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).
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:
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!
Question: “Help! We’re engaged and have very different interests and hobbies. Is our marriage doomed?”
That’s a very good question! And while we both will chime in separately and give a “his and hers” flavor to the discussion, we both agreed that it is VERY important to have your own interests, and to encourage and celebrate those in each other. Read on: