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“We should all find a quiet place, a peaceful space, to bury the chaos and rest for a while” – Christy Ann Martine

I’ve never seen Hot Tub Time Machine but I do believe in the magical transportation of a good soak. My favorite time to tub is early in the morning. A summer sunrise, the first bird’s song, children sleeping, and a cup of fresh coffee all point to perfection–now add warm bubbles–bliss.

While the hot tub plays a large part in my self-care routine, it has also rescued my marriage. 

Our hot tub was an Amazon Prime impulse buy. Two days later, a semi-truck dropped it off in our gravel driveway and took off. At least 100 feet away, over rough terrain, was the deck where it was going. What did we do? Rolled it. Yep, we decided to “roll” a square, 500-pound hot tub over rock, gravel, and seemingly endless grass. We were sweating, laughing, and swearing, but in hindsight, the tub was already bringing us together in fresh ways.

Thankfully, the roll didn’t ruin anything and my husband’s brute strength combined with a makeshift pulley got it on the deck where it will stay forever–or until it’s time to sand and stain the deck again. 

Our first time sitting in the tub was a summer evening. The grass was freshly cut, our beverages were strong and sparkly, and I could feel his sense of accomplishment. My husband is a very humble man but there was a rare glimpse of pride. I realized the steam and jets were creating a physical space for relaxed transparency. We seek that intimate space daily. 

By transparent and intimate, I don’t mean the hot tub makes everything easy and we have it all figured out. Far from it.

What I do mean is very basic and practical: it is hard to get real pissy about tight finances, your in-laws, a leaky skylight, when to schedule an oil change, work, college savings, or what to make for dinner when a water jet is literally easing your tension.

Our hardest and most honest conversations are reserved for “the tub.” But, it’s not because of the 104-degree water massage. It’s the intentionality of the space. How many times have you asked your spouse a question that morphed into a heated conversation and then exploded into a fight– because the timing and space the original question required wasn’t available? I do this. He does this.

We are trying to be better because we realize it is easy to get huffy when asked about a late notice while the kids are pulling on your nightgown and patience, the eggs are burning and Paw Patrol is on volume 1,000 in the background. It’s not so easy to be defensive when asked, “Do you need any information from me to look into that bill?” by bare wet shoulders glistening in the twilight. Good space–good timing–good heat. 

I show my first-rate “processor” husband respect and care when I wait to ask the hard questions or start a tricky conversation until we can both be fully present and relaxed. When he is thoughtful, engaged, and encouraging—he shows me, an impulsive Amazon-primer, respect, and care as well. 

The result, for us, is many hours in the hot tub and a more gracious, authentic, and supportive marriage. 

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3 Minute Read

By Lisa Quigley

I think I had a sort of midlife crisis. No, not like that. I didn’t go out and get a tattoo or have some kind of regretful affair. I still drive the same Toyota I drove back when my children sat in booster seats. I didn’t even really change my hairstyle. It was much more subtle than that.

Whatever it was, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Last year, on a beautiful evening in June, our daughter graduated from high school. It was a surreal and sweet time. The days leading up to her graduation were filled with anticipation and memorable moments. I watched as she modeled her cap and gown. I took a picture of her leaving for her “last day” of school in precisely the same spot I had taken her picture on the first day of school, some thirteen-grades ago.  

During this time, friends and relatives, from near and far, would send their greetings and wishes. They all seemed to ask the same question. The question that she seemed all too happy to be answering. “So what are your plans from here on out?” I watched as her excitement escalated each time she spoke of all her goals, dreams, and plans that lie before her on a clean slate of the life she was embarking on. We were, and continue to be, so proud of her. 

Strangely, during this time of excitement and nostalgia, waves of anxiousness and grief would wash over me. We would miss our daughter so much, and we would miss the role she has so beautifully played in our family. Our daughter has always been a leader, an encourager, dear friend and wingman to our son, and now she was on the verge of moving on with her own life. 

Graduation proved to be an emotional time, but we’d weathered challenges in our marriage and family before—all which have significantly impacted the course of my life—ultimately giving me strength. So, I knew I had hope.

When our son was only two, he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum—the diagnosis was both shocking and a relief. Our hunches made sense. We knew what we were working with. We took a deep breath, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.  

Life was hectic. Our lives revolved around specialists, horse therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and my personal favorite, dog therapy. Then came school and Special Education classes (SPED), more therapy, Individual Education Plans, and painful, sometimes tense, communications with teachers and principals. During these years, we cycled through an erratic, and always an unpredictable pattern of joy and grief that seems to have no timetable.

My wonderful husband was a rock to our family as we navigated the life we’d been given. He is a CPA and works very long hours. Our life, as a family, revolves around Tax Season. Like many other wives of Accountants, I solo parented about one-third of the year.  

During this time and even during the “off-season”, we did a lot of tag-team parenting. My husband would take the kids to do something on a Saturday afternoon to give me “a break.” I would take the kids and go out of town to visit friends for the weekend as ‘Dad’s going to be at work anyway.’ The kids and I would spend several weeks in the summer at a summer camp run by friends.  

As the kids attended the camp, I helped run the camp. During these years, I even took a job in retail. The flexible schedule of working nights and weekends guaranteed there was consistency in therapy and parenting. The kids were doing well. Our son was blooming. All of our work seemed to be paying off. 

The years passed, things began to fall into a pleasant routine. The kids grew. Life began to run smoother. We reached the point in our parenthood, where we could leave the kids home alone for a short time. It was then that my husband and I started a little activity that would become a life-changing ritual. 

We embarked on a new adventure. That’s right, we began taking a walk in the neighborhood most evenings, after dinner. 

After so many years of talking about kids, parenting, therapies, it seemed that life had settled down, and we had the chance to talk about more important things. We talked about us. We talked about politics and football, sometimes we bared our souls to each other. We joked and laughed. We spoke encouraging words to each other. 

Even though our neighborhood runs along a freeway, our walks had the magic of a long trek in the woods or a stroll along a river in some exotic city. These treasured walks also made me realize how much I missed my husband. 

At the risk of sounding corny, I fell in love with my husband again on those walks. I will admit it, how much our relationship had fallen into doing life with each other, but not necessarily together. I remembered just how much I loved being married to my husband. We both agreed that we needed to do what we had done with our son so many years ago. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work—this time on our marriage.

Those walks turned into hikes. I started going to the college sporting events that my husband so enjoys, the ones for so long I told him to go ahead and take one of the kids to, so I could get some things done around the house. After the games, we would continue talking over a meal at an eccentric restaurant in our town. 

We started binge-watching a NetFlix series together (why did it take so long for us to discover HOMELAND?). During this time, something else happened. Even though we were focusing more on us, our son continued to grow and experience life just as we had watched him do when we were so focused on his care and progress.  

Just like many of our friends that we have known for years in the small town where we live, we are all on the doorstep of our empty-nester years. Like many of those same friends, we are talking of taking more trips, a more peaceful schedule, and learning new skills as a couple. 

Unlike many of the couples we have literally grown up with, the rest of our lives will, at least in some part, include our son. We absolutely remain vigilant in our coaching of him and encourage him to pursue his dreams. We expect him to live a full life of his choosing. In that expectation, we also realize that we will need to be a sort of home base, mentor, and guide. Our parenting will need to carry on, at least in the form of a consultant to our son as he grows older.

We look to our future responsibilities as parents in this type of arrangement, with the same passion we began this whole journey on. Thankfully, we are going to continue on this journey together, and that makes me smile.

So, was it a midlife crisis? I’m not entirely sure, but it was certainly a wake-up call.  A sort of alarm that happened to wake me up in time, before someday when we both realized—sadly, a little too late—that besides having raised two children, we had nothing in common. 

It was like a text alert for my soul, reminding me how thankful I am that I married my husband, and how blessed we are to do life together. In the end, it was definitely a gift.

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Story about how opposites attract and after the couple married they used the book the Five Love Languages to help their relationship

4 Minute Read

It wasn’t like he spoke French, or we had grown up on different continents, or had families who forbade us to date each other…but it was close. 

I was born and raised in a small town in Vermont at the base of the Green Mountains. So, it was kind of a big deal to be moving south to play soccer at a small, private college in North Carolina.

Just prior to departing on my new adventure, I was out shopping with my mom for all the essentials I’d need for school. Stopped at a red light, my mom turned to me and said, “Whatever you do, please don’t fall in love with a southern boy.” Well, like any teenager, I went right ahead and did just that.  

Jeff was a baseball player from Southern Florida, and at the time, it seemed like sports was about the only thing we had in common. It was not “love at first sight”…at least not for me. 

I mean, who would ever shave their own head, wear baggie Tommy Hilfiger jeans with stripes down the sides, a white tank top and sport a chain necklace with a cross?  

And boy was he loud! His energy was electric!  Jeff was that guy, yelling at the poor referee “to bend over and look out his good eye!” There were times I wanted to slink away, and crawl all the way back to Vermont.

I was not perfect by any means, but I was chill. 

I was a Vermont-girl, who thought she was looking for a typical Vermont guy. You know, the rugged outdoorsy kind of guy who wears hiking boots, Carhart pants, flannel shirts, and enjoys quiet conversation over a good IPA.

Not the Miller High Life guy, who drank “The Champagne of Beers” as Jeff would call it. By the way, do they even make that beer anymore? He’d grab a bottle of “champagne” as he sat down to watch his beloved NASCAR.

Jeff was so foreign to me; he might as well have been from another country. He’d say things like “fixin’.” Why would anyone say they are fixin’ to make a sandwich?  Is it broken? 

Or when he’d yell, “G.D!” Which, I assumed for months was a reference to the Grateful Dead, not the abbreviation for an offensive expression. 

The guy ate biscuits and gravy! He loved sauerkraut! He washed his shiny, silver sports car every Sunday afternoon while I tooled around in my beat-up truck which was nicknamed Swiss Cheese because of all the rusted-out holes caused by the cruel Vermont winters.  

He liked fast-food, I liked fresh.  

He cheered for Tampa, I bled red for Boston.  

He loved Jesus…Who?  

He was very conservative, and I was quite liberal.  

He was so…Southern, and I was so…Not.   

So, you know how magnets work…when like poles of two magnets are placed near each other, they repel.  But, when the north pole of one magnet is placed near the south pole of another: Boom!  We were magnetic! 

As different as Jeff and I were, we were drawn to each other by a force that was quite literally out of our control.  

In the beginning, all of our differences were part of what kept our romance exciting.  We were the epitome of the saying, “Opposites Attract.” But, like anything in this world, when there are strong, opposing forces involved, life can get complicated- fast.

We knew we had to figure out a better way to communicate after we realized our love and excitement for each other could only be stretched so far.  

Thankfully, around this time someone recommended the book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman; it was a game-changer!  

Mr. Chapman explains how every person has a different way of feeling truly loved and there are five primary ways we feel loved by our partners; rarely do a husband and wife have the same love language. So, the challenge is discovering the primary language of your spouse. 

The Five Love Languages are:

  1. Receiving Gifts
  2. Quality Time
  3. Words of Affirmation
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

For some, it’s a mixture of two or three of them but most people have one primary love language which really makes them feel treasured by their partner.  

For me, I always appreciate it when Jeff washes my car (Acts of Service), or surprises me with a small gift, but these acts rarely “fill my love tank” as the author describes.

As we discovered through the book, I feel most loved when my husband takes time to sit and talk with me, with no distractions, or when we go for a walk together. (Quality time) 

Conversely, Jeff certainly appreciates it when I make him a tuna sandwich or I stop and pick up something at the store I know he needs. However, he feels most loved when I tell him how grateful I am for all he does for our family; what an incredible dad he is to our three kids or how wonderfully he provides for all of us. (Words of Affirmation) 

Over the last 15 years, our marriage has been a continuous journey of learning to love and appreciate each other’s differences, all while trying to make our marriage thrive. 

Understand each other’s emotional love language does not mean our marriage is challenge-free, or we have it all figured out, (especially since we’ve added three strong-willed, high spirited kids to the mix) but it does give us a road map to go by when we get caught up in the craziness of our life.  

It is that simple? Of course not.  

We still have our days.  Like when Jeff’s been gone and I’ve been driving the kids in all different directions, dinner’s not ready, the dog hasn’t been walked, everyone has practice or a game, and there are no clean uniforms.  

Then there are those times when the dishes are still sitting in the sink from breakfast, the laundry is overflowing, homework hasn’t been touched, field trip forms are missing, the floors are sticky with patches of who-knows-what, and I’m trying hard not to trip over the last thread I am hanging on by. 

On those days, when I am trying to regain my footing, Jeff knows he can gently take my hand and go for a quiet walk together to hear my heart.  And through this simple act, the pace of my heart rate lowers, my tank refills and I’m reassured of his love for me.  

This didn’t happen by accident or overnight. It has taken us both time and a deep desire to invest in each other and our marriage. Sometimes we don’t do as good of a job of filling each other’s love tanks.

But, we have discovered over the years that keeping this simple idea in mind has helped immensely in keeping this Vermont-girl and Southern-boy…walking hand-in-hand.  

Now, if ya’ll excuse me…I’m fixin’ to make Jeff a sandwich and then I am going to thank Jesus for all He has done for me.  

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