Secrets Of A Happy Marriage

Those of you who read this blog know how very important I think the state of your marital union is for setting the tone in your home and for the health of your children in their future relationships.  I have written quite a few blog posts on marriage, on challenges in marriage, and once a year I write on my own marriage.  Here is the post from last year, on the 21st anniversary of our first date: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/01/happy-anniversary-to-my-husband/  .  Today is our 18th year wedding anniversary and time for another post!

By the way, I am not certain I  really do have “secrets” about having a good marriage, but I think I have learned some things about marriage, at least about my own marriage,  in these eighteen years.  I am sure you all have your own thoughts on what makes a great marriage, and please feel free to share your ideas in the comment box below!

Here are a few of  our ideas for a happy marriage:

My husband says the biggest secret for him is to “take marriage seriously, but to be able to laugh at yourself and with each other.”  HUMOR and WARMTH are really big in our house from laughing in the middle of a fight to giving each other compliments to just enjoying being together and little jokes.  Humor and warmth are huge. Physical touch is definitely part of this warmth:  hand-holding, back rubs, close space, and yes, intimacy. All of these things are huge.

Faith and praying together really strengthens our marriage.  When my husband knows the children and I are praying for him when he is in a big presentation or meeting, it lifts his spirits and we all feel connected to each other and to our Creator. 

Seeing the best in each other.  We all have faults and flaws, but if we can love each other through that and make allowances for that knowing we are human, then love and forgiveness and striving for more can enter the feeling life of the home.  Respect for each other and respect for even the differences in our opinions makes life flow. 

Working together is what makes our marriage thrive; being able to solve problems together and work toward solutions together   through  good communication and  having a positive attitude (there is that humor and warmth again!).  Part of working together means surrendering the notion that you are always right, that you always know best and being able to make space for ideas that involve both of you.

We have nights were we are engrossed in reading or writing or doing our own thing, but we also  have nights where we are engrossed in being together.   Spending lots of time as a family works well for us as we enjoy being together. 

A happy marriage is the bedrock of a happy family. 

 Much love to you and yours today,

Carrie

Renewal: Relationship With Your Spouse

Almost every month I write a post on this topic, but it is so important it bears repeating every month!  How are you and your spouse doing?  Are you strong and unified and having fun or are things tense and battle-like?

Here are some questions/ ideas for this month: 

  • What is the one little nice thing you do for your spouse each and every day in front of your children?
  • When is the time you and your spouse get to sit down and have a conversation?
  • How often are you intimate?
  • How often do you compliment your spouse?  I have read studies (who does these?) that men need an average of ten compliments a day.  Do you even come close to that?
  • How often do you laugh together?
  • How is the work around the house shared by both of you?
  • How often are you plain in asking your husband what you need?  My husband often says to me, ” Honey, just tell me what you need and I will help you!  Even after almost 18 years of marriage, I can’t read your mind!”  Yep, men are not generally mind-readers!
  • What do you and your spouse love to do together?
  • What does your family do spiritually together?  Does your husband say a blessing over your meal?  Is there some special way your children see both of you honor spirituality in your home?

I do not think it is necessary to leave your baby or a toddler who has separation anxiety at home whilst you go out to “have time together.”  Your children grow up so quickly, it really is a short time.  Have a date at home after you put the children to bed!  If your children are older and you have trusted family, how about a morning or afternoon date – many times that is much more successful than going out in the  evening until the children are older…

I think the other important thing to consider in the midst of this topic of renewal with your spouse is renewal with yourself!  If you are feeling close to burned out, this is important to consider.

Just a few thoughts tonight.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Dads Out There?

Most of what I write is geared toward  mothers, but I am becoming aware of a number of fathers who also come to this space!  Hello to all the fathers out there!  I appreciate you being here!

At the end of last night’s show (see www.thewaldorfconnection.com), a Dad called in asking how to make use of the limited weekday time with the under-7 child.

Families do things all different ways; I have seen families push back bedtimes so the children can play with Dad, have a snack with Dad, etc before bed.  Some children do wonderfully with this and some children go waaaaay off the deep end with this end and the night ends with tears and do better with Dad parenting them to sleep – walking a small child around, singing to their child, back rubs, massages, telling wonderful stories.

I have harped on this time and time again:  you are creating your family culture together.  Parenting is in the doing!  Mothers, give up control and parent together.  You love this man enough to marry him, to have children with him, he is the parent as well!    Mothers  will wail to me,  “But he doesn’t do it the way I do it!”  Uh, yes, isn’t that the point?  There is a place for mothering and fathering and we are thrilled to have both! 

Children need to have their fathers; fathers bring so many wonderful things to the table for children.  I will write more about this in the future, but in the meantime, here are some back posts to read and ponder:

An old favorite: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/01/23/the-necessity-of-mothering-and-fathering/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/18/fathers-and-daughters-part-one/                                                             http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/20/fathers-and-daughters-part-two/

Dads and homeschooling:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/12/15/a-letter-to-all-those-dads-undecided-about-homeschooling/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/20/dads-waldorf-homeschooling-and-parenting/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/23/when-both-parents-need-a-break/

Love and respect:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/06/simple-february-love-for-your-partner/

Dads might be interested in this:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/30/rite-of-passage-parenting-four-essential-experiences-to-equip-your-kids-for-life-heading-up-to-the-nine-year-change-and-beyond/

Just to keep you busy!

Blessings,

Carrie

Simple February: Love For Your Partner

No one sets off to fall “out of love” with their partner.  Sometimes, though, as careers and finances and parenting and life just settle in all around us, in those spaces and cracks  between us and our partner, we can feel less than loving.  It can be hard to remember back to those first days of being in love with our partner or spouse, how our heart raced, how much we wanted to be with that person every minute, how excited we were to get married and be together!

I think you can recapture this feeling in your marriage or partnership, but all too often mothers put their spouse and their marital relationship dead last on the list of priorities.  Or something that I hear many mothers speak of is this “growing apart” –wanting different ways to relax at the end of the day, different ways to want to spend the precious amount of time one may get alone whilst raising small children, and how to balance spending time as a family, together as a couple and alone….It is challenging to say the least.

I  think “love”, traditionally associated with this month due to St. Valentine’s Day is a good, simple place to start in your most treasured relationship. Love can be a noun, but it also can be a verb.  So in this simple month of February, how can you make this feeling of  love come alive  for your partner in  life?

Sometimes it is the very small things, such as bringing your spouse a glass of water whilst they are working outside on a hot day. Sometimes it is the large things, supporting your partner through work situations or backing your partner up in parenting. 

How else  will love become a verb this month in your own home, in your own reality?  Here are some random thoughts I had:

  • Many fathers seem to feel “scheduling” time together is not very  spontaneous (which it is not) or romantic (but it can be!)  When is there time for just you and your spouse?  In the early years of attachment parenting, it is very easy to get caught up in your baby’s and toddler’s needs; it is necessary. But, at the same time, you cannot put your marriage and relationship last on the list for years on end! 
  • I don’t think you need to escape from your baby or toddler in order to be together.  Catch those moments together during nap times, have take-out and a movie to play after your little one goes to bed, steal away for intimacy in the middle of the night. Be creative with gathering those bits of time in busy family life, because your marriage is worth it.
  • Physical intimacy!   It is so important!
  • If you are in different places as far as what you like to do together, see if you can compromise and each get to pick different things to do as a couple.  How often do you just sit and talk about things that don’t involve finances, the house, the children?  That is so valuable to just connect with each other.
  • Think about what your spouse hears from you when he walks in the door: does he only hear you upset and complaining or nagging or does he hear how happy you are to see him, how much you missed him today, how much you love him?  Do you ever thank him for the things he does do that you enjoy, that are helpful to you?  Can you be cheerful and tell him the good things that happen during the day as well as the sorrows?
  • Do you try to be attractive for yourself and for him as well?  Yes, I know that sounds so old-fashioned, but I think that is part of my job as a wife to be clean and attractive to him.  I also like to try to pick up the house before my husband gets home, so he is not coming home to a sea of chair forts with blankets everywhere.  I try to have a warm dinner ready so we can eat together as a family.  When you have small children, these seemingly basic things can be so challenging in themselves, but I think it is of worth to work on them as your children grow.

For simple February, love really is all you need.  Make it a verb and see what you can do to grow together.  Twenty years from now your children will be gone, and you want to have a loving relationship through all those years and beyond. Simplicity means picking priorities, and this really should be one of them!

Simple times this month,

Carrie

Joy For January: Respect For Your Partner

You might be wondering what “joy” has to do with “respect”, but I think that for most men, being respected within their own home leads to joy for them.  Men love to fix problems, they like to be the One Who Saves The World From Destruction, and they like to look good whilst they are doing it!

But here is the rub, right?  Most mothers I know spend much more time reading, researching, speaking with other mothers about parenting, observing children of different ages than Dad, who may be off at work all day.  We want to share what we have learned with Dad, and some of our ideas can be different or strange to him.  So what is Dad’s role in all this and how do we make him feel respected?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about how some families have a structure where the roles for “work” are fairly rigid (ie, the mother takes care of the house, the father works outside the home) and how some families have more fluid roles between mothers and fathers…..So how do we balance these roles in relation to parenting, homeschooling, and all the while providing our spouse with some joy through respect?  A tall order in many ways!

We are coming up on 18 years of marriage, so I would like to think I have a few things to share on this.

  • I think one thing is to have respect for your spouse in front of your children.  Yes, we probably all disagree in front of the children, but I think providing an overall attitude that Dad knows what he is doing is beneficial.  He may do it differently than you, but that doesn’t mean he is wrong.  If you don’t like what he is doing, can you talk about it later not in front of the kids?  If that is possible!
  • I think it really is okay to say, “Go ask your father.”  :) I know that sounds corny, but  think how many decisions you make in regards to your child all day long and give Dad a chance too!
  • What are the top things that irritate your husband?  Does it drive him crazy to come home to a house with toys everywhere?  Does he need some quiet to transition to being home?  Some things are just inevitable when one lives with young children, but at the same time, instead of just brushing these things aside, perhaps take them under consideration and see if you can meet some of Dad;s needs or even wants even part of the time.  Happy Dad!
  • Okay, ahem, how is your intimacy?  Men connect emotional intimacy through the physical.  That part of your life really should be a priority.  Enough said. :)
  • Do you have a rhythm for your weekend?  A lot of mothers comment that they love having Dad home, but the weekends are a bit crazy.  If you could  sit down together and plan out what needs to happen on a weekend that might really help.  For example,  if you need time alone when that will happen, if Dad needs time alone when that will happen?    Do you plan anything fun together as a family?
  • Dads don’t go through the same  hormonal swings we do with pregnancy, birth, lactation.  I find many Dads, especially first-time Dads,  really do miss their wives a bit as they adjust to parenthood.  Do you ever get to spend time with just your spouse?  Even if it is early in the AM, or later in the PM, it is worth cultivating that intimate time!  It seems like some mothers/fathers put their relationship last when they have small children (and babies and toddlers  have such  serious needs to be met), but as your child grows it seems partners should be able to talk after your children go to bed!  And finish sentences!
  • Does Dad have a part in your homeschool?  What strengths and talents does Dad have that he could teach the children?  It is really fabulous to hear small children who think their Dad is the strongest, fastest, smartest.
  • When does Dad interact with the children and care for them?  Dads need to be around for the little things in order for children to trust them with the big things.  That in itself builds respect.

I know this post sounds hopelessly old-fashioned, but one day your children will be grown up and gone.  At that point, I really want you and your spouse to be looking across the breakfast  table at each other in love. 

Marriage is such a wonder and a joy.  I have no doubt that my Beloved Creator made my husband just for me.  I hope you feel the same way about your spouse as well!

Live in Joy Together Today,

Carrie

When Both Parents Need A Break

I hear the following scenario(s) a lot:  Mom and Dad have a preschooler; Mom is at home: Dad has a lot of commitments: Dad would like to have some time to himself; Mom would like some time to herself and therefore would like Dad to spend some time with preschool-aged child OR Dad would like to spend some time ALONE with Mom but Mom is very attached to their child and finds it difficult to leave.(And I know some mothers who feel Dad cannot handle their child and won’t leave child with Dad or child doesn’t seem to want to stay with Dad).  Whew!  Lots of different things going on here!

I have many thoughts on these scenarios; let’s see if I can sort them out bit by bit.

Scenario #1Dad has many commitments. Mom would like a break when Dad gets home but Dad is rather tapped out.

Here are some thoughts:

The first thing my husband said when I said, “Quick!  What comes into your head with this scenario?” was this:   “Life before children is not the same as life after children.  Can Dad back off on some of these commitments for these Early Years?”

Yup, he said that.  No prompting, just honesty!  I love that man!

So, Number One:  BOTH of you look honestly at your commitments  outside the home and ask is it essential or not?  What is essential right now is  raising your child.  That has an expiration date and the time to this child-raising is now.

Also, these times may call for tough choices if all these commitments are economically necessary.  Could you move to something smaller to live in?  Could you go to one car?  Could you cut back anywhere?

Okay, moms, before you get all happy over that (“See honey, I told you so!  You need to be home!”) please consider this:  Dad may need some time to switch gears prior to walking in the door and being handed a child. There may be several ways to handle this:   Dads, can you stop on the way home and work out?  Listen to something that settles you down on the commute home? Or Moms, can Dad have some time when he walks in the door to switch gears – sometimes feeding the children a snack or having a craft at the ready keeps the children from attacking Dad the minute he walks in the door.

And Moms, make home a place Dad wants to come home to.  If all you do is nag and complain, why would he want to be there?  Think about this, meditate on it, pray on it.

The other facets of this scenario to consider include these three things:

1. Many small children really only want their mothers at bedtime unless you have worked to make Dad the main bedtime person.  Bedtime may not be the best time for daddy-child relationship success and yet it is the time of the day when mothers are completely tapped out.

2. So, if the end of the day is everyone (including the adults)  falling apart, it may be your child is completely overtired.  If you have a three or four year old who is not napping, they most likely will be ready for sleep at 6:30 or 7. Stop trying to keep them up to see Dad get home from work at 8 PM unless your child gets up late in the morning.

3.  Moms, if you are that worn out at the end of the day, look back to your rhythm.  Does it have a balance of out-breath and in-breath?  Can you gear your whole afternoon toward bedtime?  Dinner in the crock pot so  you can spend a good amount of time outside in the afternoon?  Switch up the routine so your child has a nice warming bath with a lavender foot massage, warm food, warm bed?  Snore.

Scenario #2Dad would like some ALONE time with Mom, Mom is reluctant to be away from child.

I say this a lot  on this blog:  It is Attachment PARENTING, not just Attachment Mothering.  A relationship with your child is not a substitute for the intimate relationship with your spouse.  Check out the back posts on marriage here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/

and http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/08/parenting-as-partners/

and http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/using-your-first-year-of-parenting-to-fall-deeper-in-love-with-your-spouse/

However, I think there are many ways one can accomplish this without leaving your child with a babysitter.  Much of this hinges on an early bedtime though.

Intimacy needs to happen sooner rather than attempting two hours after a small child falls asleep and is likely to wake up.  This time needs to be a priority for both of you.  The crafting, the computer, the TV, the reading can wait – let those things be the things that are interrupted, not the special time that holds couples together!

Scenario #3 – Dad is ready for a outings with child; Mom and/or child not sure about child having an outing with just Dad.

Mothers, you have to feel secure.  If you loved this man enough to marry him and have children with him, (and assuming things have not changed and you still love and trust this man), please give Dad a chance to do things his way with his child.  You may not choose to take your child to Chik- fil- A for lunch, but if Dad does, let that be Their Thing.  Please do not micromanage their relationship.

Experiment.  Is it better if you leave the house and have Dad and child do something at home or is it better to have Dad and child go out of the house while you stay home?  Can Dad take child for a walk regularly to build up confidence on both sides of the coin before a big date out? 

The other question is how involved is Dad in regular day-to-day care in general – it is parenting by both Mom and Dad that count. 

Dads, be patient. Sometimes you have to get through “mommy-only” phases of development.  As our older two grew, my husband and I had a phrase called “PPW” (Preferred Parent of the Week).  Sometimes the PPW was him, sometimes it was me.  Sometimes it is hard not to take it all personally, but don’t, because it just is.  These phases come and go and pass.

And please, Dad pick things that are not too over–stimulating or crazy for the under-7 crowd.  An under-7 child would be just as happy going to see a construction site for free rather than a huge tour of the museum or a carnival.  Remember that under-7 children, while they love “new” and “special” don’t need to do everything under the sun whilst they are little.  New can be a walk where they see something new, a trip to a construction site, shooting hoops in the park…it does not have to be “big and better and best” to get a child’s attention. 

Just a few thoughts in this subject,

Carrie

Happy Anniversary to My Husband

JanFeb 09 087

Happy 21 years of our first date!  I love you even  more now, after 21 years, than then.  Thank you for sticking by my side for all these years and for growing with me.    There  is something about those 21 years and growing together as we have traveled this journey of college twice for me, your Master’s degree program, three dogs plus numerous foster dogs, pregnancy, attachment parenting of two beautiful children and now awaiting a third!, moving five times, military life and ex-military life, career changes, different interests, Waldorf  homeschooling – and the adventure continues.

You are a man of the highest integrity and you make me laugh.  Have a wonderful day knowing how much I love you.

Enough PDA for you, honey?? :)

Carrie