Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On marriage and the holidays

(UPDATE: the morning after I shared this post we found out I was pregnant!  And the story goes on...)

Let's talk about dirty laundry.  Not the pair of underwear that Penny put on her head the other day and then threw a 35-minute tantrum when I took away and replaced with a more suitable piece of fabric for such an activity.

Marriage: "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring."

Dan and I fight.

According to most marriage experts I care to listen to, fair fighting is a healthy part of any intimate relationship, but it sure doesn't always feel good.  For us [especially this year] the holiday season really pushes and tests our communication skills and patience.  This December basically kicked my you-know-what and I'm going to air some of it out because I think it's gonna feel good.  If nothing else, let this post be a "me too" for the rest of you out there whose December wasn't all snowflakes and dream fairies.


Each having separate stresses and not reading each other's minds.
Me with my mental to-do list comprising of Penny care, photo deliverables, gift purchases, tax preparation, and everything else that moms do; and him with his year-end stuff for work and being the spiritual leader of a disastrous house.  We get so preoccupied and wrapped up in what's going on in our own heads that sometimes we fail to share our burdens with one another.  This makes us feel isolated and frustrated with one another for not knowing exactly what's on our minds. I'm most guilty of this in our house.

[Not] synchronizing schedule commitments.
With text messaging often used as a way of communicating with other people, it's very easy forget the "hang on, I need to check with my spouse to make sure we are free." step in the making-plans process.  I'm sure husbands and wives all over town have this problem because technology makes us feel like we can and should give people an answer right away, even if it's impulsive.  It's been kind of a perfect storm for us these last few weeks.  Lots of social gatherings happen this time of year, some planned and some impromptu.  And maybe I forgot to tell Dan a couple times that I had scheduled or moved a photo shoot.  Or Dan might have forgotten to tell me that friend(s) were coming into town and he made plans to see them, or that Penny needs a nap every afternoon before committing us to mid-day outings.

Dressing up and getting out the door on time.
The latter part of this has been a weakness of mine my entire life.  Punctuality is not my strong suit, and add an unpredictable child to the mix, it's extra difficult to leave the house at a designated time.  Make me do my hair and makeup AND get said child all dolled up in photo-worthy ensembles AND pack the car with gifts or camera equipment or diaper bag or potluck items or all of the above?  Yeah. Not a smooth experience.  No matter how much earlier I start getting ready, or how many bags I pack in advance and load into the car, there is ALWAYS something that holds us up.  Again, guilty. This drives Dan batty.

Keeping house.
Here's another natural weakness of mine, magnified and multiplied by the hectic December complete with one rainy day that caused enough mud in our backyard for the dogs to completely cover our wood floors.  This year we ended up paying to have the house cleaned before we allowed ourselves to put up our Christmas decorations.  That felt good but I also felt
like a failure.  A messy house is a big stressifier for my husband and I fail him in this area consistently, especiallys  since I spent almost every waking moment this month shooting or editing photos.

Buying (and budgeting) gifts.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.  We actually worked really well as a team in the Christmas Shopping efforts this year.  Where we failed (and where the stress stems from) is in the budgeting department.  Our last-minute, spend whatever, approach to providing this-and-that for loved ones feels great when you're watching them open it, but not-so-great when you look at the bottom line two days after Christmas.  Let me be clear, both Dan and I LOVE giving gifts, and we did not go into debt buying anyone anything this year, I just wish we had been more organized about it.  In some areas I felt like we gave too much and in some, not enough.  Better luck next time.

Night Owl vs. Early Bird
Here we differ all year long, but since I started photography on the side it has been much more significant since I am doing most of my work when it's pitch black outside.  I don't understand why Dan won't "can't" do anything productive after 10pm.  He doesn't understand how I can sleep past sunrise when there's a to-do list hovering over our bed.  And nobody wins when you go to bed and wake up at different times than your spouse.  Being out of sync is just a hard thing.


There's hope.  When we fight, we always make up. Here's what we focus on:

-Dividing and conquering. Don't step on each other trying to micromanage the other's projects. Two can do more than one, let it be so. This can take a lot of self control for strong personalities, but it's so important. 

-Coming back to the importance of being a team and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.  No grudges, no hard feelings; forgiveness and togetherness. 

-Knowing when to stop the exhaustive talking and lean in for a hug instead.  Coming back together for physical contact can sometimes remedy tension better than the best conversational skills. 

-Making decisions together about things that mix it up and feel good, like giving to charity or getting some fresh air and exercise. Remembering that it's not about us.  Stepping outside the status quo. 

In the new year Dan and I will continue to work on developing our communication styles to better suit one other.  Marriage is a journey. 

Up here in the quiet of the mountains, tonight our goal is to make it 'til midnight before falling asleep :)

Do you and your spouse have any communication goals for the new year?

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  1. Brandon and I just signed up to do a 52 week (one email per week to print and discuss) marriage mentoring lesson. I am really excited about it!

  2. Here's an "us too" for you Jules. We got a 52 week devotional for marriage that we plan to do each week.

    1. good for you guys! which one is it? I'd love to check it out!

  3. On the geting ready thing, I've been terrible about that too. But now I have a partner who is more than willing, eager even, to help. I've found that I felt like I had to have control over it - make sure everything is packed, kids outfits are right, etc. But I've found ways to let him help. Kids get out their outfits the night before, I approve, then in the morning he makes sure they put them on. Lists of things to bring allow him to load up while I'm still getting ready. I do a quick glance to see if it all looks good, then we roll with the attitude of oh well! if we happened to forget all the presents for his side of the family (which for some reason neither of us thought to bring!).

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  5. That's me and my live-in boyfriend! Except our roles are pretty much switched! Good tips to try to work though it all before we even try to bring marriage and kids into it!


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