What Makes A Family?

There’s always been a lot of talk about what makes a family.  Now that times are changing and more people are coming to realize that the traditional components of a nuclear family are not what we once thought they were, the view of what makes up a family is changing too.

I believe the most important component to any family is love.  Without love, support, and compassion a group of people who live together is just a group, not a family.  Family loves you without conditions and provides support when you are struggling.  They offer compassion and try their best to be understanding of each other’s goals.  When a member of the family, or the family as a whole, is faced with an obstacle, true families stick together and persevere.

The type of people involved have nothing to do with who makes up the family.  It could easily be two men, two women, siblings, even friends.  There could be children, or not.  Children could be biological, adopted, or blended from past marriages.  There could be legal documents binding the members together, or not.  The family could own their home – or they could rent.  They may even live with extended family to make up a bigger family unit.

What Makes A Family
What families don’t do is judge and criticize.  A family is not a unit who puts you down and makes you feel bad about yourself.  A family unit is not cruel and their love for you does not depend on the life choices you make.  Sure, families who love and support you want the best for you.  They don’t want you to make bad decisions that lead to a bad life.  But choices like who you choose to marry (in healthy, non-abusive relationships) are not put down or judged.  Things like sexual preference, race, religion, and politics are not taken into consideration.  The character of one’s heart and the content of the soul are what matter.

So what is a family?  It’s love. Support. Guidance. Acceptance. A hug when words don’t suffice.  A shoulder to lean on when life throws a curveball you weren’t ready for.  Family is realizing that life is not perfect but as long as you have each other, it’s doable.  Even enjoyable and can be pure happiness. Family is a group of people who make you want to be better, not just for yourself,  but for those you love.  Family pushes you to try new things when you’re scared and they offer to catch you when you stumble.

Simply put, family is love.  What/who makes up your family?

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Why I Don’t Feel Guilty Celebrating My Marriage on Valentine’s Day

this-is-our-dayValentine’s Day is just around the corner, and this year, I’m not going to feel one tiny ounce of guilt when I leave my kids with a sitter.  I won’t feel guilty when most of my thoughts on this day center around my husband and I ALONE, together, laughing, cuddling, and doing what we did to get these little life-consuming rugrats in the first place.  Valentine’s Day is for us as a couple, not us as a family.  And that does not make us selfish.

Since our kiddos were born, almost every single holiday has centered around them.  Mom and dad have forgone Christmas gifts.  We no longer bar-hop on Halloween – unless you count going door to door begging for candy which is sure to leave my kids much ‘drunker’ than I ever though about getting before they were born.  We typically spend New Year’s in bed…asleep.  Fourth of July is spent with the kids in a baby pool, fireworks, and sparklers.  There’s rarely a romantic moment under the fireworks anymore.  We certainly don’t get the stress free, mostly undressed vacations that we used to, if I’m being honest.  I love my kids, I love the laughter, the light, the hope, and the pure craziness they have added to our lives.  But Valentine’s Day?  That’s the day my husband and I remember just why and how passionately we love each other.  Our kids get every single other day of our lives, this is our day.

I spend a lot of time chatting with other moms.  When you’re a stay-at-home-parent whose main job is the childcare of your children, it’s kind of what you end up doing to break up the day.  Each year I’m saddened by how many moms say that Valentine’s Day is nothing special, that they won’t even celebrate.  I ache for them, I truly do.  Back when I was a ‘new’ mom, I was the same.  We went from a married couple who celebrated Valentine’s Day with passion and abandon  to a married couple with kids who had taken over our lives.  Slowly last year, as I found myself again, we started getting back to who we were.  There have been a few nights away and a commitment to spend more time with just each other.  We are still parents, but we are again truly each others.

This year, I’m not quite content with dinner being brought home so we can stay with our kids.  My kids have no real concept of what Valentine’s Day is.  Sure, they tell us they love us and know we love them.  We’ll do some crafts, stories, and I’ll get them a small gift.  They’ll then be happy to have a sitter, time away from mom and dad to do all the things I tell them they can’t do.  They still get their celebration and we get ours.

Longing LooksThis Valentine’s Day I’ll wake up as his wife as I always do.  I’ll wake up as their mother, and proudly so.  I’ll spend the week doing motherly tasks and maintaining our home.  But, then I’ll get to be his girlfriend again and feel all those pre-date butterflies and jitters.  I’ll pick out an outfit that makes ME feel good because truly, that’s what counts.  He already thinks I’m beautiful, it’s more about convincing myself these days.  I’ll spend too long getting ready, making a mess of our bedroom and closet.  We’ll go out together and not have a care in the world except each other.  I’ll be lost in his eyes and he in mine.  It won’t matter much what we do or where we go, as long as we’re together and it’s just us.  Because the most important parts, the whispering chats and the breathy giggles that leave us both with longing looks, those are what matter.  And those can happen anywhere…

Dating Your Spouse: Love Language

Good Relationships Take WorkWe did a post on dating your spouse a few months back and I got many emails and messages thanking me for the reminder.  I think it’s an important topic and so it’s one I’m going to bring up again.

There’s so much pomp and circumstance that normally accompanies the beginning of marriage.  We go into marriage thinking that there must be something special and magical about it to require such celebration.  And marriage is indeed special.  Among all that celebration and planning, the most important part is simply that you are committing your life to another person and they to you.  All the work that can go into planning a wedding?   It’s  nothing compared to making a marriage truly work and last.

I always cringe when I hear someone say that good relationships don’t take work because it isn’t true.  Anything worth having – anything good and real and true – takes work.  You wouldn’t build a business without hard work, failures, and lessons learned.  Marriage is the same.  I still think of marriage as the foundation upon which you build your life together.  Foundations must be carefully planned and reinforced if they are to be strong.  Foundations require maintenance.  No house would continue to stand if it’s foundation were continually flooded, nor will your marriage.  When you reach an obstacle that causes discontentment between you, it’s your job to work together to find a solution.

Working towards my eighth year of marriage, I can tell you that most of our fights have started because of words.  Words are tricky.  Sometimes they tumble out of our mouths without our consent.  Sometimes words come out sounding much different than we meant them.  Sometimes, the day has just been long and a sentence is all it takes to unleash your anger on the person who happens to be in front of you – your spouse.  Whatever the reason, words can start fights.  It’s a lesson I am still learning, but it’s an important one for happy marriages.  If we want our marriages to thrive, we have to remember not to poison our language with anger or contempt.  We have to learn to use love language in our every day lives.

What is love language?   It’s not universal, but unique to each relationship.  Love language is free of blame, free of anger, and a reminder that relationships take work but they are worth it.  Love language is thinking before you speak, removing blame from the conversation, and working together instead of individually.  Love language is not, “You forgot to do this and now I’m stuck doing it before I can wind-down.”  Love language is, “We can finish this together and then we can both have some quiet time.”  Love language is NOT bringing up past fights when new ones emerge and love language is not always having to get the last word.  Love language is laced with patience, encouragement, teamwork, and of course love.

Happy marriages are not marriages where the couple never fights.  All relationships and marriages will have challenges.  Disagreements are an important part of evolving and can be used to strengthen your relationship instead of harming it.  When you reach a point where an argument could it occur, it’s important to step back and ask yourself why the situation is really affecting you in a negative way.  It’s important to carefully plan out and evaluate what it is you want your spouse (or yourself) to change in order to make your life together better.  Once you’ve thought about it, bring it up calmly.  Arguing in the heat of the moment rarely accomplishes much other than hurt feelings and slammed doors.  Emotions can mask the true reasons why we feel hurt or angry.  Taking a few minutes to step back and reevaluate can do wonders for a conversation.  When we approach something with honesty, love, and a willingness to work together, we can do much more than we ever could through anger.

Love language is not all, “I love yous,” “Sweeties,” or, “You’re amazings.”  Love language is facing problems with maturity and learning to calmly work through them as a team.

I Didn’t Marry My ‘First’ Love…And I’m Okay With That

I didn’t marry my first love…and I’m  okay with that.  It seems like a crazy thing to admit for a woman who is happily married with two children, but I’m admitting it because I think it’s important to remind people that real love stories are not like the movies or those novels we so love to engross ourselves in.  Real love happens over time, in ways we don’t often expect.  Real love often happens when we’ve given up and are on the precipice of an all-consuming darkness.

TrueLoveI love to hear a good love story.  A real love story.  One with lots of plot twists.  And you’ll hook me every single time if there is a point where it seems as if the ‘main characters’ won’t actually end up together.  For me, that’s the point of no return, I have to know what will happen after that.

I’ve loved love for as long as I can remember.  As a young teen, perhaps even a preteen, I dreamed of love.  I wanted so badly to be swept up in someone else.  I wanted someone to make me forget who I was and create a new life.  I wanted to be simply enveloped in love…  Always in a rush, always thinking too far ahead for my age, the idea of love bit me early and hard.  I wrote notebooks full of songs and stories about love.  The longing of it, the inevitable loss.  Those early years spent experimenting in ‘dates’ that only meant we held hands in school and wrote little notes back and forth were just the beginning of my journey to find what love truly is.

We aren’t born knowing true love, not true romantic love.  True love doesn’t even happen instantly…it takes years to develop.  It takes mistakes, forgiveness, and above all, compromise.  True love is not the moment your eyes locked with the person you decided to spent the rest of your life with.  Small ThingsTrue love is continuing to love that person even when they make you angry.  True love is fighting for that person, crying with that person, forging a life together when the world seems to want nothing more than to tear you both apart.

I still remember the way new love feels…I remember it because occasionally my husband and I still spend nights whispering under covers, giggling about things no one else would find funny, and tracing each other’s lips with our fingertips.  I still remember the spark you feel down your spine as his hand brushes your lower back.  The way goosebumps inch their way down your arms when he kisses the small of your neck…  I remember because it still happens.  Almost a decade later – he still makes me feel like I’m the most beautiful person he’s ever laid eyes on.  All those seemingly small things, those small reminders of new, fresh, exciting love are what make love true.

I’m not a believer in love at first sight, but I am a believer in knowing when there’s something special between two people.  I didn’t instantly love my husband when I met him.  I’ve never instantly loved anyone in my life except my two children.  Even with them, it took time to forge a bond.  However, it didn’t take me long to feel a connection with my husband when we met.  I couldn’t tell you what it was, even now, that drew me to him.  But it was there, it was heavy, and it tormented me day and night.  Exploring LoveYou see, our story is one of those stories full of plot twists.  I couldn’t write a more unbelievable story if I tried…and trust me, I have a passion for writing about love. It’s a story I’ll sit down to tell one day and it’ll leave you on the edge of your seat if you don’t know it all.  No one knows it all except he and I.  Our story has always been a bit of our secret and I’ve enjoyed that.

I’ll never be one of those people who can claim they married their high school sweetheart.  I’ll never proudly proclaim to teenage children that I’ve only ever had one real love or been with one person so they should wait for that one special person.  Nor would I want to.  I can tell you that I am thankful for every experience I’ve had to feel love and explore it.  I can tell you that finding the right person to love is not easy, but it can be an amazing ride.  There are different degrees of love, but anytime we open our hearts to another person we open ourselves up to learn.  We learn about ourselves and about what it takes to make a relationship work.  We learn what we do and don’t want in a partner.  We learn what we should and shouldn’t do for and to ourselves.  Value of True LoveAll the chances to love are also chances to grow.  Whether it’s a small first love that consists of nothing more than love notes, or a big life changing event that breaks us into a million pieces when it’s over…it’s love.  While love can end, what we felt in those moments does not change.  Therefore, I’m thankful.  I’m thankful to have grown and loved and lived.  And to have found my person – the one whose love for me and mine for him does not fade, but grows.  The love whose been there when I was at my worst and loved me harder.  Those are the ones we hold onto, those are the ones that are real.

I didn’t marry my first love…but I married my true love.  And in the grand scheme of life…true love is far more valuable than the first…

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Validate my lifeEverything happens for a reason…it’s a cliché I often loathe.  Rarely, if ever, spoken in times of happiness it’s meant to offer comfort.  More often it incites anger when one’s nerves are still raw.  Given time to heal, time to breath and let life fill one’s soul again, there is truth to be found in those words.

When unsavory things happen in our lives it is easy to brush them aside and move along forgetting to take note of what the event has to teach us.  Dwelling on the event is hard, letting the emotions in to feel is painful.  If we want life to go on, we must see the lessons it has placed before us.  Brushing off hard events as bad luck or simple mistakes is far easier, yet I feel as though the events often carry lessons we were ignoring.  Little snippets of knowledge placed into events so that some good comes from the pain.

I was certain of the path my life was set upon a few months ago.  Precise plans and goals laid before me, a concise timeline to the road my life was to take.  I had plans mapped out and still I felt restless, as I always have.  Then life was placed in my womb, only to be taken away a short time later.  The bitterness and anger ensued.  As is often the case I questioned all I had planned and wondered if there was a better path to be set upon.  Over the course of a few weeks, my plans were altered beyond my control and then thrown back on course.

Perhaps the seeds of life planted into my womb were never meant to grow into a child, but an idea.  Perhaps that tiny growing soul was sacrificed to teach a lesson that I have long sought after but never found.  While I mourn the loss of the precious baby that never got to experience life and all the wonders it entails, I am grateful for the awakening it provided.  Once I stopped searching for what I was meant to do, life presented its answers on its own.

While I have been ever-present in my children’s lives, leaving behind work and school so that I could care for them full-time, I feel like I may have missed the mark in some ways.  I’ve performed all the motherly tasks, loved them without condition, but I have spent many hours wondering what I would do when I was ‘done’.  What would I return to when they were in school?  Would a career, or a new educational path be waiting on me?  I’ve rethought my career choices many times and I dare say that I have often sacrificed these valuable years with my young children by planning a future that always felt so uncertain.  My reason for uncertainty was, and always has been, that I am doing what I was meant to do.  There is no reason to constantly reconsider my choices.

At one point in all this soul-searching and life questioning I decided to checkout.  It was all more than I wanted to handle when I was already emotionally lost and reeling from the departure of a soul I’d never get to meet.  Sleepless nights spent staring at a dark wall, tears burning hot on my cheeks before I’d even knew they fell – they took their toll.  Mind and body weary, I decided to just let it go and not think about careers or college paths.  Then the magic happened.

I sat down to play with my boys, fully immersed in their world of super heroes, race tracks, and stroller races around the kitchen island.  I soaked up their crayoned projects and I joined in their silly dances and dress up masquerades.  I laughed with true happiness as we rolled around on pillow forts and fed baby dolls with wild hair.  I cried tears of true joy as my toddler curled up upon my lap to nap.  I watched, truly watched him, as he slept.  The long eyelashes void of earthly cares.  The innocence that surrounded his play and slumber slowly seeping into my own veins and reviving me from the life I had been physically present in, but emotionally absent.   Seeing myself finally at peace and at ease in the life I had unknowingly been fighting brought back the calm we all needed.

I’ve often felt judged for my decision to stay at home with my children.  I have always felt a need to explain myself, to justify my reasons for staying home and not returning to work.  Perhaps it’s because we live in a society where women are so often taught that they can do whatever men can do.  Perhaps it’s because we live in a world where monetary gains take center stage in the worlds of success and apparent happiness.  We pay entertainers, athletes, and brokers large sums of money while many child care workers and teachers barely make enough to scrape by.  It’s a message that even when unspoken is quite clear in today’s modern world.

Whatever the reason, I have spelled out my financial reasons to stay home more often than I can count.  Rarely have I spoken to or justified the emotional needs that I am meeting or the bonds I am fostering.  Rarely have a referenced the moral obligations I feel I am meeting or the motherly bonds that I am enriching.  While I spend my days feeding my children’s bodies, nourishing them for life outside my home, I am also fostering their hearts.  I am teaching them right from wrong, compassion, empathy, love, and how to apologize.  I am not opposed to women, or men, who work to support their children.  I support them, I admire them.  I am also finally giving myself permission to validate my life and recognize that it is okay and acceptable to be content (and happy) in this simple way of life.

I don’t need to explain or justify my life as ‘just’ a mother.  I don’t need an answer for, “What will you do when they start school?”.  My life as their mother does not end when they depart my home for a few hours each day.  My life as their mother and their support will not end when they move from my home.  I don’t need to serve some greater goal to feel like my life has meant something.  My children, and my husband, are my greater goal.  The work I do in my home truly makes me happy, it is that missing puzzle piece that has left me so restless all these years.  Upon recognizing that I am doing what I want to do and that I am happy, truly happy, my restless soul has found peace.

I am not lazy.  I am not without goals.  I do not need to be rich.  I do not need a larger home, a nicer car.  I do not need society to accept my lifestyle.  I am in no need of ‘saving’ nor have I been brainwashed into believing that ‘a woman’s place is at home’.  My husband would support my desires to do whatever I chose.  A woman’s, or a man’s, place is wherever they find happiness. The pursuit of happiness is grand in that it can mean many things.  I have found happiness in life’s simpler pleasures and its everyday tasks.  For me, that is enough.

Marriage: Learning To Say You’re Sorry

Learning to say you're sorryMaturity comes at us in waves.  We don’t grow-up overnight and we don’t possess all the knowledge we need to have a happy marriage from the beginning.  There will be fights over things that won’t matter.  Some of those fights will spiral and at some point you may even wonder why you’re married. 

We come into this world with few problem solving skills.  As toddlers and children we can be quick to anger when things don’t go our way.  Some of us are blessed to have more patience than others.  Those of us who don’t (raising hand!) have to work at learning to be patient.  Some days it can feel as if we are still those young toddlers who resort to tears and toy throwing when someone doesn’t understand what we try to say.  As we work towards our marriage maturity one of the most important things we can teach ourselves to do is say we’re sorry.

We are often quick to apologize to strangers for trivial things.  Your child darts in front of a stranger’s cart while shopping and you are quick to say you’re sorry.  Flip the coin and you say something you didn’t mean to your spouse, sorry doesn’t come so easily for many people.  Sorry means admitting that you were wrong; that you made a mistake and you are asking forgiveness.   To truly apologize to someone with whom you are close can be difficult.  It takes maturity that we don’t always have at the onset of relationships.  

Expressing Yourself In A Calm MannerWhen we feel close to people, when we feel like they know the real us, we sometimes lose the filter that we carry for the public.  We say things we’d ordinarily guard, we do things a bit more daring than we’d do in front of others.  Perhaps it’s this form of mutual acceptance for each other’s quirks and true personalities that often make us feel as though an apology isn’t necessary.  When you’ve seen each other be angry, sick, or grieving there is often no need to apologize.  You learn that you are each other’s support system through good and bad.  There is an unspoken code between you that it’s okay to be real and there’s no need to apologize for being real.  However, there is a big difference in an apology for being yourself and an apology for hurting your spouse.

Our words can be uplifting or they can tear each other down.  Part of marriage maturity is learning not to use words in a way that is harmful to the relationship.  Learning to express your anger, disappointment, or the fact that your feelings were hurt in a way that explains but does not accuse can be a challenge.  It takes maturity and level-headedness to express yourself in a calm manner when your emotions are running high.  No one will ever be perfect and not allow their emotions to get the better of them at some point.  It’s during these times that we should apologize to our spouse and move past the argument.  It doesn’t have to be a great speech – a simple, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” will do.

Learning to give an honest apology and then move past the argument is fundamental to a happy marriage.  I don’t personally believe that there is any couple out there who hasn’t had a fight.  It’s true, happy couples don’t argue all the time.  Happy couples are also two individuals with different brains and their own hearts.  There will be times when they don’t agree.  As important as giving an honest apology is being mature enough to accept an apology.  Accept ApologiesIf your spouse has humbled her/himself to you, be mature enough to accept the apology and let it go.  Dwelling on how they hurt your feelings or how what they did was wrong isn’t helpful if you genuinely don’t want to dwell on the argument.  There is nothing so bitter-tasting as apologizing just to have the apology spit back in your face and rebutted. 

As in life, marriages are short.  Sure, sometimes the days seem never-ending.  Yet we never really know how much time we get to spend with the person we wanted to have our whole lives, even our after-lives, with.  Your spouse is the person you chose.  You didn’t get to pick your first family, but your spouse and the family you create, that one you pick.  Nurture it, tend to it, and revel in it.  Don’t waste days on anger and resentment.  Give and accept apologies freely when warranted and then love your life.  You only get one; it’s worth it to work towards making it a happy one.

Dating Your Spouse

Nurture Your MarriageI post a lot about keeping your marriage ‘alive’.  I think it’s important.  Between careers, children, and everything else that goes on in our lives I believe that you have to make time for your spouse no matter what.  Your marriage is the foundation for all else you do so you need to nurture and strengthen that foundation to build a solid life.

Some couples schedule a weekly date night.  If that’s something you can’t do, there are plenty of other ways to ‘date’ your spouse.  From ‘date-ins’ to everyday actions, there are ways to date your spouse and keep that new love feeling alive.  That’s not to say that your marriage won’t change and evolve overtime.  It’s not to say that you won’t fight or go through slumps, but if you work at it, you don’t have to let those things damage your relationship.

New relationships are full of excitement.  You aren’t yet comfortable enough with one another to share all your secrets or quirks.  There’s an electric vibe between the two of you that begs to be explored and you end up with the ‘ten day high’ that seems like it just won’t end.  No matter what we do, that feeling has to change at least a bit.  When you know all of someone’s secrets and quirks, perhaps part of the excitement wanes.  Continuing to talk and explore new interest helps to keeping the spark alive.  You don’t have to enjoy everything each other does, but listening to your partner talk about what is new and exciting in their life can help strengthen your bond.  Showing that you take an interest in each other’s hobbies, even if they aren’t your own, shows that you care.  Incorporate Love into EverydayTrying a new activity together is also important.  Whether it’s gardening, hiking, skydiving, dancing, or something as simple as collecting items you both love, finding a new common interest creates those first date feelings.  You’re both stepping outside of your comfort zone and you’re doing it together, just like you did in the beginning.

In order to keep your marriage alive and thriving you have to incorporate your love for one another into everyday life.  In the beginning, you likely held hands in the car, couldn’t pull away from each other for ‘just one more’ kiss goodnight.  You likely didn’t care who knew you were in love and weren’t very shy to show it.  As time goes on we can easily forget about those little things that made our relationships seem so special.  You might forget about holding hands, sometimes you skip the kiss goodnight, and love notes often cease.  Continuing to do whatever it was that made each other feel so special is a great way to keep those sparks and your love alive.  Don’t be nervous to reach across the car to hold hands, leave notes for your spouse to find when they get in the car to go to work.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, a simple “I love you” is a great reminder that you still care and you still feel as strongly as you did in the beginning.

Another important change to make sure that your marriage thrives is to not get so comfortable that you don’t try.  Build up your own confidence in yourself and it will shine through to others.  It is easy to use your spouse as a punching bag.  Life’s challenges can be heavy and weigh us down at times.  We tend to take our frustrations out on those we love the most, but we shouldn’t.  Anytime I sit down to write about marriage, I try to share that message.  It’s a hard one and it can start gradually so that we don’t even know we’re doing it.  Remember Why You're In LoveNagging and bickering is NOT the way to discuss problems or vent frustrations.  It doesn’t make you feel better and it starts arguments that should have never happened.  Instead, tell your spouse what is wrong, address it, and move on.  Think of your spouse as your partner to make it through the hard times, not the enemy.  You likely wouldn’t have snapped at your partner in the beginning, don’t do it now.

Reminding each other why you fell in love can go far in a marriage.  If he always made you laugh, or the way her nose wrinkles when she smiles drove you crazy, don’t forget it.  Remind each other why you’re in love and add to that list as the years tick by.  Don’t let the words grow old.  Wrap yourself in all those little things that make up your love and nurture them.

Strong marriages take work, but it doesn’t all have to be hard work.  Much of the work of marriage is a fun and enjoyable experience.  You can start small and slowly build up so that you still get the butterflies and the deep red flush that came with the early days of dating.  Life changes when you transition from dating to marriage, but it can most certainly be for the better.

Marriage: Arguments are Normal

Don't Hold ResentmentMy husband and I don’t always agree.  Sometimes we have arguments over stupid things like the TV remote or where we want to eat.  Most of the time these fights stem from something else entirely but manifest in simpler forms.  We argue, but I feel that our marriage is strong and we are mature enough to work through an argument without throwing in the towel.  How you handle those small arguments, and the big ones (like a disagreement on how many children you’ll have), is the true measure of how strong your marriage is.

No matter how in love you are, there will come a point in the relationship where you won’t agree.  If a couple tells me they’ve never had an argument I am very leery of their relationship and if they’re telling me the truth.  You just can’t spend an extended amount of time with anyone and not have some disagreements.  It doesn’t mean you have to get into a screaming match.  Mature arguments can, and should, take place calmly.  Both sides should be allowed to express their opinions and then work through them to an agreeable solution.  Marriages, like all relationships that you want to last, are often filled with compromise.

If you read my Facebook feed during my first months of parenthood, you read a lot of anger vented in the form of status updates.  I’ve thought about deleting it all, but, I keep it there so I can go back and view it when I want to remind myself how much we’ve grown as a couple.  I would argue that becoming parents is on the of the biggest, if not THE biggest, test to a marriage.  It changes everything about your life.  Not one part of your marriage is untouched when you bring a child into your home to stay.  Having children made us both mature and change in many ways.  I learned to ask for help and demand an equal partner.  My husband learned to play an active role in all aspects of our lives.  From cleaning to diaper changes, we needed to be as equal as possible to thrive in our new roles as parents.  Life isn’t perfect, but we have come a long way from our days as new parents.

Casting AngerOne of the best ways to get past arguments and stop the bickering in marriage is to voice your concerns.  If you feel like you need help in an area and your partner is not meeting that need, sit down and talk about it.  Don’t accuse them of being lazy or absent, just tell them you need some help.  Don’t hold resentments.  Resentment starts small and then spirals out of control quickly.  It is not a productive road to go down because it’s hard to get out of the cycle.  When resentment enters the picture little things like dishes left on the table turn into big arguments until you’ve forgotten what initially triggered it all.

Another key factor is to stop taking all your anger out on your partner.  How do I know this?  Because I am horrible to do it.  My kids, a friend, another family member might do something that makes me angry and I don’t say anything.  The anger festers all day, maybe all week, and then I lash out on the person I’m most comfortable with.  He’s there, he might be doing something that annoys me, or not doing anything wrong at all, but then I just lose it because the angers been pent-up.  It is easy to take frustrations out on the person you’re most comfortable with, but it is wrong and detrimental to the relationship.  Problems cannot be fixed by casting them on another person.  You have to fix the problem with the person you’re having it with, not make it worse by dragging someone else in.  If you need to talk about what made you angry with your spouse, that’s fine.  Just do it in a mature way.  Not in a “I lost control and now you’re going to take the brunt of it” way.

If it’s hard for you to apologize face to face, write each other notes.  Not angry notes.  Cool off, take some time to breath and really think about what’s actually bothering you.  Write it down, apologize, and ask for a solution.  One you can both agree to.  The written note can serve as a buffer and a platform for a conversation that needs to take place, but you may not know how to start.  And don’t limit your notes to apologies.  Problem SolvingLeave little notes of praise or ‘sweet nothings’ for your partner to find throughout the day.  If your spouse gets overwhelmed with stress at home or work, find a place to put a note when they’ll need a pick me up.   Maybe a post it on a diaper for those 3AM changes, in a lunch box or briefcase.  Or just a text at an opportune time.  Doing those small things can help brighten each other’s days so that there isn’t leftover anger to start an argument.

While you should never have a heated debate in front of your children, I think it’s okay to have calm disagreements.  No yelling, no cussing, no name calling or fighting.  Letting your children see you respectively disagree and then talk through a compromise can be good.  You’re demonstrating that people won’t always agree, but they can still love each other and work out a solution.  This is a problem solving skill every child should learn and you can play a huge part in this by giving your children a good guide to follow.

I think it’s important to remember that disagreements will always take place, but they can be used as a base to build stronger relationships and marriages instead of tearing them apart.  Loving someone doesn’t mean always agreeing with them.  It means loving them enough to want to be with them even when you don’t agree.  Strong marriages did not become that way overnight.  They took years of work and a commitment to be true and faithful to one another.  The good news is that it’s easier to work with someone you like and the rewards of a happy marriage are steep.

Ten Things I Miss About Life Before Kids…And Ten I Don’t

WithoutKidsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAhhh, I feel like I can barely remember the days before we had kids.  It seems like I spent forever pining away for children thinking that they would make our life magical.  And that they did.  But, there was a lot to love about married life with no kids.  Here are my top ten.

  1. Sleeping in on days off.  Sometimes past noon.
  2. Weekend getaways that were a spur of the moment decision.
  3. Being able to go an entire week without using a vacuum or broom.
  4. Getting away with using a mop once a month…sometimes longer.
  5. Running the dishwasher once or twice a week.
  6. Going out to dinner and eating in peace.
  7. Impromptu movie dates.
  8. Indulging myself in new clothes whenever I felt like it.
  9. Vacations that were actually relaxing.
  10. Running in and out of a store in a matter of minutes.

WithKidsAnd while I’d love to do any of those things now, I wouldn’t trade these messy, loud, needy children for anything.  Sometimes I need a reminder, the grass is always greener.  The top ten reasons to keep these lovely little mess makers?

  1. They’re hilarious without even trying.  My kids have NO filter.  They will say or do whatever pops into their brains.  And while often embarrassing, it is also purely delightful to watch.
  2. They always want to help.  They’ll go get me whatever I ask for if I turn it into a game.
  3. The bring out the kid in me.  From blowing bubbles to playing tag, they put energy and light into all they do and you can’t help but be pulled in.
  4. They remind me of what is truly important in life.  Not money or material things, but love and family.
  5. They give my life meaning and purpose.
  6. They took all the boredom out of our lives.  You cannot be bored with children in the house, you just can’t.
  7. The endless hugs and kisses.  They love to give them and get them.
  8. A love deeper than anything you’ve ever known.  You won’t get it until you have them.  And once you have it, you won’t trade it for anything.
  9. They humble you and empower you all at once.  From giving birth to raising them in everyday life.  They embarrass you, they push you to limits you didn’t know you had.  You’ll find a strength greater than yourself and you’ll realize just how short your time with them really is.
  10. They made me forget the pain of miscarriage and infertility.  My journey to my boys was a hard one.  Full of pain, doubt, and fear.  There were losses and there was a time when hope was gone.  My children renewed my faith and my hope.  They brought me back to life.

Easy Date “Ins”

AtHomeDatesContinuing to date your spouse after marriage and children is important.  You need the one-on-one time to reconnect and remember why you wanted to spend the rest of your life with each other.  It’s not always easy with children.  We personally don’t let anyone we don’t know babysit our children and we don’t live close enough to family to have someone pop in very often.  Sometimes we have to get creative with the ways we reconnect between the few nights out we get.

Here are some fun date night ideas for when you have to stay at home.  Just put the kids to bed and try one!

 

  • Movie night.  Okay, this one’s easy.  With Netflix and Smart TVs, it is really easy to rent a movie without even leaving your home.  Make some popcorn, snuggle up, and relax.
  • Dinner, minus the children.  Make dinner for the kids and put them to bed.  Get some nice takeout or prepare a nice meal together that is just for the two of you.  A meal without food being thrown at you, one where you can actually talk, is nice.
  • Take a walk down memory lane.  Have a box of old ticket stubs?  Go through them together and talk about the events you attended.  Relive your dating years and remember just how you fell in love.
  • Game night.  Laugh if you will, but even before we had kids, my husband and I played a lot of board games.  They can be a carefree way to have fun and get the conversation flowing.
  • Have a night-time backyard or living room picnic.  No, I’m not condoning you to leave your sleeping children in the house and ignore them.  If you can’t leave a door open or you don’t have a baby monitor, keep the picnic inside.
  • Twenty questions.  Remember when you started dating and you would ask each other a million getting to know you questions?  What’s your favorite color?  Meal?  What do you plan to do  in five years?  Ten…  Do this again.  People change with time, you might be surprised.
  • Play name that tune.  We’re music lovers.  Grab a tablet, go to YouTube and pick a song.  See if your spouse can name the song and then trade-off.
  • Massages.  Get some nice massage oil and give each other a massage.  It’s a nice, relaxing, intimate thing you can do for one another.  And if you have kids, I know you have tense shoulders that could use the relaxation.