Tag Archives: love

12 ways we keep our blended family marriage strong

My husband and I dated for a few years before we got married, living in separate households and reveling in the excitement of coming together every weekend. We’d both been married before, and were now living as divorced single parents. I longed for the time when we could finally blend our households and things could become much simpler.

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. Things were bumpy when we finally did move in together, mostly because blending a family is hard work. But the other hard part was learning how to work together as a team in every decision when both of us were so used to being independent.

Marriage only made this worse.

Our first year of marriage was really rough. I loved being married to Shawn, but I also recall the many fights we had, the loneliness I felt as I clung to stubbornness, the continued struggle of being two different families in one house, and the daily realizations over how different we were in so many areas.

Things finally did settle down, and our family has learned how to come together in many ways. We still have differences, as many families do, but mostly, we’ve learned which battles are worth fighting and which ones aren’t. I won’t pretend we’re perfect — we’re not. But the place we are now is paradise compared to the darkness we experienced in the beginning.

The biggest reason, I believe, things are much better is because Shawn and I have come together as a solid team through all of this. Every year I’m amazed at how much more I love him than the year before, and how there’s still so much we get to learn about each other. He’s my biggest champion, and I’m his. It makes me excited to see where our marriage will be by year 10, 20, 50 and beyond.

The other day I was thinking about the things that makes our marriage so wonderful, and the following things came to mind:

1. We compliment each other often. When I look in the mirror and am disappointed by what I see, he’s right there behind me to let me know how sexy I look. Just this morning I was bummed out about the number on my scale. He didn’t know this when he asked me to stop what I was doing and take a turn for him. “Damn, I’m a lucky man,” he told me. I know we’re supposed to love ourselves and all, but it sure is helpful when the man I love reminds me every day that he finds me sexy. It goes both ways, too. I think my husband grows more handsome and sexy every day, and I tell him so. It goes beyond looks, too. He’s my biggest cheerleader to the things that mean most to me, helping me to see the positive when I’m stuck in the negative. I tell him how proud I am of him, from the big things to the small. We both try really hard to notice what the other person is doing, and acknowledge those things with words of affirmations.

2. We respect each other’s seasons. Let’s just get right to the point: sometimes I’m not in the mood to have sexy time, especially at the end of my cycle. There’s a particular week when there is nothing he can do to awaken the sleeping dragon. What I love about my husband is that he understands this and is completely respectful about it. However, it would be completely selfish of me to let this mood control our sex life. There has to be a give and take when it comes to sex. Sometimes I fight through my “don’t touch me” feelings for his benefit. And vice versa, when I’m in the zone and he’s not, he’ll make sure I’m taken care of. The benefit? More times than not we’re in the same space, and I firmly believe it’s because we understand the give and take, and respect each other’s moods.

3. We spice things up. Right now, our lives involve a very busy household, teenagers, hectic jobs, and we just moved his mother into our home. All of that is a combination for passionless nights as we collapse into bed so we can do it all again the next day…even with everything I mentioned in #2. Luckily, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I won’t divulge our secrets here, but if things are feeling fairly routine between the sheets, perhaps it’s time to get a little creative. Is there something you’ve wanted to try, but haven’t because it feels a bit too naughty? Maybe it’s time you let down some of your guard. You might be surprised at what happens. 😉

4. We plan for uninterrupted time daily (even if it’s just 10 minutes). Our lives have only gotten busier since our earlier days. Two out of three of our blended kids are in college, plus I started college two years ago. We both have demanding jobs. Plus, we’re caretaking for his mother. Life is crazy busy. There are some days I only see him in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, and in the evening when we go to bed. Still, we make it a point to ask about the other person’s day, and then LISTEN, phones away, completely focused. This is one of my favorite things about our marriage, that we still have so much to share with each other every day, and this uninterrupted time becomes some of our best conversations.

5. We support each other as much as possible. Shawn is a gardener. I am not. But I love the outcome of his efforts when we have fresh tomatoes in the summer. Usually, he’s the one out there watering. But (when I remember) I’ll go out and water, too, simply so he doesn’t have to. I wanted a dog. Shawn did not. Guess what? We have a dog. And despite his repeated insistence that he never wanted a dog, he still takes the dog for walks regularly. We’re both writers, and we are each other’s first readers. We attend events that are important to the other person, even if they’re not our personal cup of tea. We only talk kindly about each other to others, never slamming the other person (how many times have you been uncomfortable around other couples who do the opposite?). We build each other up and cheer each other on. I can truly say Shawn is my best friend, and he says that about me, and it’s because we truly support each other.

6. We put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. One of the secrets to our happy marriage is our level of empathy. I’m not going to lie, we still have our fair share of fights. But these fights never last long. One of the reasons is because we have a high level of empathy for the other person, willing to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. This isn’t easy, admittedly. However, we both know each other’s true nature. When I’m mad at Shawn, I also know he’s not a bad person. I know his reasoning isn’t to be malicious, but because he has his own reasons for acting a certain way. I try to see what that reasoning is, and if there is something I should bend on. Shawn is the same way. Even more important, he knows how to say he’s sorry when he’s wrong, and has been a great model for me so that I can learn to do that, too. And man, is that hard!

7. We recognize each other’s strengths, and remind each other of them. I’m the worst when it comes to knowing what I’m good at. I’m really hard on myself. That’s why it means so much to me when Shawn stops everything and tells me all the things that are special about me. I need to hear this, because I forget. In the same way, I often tell Shawn what I admire about him: his confidence, his way with words, how he carries himself, how personable he is, how much people appreciate his wisdom.

8. We date each other. If I had my way, Shawn and I would go on a date at least once a week, if not more. However, we live in the real world, and that is rarely possible. We do make time for each other regularly, though. This could be a movies date, or time at a coffee shop, or even, and I’m not even joking, a Costco shopping trip. It’s mostly about the time together without anyone else so that we can talk and have fun together. It keeps our friendship alive in our marriage.

9. We are social together. There’s something so romantic about being with Shawn among a group of friends, from quiet dinners to group outings, laughing with friends and having him close to me as we experience the same thing. I always feel so proud of him when we’re out together, and we often come home feeling closer than ever before.

10. We’re social apart. We don’t have all the same friends or interests, and that’s completely okay. I love that Shawn has no issue whatsoever when I enjoy time with my girlfriends or some solitude time away from him and everyone else. Likewise, I don’t have a problem with him going to the ball game or the movies with his friends while I stay at home. We both enjoy a healthy amount of time away from each other and by ourselves, which makes our together time that much more special.

11. We work as a team. Earlier this year, Shawn’s mom moved in with us. This change in our household held all the promises of stress on our marriage, and yet, I’ve never felt closer to him. We have divided the duties, trying to avoid burnout. We are talking so much more about real feelings through this, being open and honest, even about the hard stuff. We give each other breaks. We build each other up. We do every single thing on this list. I can honestly say that his mother moving in has brought us so much closer, which, seriously, astounds me.

12. Our shared faith is at the center of our marriage. I recognize not every married couple is lucky enough to share the same faith. I feel fortunate that Shawn and I do. I’ve been in relationships where the faith is different, whether because someone didn’t have faith or we shared completely different faith altogether, and it was HARD. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it definitely takes work to be in a loving, committed marriage, and share vastly different ideas about God and what that means for humanity. So in that, I feel very fortunate that God is our partner in our marriage, that we both view God through loving eyes, we see our duty as to love all people, and we do all this together.

What works for you and your spouse in your marriage?

Advertisements

Taking a marriage hiatus

A few weeks ago, I was in a bad place. My mood was totally foul, my patience thin, and everyone was in my way. At the time, I knew that there were several culprits to blame for my negativity.

I was feeling pulled in all direction on how to go about marketing my book while writing my new one.

I only wanted to be writing. Period.

I was having mixed emotions about some work stuff.

It was probably that time of the month.

I was restless.

At the brunt of my irritability was my husband, who (bless him) was completely patient and kind with me as I went through being a complete pain in the ass. The kids got it too, don’t get me wrong. But I definitely inflicted most of my grumpiness to him.  And because I was in such a horrible state, I made an even more horrible decision.

I went on a marriage hiatus.

Okay, so I didn’t actually stray from the marriage (nor would I ever!). But I did totally tune out. My biggest accomplice to this was my iPhone, the nifty little pocket-sized computer that allowed me to check up on Facebook for hours on end, check how many sales I wasn’t getting, read the millions of Tweets on my Twitter feed, play a bit of Bejeweled….escape from where I was and ignore everyone around me.

I knew it was a problem. I knew I was only making it worse. All the things I was stressing about weren’t getting done because I was so wrapped up in social media and dumb internet distractions. And I was totally blocking everyone around me from getting close to me….and me from getting close to them.

Fast forward, and my daughter and I spent a week at camp (annual camp post coming soon, I promise!). There is no internet at camp, and only enough phone reception for a strategically placed text. A week away from my phone, and my head started getting clearer. I was able to talk to people without my words fumbling around in my mouth. I felt…smart.

You guys, my smart phone had actually been making me dumb!

I got back home, and everything was different. It could have been the time apart that made that next week one of the best weeks of our marriage (wink wink). But I truly believe it’s because I had relearned to put the phone down and have a conversation (among other things) with him again.

One more week, and we were camping – sans iPhones again. We not only stayed connected, but my head has remained clear for weeks. There’s no throbbing blockage in there, no loss for words, no wall that’s keeping me from my creativity. And Mr. W and I? We’re like newlyweds all over again. 😉

I’ve been contemplating giving up the iPhone altogether. Right now, that still seems like such a scary thought. I mean, I do everything from that phone! But it’s also holding me back – a lot. However, it’s something to think about until my contract expires. When that happens, maybe I’ll go for a dumb phone, and just choose to BE smart instead.

Anyone out there NOT using a smart phone?

P.S. Exciting book news to share with you, and it has to do with this blog!  The first in a series of eBooks based on the posts in this blog are being published THIS SATURDAY! This first book will focus on the earlier days of my single parenting adventure, and includes that first year of my relationship with Mr. W – way before I knew I’d be Mrs. W (yeah, who am I kidding? I think I always knew. 😉  )  Check out the details HERE.

Enhanced by Zemanta

How to make the first move

I went out to lunch with a coworker today. She’s someone I have known for years, and have always thought she was just a wonderful person. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been bubbly and upbeat, cheering others on around her in their endeavors, and just an inspiration on how to be a decent person. But being a natural introvert, I’ve never been one to make the first move to get to know her better – or anyone at work, for that matter. I’ve always left it up to others to try and get to know me better because it’s just easier that way, you know? There’s less risk involved. Naturally that must mean I have tons of friends, right?

You’d think, huh.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t work that way. But regardless, this coworker and I connected recently and came to the mutual decision that we should really have lunch. We ended up having over an hour of fantastic conversation as we discussed everything from our kids to our faith, and everything in between. When we got back to our desks, she emailed me the kindest note. In it, she mentioned that while it might not seem like it, she’s actually a very shy person.

“I’m not one to socialize much,” she wrote, “but you make it very easy. Let’s do it again!”

When it’s hard to make friends, maybe we just need a reminder we’re not the only ones who are shy. Somewhere out there is another human being who is longing for a friend and not sure how to go about it. It’s not just us who are afraid to make the first move. Others are too. But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

This truth is currently being illustrated by my stepson, Frizz, as he agonizes how to ask out the girl he has liked for the better part of the school year. As a senior, he is closing in on the end of his high school years. He is also closing in on the last chance he has to even talk to the girl he likes – let alone ask her out on a date, and perhaps even ask her to be his girlfriend. But just making that first step is terrifying enough, let alone any of the steps that follow after that.

Not sure how to advise my stepson, I asked my daughter, DQ, how she has been asked out in the past. She shared her most recent experience with me. The boy got to know her by asking a lot of questions about her, keeping his attention focused on her. The attraction proved to be mutual, and both of them dropped hints about their interest in each other. And when this boy was able to see that DQ was into him, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

“I guess what Frizz should do is just really try to get to know this girl better, then get her number, and when the moment seems right, tell her how he feels and see if she feels the same way,” DQ advised. “If he does it right, he might even know that she likes him back when he gets to that point.”

Of course, she makes it sound so easy. And truthfully, if you put your nerves aside, it really is that easy. But for someone as shy as Frizz, as shy as my coworker, as shy as ME, taking that first step can feel like preparing to jump off a cliff.

But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

I guess this could be a lesson in anything. We never know what will happen unless we make that first move – whether it be making a new friend, expressing a feeling of adoration, publishing a book, taking a stand for yourself, risking it all…. If we live a life so full of caution that it keeps us from living life to the fullest, we can’t claim we know the bad that will happen. We also will never know the good that will happen.

Being social for an introvert might feel totally unnatural. But while painful at first, barreling through that shyness isn’t lethal. It might seem that way, but taking that first step won’t strike you down dead. The worst that can happen is that you might get turned down. Sucky, sure. But you’ll be able to move beyond it rather than getting stuck in the unknown. And the best that can happen? You’ll get exactly what you wanted in the first place. A new friend. That special someone who likes you just as much as you like her. Or a published book (only a few more weeks left until A Symphony of Cicadas is officially published).

We’ll never know until we’ve made the first move.

Empty nest blissfulness

us16

This week has been blissfully free of children.  Blissful, I tell you.  We’ve hardly done anything special.  In fact, most of it has been spent on the couch watching TV, or sitting side by side as we read our separate books, or even just doing nothing with no noise whatsoever.  I think that’s our favorite.  No TV.  No videogames.  No bickering or demands, or miscellaneous messes to clean up.  Just the two of us in our house that is suddenly ridiculously easy to keep clean.  Even meals are wonderful, cooking for two with very little clean up.

It’s just plain blissful.

Camping next to the creek at our favorite place in the world.
Camping next to the creek at our favorite place in the world – complete with tarps in case of rain.

We started the week at our favorite little spa/camping spot in the world, braving the frosty weather in the hills to be able to soak in hot springs during the day and snuggle underneath a mountain of blankets at night.  It was the same place that Shawn proposed to me, and we hadn’t been there since we got married.  So it was a bit nostalgic to hike on the same trail we walked over a year before, pausing in the spot where he knelt on one knee pretending to tie his shoe, only to offer me a ring and a promise.  🙂

This camping trip was the perfect way to start our kidless week.  I was feeling a little down, having said goodbye to DQ the night before.  I had fought a few moments of tears, and I know I’m guilty of snipping at Shawn a couple of times for no good reason except he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  A trip into the hills and away from everything else helped to center the both of us, melting away the stress, negativity, and any lingering sadness so that when we drove back, we were actually ready.

New Years Eve was naturally kidless as well.  But rather than do anything special like go out in the freezing cold all dressed up to spend way too much money, we stayed home in our PJs and ate a delicious steak and potato dinner.  He drank his glass of non-alcoholic champagne.  I drank a delicious chocolate martini.  He was totally sober all night long.  I got a bit too tipsy off my one drink.  He slept like a baby all night long.  I threw up all night long.

Oops.

The rest of the week has been pretty tame.  We got to spend some kidless time with some good friends of ours.  We’ve resumed our normal working hours.  And we’ve enjoyed our home time totally unplugged from parenting.  It’s been a nice little break.

When I pick up the Taz on Saturday, I know it will be bittersweet.  It will be nice to have him back.  But his sister’s absence won’t go unnoticed.  It’s when life without DQ here will actually hit.  So to remedy that first day of transition, I am spoiling Taz with a trip to Six Flags – just the two of us – for a day of fun before we actually head home and go back to regular life in its altered state.

But in the meantime, I am really, really enjoying the empty nest state of things right now.

“I could get used to this,” I joked to Shawn.

“No you couldn’t,” he told me.  “You’d miss the kids if they actually moved out.”

Maybe so.  But this quiet week sure has been great.

Relationship dealbreaker

This last week was overrun with an influx of celebrity breakups, making it kind of a sad week in the land of romance. There was some silence in the ‘whys’ of the break ups, but a few of them are speaking out on the cause.

Seal and Heidi Klum: Apparently Seal has quite the temper. And Heidi decided enough was enough and headed for the door. But Seal was still caught wearing his wedding ring on the Ellen show, prompting me to believe he still has hope things can turn around.

Simon Cowell and Mezhgan Hussainy: There is no reason being given, though it’s been reported they haven’t seen each other for over a month in this “break” from their relationship. However, when it took Simon 6 years to actually propose only to have him waffling again, I can only wonder if it’s actually Mezhgan whose tired of waiting around.

Aretha Franklin and Willie Wilkerson: The reason was they were “moving too fast”, though the diva is also battling some very serious health issues.

Dooce and Jon Armstrong: This one kind of hurt, because it’s like reading about my own sister. The infamous mom blogger and her husband are going through a trial separation. She hasn’t said much about the hows and whys, but he’s admitted it has to do with the battle of depression Dooce has battled for years – the very battle she made public and became such a household name over.

For me, the dealbreaker is breaking my trust. Having allowed too many lies, broken promises, hurts, and wrongdoings to be forgiven before finally being done, I have realized life is too short to be not treated respectfully and honestly. If I can’t trust someone with my love, what can I trust them with?

What are your dealbreakers in relationships?