up a concern to your spouse, but it’s far better to do that than slowly start to harbor resentment toward them.
Some grievances may not seem like a big enough deal to bring up, but its often better to talk it out than make assumptions or put your own motives on others.
Here’s an example: Jeremy works from a home office most of the time, so it’s easy for the family to ask him to step away from his work to do things they need him to do. Because he often can do it for brief moments of the day, Jeremy does so.
But over time, he begins to get irritated and finally resentful that the family doesn’t seem to respect his work, just because he’s at his desk in his study instead of 20 miles away at an office like Kari is.
Instead of bringing it up, Jeremy will finally get very angry at the interruptions, and usually, one family member (the last one who asked for something) takes the brunt of his frustration.
That’s not fair to the family member. Jeremy realizes he needs to set firmer boundaries long before they become a significant frustration to him.
Especially if you follow the first eleven rules, it should be easier to bring up issues with your spouse instead of just keeping quiet and being bitter about it. Remember that the purpose of a fight is to solve an issue, not to beat your spouse in a shouting match. If you approach your marriage fights in that light, bringing up (or hearing) grievances is easier to do because you are both working toward a solution that strengthens your marriage, not breaks it down with bickering.
That’s our Dirty Dozen on fighting fair! What did we leave out? What other rules do you believe make for resolving disagreements in your marriage? Answer in the comments below!
One of the most common questions we’re asked in this new little blog is, “what about the fights?”
Indeed, if you haven’t had some serious, heart-pounding disagreements in your relationship, you’re probably not in a serious, heart-pounding relationship yet.
Disagreements are inevitable in any long-term relationship, and sometimes they can be very spirited ones. Let’s face it – if you’re going to be married, you’re going to fight sometimes.
We think the difference between a marriage that remains strong after a fight, and the one that is damaged from it, is how you fought. In 1579, poet John Lyly wrote that “all is fair in love and war,” but when love is war, we can’t stress enough how helpful it is to have some rules of engagement.
We’re going to cover our Twelve Rules for Fighting Fair, our “Dirty Dozen”, as it were, over two blog posts. This week, you’ll get the first six, and next week’s post will cover the rest.
One thing we should note before we begin:
We are most definitely not talking about enduring abuse of any sort, including verbal and emotional abuse. If you feel you are in an abusive relationship, you need to seek outside help immediately. Here is a hotline for victims of domestic abuse that will help you get out, and stay safe. Or, in a moment of violence, immediately call 9-1-1. Do it!
That said, here are our first six rules to fight fair:
Unless you have basically unlimited income, there will be times when you’ll be needing to spend evenings at home. These don’t have to be unromantic! There are plenty of great activities you can do in and around the house that cost close to nothing and provide wonderful opportunities to bond and deepen your connection. Here are some of our favorites:
Go for a walk (or a bike ride)
When the weather is nice, especially from spring – fall, when it’s still sunny out in the evenings, we like to talk a walk around the neighborhood with our puppy, Ripley, leading the way. We’ve seen some amazing sunsets this way, enjoyed watching our pup do her best to chase rabbits, met some neighbors out working on their yards, and talked a lot.
It’s the chance to just be together, as a couple, that makes these so rewarding. We can talk about our day, about upcoming plans, about vacation ideas, whatever comes to mind.
So get up and get outside. The fresh air and exercise is good for you, but the companionship and chance for close communication is even better.
Have a game night.
Sometimes there is nothing more fun than sitting at home with a bottle of wine over a game of backgammon, Othello, mancala (really fun and under $10) or poker (with wine, this eventually becomes strip poker, but we digress). Whatever your game of choice is (except maybe highly competitive games or violent video games) would work magic. We still have a Wii, and a night of Wii Sports or Tetris can also be great fun.
One of Kari’s favorite Game Night memories is of us playing backgammon by the fire with some soft music playing, and Jeremy kept pouring more wine into her glass when she wasn’t looking (Jeremy doubts very seriously she didn’t notice). Neither one of us can remember if we actually finished that game.
In any event, just keep it non-competitive and just enjoy the quiet fun of a night in with your favorite game. It can definitely lead to a sexy finish (and there are even some games to help you get there, too, if that’s ultimately your goal – Twister comes to mind.)
This one is more of a “Kari” thing that eventually pulls Jeremy in (usually because he finally just wants the table back), but we’ve spent many nights working together on a challenging 2,000+ piece jigsaw puzzle. In fact, we’re a day late posting this because we were both engrossed in one last night.
Jigsaw puzzles are cheap and challenging. They cause you to work together but you won’t spend the time really communicating, and that’s what makes them so fun. You are both turning your attention to the challenge at hand, and solving it together, and in the process, you talk and share without even thinking much about it. That makes for a great bonding experience because it’s not forced.
Cook a meal together.
Or bake cookies or a cake or something. Jeremy worked in and owned restaurants, so cooking comes pretty naturally to him, and Kari loves to cook and provide a meal for her family.
Once every so often, instead of trading off the chore of cooking, do it together. Pick a meal that you both love and prepare it together with a glass of wine or a beer, and really enjoy the experience of creating something you’ll sit down to enjoy together immediately after.
Get creative. Pop some popcorn and sit back and watch something different than either of you would pick on your own. You’ll have some quality snuggle time, but you’ll also share in new experiences together as you both view something brand new to you. Seeing something new for both of you creates new experiences you’re sharing together.
Fire pit and wine
(Kari just mentioned that there seems to be a prevalence of wine-drinking in our activities. Jeremy has teasingly called her a lush for years. Meanwhile, Kari just poured us both a glass. Don’t judge.)
Obviously, this can be a patio or porch, if you don’t have a fire pit at the ready. And obviously, this can be a soft drink or an iced tea or a beer, or whatever you enjoy sipping.
The point is, get outside and get busy doing absolutely nothing. Don’t bring your phone except to play a little music. Then sit in the cool of the evening and enjoy the company.
We’ve loved this activity both as a couple, as an extended family with our grown children, and with close friends and neighbors. There is just nothing like ending your day with a setting sun, a cool evening breeze, and the simplicity of simply being together.
These are some of our favorite Date Night At Home activities. Share some of yours!
Something people in successful marriages are often asked is, “What has being married for so long taught you about marriage in general?” (We’ll answer the logical follow-up question next week: how has the marriage changed us and our partners.)
A long marriage has so many moments that stretch and challenge you, it’s hard to boil them down to just a few. But today, we thought of these three as maybe the most profound observations for both of us. And as always, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Life will change you both in ways you can’t predict or expect.
In 25 years, we’ve gone through birthdays, friends who come and go out of our life, the loss of loved ones, hospital stays, career changes, car accidents, financial success and failure, births, graduations, and now a nest that is starting to empty.
These challenges will change you both in different ways.
The secret is to navigate life’s challenges together, always. The risk if you don’t is, life’s course corrections can send you off in different directions. It is common in Jeremy’s day job as a financial planner, for example, to hear from middle-aged couples that are divorcing that they “grew apart” or discovered that they want different things. This isn’t always avoidable, but it’s often because the couple allowed events that unfolded to both of them to affect them separately.
When we shut down our businesses in 2007 during the beginning of the Great Recession, moved our family, and took on new careers, it affected us both deeply. But for the first time in our marriage up to that point, we weren’t working through those changes together. Physically, we did, of course; we packed, moved and unpacked together. But what was happening emotionally? We were allowing ourselves to withdraw and process the changes alone.
Looking back, we both think it was a period of two years or longer before we finally had the really serious, vulnerable, conversations where we both grieved openly and shared what we were going through. Not wanting to burden the other, we both simply bottled up our frustrations, and for the first time in our relationship, a real gap emerged between us.
It was only in confronting not only the issues we were working through, but directly addressing the fact that it had pulled us apart, that we were finally able to begin the process of coming back together.
A marriage is very much an ebb and flow. There are times you’ll naturally feel very close and working together in real harmony. But there will be times that pull you apart or drive wedges between you that, if allowed to remain, can finally pull the whole marriage down (or allow another person to come in and fill that gap).
So, how do you fix it?
It starts with one of you simply “dropping the sword”. Get alone with your spouse, and be willing to show your soul. Accept that it may take several sessions of intense, raw emotion and rebuilding the trust to share genuine feelings without fear of ridicule or scorn.
And agree to immediately address concerns you have in the future, before they have the chance to take root and create division. We’ve developed a catchphrase for when we are feeling distant or that there is something bothering the other person: we just say, “I’m feeling eggshells.” (As in, “I feel like we are walking on eggshells around each other.”)
That immediately lets the other know that there may be issues to discuss, that our spouse is eager to keep the relationship open and honest (and close) and that it’s okay to bring up any problems or concerns. It’s a great system that has worked for us for years (and interestingly, we no longer have very many “eggshells” to bring up). We now talk to each other long before there are “eggshells”.
The fire doesn’t have to go out, but it often does.
Yeah, we’re talking about sex and romance.
We all know how it feels in the early parts of your relationship: a sizzle, then a spark, then a roaring lust-fire for each other.
And then, slowly, that roaring fire burns down to glowing embers, and we start wondering what happened to the romance and hormones and excitement that seems to be missing now.
And if we’re not careful, those embers may burn themselves out. Or worse, one of you decides to try to find a new spark with someone else. (Is it any wonder why the dating app is called “Tinder”?)
We can say with certainty, the fire doesn’t have to go out. It’s true that the newness of the relationship wears off, but it can be replaced by a comfortable assurance and confidence that can only come with someone who knows you so intimately for so long.
But again, like a fire, it takes new fuel and stoking the old embers to keep it hot.
We could devote the whole blog to just this subject, so we’ll never do it justice in just one post, but for now, let’s just say that like all aspects of marriage, keeping the love life alive takes commitment, creativity, and the desire of both of you to make it work.
Staying away from “eggshells” is a good first start. You absolutely must keep the emotional intimacy flowing if you have any hope of keeping the physical intimacy alive. (And it’s worth the effort – couples who sleep together seldom break up.)
In our marriage, date nights are essential. So is making time for each other for sex, even if it means, oddly, scheduling it. (Young couples probably can’t imagine that they’ll ever need to make time to make love, but believe us, kids, life is quirky.)
Jeremy warns you men: you have to be “all in” to do this. You can’t be flirting, innocently or not, with other women. You can’t pour all of your sexual energy into porn. You have to remember to woo her and seduce her exactly like when you were first courting her. In fact, forever courting your wife is probably the best advice he could give any guy who wants a long-term marriage to work. That means not laying around in boxers, grooming yourself, bringing flowers, etc.
Kari’s advice for you ladies: when you were dating, we went through the effort to look nice, dress nice, kept our figures, and look our best for our man. It’s important to keep doing that because men are visually stimulated. I’m not saying plastic surgery or Botox, and your man may not notice that you got your hair cut or did your nails, but he’ll definitely see you looking great overall, and be proud to have you at his side.
There are a lot of resources out there on this subject that we’ve read and incorporated, and would definitely recommend. Check these out (and support Go25ToLife by buying them here):
All things being equal, traditional gender roles work best.
Here’s where, in 2019, we’re bound to face some resistance, but hear us out.
We’re not talking about men being the lord of the home, and women being “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen”. We’re not advocating that men come home and flop on the couch with a beer, while the wife does all the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, shopping, laundry, etc.
What we are talking about is more a Biblical definition than a stereotypical redneck, “king of my castle” chauvinism.
In the Bible, men are told to “cherish” their wives as Jesus loved the Church (meaning, be willing to lay down his very life for her without a second thought). And to the ire of many feminists today, women are instructed to “honor” and in some translations, “submit” to the final authority of their husbands.
These two instructions are supposed to go together. A woman who honors her husband is supposed to be cherished above all else by that husband. When they work together, these roles build an amazing and dynamic partnership. It’s only when one of these roles is enforced and the other is not, that serious marital problems can develop.
Kari likes to say that in our marriage, she wants to be the “First Officer” of our family’s Starship Enterprise, not the Captain. The First Officer is responsible for the smooth operations of the entire ship. The Captain has to make most of the life-or-death decisions. But the Captain cannot run the affairs of the ship and its operations at the same time, and relies heavily on the First Officer to make sure it all runs smoothly. The Captain always seeks the input of the First Officer but ultimately has the responsibility to make the final decisions. And in the event the Captain is unable to perform his or her duties, the First Officer stands ready to step in.
For centuries, the Captain was expected to go down with the ship, after assuring the First Officer and the rest of the crew were safe. That’s the kind of husband we’re talking about.
Sadly, in our culture today, there is tremendous pressure on marriages to forego or even reverse these traditional leadership roles. And we think that’s a mistake. We know, because for many years, we tried being co-Captains.
Being raised in a single-mother household, Jeremy had nothing but respect and admiration for how hard his mother worked to support the family. She took on both roles for over a decade while he was growing up. And so, when we got married, Jeremy really tried hard to empower Kari with every aspect of leadership at completely equal levels. Often, however, to Kari, that felt like Jeremy wasn’t leading.
And later in the marriage, when Kari’s career required her to work long hours (often away from home for days on end), and then put in much more time pursuing her degree, Jeremy stepped in and took care of much of the household tasks that Kari simply couldn’t do. It wasn’t ideal; we both felt like we weren’t performing our “roles”, but we did what we needed to do.
But as soon as we could, we naturally, without prompting from either party, switched back to traditional roles. It’s just a deep, human need to “play your part”. Anything else feels foreign.
Let us be clear about something: we’re not necessarily advocating for a single-income situation where the man works and the woman stays home. Those days may be behind our society forever, for economic reasons if not because of social change. We’ve always supported each other in the things we wanted to do. For instance, Kari has always been able to pursue whatever her passions or interests were, whether it was buying and running a business, going back to college so she could earn more money working, or staying home to raise our young kids.
But what we’re saying is, your marriage will feel “off” if, for long periods of time, the traditional marital roles are violated.
To maintain a stable, harmonious home, we need to accept and embrace the biological reality that we’re different. Men have specific roles to fill, as do women. Violating that politically incorrect reality may score points with people outside your marriage, but we believe, will do great harm within it. (And ultimately, whose opinion matters more – your peers, or your life partner?)
We know this post may stir some strong feelings, and we welcome your respectful feedback. We’d also love to hear from other couples what you’ve learned about marriage over many years. Share it below!
As we look back on our 25 years and try to remember the major obstacles and hindrances to a really great marriage, one of the biggest we had to deal with was having one of us travel frequently for work.
We’re not talking about the occasional weekend away, or a trip to an annual conference (although we’ve done those, too, and they can be just as taxing on a marriage as a long time away). In our case, Kari was a regional human resource manager for a large department store chain, and had at one point 26 “big box” stores she was directly responsible for. Add to that the fact that all but 3 of the stores were several hours away from home.
For almost 3 years, Kari spent Monday through Thursday (and sometimes longer) in hotels for her career. We literally only saw each other on the weekends.
And as we write this, Kari is packing for an overnight stay tomorrow. We both travel for work, but thankfully not as often as we had to a few years ago.
And nothing we experienced can be compared to those amazing couples who have spouses deployed overseas in the armed services, or the risks some take as first responders. But not being able to see your spouse for 60% of the time, like we did, for several years, was a marathon of endurance, patience, trust, and love.
It caused other conflicts for us, too, as Kari’s absence made Jeremy the “dad” and “mom” in the family. The breakdown of the marital roles puts significant strain on both spouses. We’ll cover that in a later post.
Do something special that reminds your spouse that you’re thinking of them while you’re apart.
Something we always try to do when one of us is traveling is to make sure we leave a little love note tucked into our spouse’s suitcase before they leave. Or if you’re the traveler, leave a surprise note in the sock drawer at home, to remind your spouse that you love them and will see them soon. It thrills us to open our luggage far from home and see a note or card or photo tucked in with our clothes. It tells us we’re loved, and more importantly, we’re missed.
Speaking of clothes, try this: Kari used to take some of Jeremy’s pajama shirts with her to wear while she was gone. Just having the smell of her hubby around her when she went to bed in some strange hotel made it much easier.
However you do it, make sure your spouse knows they are the reason you work as hard as you do, and that they’re worth it.
Skype (or in our case, Facetime) every morning and night.
We’re not kidding. In all of those days and nights we went to bed alone, we always made sure to start our morning with a text and a phone call, and end our night with a 15-30 minute Facetime session. In fact, the photo you see here is an actual picture Jeremy snapped during one of our night chats while Kari was in Houston and Jeremy was at home, 6 hours away.
We did a lot of things on Facetime (though not as much “sexy” stuff as Jeremy might have hoped). We always share our day. We always give each other a tour of the hotel room and a view out the window. We did Bible studies, and even fell asleep together watching a movie (ala “When Harry Met Sally”).
During the day, we’d pepper each other with little love texts or a silly photo, or a quick call during lunch.
The point is, you have to make each other a priority always, even when time and distance make it difficult. The fact that we were never “out of sight, out of mind” with each other went so far to help us trust each other, stay bonded, and endure that challenging time as a team.
Make your spouse a participant in your travel activities.
Kari was always wonderful about sharing her activities while she was working. Jeremy always knew the flights, the hotel she was at, the commute, the day she had, etc. It helps your spouse back home to know how you spent your day (though don’t take this as needing to be minute-by-minute accountable). It was a voluntary inclusion of her partner in her daily activities. And it bolstered trust in a major way.
Agree beforehand what’s acceptable behavior while you’re apart.
Speaking of trust (and we will most definitely address this often on this blog), it’s absolutely vital that you sit together and lay the rules down on what’s going to be okay to do while you are away- and what’s not.
For us, this went far beyond just travel (like not having personal opposite-sex friends but rather “friends of the marriage” of both genders), but travel is especially important.
For some reason, many people tend to go nuts the moment their spouse’s back is turned. This is both passive-aggressive behavior as well as a cancerous threat to the marriage.
We also understand that every marriage is different, and some people will have a greater degree of insecurity while their spouse travels than others will. That’s why you have to talk this out ahead of time and be perfectly clear on what’s okay and what’s not.
In our case, while social drinking is okay, getting hammered in some strange place without your spouse is not. Going to dinner alone with coworkers of the opposite sex is not okay. Inviting anyone back to your hotel room, or going to someone else’s hotel room, is not happening.
Kari remembers that we also agreed not to complain or “talk trash” about our spouse to others while we were away, because so many people did so often. Getting into a hate-fest about your spouse, far from home, is simply inviting infidelity. It’s almost broadcasting your availability.
Be a completely open book. Respect your spouse’s concerns about fidelity while you’re traveling.
The solution is: be an open book. Don’t be angry at their lack of trust in you. If you travel often, for extended periods, it’s entirely possible for you to literally have a double life and your spouse at home not know it.
We believe there should be elements of privacy in a marriage, but never secrecy. If you need to know the difference, privacy means things like going to the bathroom with the door closed. Secrecy is having a lock on your phone and keeping a separate bank account.
Privacy in marriage is fine. Secrecy is death to a relationship.
You can’t always fix a spouse’s worries about your travel, because cheating is so common. But you can be very open, transparent, and candid about where you are and what you’re doing. And adhering to pre-established rules while you travel is always, always, always the best policy.
(And if you’re staying in touch as much as we recommend in this blog, you won’t be cheating.)
If you’re the spouse at home, stay busy. Don’t sit and dwell on the fact that your spouse is away.
For the spouse at home, it’s important to keep on living. Don’t spend the day pining about how much you miss the person, or get envious about the fact that they’re off in an exotic city and you’re not.
Treat yourself to some of your favorite activities while your spouse is away. Get some tasks done that your partner doesn’t usually like to do with you. Kari does the window shopping / coffee / movie night with our daughter, or takes our puppy, Ripley, to the dog park. She catches up on the book she’s reading.
For Jeremy, it’s time to clean the garage, or knock down the honey-do list.
However you do it, you’ve got to get going and keep going. You can’t spend your day going crazy wondering what your spouse is up to.
Include the traveling spouse in what’s going on at home.
This was probably hardest on Kari, as it most likely would be for most moms. In her three years, Kari missed doctor and dentist appointments, a birthday party, concerts at school, even our son’s graduation dinner at the University of Texas. She really grieved for that lost time, even when it was everyday nonsense like just helping with homework.
What adds insult to injury is when things happen at home that the traveling spouse isn’t informed about. You might think, as Jeremy did, that these little details weren’t important, but Kari was really grieved for missing out. Even hearing the grade a child got on a test was important.
“There were times I began to feel like a guest in my own home. When Jeremy and our kids sat there chatting about the events of the day that I knew nothing about, I felt like an outsider.”
So, share it! It’s not insignificant if it’s about your family. Even the little stuff. Your spouse is your life partner and the second half of your marriage. Keep them fully engaged by making sure they’re fully involved.
We’ve covered our best tips for travel, but maybe you have some that have worked for you, too? Share it with us! Let us know what’s kept a marriage strong, even when one of you is away often (or for an extended period). We’d love to hear!
One of the most common complaints women have about men is, “He doesn’t give me his full attention.”
And it’s true; men don’t often fully disengage from what they’re doing to listen to what their wives want to say to them.
We’re tackling this together (instead of “He said / She said”) because it’s a challenge for our marriage, too, even after 25 years together. We’re sharing a struggle we really do have – this isn’t just blowing smoke.
Here’s how it typically happens:
Jeremy is doing something. Anything.
Kari enters the room and starts telling him something. Anything.
Jeremy kinda/sorta listens, inserts a lot of “Mmmm hmmmm” and “Yeah” into the conversation.
But after 25 years, Kari immediately knows he’s off in “Wherever Land” and isn’t actually paying attention to what she’s saying.
Usually, Kari interrupts Jeremy’s distant psychic adventure with the always curt, “What did I just say?”
(Hubby side note: one time, Kari didn’t bring me back to attention in the usual way. She just started to make the story she was telling to the absent me more and more bizarre until there was no WAY I could say I was listening. Things like, “I hope you liked the cat I made for dinner. I had to chase it down and kill it with my bare hands.” I said, “Yeah.” I was caught.)
It happens to the best of us. Every single marriage has this issue. And it’s basically human nature.
Women want to talk. Men drift in and out of conversations all day.
Actually, it’s likely a matter of biology at work. Men and women are just… different. Men are instinctively hunter / gatherer types, worried about the “big picture” items like are we fed, warm, sheltered, and safe? And the details generally are irrelevant.
That’s why, after a man gets the general thrust of where a conversation is going, they don’t need or want a lot of details. They hear you had a disagreement with a coworker, but men won’t usually need to hear exactly what was said or why. They probably won’t remember the details, anyway.
The other thing a man’s mind will immediately do when his wife tells him about a problem or concern is to immediately try to find a solution (this is another blog post entirely). His mind is pretty simple, ladies: “
“Wife has a problem, summed up as XXXXX. Solution to XXXXX is YYYYYY. Problem solved.”
As soon as a guy’s brain latches onto the gist of her story and his mind finds a solution to her problem, he will begin to tune out on specifics they don’t believe is vital to the situation at hand.
But to a woman, tuning out the details means tuning her out (and again, not to jump to a future blog post already, but women don’t always want their problems solved for them, guys). A wife is wanting to share with you, the complete issue at hand, including how it made her feel.
To a woman, the details and nuances of the story MATTER. And that’s what men have to remember. And paying attention to what matters to her tells her that SHE matters.
We know this will be a serious bone of contention for many couples, because even as we’re writing this, we’re getting crabby with each other over this subject. A lot of raw nerves come out. Kari would say she feels disrespected when Jeremy doesn’t give her his full attention. And Jeremy would say that of course he respects and loves her dearly; it’s just that what she was talking about that moment wasn’t holding his interest.
So what does a couple do about this? We have a few pointers, for the ladies and the gents, that have worked for us over our time together:
Ladies, if you need his full attention, ASK FOR IT BEFORE YOU START. Sometimes a guy is engrossed in something before you walk into the room, and it’s not as easy for men to shift gears or multi-task as it is for women. Do him a favor and give him a few moments to wrap up what he’s doing before you start your story. You’ll get a more attentive husband if you didn’t just pull him up from the football game or the morning paper for what he thinks will be a sentence or two, so he didn’t disengage what he was doing before you started.
On that note, ladies, be self-aware enough to know if what you want to talk about can wait until a later time if he’s busy with something else. If he’s working on a car, or reading a book, or answering work emails, can it wait until a little later, when he’ll likely be less distracted? Remember that men can’t shift gears as readily as a woman can. It takes real effort to completel shift from one activity to another in an instant.
Men, as difficult as it is to sometimes stay tuned in to all the detail and subtlety of her story, it’s her story. She’s sharing something of herself and she values your input. Communication is the lifeblood of women, and you are the biggest part of her life. Take the time to focus on her story, because you’ll score the points of showing her you’re focusing on her.
Men, if you say you are giving her your attention, then do it. Don’t half-ass it. Wives always, always, always, always know. Don’t kid yourself that you can be half-in and half-out of a conversation.
Men, you need to be self-aware, too. If you realize you’re drifting away mentally from the conversation, stop yourself immediately and tell yourself, “No, stay focused on her.” (Jeremy has to do this often working with clients as a financial planner, too. Sometimes people just need to talk; even if they, by his standards, aren’t saying much.)
It’s not something we think a couple can ever make perfect. We’ve both had to work on this a great deal, and we sort of ebb and flow in our success at doing it. But it can be done.
Guys, remember: she’s sharing with you because you’re her best friend. Don’t take that lightly. We may not always care about all of the details. But we must always care about her.