I stopped doing this one little thing every day… And it Strengthened my Marriage

Coming Home

This post originally appeared on Aleteia

 

Imagine the scene: It’s night. I’m writing an article, doing some online shopping, or maybe I’m cooking a pot of soup for another day. It’s so late! I’m tired, and angry that I didn’t have time to do all the things I had planned during the day, at a “normal” time. I’m upset, I’m angry, and I’m looking for the guilty party. And who could be guiltier than my husband?

He’s late again ...

After all, if he had come home from work at a decent time, I would have had it all done. But instead of the sound of a key in the door, I heard the sound of a text message: “I’ll be home late tonight, don’t wait up.” As the owner of his own company, he is not bound by standard office hours or by a limit of hours per week. Instead of eight hours a day, he works as much as he needs to.

So, when I hear footsteps in the hallway and see the hour, I want to have a serious fight, or at least show him an offended face, and hit him with a verbal list of grievances about him not caring about his health, and not having time for the family, not to mention me. And that is exactly what I used to do, up until the day things changed.

Transformation

One day, in a creative frenzy, I was working on a fantastic (in my opinion) surprise for the kids. I was so into it, I didn’t even notice the time. Around 1 a.m., still in a fantastic mood, I welcomed my husband home with a radiant smile, lifting my eyes from my work.

One glance at him was enough to completely catch my attention, and even dim slightly my amazing mood. I saw my husband change completely, and it shocked me. As I watched, his tight muscles relaxed, and his somber expression was replaced by a sigh of relief and words of gratitude.

A new rule

Wow, what just happened? My husband is thanking me for not greeting him with angry comments — a clear sign that something has to change. “Starting today, we greet each other at the door with a smile!” I decided, already in the mood for a change, since it was the beginning of Advent (last year). We made this a house rule: when someone returns home, everyone at home greets him or her at the door with hugs and kisses.

 

 

Pure joy

We do not overwhelm each other with important things, chores or difficulties in that first moment. It’s important to share everything, but we’ll have time for it later — not in the rush of taking coats off and washing hands.

This first moment of coming home should be pure joy: the joy of seeing each other and being together again. The returnee gets a quick burst of information — that you’re loved, you’re wanted, and we’re happy you’re here. For the kids, it’s nothing new. If they are not asleep, they always run with enthusiastic squeals of “Daaaaaaddy” and, depending on their age, right at the doorstep they jump on his neck or cling to his legs. And my husband and I? It’s been a year since we made this a house rule. I admit that sometimes the welcoming smile looks more like a sour grin, but we keep doing it. We are sticking to our decision because we know how much good comes out of it.

It seems such a small change, but it became a big thing. We didn’t completely stop spatting and quarreling, but our home became a different place, more calm and protective. Simply, it is now one we like to come back to, because we know we are always welcome there. Consequently, we come back happier, sometimes even at an earlier time.

 

 

 

Photos by George Becker, rawpixel.com and Pixabay  from Pexels

 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 0 0

How I Saved My Marriage

This blog post originally appeared on Richard Paul Evan’s website www.richardpaulevans.com

 

(Dedicated to my sweetheart.)

My oldest daughter, Jenna, recently said to me, “My greatest fear as a child was that you and mom would get divorced. Then, when I was twelve, I decided that you fought so much that maybe it would be better if you did.” Then she added with a smile. “I’m glad you guys figured things out.”

For years my wife Keri and I struggled. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure what initially drew us together, but our personalities didn’t quite match up. And the longer we were married the more extreme the differences seemed. Encountering “fame and fortune” didn’t make our marriage any easier. In fact, it exacerbated our problems. The tension between us got so bad that going out on book tour became a relief, though it seems we always paid for it on re-entry. Our fighting became so constant that it was difficult to even imagine a peaceful relationship. We became perpetually defensive, building emotional fortresses around our hearts. We were on the edge of divorce and more than once we discussed it.

I was on book tour when things came to a head. We had just had another big fight on the phone and Keri had hung up on me. I was alone and lonely, frustrated and angry. I had reached my limit. That’s when I turned to God. Or turned on God. I don’t know if you could call it prayer–maybe shouting at God isn’t prayer, maybe it is–but whatever I was engaged in I’ll never forget it. I was standing in the shower of the Buckhead, Atlanta Ritz-Carlton yelling at God that marriage was wrong and I couldn’t do it anymore. As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much. I was also confused. I couldn’t figure out why marriage with Keri was so hard. Deep down I knew that Keri was a good person. And I was a good person. So why couldn’t we get along? Why had I married someone so different than me? Why wouldn’t she change?

Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself. At that moment I began to pray. If I can’t change her, God, then change me. I prayed late into the night. I prayed the next day on the flight home. I prayed as I walked in the door to a cold wife who barely even acknowledged me. That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other yet miles apart, the inspiration came. I knew what I had to do.

 The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Keri and asked, “How can I make your day better?”

Keri looked at me angrily. “What?”

“How can I make your day better?”

“You can’t,” she said. “Why are you asking that?”

“Because I mean it,” I said. “I just want to know what I can do to make your day better.”

She looked at me cynically. “You want to do something? Go clean the kitchen.”

She likely expected me to get mad. Instead I just nodded. “Okay.” I got up and cleaned the kitchen.

The next day I asked the same thing. “What can I do to make your day better?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Clean the garage.”

I took a deep breath. I already had a busy day and I knew she had made the request in spite. I was tempted to blow up at her. Instead I said, “Okay.” I got up and for the next two hours cleaned the garage. Keri wasn’t sure what to think.

The next morning came. “What can I do to make your day better?”

“Nothing!” she said. “You can’t do anything. Please stop saying that.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “But I can’t. I made a commitment to myself. What can I do to make your day better?”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I care about you,” I said. “And our marriage.”

The next morning I asked again. And the next. And the next. Then, during the second week, a miracle occurred. As I asked the question Keri’s eyes welled up with tears. Then she broke down crying. When she could speak she said, “Please stop asking me that. You’re not the problem. I am. I’m hard to live with. I don’t know why you stay with me.”

I gently lifted her chin until she was looking in my eyes. “It’s because I love you,” I said. “What can I do to make your day better?”

“I should be asking you that.”

“You should,” I said. “But not now. Right now, I need to be the change. You need to know how much you mean to me.”

She put her head against my chest. “I’m sorry I’ve been so mean.”

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” she replied.

“What can I do to make your day better?”

She looked at me sweetly. “Can we maybe just spend some time together?”

I smiled. “I’d like that.”

I continued asking for more than a month. And things did change. The fighting stopped. Then Keri began asking, “What do you need from me? How can I be a better wife?”

The walls between us fell. We began having meaningful discussions on what we wanted from life and how we could make each other happier. No, we didn’t solve all our problems. I can’t even say that we never fought again. But the nature of our fights changed. Not only were they becoming more and more rare, they lacked the energy they’d once had. We’d deprived them of oxygen. We just didn’t have it in us to hurt each other anymore.

Keri and I have now been married for more than thirty years. I not only love my wife, I like her. I like being with her. I crave her. I need her. Many of our differences have become strengths and the others don’t really matter. We’ve learned how to take care of each other and, more importantly, we’ve gained the desire to do so.

Marriage is hard. But so is parenthood and keeping fit and writing books and everything else important and worthwhile in my life. To have a partner in life is a remarkable gift. I’ve also learned that the institution of marriage can help heal us of our most unlovable parts. And we all have unlovable parts.

Through time I’ve learned that our experience was an illustration of a much larger lesson about marriage. The question everyone in a committed relationship should ask their significant other is, “What can I do to make your life better?” That is love. Romance novels (and I’ve written a few) are all about desire and happily-ever-after, but happily-ever-after doesn’t come from desire–at least not the kind portrayed in most pulp romances. Real love is not to desire a person, but to truly desire their happiness–sometimes, even, at the expense of our own happiness. Real love is not to make another person a carbon copy of one’s self. It is to expand our own capabilities of tolerance and caring, to actively seek another’s well being. All else is simply a charade of self-interest.

I’m not saying that what happened to Keri and me will work for everyone. I’m not even claiming that all marriages should be saved. But for me, I am incredibly grateful for the inspiration that came to me that day so long ago. I’m grateful that my family is still intact and that I still have my wife, my best friend, in bed next to me when I wake in the morning. And I’m grateful that even now, decades later, every now and then, one of us will still roll over and say, “What can I do to make your day better.” Being on either side of that question is something worth waking up for.

 

 

(This is a wonderful story of how a marriage was saved. However, please note that all opinions of the author are not endorsed by Marriage Possible.)

 

Photos from StockSnap:

J4C1WJDMMU by Michal Jarmoluk

2S9UCLX4CZ and 9L2LKLMWKZ by Brodie Vissers

Monday, December 11, 2017 0 0

We Take Separate Cars, And It Saves Our Marriage

 

Re-posted from Rebecca Frech of Backwards in High Heels

 

I was raised in a military family whose constant mantra was:

To be early is to be on time

To be on time is to be late

To be late is to be grounded

We were never late anywhere. I don’t even remember my parents having to freak out about it very often. We just knew that it wasn’t acceptable to be late, and if you were the cause of the family’s tardiness, then hell-fire would rain down upon your head.

Even as an adult with an unusually large family, if I’m the parent in charge, we’re usually extremely prompt. If my husband is in charge, we’re either skin of our teeth, or slightly late.

My husband was raised in a family completely unlike my own, although he disagrees his relatives tell a different story. His parents don’t have the strongest concept of time. They get there when they get there, and don’t see much need to hurry. They don’t expect anyone to wait for them, and are happy to join in the action or the meal at whatever point they happen to arrive. There are no start times to gatherings, only vague suggestions. We were once 45 minutes late to a family party (we had a new baby and my husband let me nap. I almost hyperventilated in the car because of how late we were) only to be greeted at the door by his aunt who declared, “You’re the first ones here!” Everyone else trickled in over the next two hours, and I sat dumbfounded in the corner. What kind of madness had I married into?

As long as he gets there sort of on time-ish, my husband is happy to go.

It bleeds over into vacations as well. I’m of the notion that we should pack the car the night before, get up early (around 7am), and get to our destination so that our vacation can begin. He believes that the vacation has already begun, so why should he hurry? A few hours don’t matter all that much, so he sleeps until he’s done, has a leisurely breakfast, and then throws things into the car, and leaves sometime around noon-ish.

Once we’re on the road, we swap personalities with him becoming the person who won’t stop for anything and me always ready for a snack or a potty break. He prefers a quiet car with maybe a book on tape, and enjoying the views along the way; while my car is a raucous dance party/movie festival. The only rule I enforce is that the person in the passenger seat must be willing to dance and sing along with the music, or they have to move to the back.

I’m not sure how two such different people have managed to love and live together for twenty years, but one of the big reasons is that we take separate cars almost everywhere. It stopped my resentment at being late and his resentment at being nagged and hen-pecked to hurry up.

It was very freeing to just say “We have very different approaches to life, and that’s okay. Let’s find a way to make the differences work instead of fighting against them.”

This morning, I left for Church while he was still in the shower. The early birds and I were early enough to grab the pew we prefer for Mass (It has a good view of the altar, and easy bathroom access if we need it. We always do.) and to say the entire rosary and those who needed to hit the Confession for absolution. My husband and the stragglers slipped in next to us just as the first notes of the Processional Hymn sounded, unharried and unhurried. He slipped in next to me, intertwined his fingers with mine and said, “You got the good pew. Nice.”

I flashed him a smile, because I know he’s glad I got there early, and also really happy that he didn’t have to.

 

 

Toy Car from Pexels under CCO

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

To read more by Rebecca, visit her blog Backwards in High Heels

 

Monday, August 15, 2016 0 0