As we drove home from church on Saturday night (that’s right, we took the easy way out of DST) Ben commented on how strong our marriage had become.
I thought for a moment about it–how I had struggled with balance in our marriage and work and raising of children.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I agreed. “You want to know my secret? How I’ve solved my issues?”
“I let go of any expectations about you.”
I settled back in my seat, smiling a little to myself, pleased with my wise ways–until I noticed Ben’s look of horror.
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” I said quickly. “I just meant that if I don’t expect anything from you, then I can’t be disappointed…”
While clearly, I did a bad job of explaining myself to my husband, I really did mean it as a good thing.
I have to admit that I have made the mistake of griping about my marriage on here.
I’ve fallen into the trap of venting, like I would to a friend or more commonly, my diary, except I’m venting online to the few people who may stumble across my blog and wonder what on earth I have to complain about.
And then, of course, there’s my mother, who will call me and warn me that I really shouldn’t talk about Ben on my blog.
But I get it. I get that there is a delicate line of being real and being disrespectful, as well as painting a picture that isn’t a true representation, but just a snippet into a moment of frustration or just one of those days that every marriage has.
So my apologies to my husband and my marriage. I am slowly realizing that should I face a problem in my marriage that is so upsetting that I feel the need to write about it on my blog, it is a signal that I need to sit down and talk to my husband instead.
And it’s working. Slowly, we are finding a new normal after the birth of our third child, the emergence of my new role as a writer, and seemingly endless obstacles with Ben’s job as a teacher. It’s taken me some time to adjust, but a few things especially have helped me.
1. I expect nothing. This piece of advice from one of my writing idols, Danielle Bean, really amazed me. Her book, Mom to Mom: Advice and Support Catholic Living honestly changed my life. I love it. I realized how exhausting it was to try to keep score on things in my marriage. Yes, ok, I’m guilty of it. I watch if my husband takes out the garbage or if he ever picks up his dirty socks. I’ve resented carrying the brunt off the household work and having to ask my husband if he will watch the kids so I can go to the bathroom. Danielle’s advice for this?
Let it go.
I love Danielle’s advice, because she admits that it’s not the popular thing to say, but that it helped her marriage so much, she had to share it. She said she made the “bold decision” to take on 100% of the housework–all the cleaning, the cooking, and the thousand other tasks that go along with running a home.
She quit keeping score and just did it. And when she let go and took it all on, her husband was able to help and become a hero. Which of course, is annoying to us (why does he get to be a hero for doing what we do all day??), but –what’s the real goal? If he’s helping and he’s feeling like a hero for doing so, that’s a win-win. And lends itself to ensuring his future help.
The real beauty in this advice to me however, was not in elevating my husband to hero status, but in freeing myself from any resentment. As Danielle said, when you keep score, everybody loses. After almost five years of marriage, I can realize that Ben will always leave his belt on the floor and never change the toilet paper roll or notice the floor needs to be swept. Ben won’t be able to handle being home as much as I am with the kids and juggle all the things that I can. And I can either keep fighting those things, or I can accept them and move on.
2. Asking for what I need–sometimes. I know it’s common advice in the marriage-strengthening sector to be sure to ask for help when you need it. But I’ve struggled with it, a lot out of guilt. It’s not like Ben’s sitting around nothing. He works his butt off, teaching, mowing lawns, getting his Masters degree, and a zillion projects around the house. When he comes home, the last thing I want to do put another task on him, because honestly, an overtired, grumpy husband is no fun for anyone.
My solution to all of this before would be simply to not ask and simmer with resentment until I would explode.
Now, I try to ask for help, being mindful to my husband as well. Maybe ask Ben for one or two nights when he gets home from school when I can write, or see if he will bathe the kiddos while I escape on the treadmill for 30 minutes.
It definitely has been all about balance for us lately. We both love to work at our respective projects and it’s both important to us to have some “alone” time–we have both chosen the lonely pursuits of writing and woodworking–and at this time in our life, alone time is hard to come by, so it’s about supporting each other with time when we can. For me, it’s been about accepting that I won’t get time every day to work or to write for fun, but that I can make the most of when I have it. It’s also been about–and I hate to say this–realizing that it’s not all about me. Just because I am the one home with the kids doesn’t mean I am also the one that deserves a “break.” Yes, it did take me time to realize that, ok? I’m a bad wife.
But I’m working on it.
For more advice, be sure to check out Early Mama’s 15 Tips for Better Wifedom. I just love her tips.