Respect is subjective as far as I can tell based off the interactions I have so frequently with my husband. Apparently sighs and eye rolls do not convey love to my spouse. For the life of me I can’t figure out why. What I intend for them to mean is that I’m frustrated, not that I think Chris worthless or otherwise not worth my time.
For the past six years I’ve really wrestled with what it means to convey how I feel (even when it’s not nice) and do so in a way that isn’t going to shut my man down. Our communication styles could not be more different. The fact that we’re completely aligned on important things like home decor yet have crazy intense disagreements over where to eat for dinner is mind blowing.
I’m really good at tearing down with my words. I’m a queen at low blows. Thankfully I’ve had enough experience with them that I can feel one coming and stop it before I say something I have to later apologize for. Heck, sometimes knowing that I’ll have to humble myself later is enough in itself to not say something hurtful. Clearly I’m a child.
This particular area has been a rough one for me, and one lately I’ve found to be something I need to be diligent in fixing. The sanctification process is rarely fun, but I’m thankful for a husband who comes alongside me and is far more eloquent in communicating than I am so I can draw a circle around myself and fix everything inside (shout out to Todd Wagner for that little tidbit of wisdom.)
Because I’m a fairly complex woman I’ve decided I could use some simplicity in my life to balance out the crazy. There’s so many areas of self improvement I could start with, especially in being a loving wife and mother, but I figure I can’t have everything or excel at more than one thing at a time (this week’s winner is carb eating-I’ve done a tremendous job at eating carbs, mostly in the pretzel and ice cream form.) That being said, I think acronyms are a little bit weird-like me- but a lot a bit helpful so in an effort to really dive in and make headway in this area I present to you “RESPECT Yo Spouse.”
E-Engage in Sexy Time
I’m never wrong. The sooner Chris would just be on board with everything I say the sooner our arguments will go from weekly or so to zero. This is not rocket science….and it’s certainly not Biblical. Generally my issues come from unmet expectations (doesn’t everyone’s?!) He should read my mind and he should quietly sneak out of the house on Saturday’s with both kids without returning til noon with a latte. But he doesn’t because I’ve got a million pieces of crazy that he can’t put together so my natural inclination to assume he knows my needs typically put me in a position to say something catty and, in turn, be the one at fault for doing so. The more I blame my spouse for the way I treat him the more I dig myself a pit of pride and we’re just all in a disaster.
90% of the time I can empathize with anyone in the world except Chris. I can talk lovingly to, help out, and put myself aside for strangers but you better believe that Social Welfare degree I have stops at the door far too often. My ability to empathize with Chris is minimal at best because I simply can’t relate. I have no idea what it’s like to be a Senior Manager in a thriving and growing corporate business. I have no idea what it’s like to learn a new job, work with numbers and answer questions about those numbers all day. All I focus on is that for 9 hours a day my man is out of the house and talks to adults. He is WINNING. My ability to put myself aside and just listen to the man could use drastic improvement. Unfortuantely I get caught up in this game of My Stress Trumps Your Stress Because My Stress Talks Back And The Other Can’t Wipe His Butt. It’s a rather clever game if I do say so myself, but one that’s detrimental to the health of my marriage. I’m no quitter but I’d like to bow out of playing that one forever.
This goes hand in hand with “Realize fault” but it’s worth mentioning again (just so I REALLY get it) that Chris can’t read my mind. Sharing my stresses (which are many and valid but should never be expressed as somehow superior to his) is essential. Expressing my heart, my loneliness, the sadness I feel about gaining weight or what have you is exactly what the man needs to hear. I should throw the poor guy a bone (or an IPA) every once in awhile and just be vulnerable. Then we can walk alongside one another through the chaos and truly create some intimacy instead of living in my head with wine and Oreos.
I’m thrilled there’s so many of you who diligently pray together with your spouses. Props. We do not do this with any frequency or consistency. We share prayer requests and pray individually for one another but instead of letting the crux of our spirituality happen apart I’m inclined to say there’s some serious growth that happens on the Spiritual front when we’re aligned in such a way. Will work on this.
E-Engage in Sexy Time
Thanks, “50 Shades Of Grey,” for ruining my news feed with blog posts that are basically the same on sex. Without getting all on my over sharing soapbox (out of respect for my very private husband) (Did ya catch that? I’m being respectful on the interwebs!) I’ll just say there’s a definitive direct correlation between our conflicts and our intimacy. Even hand holding or a hug when he gets home. Physical touch communicates love (which is basically respect to my man) and in seasons where this isn’t high on the priority list you can pretty much guarantee someone’s sleeping on the couch. And it’s usually me. Sex is good. Cuddling is good, unless your man is like mine and approximately a trillion degrees at all times at which point you may want to settle for holding each other’s pinkie finger. Anything to communicate your spouse is more important than Real Housewives (is that even still on?) or Jen Hatmaker (and God Bless Jen Hatmaker!) is bound to lead to some sort of relationship cohesion.
Marrige is not for wienies. This is not easy. Heck, it’s frequently not even fun. The thing about marriage and one that thrives is being committed. Not being committed to simply being undivorced but committed to learning one another and embracing differences and working, albeit slowly, to unity. If I throw out threats of divorce (which I’ve done frequently in the past) there’s no commitment, no respect, no love. Our first two years of marriage were rough on the streets, man. Seriously. There’s not much more that communicates respect to my husband than knowing that regardless of the hardship I’m down for him, for our marriage, and for the covenant (not contract) I made six years ago. My word means something, my vows are valid, and that reassurance is highly valuable.
If we’re not pursuing one another outside of our roles as co owners of a home and parents of two crazy adorable kids then we’re just in a business relationship. This is executed differently for each of us as I desire desprately to be taken out and having kid-free time alone with my good lookin’ man. He’s content to watch a movie on the couch. I’d rather have my eyebrows plucked than sit through a movie. There are few things I dislike more. I’ve learned, however, that it’s not all about me and if my needs to be out of the house are going to be met I’ve got to give a bit and pretend to be at least 30% interested in what Denzel Washington is blowing up next. For him it’s not about my interest in the plot lines as much as it is disengaging from my job and my phone long enough to put him first.
Clearly this isn’t a one acronym fits all approach but it’s worth a shot to plant seeds (and reminders for myself) that being diligent to work at communicating that I not only value and cherish my man but am deeply thankful and genuinely appreciative of the teammate I have in him. At the end of the day I’m still going to want to eat sushi for every date night and take a massage instead of vegging on the couch but my commitment to my marriage and to not staying stuck in a selfish rut sure is incentive enough to make a few changes, and maybe even enjoy them in the process.