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Building your own custom-made built-in closet


I know this doesn’t fit my “husbandology” theme for my blog.  But, I just finished a cool project and wanted to post a how-to article about what I did.  So, I figured I might as well put it here!

In our new house I wanted to finish out our master closet.  It is really big, but had a lot of wasted space.  I got inspiration from an article on (which Julia found on Pinterest) and wanted to do something similar.  I got a lot of good ideas and tips on building it from that site.  Here is the “before” picture.IMG_0822

Also, I must mention that I am no expert at construction or woodworking.  Any tips I give in this article is purely from what I experienced.  I am sure there are LOTS of better ways to do much of what I did.  So, if anyone who ACTUALLY knows what they are doing reads this, please don’t laugh too hard at any of my suggestions…as misguided as they may be.  :-)

Step 1: Design

I got the measurements for the room and figured out what I wanted to do with the space.  I drew it out, then changed it, then drew it out again, then changed it again, etc…  I ended up with this.

IMG_0817 IMG_0818

Step 2: Materials

Next I had to plan out what material I needed.  From reading various articles online, I decided to use 3/4″ MDF for the main construction, 1/2″ MDF for drawers,  select pine for small trim and poplar for drawer fronts.  I also wanted to make sure I wasn’t wasting boards by making the wrong cuts in the wrong places, so I planned out my cuts ahead of time…which helped me get a true list of how many I needed.  Here are my cut sheets…IMG_0819 IMG_0820 IMG_0821

Here was my materials list:

3/4″ MDF 4’x8′ – 14
1/2″ MDF 4’x8′ – 7
1/8″ hardboard 4’x8′ – 7
Select Pine 1″x2″x8′ – 27
Poplar boards 1″x8″x8′ – 5
Poplar boards 1″x12″x8′ – 2
Drawer slides and pulls – 20
Dowel rods – 8
Primer (oil based) – 5 gallons
Paint (latex) – 6 gallons

One huge Home Depot trip later with a 10% off coupon (plus 5 more trips as the project went on) and I was ready to start!

Step 3: Pre-paint

MDF does not work well with water apparently.  If it gets wet, it raises the grains and makes it really rough.  So, if you want to paint it, it is best to prime with an oil based primer first.  So, to prevent having to do millions of tedious coats on the finished product, I decided to pre-prime and paint the boards first.  I knew I would still have to touch up at the end, but had hopes that it would make it easier.  This turned out to be a great call!  It was still a pain to paint, but not nearly as tedious as the final painting was.

Bare MDF boards
Primed and painted MDF boards

Step 4: Construction

This was the toughest part…physically.  I was so thankful for my Dad coming over to help as 3/4″ MDF boards are ridiculously heavy!  The closet was divided into sections, so we would cut the boards for a section at a time, then assemble that section before moving on.

Cutting the boards in the garage
We had to be very careful to get the front of each board aligned with the sides. Otherwise, the trim at the end wouldn’t sit flush.
The first section built…woohoo! :-)
The second section done!
We predrilled for all screws so we didn’t split the boards
Cutting slots to fit together the shoe cubby boards
Fitting together the shoe cubby
In order to fit the sections together tightly, we would clamp them together before screwing in place.
Initial construction done! This is the left side…
…and the right.

BTW…I just want to point out how awesome my wife is for getting me a table saw last year! Without that saw, it probably would have taken me twice as long…and wouldn’t have looked nearly as good.  It is simply amazing!  :-)

Step 5: Drawers

The drawers were THE part of the project I was most nervous about.  I didn’t want them to feel rickety or unprofessional.  Since I’ve never built them before, I was worried.  But, I was really happy that they turned out great!

This part of the project took a lot of work…and a lot of learning as I went.  I got my plan from the same Sawdust Diaries site.  I got the plans to build the drawers here and installing them here.  This saved me A LOT of headache!  Even then, the last 10 drawers I built were WAY nicer than the first 10…because of all the things I learned as I went on.  The first step was cutting the boards (100 total for 20 drawers!).  Then, cut a dado along the bottom.  Cutting dados sounds fancy and difficult, but it wasn’t too bad.  I should clarify…having a table saw…it wasn’t too bad.  Without one…it would be the worst!  Then, take them a drawer at a time…assemble with glue then I used finishing nails to hold them together.  I was blown away by how solid they were!

My first (and only) real problem I ran into was here.  I built the first 10 drawers and planned to install them before doing the rest.  But, when I went to install them, 6 of the 10 were 1/16″ of an inch too long!  So, I had to tear apart my beautiful and solid drawers, cut off a sliver, then reconstruct them.  It was not a good day.

After that, the last 10 drawer were awesome!  I knew exactly what length they needed to be and had the construction process down.  I actually really started to enjoy making them at that point.

A stack of drawer pieces freshly cut
Dados cut into all the side pieces. Some of them have vertical dados too to install dividers
Before any gluing or nailing, I made sure to check the length
Made sure to use the square before attaching any sides
Finishing nailer…the greatest invention ever (besides the table saw)
Once 3 sides are attached, I would slide the bottom piece in place
Before gluing the last side, I would do one last measurement to make sure it was the right length
Putting down glue for the last side
The finished drawer with divider that can slide in and out. Although I should have made the slider space a tiny bit larger. After paint and poly finish on it…it was a little too tight. I had to use a hammer to get a few of them in there.
For installing drawers, first attach the rail to the drawer. Here is the jig method I used to keep uniform spacing and keep all drawers level. The jig for the drawer had an extra 1/4″ spacer which is the difference in length from the rail to the bottom of the slide.
Attaching the slide to the cabinet (without spacer)
Woohoo! It fits!
5 drawers installed
All drawers done! :-)

Step 6: Trim

I was really looking forward to the trim step because that was when it was going to start looking good…covering up all the mistakes.  :-)  I used the nailer to attach them, then wood putty to cover up any gaps anywhere.

I also built fronts for the drawers out of poplar.  I sized them slightly larger than the drawers themselves and attached from the inside with screws.

IMG_0883 IMG_0885

Step 7: Paint

Paint, paint, and more paint!  Did I mention how glad I was that I “pre-painted”?  I first used wood filler and caulk to help fill in gaps, holes, and spaces.  Then, I painted it like crazy!  The roller work was nice, but trim paint took me about 6 hours to do one coat!  After the paint was dry, I did 2 coats of  Minwax polyacrylic sealant to keep it smooth and protected.

Half of the shoe cubby painted…this makes me happy :-)
Paint and poly coat done…with drawer fronts installed

Step 7: Finishing!

All that was left then was installing the clothes rods and drawer pulls…then doing lots of cleanup.  Here is the final result!

Finished drawers with pulls and dividers
The left side finished…
…and the right side finished
The right side, view from the window
The right side, view from the window

I hope you enjoyed seeing my project.  Feel free to post questions in the comments below if you want to try it for yourself!  :-)

For anyone interested, I put in about 80 hours of work on the project.  And the total cost was around $1,600 in material (not including any tools or saws).


How can you love your wife “as Christ loved the church”?

Part of my calling in writing this blog comes from Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it.”  So, what does that mean?  How did Christ love the church and give Himself up for it?  And what does that mean for how I need to love my wife?  Let’s break it down…

For starters, we need to see how Christ loved the church.  What did Jesus do that showed love to others, and how did He give Himself up for them?

  • He served: Washing the disciples’ feet.  Taking time to heal people in need.  (John 13:1-17, Matthew 4:23)
  • He forgave:  The woman caught in adultery deserved to be stoned, but Jesus forgave.  Jesus asked God to forgive the soldiers crucifying Him. (John 4, Luke 23:34)
  • He led:  Everywhere he went, he taught people.  Starting when he was a boy in the temple, and then traveling to villages as an adult and speaking to thousands of people at a time.  He sought other people to come and follow him.  (Luke 2, Matthew 14, Matthew 4:18-22)
  • He took consequences from others: WE deserved death for the sin in our lives, but Jesus DIED in our place.  (John 19)

He gave up time, glory, position, and ultimately even His life to serve and love others.  So, if this is our example, how can you love your wife in the same way?

Serve her:  Ideas are easy to spot for this.  Make dinner, clean the house, do laundry, etc.  Find something that she normally does that is not enjoyable…and do it for her…without her asking.

Forgive her:  Has she ever wronged you?  Has she ever been dishonest about money, or about her time, or maybe said something mean about you to someone else?  These things can really hurt.  The most important thing you can do is to forgive her.  See my earlier post for more thoughts on this.

Lead her:  You may not be a biblical scholar or a genius at family wisdom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to lead.  Being a leader is not easy and takes a lot of responsibility, but it is worth the effort.  Do what you can to point your relationship with your wife and your family as a whole in the right direction.  See my earlier post for more thoughts on this.

Take consequences:  This was Jesus’s ultimate act of service and love to us.  So, how can you do the same thing for your wife?  What if she broke the side mirror on her car and you swapped cars with her until you could get it fixed?  What if she spilled something in the kitchen and you cleaned it up so she didn’t have to?  What if she accidentally tore her favorite shirt and you used YOUR clothing budget money to go buy her a new one?

My challenge to you:

Are you missing opportunities in any of these 4 areas?  If so, what can you do to change that?  But, don’t just take my thoughts and stop there.  Think through this for yourself.  How did Jesus give Himself up for us?  And in the same way, that is how you need to give yourself up to show love to your wife.

Your actions may impact more than just your wife

10307433_3075307647019_5340757610806274278_nI had a blast getting to see my younger brother get married.  He is 30 years old now and had been anxiously waiting on God to show him the right person to marry.  I was so excited for him to find that person!  He and his fiancée wanted to do a small ceremony with mostly just immediate family members…and it was awesome!  We had it at our neighborhood clubhouse and went out to a local restaurant afterwards.  Then, we all went back to my parents’ house for cake.  While we were doing some toasts, my brother wanted to say a few words to us.

During his toast, he thanked me for the example I’ve been to him in how I treat Julia (my wife).  As he stood next to HIS new wife, he said that he has seen they way I love Julia, listen to her, and always think of her needs and wants ahead of my own.  He felt I did a great job modeling this and said that he hopes to treat his wife the same way.  This was such a meaningful moment to me.  It showed me that all the years that I’ve spent trying to treat Julia well have not only had an impact on her (hopefully), but have also had an impact on him.  I want to wish them a happy marriage and I KNOW he is going to be an amazing husband!

This made me think about how visible my actions can be.  The way we treat our wives, kids, friends, and co-workers aren’t just appreciated (good or bad) by them, they are also seen by the others around us.  This is a sobering reminder for me, but is also very encouraging.  We all want to make a difference in other people’s lives right?  Well, in a way you can get two birds with one stone!  Treat someone right…that’s great for them.  Also…others see the way you act and will learn from your example.  But, don’t make your actions for show.  Be genuine and real in what you do and people will know it.

My advice to you:

Love your wife, love your kids, and everyone you come in contact with.  It will make a difference not just in their lives, but also will be a good example and teaching tool for everyone else.

The subtle enemy of genuine conversation

Business executive discussing with her client

I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution this year.  This isn’t because I don’t like making them, or because I don’t stick with them, or because I don’t have anything that I want to change about myself.  It’s simply because nothing good stuck out as a resolution I wanted to make.  However, I do have things I want to change about myself.  They aren’t related to the new year…they are just things I’m working on.  One of these areas is sarcasm.

I have to admit…I think sarcasm is pretty awesome.  It is the easiest route to hilariousness for me (which always seems like a good destination).  But, one of the most important things for me is having a good, real, quality, substantial relationship with Julia.  To get this sort of relationship, it requires GENUINE interaction.  It’s too easy for our relationship to consist of, “how was your day; how was your day”, then eat dinner and watch tv until we go to bed.  It requires effort to have meaningful conversations and experiences together.  I’ve found that nothing derails a genuine conversation more than sarcasm.  And in contrast, when I AM genuine…when I listen to her well and share about things that matter and what’s going on in my life…the opposite happens.  It draws us even closer together.

Sarcasm is essentially selfishness in the form of conversation.  You say something…not to communicate information, but to make people laugh.  And you’re trying to make them laugh…not to bring joy to their lives, but to feel good about yourself.  So essentially, you’re spending time saying words devoid of substance with the sole purpose of helping you feel better about yourself.  I realize that may sound harsh, but I’m merely sharing my experience here.  I’m sure other people can be different.

I don’t want my conversations to be meaningless.  I want them to have purpose.  When I speak, I want my words to be filled with encouragement, love, and wisdom.  After we talk, I want people to feel understood and more alive about who they are.  To do this, limiting the sarcasm is an important step.

My challenge to you:

When you talk to someone, make your words matter.  Try to add something to THEIR life with what you say.  And keep the sarcasm to a minimum.  Yes, it’s an easy way to be funny, but it is the enemy of genuine conversation.

Sometimes…marriage stinks!

Italy 430If I’m gonna be honest…sometimes marriage stinks.  While I never regret being married or wonder if Julia is “right” for me, I have to admit that sometimes marriage is not fun.  There are times I just want to be selfish and only think of myself.  There are times where Julia and I get in a fight and I just don’t want to take the time to put in the effort it requires to get back on the same page.  But, bearing this in mind, marriage is still great.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Julia is the most amazing person…and my best friend.  I wouldn’t want to spend my life with anyone but her!

What I love about our life together is not the sum total of the best experiences.  It’s not the memories of the best dates we’ve been on, plus the funny memories we share, added to the great vacations we’ve been on.  Our life, our relationship, is all of this…PLUS… the fights we’ve had, the times we’ve cried together, the times we’ve been sick, exhausted, and stressed, and the times we’ve said something hurtful to each other.  These moments (just as much as the good memories) are what make us real.  They are what give us a relationship, which is made up of the good and the bad.

The last fight we had was a good example of this.  I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but it had something to do with kale.  Right off the bat, we were both in a bad place.  The loving relationship we had was suddenly replaced by cold stone facades.  Life seemed to be put on hold.  At the moment, all I wanted was to be able to go back and take back my words from a few minutes earlier!  But, here’s what I found out…I listened to her and heard what she was saying and feeling.  Then she listened to me and understood where I was coming from.  And then the facades we put up seemed to magically fall away.  It was an awesome moment of resolution that we were both really proud of and thankful for.  I feel it helped us in our relationship and we learned a lot about what we CAN do when faced with something like that.

But sometimes things aren’t that tidy.  Sometimes we fight, but don’t have a quick and healthy resolution.  Sometimes we’re grieving something that doesn’t go away.  Sometimes we’re exhausted from life and there is no “win” at the finish line to reward us.  At times like these, I try to remember…that’s life.  We can’t pick and choose moments to make up our relationship.  We have to take it all as a package.  But, we CAN use the difficult times to help us be thankful.  We CAN learn from mistakes we make.  

My challenge to you:

When your marriage is having a rough day, remember that it’s just a day.  Learn what you can from it.  And remember to take the bad AND the good and love it ALL as a package.

List of ways to love your wife that you’ve never thought of before!

Ok, so I’m all about finding ways to show Julia I love her.  And I think it’s a great challenge for all husbands to do the same with their wives.  Feeling loved is such a pivotal connection for a wife, and they need to feel it from YOU!  A man who fails to show his wife this will have difficulty creating a genuine intimate relationship with her.

So if it’s so important, you would think this would be easy for all guys to do, but it’s NOT!  Personally, it can take me a while to figure out something that works well.  When I do it’s like…BOOM…EUREKA!…I’M GOOD TO GO NOW!  So, I stick with it.  And then stick with it some more.  And then keep doing it some more.  And eventually I realize that it doesn’t quite have the same impact that it originally did.  Hmm…I don’t understand!  If it blew her socks off the first time, why does it not have the same impact now…after beating it into the ground 100 times??!

So the point I want to make is…always be trying to find NEW ways to show your wife you love her.  The same old thing will STILL be good, but keeping things new will have a much bigger impact.  So, I want to give you a list of ideas to get you thinking…

-Leave sticky notes around the house with messages for her

-Ask if you can watch (insert her favorite TV show/movie) with her

stock-footage-father-and-son-doing-homework-on-the-table-in-the-living-roomAsk her to leave the kids’ homework until you get home so you can do it with them

-Write an “I love you” message on the driveway in chalk

-Pick a random day to celebrate your wife (like a birthday…but not on her birthday)

-Hold hands when walking somewhere

-Sit next to her on the couch

-Pick a book she might like and have “read-aloud” dates at night until you’ve read through it

-When she asks how your day was, think of some details to share rather than just saying “good”

-Ask for her input on something you have to decide about

-Brag about her to other people

-Defend her if your kids are disrespectful to her

-Get up early and proactively make sure the rest of the house is quiet so she can sleep in as long as she wants

044-Get her some flowers

-Get her some chocolates

-Get her some sort of food you know she loves

-Buy her an outfit you think she would like (but keep the receipt)

-Buy her any present

-Make her something out of pictures that is creative and meaningful

-Pray with her

-Schedule a sitter so you can go out on a date

-Plan an at-home date

-Plan a weekend getaway without the kids

-Do the laundry without her asking

IMG_8420Do the dishes without her asking

-Unload the dishwasher when it’s clean

-Plan, shop for, and cook a nice dinner

-Plan, shop for, and cook a week of dinners

-Vacuum the house without her asking

-Clean the bathrooms without her asking

-Pick-up something of yours that is always messy around the house

-Make lunches for the kids without her knowing

-Make an all-day plan to go out with the kids on Saturday so she can have a free day

-Get the kids ready and put them to bed

-Send her a nice email letting her know you were thinking of her

-Handwrite a letter telling her how much you love her

My challenge to you:

Pick a few of the ideas above that stand out to you.  Maybe something you’ve never tried before, or something you think your wife might appreciate.  Then, make a point of doing it!

It’s that time of the year again…!!!

One of my favorite times of the year is here!  No, it’s not the leaves changing, Halloween, or great fall weather (although all of these are fun).  I’m excited about annual budgeting time…woohoo!  We start our family’s fiscal year on October 1st, so late September we get to plan out how we’re going to budget for the next year.  It’s so great!

I spend a bunch of time putting together spreadsheets and running reports from Quicken to see what we spent last year and estimate what we need to do for this year.  Then, Julia and I will sit down and figure out what we want to do.  I think what I love about it is the clean slate it creates.  No categories will be overspent.  We have total freedom (within the budget we create) to spend without feeling bad.

budgetingHere’s the tricky part though…Julia HATES it!  Getting her to want to sit down with me to go through it is like winning the lottery.  So here’s my challenge…because she doesn’t like it, it’s easy for me to want to make decisions without her.  It would be really simple to just budget however I want and just tell her afterwards what it is.  After all, I am the man of the house right?  Can’t I just do whatever I want?

Even though she doesn’t like the process, I feel it is SO important for us to do this together.  It is not MY money to decide what to do with just because we got it from the job I worked.  It is OURS because we work together as a family.  And really, it is not OUR money either simply because we earned it, it is GOD’S money that he has blessed us with.  I want to make sure our family manages that money well in a way that is non-selfish, loving, and responsible.  So an important part of that is to talk with her to hear her opinions on how things should be allocated.  Julia has very good insight and opinions.  Even if she wants to use money for something I didn’t want to, it’s good for me to know that.  If we only made financial decisions based on what I thought was important, I wouldn’t be honoring and loving her.

My challenge to you:

Make sure you and your wife are BOTH involved in your family’s budgeting process.  Even if one of you is more interested than the other, I think it’s incredibly important for you BOTH to have input and honor God together through it.

For wives only… (part 2) – 3 steps to take when your husband doesn’t seem to care

My last post was directed to wives about the importance of communicating with their husbands.  If a husband isn’t loving his wife well, one of the best things that can help is for the man to understand what “loving her well” means.  And the best way to do that, is for his wife to talk with him about it.

But, the sad reality is that sometimes a wife can do a great job of communicating exactly what is frustrating her, or what she NEEDS her husband to do, or an area she’s not feeling loved….but he either doesn’t hear her, or he just doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.  YIKES!  So wives, what do you do now??!!  Unfortunately there is no magic solution for this,  but I do have three steps you can take to address it.

1.  Don’t forget to pray

This is the MOST important step!  When you try to solve a problem without relying on God, it’s like a blind person trying to drive through Atlanta traffic…it’s  not woman_prayinggoing to happen…at least not well.  With God, all things are possible…not for YOU to accomplish, but for GOD to accomplish through you.  When you’ve communicated an issue, but your husband doesn’t seem care or doesn’t change, you’re not dealing with a knowledge issue, you’re dealing with a HEART issue.  And God is the only one that can change that.  So talk with God.  Let Him know what you need help with.  Let Him know what you hope for your husband.  Trust Him to affect the change in HIS timing.  And keep at it!  Remember, just because it doesn’t change right away, doesn’t mean God is not hearing you.  Stay faithful and “cast all your cares upon Him.”  And don’t do this alone!  Find a prayer group, or a women’s bible study, or simply a friend or two that will support you in praying.  This will help provide more prayer as well as encourage with (hopefully) godly advice as you work through it.

2.  Don’t gossip

I know this is going to be tempting, but if your husband is not loving you well and doesn’t seem to care about your needs, don’t trash talk him with your girlfriends.  This will not gossipaccomplish anything positive.  It only creates an atmosphere of negativity which is contagious and self-perpetuating…meaning your friends will be likely to focus on the negative aspects of THEIR husbands, and you will continue to focus on the negative aspects of yours.  Never-NEVER put your husband down to other people.  The only exception is this…as I mention in the prayer section above, it can be good to talk with a friend (in confidence) to have their support and advice.  There is a lot of purpose in this, but it is very different than unloading pent up frustrations to a group of people.

3.  Don’t give up

If you don’t see a change in your husband after talking with him and praying for him, it can be easy to get discouraged and want to give up.  Change almost ALWAYS takes time, so DON’T GIVE UP!   This can be a tricky one, but you should keep talking about the issue 1-Dont-give-upwith your husband.  Now here’s why this is tricky…it can be VERY EASY for this to turn into nagging.  When this happens, many men push even farther away from what is being asked of them.  However, it IS important to talk about things like this more than once.  Try talking about it from a different angle.  Try helping him to see from your perspective in a way he may not have realized before.  And make sure there is a good bit of time between this and the last time you brought the subject up.  There are two reasons to keep bringing it up.  One is that sometimes guys need to hear things more than once for it to sink in (I’m raising my hand here!).  And two is that maybe God has been working on his heart since the last time you talked.  Maybe NOW he is able to hear you better.  But like I said, be very careful about bringing something up too frequently, this can cause more harm than good.

My advice to you (women):

If you’ve communicated with your husband about an issue where you need him to show you love more, but he doesn’t seem to respond, remember these steps.  Start with prayer because it will be the MOST important thing you can do.  Remember to not put him down with your friends while you work through things.  And don’t give up!  Keep praying, and keep talking with him about it.  Just make sure any conversations you have are respectful and full of love and humility on YOUR part or they will not be received well.

Also realize that change can take time.  It may happen after talking about it once, or it could be after praying for 10 years.  Be faithful in loving your husband well trusting that God will work in His timing

My advice to you (men):

What issue has your wife been trying to communicate with you about?  What area does she need to feel love from you in that you’re not giving her?  Does she feel alone in housework?  Does she feel alone in child raising?  Does she feel like you don’t make spending time with her a priority?  What has she told you that you haven’t responded well to?  Don’t make her bring it up over and over.  Put your selfishness aside and think about what you can do to START loving her well in that area.

For wives only…

Usually my posts are directed to guys talking about some way they can love their wives in a way that reflects God’s calling to them in their role as a husband.  But today I’m going to mix things up.  I still want to promote husbands loving their wives, but I want to address a VERY important aspect of developing this.  And that is…their wives!

There is a type of marriage relationship that grieves my heart, and unfortunately it is very common.  Let me paint a picture of it.  The husband works all day and comes home in the afternoon.  When he gets home, he’s minimally interested in spending time with his kids or connecting with his wife.  The family eats together and the evening is spent with the husband and wife doing separate things.  Then they go to sleep and the next day is the same thing again.  The couple feels more like roommates than best friends and lovers.  They WANT a better relationship, but don’t know how to get it.  The work seems too hard, so they don’t bother.  Maybe there is a lot of stress at home too.  Maybe the wife is frazzled because she’s doing all the housework and all the taking care of the kids.  Maybe the husband doesn’t feel like it’s his job to do those things because he “worked all day”, and his wife has been home doing “whatever she wants to”, and as a result there is tension between them.  But addressing it just leads to fights, so it’s generally left un-dealt with and is repeated again the next day.

The posts I write on my blog are mostly focused on encouraging the husband to break this cycle.  I try to find different ways to share ideas for men to love their wives.  But, I feel probably the BIGGEST thing that can help with this problem is communication from their wives.  At my job, one thing I often tell people that our group works with is, “the only problem we can’t fix is the one we don’t know about.”  This is true for marriages too.  A man can’t take steps to fix something unless he is aware that it is an issue.  So…ladies…here are some things you can do to help your husband love you…

  • Communicate about workload at home:  Many guys grew up in a house where their mothers did ALL the housework, so that’s what they feel is normal.  Many guys are tired after working and if their wife stays home, they feel she should take care of 29005463074937079090981336945nALL the cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.  Also, many guys are selfish (trust me on this…firsthand knowledge here!) and just don’t want to help out.  If this is happening in your marriage, you need to talk about it.  If your husband is at work “all day”, he needs to understand that you are all work “all day” too…either working a job or working at home.  We are very blessed for Julia to be able to stay at home, and I think she does more work than me during the day!  For a husband to come home and assume HIS work is done is show his selfishness and lack of respect for what his wife does.  Sometimes fixing this could be as simple as a bit of communication…simply asking for help…telling him you feel like the expectation placed on you has been unfair.
  • Kid responsibilities: This is pretty much the same as the above paragraph.  Does your husband share the responsibility of taking care of the kids (feeding, diapers, taking to sports, baths, putting to bed, etc)?  Just like household chores, this should NOT just be the wife’s responsibility.  If your husband is leaving what feels like an unfair amount of this work to you, have a talk about it.
  • Initiate dates: Ideally I’d like to see guys doing this, but if they’re not, the important thing is for you two to get some time together.  If your husband is not taking the lead in it…give it a jumpstart and set it up yourself.  Maybe after going out on a date or two, he may realize the importance.  Then, maybe you can encourage him (in a loving way) that you’d love it if he was more proactive in scheduling them too.
  • Tell him where you “love tank” is at:  It’s important that you occasionally let him know how your “love tank” is doing.  Is he showing you love in the ways you need?  If not, sometimes it just takes a conversation to help remind him of what you need.

And probably the most important point to make about this ideas is the need to make sure communication is done WELL.  By this I mean respectfully and with love rather than with accusations, sarcasm or spite.  For example…

Bad communication:

  • Effective-Communication-TipsWhy don’t you get off your butt and do that yourself!”
  • “Maybe if you’d take me out on a date every once in a while…”
  • “Maybe I should just go buy myself flowers sometime, because you’re obviously not going to!”
  • “She’s your daughter too!  Why don’t YOU change her diaper sometime!”

Good communication:

  • “Hey honey, I realize the bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in a while, and I’m sorry that I haven’t gotten to it.  It’s been tough because I’m so busy doing other things during the day.  I know you work hard too just like I do, but do you think we could maybe come up with some sort of plan to divide up some of the chores around the house?  Because right now, I feel alone in taking care of them.”
  • “Hey, I really miss us getting time alone together to go out.  I’d love if we both tried to make it a priority to go on dates together.  Are you interested in organizing them, or would it help if I helped plan them?”
  • “Hey babe, I’m having a really rough time taking care of our daughter.  I’m exhausted every day and REALLY could use more of a hand in sharing the responsibilities.  Do you think you would be able to help with…”

***IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER*** – Now what if you’ve DONE these things, but your husband doesn’t seem to hear you or care?  What do you do then???  This is a very real problem and I’m going to talk about it in my next post, so stay tuned!

My challenge to you:

Ladies…if there is an issue in your marriage, don’t just write it off because your husband is lacking in something.  Find a non-threatening way to bring it up so you can talk about it.  Generally men will be receptive to hearing what you have to say, and actually doing something about it…if they are able to understand where you’re coming from…and don’t feel like you’re attacking them.

Men…if your wife talks to you about something, don’t get your back up.  Listen to what she has to say, try to understand her perspective, and think about what you can do about it.

Possibly my WORST trait as a husband…

active-listeningI stink at listening.  Seriously…I’m bad at it.  USUALLY, when someone introduces themselves to me, I’ve forgotten their name 2 seconds later…I’m not exaggerating.  I wrote a couple months ago about how I’ve been trying to work at listening when I’m BUSY, but there is so much more to this issue to work on.

I’ve recently realized how my poor listening skills can really hurt my relationship with my wife.  For us to have a great relationship, we need to be able to communicate.  But, for communication to work, there needs to be good talking AND listening from both parties.  If I don’t give her attention when she speaks, and if I don’t attempt to really understand what she’s trying to say, then I am telling her that I don’t really care about what she wants to communicate.

Recently, I started reading a book called The Lost Art Of Listening.  It has been so good for me to help identify areas I need to work on.  In addition to listening when I’m busy, I’ve been working on the following areas.  Do any of these sound familiar to you?

1. Zoning out:  Sometimes I start off so great.  Someone is talking…I’m listening…everything is perfect!  But then, I think about something from work…or a tv show I watched…or dinner.  And then, I realize that I have no idea what was just said over the last minute!  Does this happen to anyone else?!  And then the worst happens…”so what do you think?”  Oh man…I don’t even know what the question was!  Forget about being embarrassed by being caught not paying attention, the real shame is that I missed a chance to learn something they wanted to share with me.

2. Thinking about what I want to say next:  I’m guilty of this WAY too much.  It seems like a practical thing to do in order to keep a conversation going smoothly…am I right, or am I right?  But, I find that usually when I’m thinking about this, I COMPLETELY miss the rest of what they’re trying to share.  I’ve been trying to stay present more.  I know that If I lose my train of thought…that’s ok.  A lull in the conversation is not the ultimate doom that I always though it was…it’s ok.  It’s much better to hear what they’re saying and to go from there.

3. Trying to solve the problem rather than listen:  Yeah this is like EVERY DAY!  I don’t know why it is, but if there is a problem, my reaction is ALWAYS to give advice to fix it.  After 12 years of marriage, I realize that Julia doesn’t want me to solve her problems, she wants me to listen and understand.  I still don’t quite get it…but I’ve learned to accept it.

4. Hearing words, but not the meaning behind them:  If Julia and I both hear someone say something, it’s very common for us to come away with 2 totally different perspectives on what they just said.  (Spoiler alert…she’s usually right)  Julia has an uncanny ability to understand people in ways I just don’t.  So, given my lack of intuition, I find that I often hear things Julia says to me, but make wrong assumptions about what she’s trying to communicate.  I’ve been trying to use the phrase, “…so what I hear you saying is…”.  This is very helpful in summarizing what I THINK she’s saying.  This gives her the chance to either correct me if I didn’t connect with her meaning…or it allows her to go deeper in sharing more.

5. Doing other things while listening:  I like being productive.  If I’m having a conversation with someone that is not very deep, chance are I’m trying to do something else during it, like doing something on the computer, or putting away dishes, or something.  It’s not that I’m in the middle of something, it’s just that talking takes time, and then I think of all the other things I could be doing with that time!  The problem is that doing this shows the other person that I’m not THAT interested in what they’re saying.  This could be ok if I’m talking about a tv show, or what happened at work that day.  But, if I’m talking about something important, it doesn’t go over well.  In situations like this, I’ve been trying to listen with my body.  By this I mean, facing my body to them, not doing anything else, and making eye contact.

None of these things come naturally to me, so it has been quite a challenge.  But, I have to tell you that just thinking about them has made practicing listening SO much easier, and has really changed my actions A LOT.  As a result, I’ve found a MUCH better connection to Julia!  It’s amazing how good communication can grow a relationship!  :-)

My advice to you:

If you struggle with listening as I do, I encourage you to think if any of these points I made sound familiar to you.  If they do, start trying to make small changes in how you communicate with your wife or anyone you talk with.  If you enjoy reading, I encourage you to check out The Lost Art of Listening.