“The couple that plays together stays together.”
This quote conjures images of smiling, happy, sunglassed couples hiking green mountains together, biking together, and having adventures together out in nature. I picture my elderly neighbors down the street, who often work out in the front yard gardening together. It’s so cute. I think about my engineer friends with their gamer wives that team up together and regularly play Starcraft or WoW together. (Nerd points for anyone who knows what WoW is!). This quote probably even applies to the couch potatoes who have a routine of vegging together after work, watching Netflix or Hulu or whatever you call TV these days.
Ben and I do few of those things. He enjoys programming. I cannot. I enjoy baking. He… eats baked stuff. He enjoys biking. I love team sports. I enjoy going out, but he’s one of the biggest (extroverted) homebodies I know.
Do your best.
It was a mantra repeated to me again and again throughout my upbringing. Before piano recitals and exams (and I had many), my mom would smile encouragingly and say, “Just do your best!”
I remember asking my mom one time, “What would happen if I got a B on my report card?” I peered over at her with wide eyes, trying to gauge her reaction.
“As long as you did your best, that’s fine,” she said matter of factly.
“Really?! What if I got… a C?!”
“As long as you did your best, that’s fine.”
“So, if I came home with a D, you wouldn’t be mad?” I pushed.
“If you really did your best, then no. But I also know what you’re capable of and it’s usually better than a D, so if that happened then maybe you didn’t do your best.”
I sat, pondering this silently.
I can’t say I’ve always lived it out. By high school, I was the do-what-you-need-to-get-the-A student, and that oftentimes took a lot less than my best. When it came to things I really cared about, though–a basketball game, preparing a presentation in front of peers, leading a club–I gave it my all, my 100%. It was like I didn’t know how to slack off or tone it down when it came to these things, and I often pushed myself long and hard into the night to make sure everything was done in excellence.
I made him cards. They were creative and thoughtful and full of mushy sentiment. I spent a lot of time perfecting the details, and couldn’t wait to hear the love in his voice when he received it.
He hugged me. Fierce and tight, to the point where I had to push him away sometimes, “UUF… too tight!! Whyyy why do you hug me so tightly?!” I said, half-jokingly… half-annoyed.
I planned dates for us. Outings where we could spend time together and make memories and just be together.
He took my car for an oil change and filled the car up with gas.
Although I appreciated the sentiment behind the hugs and the conveniences with the car, I still had complaints. The kind of complaints I kept to myself, because voicing them would make any ensuing response seem less special: Why doesn’t he write me mushy cards? Why doesn’t he plan romantic dates?
Now, nearly a decade later, I know that his methods were “not wrong– just different,” to quote Mr. Eggerichs (whose DVD series on marriage, btw, is FANTASTIC). Ben’s way of communicating love and care to me involved hugs and acts of service, while my sentiments came in the form of encouraging words and quality time. On the surface, these may seem like stereotypical gender differences (which they aren’t), but there’s a lot more to unpack about each one.
I walked in from the garage, groceries weighing down my shoulders. He grabbed the bags and helped put the milk in the fridge while I took out the frozen fruit. We continued putting things away while our baby girl crawled around us until finally, everything was put away. I turned to get some water when I saw him shoot a sidelong glance and something between a smirk and disappointment flashed across his face.
“What?” I said, reaching for the water faucet.
“…Nothing,” he said, turning away from me.
I sighed. After eight years of marriage, I knew exactly what he was looking for.
The holidays are here, and you know what that means? It’s time to get your game face on. The game is called Protect Your Spouse, and the objective is simple: try your best to watch out for your significant other, especially when it comes to family-related issues. You’re on the same team, whether it’s finding a positive, non-blamey way to explain why you can’t make it to the third family get-together, fielding phone calls from your mom, or pulling it together after having a difficult conversation on the car ride to dinner. The goal is to get through the holidays with your marriage not only intact, but stronger despite all the demands that are associated with holidays and family get-togethers.
To be clear: the opponents aren’t your family. They love you and just want to enjoy quality family time together– don’t we all? In our game analogy, think Pandemic: it’s more like us vs. the board. Sometimes you flip the cards and the situation is just not very favorable. It doesn’t do any good to point fingers at each other or the situation, but a lot of good can come out of making strategic and thoughtful choices. Here are a few practical ways you can care for and protect your spouse during the holidays!
I still remember that weekend. A bunch of college students were spending the weekend at our home and needed the downstairs space, so Ben and I were holed up in our office. I can’t remember the exact circumstances anymore, but here’s what I do remember: I had done something wrong, and I was mad about it.
Yep, you read that right. I was upset. Not the “Oh shucks, I made a mistake!” kind of mad at yourself, but the defensive kind of mad where you sit there fuming, trying to convince yourself of all the reasons why the other person was somehow more wrong than you. I’m not proud of it– that’s just my natural tendency. I promise I’ve come a long way since.
But eight years ago, that’s how I dealt with the people closest to me, like Husband. I found ways to blame and point fingers and be upset with the person who, in reality, I had probably wronged.
So there I was, sitting and stewing in my misplaced resentment. There he was, at his computer, click click clicking away on his computer game. And right there and then, I decided it was because of the computer games.
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Most people who know me think I am a very positive and happy person. Many would never guess how much I tend towards being negative, critical, and judgmental. I loathe this about myself, and it wasn’t until college that I found a very effective way to combat this.
I was at a retreat when the speaker challenged us to write down 10 things we were thankful for every day. That seemed like it was going to get repetitive, fast: shelter, food, family, friends, an education, clothes… I was very much at an 8-year old level when it came to seeing the blessings in my life. But I took on the challenge, and started a blog solely for the purpose of chronicling 10 thankful things I was thankful for every day.
Does the title sound familiar? Chances are you originally found my blog after reading my piece on teaching kids how to apologize. I’m pretty sure that’s how Verily Magazine found me, after which they asked me to write a version of apologies for adults. So I did! You can read it below, or find it HERE.
Thanks again for reading along on my blog! =D
This is probably the most influential book that I have never read.
The text on each page measures about 4 x 5″ and there are 29 pages. 26.5 if you don’t count the title page and publishing information. That makes it what, 3 pages long in a Word document? And yet it continues to sit, patiently on my nightstand, laughing ironically at me as I continue to pass it up for lesser activities.
But maybe it’s more powerful unread. Ever since my friend Jason mentioned this pamphlet in college, the simple title has put its hands on its hips and given me the know-it-all look several times, especially lately.
When I first got married, I had no idea how to cook.
“Oh, but you bake!” friends would say.
Baking ? cooking, my friends.
The whole thing was so overwhelming to me, from menu planning to grocery shopping to actually making edible things. If my husband hadn’t been so incredibly encouraging about the whole project and agreed to wash all the dishes (and there were a lot in the beginning, before experience taught me how to streamline better), I don’t know where we be today.
Since I was so daunted by the prospect of making upwards of 200 meals a year, I instead focused on making it a personal goal to simply find five good recipes to “add to the mix.” I decided to research 5 of the diet friendly dishes closest to me, to try and inspire me.