Monthly Archives: February 2014

Our Anniversary Tradition

IMG_0132For our first anniversary, I came up with an idea.  It originated from the fact that I have a horrible memory…seriously…it’s bad, which is only emphasized in contrast to the fact that Julia has the greatest memory in the world.  She remembers just about everything she’s worn, done, or said since she was 2 years old, which is tough for me to fathom…but I digress.

My idea was to start a journal of our lives.  Every year, on our anniversary, we would look back at the past year and write down significant things we wanted to remember.  At first, it was a way for me to help try to remember things, but it has developed into an annual tradition that we really look forward to.  It is a chance for us to reminisce about what happened in the last year.  Good memories, funny memories, sad memories, the vacations we took, what we did on holidays, etc.  Now, we have 10 years full of memories in our journal.  It’s fun to read back through the past years and remember the things that we did, since just about every significant event that has happened to us since we’ve been married is in it.

photoWe try to find a fun, memorable spot where we can relax and spend some time thinking through the year.  These locations have included an Inn in the mountains outside Asheville, a restaurant looking out on the Seattle harbor, and my favorite…watching the sunset in the hills of Tuscany.  But many years it is something simple like a local coffee shop or even sitting on the back porch.  Sometimes we get it done all in one sitting, but sometimes we have to break it up.  Either way, we’ve come to really look forward to it, and it is one of the highlights of our anniversary.

For anyone who is interested, it’s an easy habit to get in to.  It doesn’t matter if you didn’t start at the beginning, pick it up wherever you are at in your marriage.  You can fill out the journal with whatever questions or topics you want.  Here are some ideas, but what’s important is to tailor it to what you would like to remember, so feel free to use whatever you like…

  • Funniest memory
  • Best date
  • Best surprise
  • Best dinner
  • When we felt the most loved
  • Biggest thing learned about life
  • Most disappointed moment
  • Biggest fight
  • Best thing we saw God do
  • What we did at Thanksgiving & Christmas
  • What we did for Valentine’s Day & Anniversary
  • What vacations did we take
  • Where we see ourselves in 5 years
  • Favorite kid memories
  • Other things we want to remember
  • Goals for the next year

Guys, hint, hint, if you’re looking for a creative anniversary present, it’s easy to do and could score some nice points.

Look at the Funbags on that Hosehound

dumb-and-dumber-tuxedos3I’ll be honest…I enjoy looking at an attractive woman.  Lucky for me, I get to check out one every day…which is pretty awesome (Julia…btw).  I’m pretty confident in saying that I’m not alone in this desire.  What I feel is a shame is the fact that many men jump in with both feet into the world of appreciating the female body, with no restraint or boundaries.  They check out women while walking around town.  They enjoy watching commercials, TV shows, and movies that contain women with little or no clothing.  They take pride in the movies, magazines, and websites they view that contain pornography.  They do all this with friends and laugh and brag about the hot waitress that waited on them at lunch, or talk about how sexy an actress was in a movie, or discuss how attractive the new girl at the office is.  When I see and hear this behavior, it really makes me sick.  It shows how desires that God has blessed us with have been corrupted and used in sinful ways that hurt us (men) as well as women.

I once heard a married friend talking about how hot a girl was that was walking by.  I asked him how he thought his wife would feel about that, and he said, “hey, I just like to window shop.  I can look all I want, but as long as I don’t buy, it’s all good.”  I hate that so many men have this opinion because it hurts their relationship with their wife even if they don’t realize it.

It Makes You Less Satisfied with what You Have:

If you are constantly looking at “attractive” women…from TV, movies, magazines, advertisements, in life…your opinion of what is “attractive” will change.  Maybe when you got married, you thought your wife was HOT.  But, as time went on, you continued to put images and ideas of models and actresses in your mind which caused your definition of “hot” to keep adjusting to new levels.  After a while, before you realize it, you don’t see your wife as hot anymore.  Now it’s tougher for you to validate to her that she IS attractive to you…because honestly, you don’t believe it yourself.

It Makes Your Wife Feel Less Loved:

If a wife sees her husband checking out another woman, or commenting on someone who looks good, she’s going to notice it.  And when she notices it, it’s going to make her think, “why is he checking out that woman?”  The logical conclusion is that those other women are more attractive than she is.  There are few things that are going to make your wife feel less attractive and less appreciated than thinking you’re not satisfied enough with how she looks, and that you have a need to look at others to feel good.  After all, who can compete with photoshopped models on magazines?!

It is Sinful:

1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.”  God has given us desires.  Those desires are meant to be used in a way that glorifies Him.  It is my opinion that when I appreciate the woman God has made for me to be married to, it makes Him happy.  However, lust and envy (aka. “checking out a woman”) are a misplaced version of that desire.  This version doesn’t come from God but from the world.

Whenever Julia and I are watching TV and a lingerie commercial comes on, there is always a part of me that wants to keep watching.  But, I know how it hurts me, and I know how it would hurt her for me to do so.  So, I always make a big deal out of NOT watching.  Maybe I’ll change the channel.  Maybe I’ll throw pillows over my face.  Maybe I’ll start making out with Julia instead (my personal favorite).  Either way, my mind is not polluted, and Julia knows that she is the only one I want to be checking out.

My challenge to you is…GUARD YOUR EYES AND THOUGHTS.  Don’t let your eyes linger on someone you see.  Turn away when the TV screen is filled with less than dressed women.  And lastly, stop talking about it with the guys.  People will often act like their friends do.  So, make the change now and maybe you can help them too.

Yes We Fight, and So Should You

Couple-talkingJulia and I didn’t fight a lot when we dated.  After we got married, a fight was pretty rare.  Even now, 10 years later, it is still not very common.  But, we DO get in arguments from time to time.  To be honest, I like that.  I don’t LIKE fighting, and I know Julia doesn’t either, but I feel it is an important part of a relationship.  Many couples that are new in a relationship think the fact that they “never fight” is a good sign.  I have to disagree though.  When a couple doesn’t have disagreements, rather than this being a sign of an incredibly deep love for each other and compatibility, I tend to think that the couple probably has issues with avoidance and possibly the inability to be real with each other.

However, I don’t see the frequency or infrequency of fights as something to be proud of.  What is WAY more important than how often you fight, is the METHOD you use to communicate when there are conflicts.

A couple will ALWAYS have differences.  Sometimes they are big like politics, religion, or family values, but often they are petty things like where to place the hand soap, how to arrange dishes in the dishwasher, or what time to eat dinner.  Two people are always going to find things that they differ on.  I feel what makes the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship is how they communicate about these issues when conflicts arise.

When Julia and I DO get in a fight, it almost always follows this same pattern.

  • I do or say something dumb.
  • Julia gets upset about it.
  • I don’t feel she SHOULD be upset, so I get upset back at her.
  • We either give each other the silent treatment for a while or communicate in a clipped tone.
  • I realize that what I did or said WAS dumb and apologize.
  • She forgives me.

If I could cut out the first step (when I do something dumb), things would be a lot easier, but I can’t promise that is going to happen.

One of our most memorable fights happened in the first year of our marriage.  I decided I hadn’t seen a friend of mine in a while so I invited him over for dinner…that night.  He was a mutual friend of ours, so I didn’t think twice about it.  Once it was all set, I casually let Julia know that Jeffrey was coming over for dinner.  I wasn’t prepared for the fallout of that statement.  She was ticked off…that I hadn’t talked with her about it first and made sure it was ok.  Then, I got mad back at her because I thought she was being ridiculous.  After exchanging words back and forth (I believe a bag of chips went flying at one point in there), Julia went off to angry-clean (which is when you’re too mad to do anything else, so you focus your anger into cleaning), and I sat on the couch to stew.  As I thought about what she said, I realized that I hadn’t been considerate of her.  When I was single, it was fine to plan whatever I wanted, but now that I was married, making decisions (like having someone over) involved her too.  Plus, with MY friend coming over she’s going to want to cook something nice and make sure the house is looking good, so I was volunteering her for a lot of work on no notice without asking.  Plus, I didn’t even consider the fact that she might have her OWN ideas of what she wanted to do that night.  After I realized these things, I went to her and apologized because it WAS my fault.  As much as I wanted to be right…I just wasn’t.  It wasn’t fun to go through, but I learned a lot from that experience.

Through our 10 years of marriage, and after going through several variations of the above pattern, I’ve learned a few things about myself and how we can argue better…

1.  I need to give up my right to be right: 

I ALWAYS think I am right…until I realize that I’m not.  Many of our fights are merely based on a difference of perspective.  I always start off thinking my perspective is correct, but I quickly realize that is often not the case.  As soon as I am able to realize that I may be at fault here (which is almost always the case), it removes Pride from the driver’s seat and gives Humility the chance to take over.  You will NEVER resolve a conflict in a loving manner until you can get rid of your pride.

2.  I try to be the first to apologize:

angie-apology-websizedArguments aren’t resolved by one person “winning” with a convincing argument that can’t be refuted, or speaking so emphatically that the other has to back down.  They are resolved when one (or both) people genuinely apologize.  This goes hand-in-hand with #1 above, but until someone humbles himself to do this, the argument will never be resolved.  I try to ALWAYS be that person.

3.  Authentically share and listen

I find myself often wanting to jump to conclusions and make a snap decision about what is right or not.  I think one of the most important steps in resolving a conflict is for both people to be able to share how they feel (in a loving respectful way).  Being a doormat doesn’t help anyone, so jumping to an apology without sharing how you feel doesn’t do anyone any good…as long as the way you share is constructive and not attacking.  Also, it is important that both people REALLY listen to what is being said.  You can’t just wait until she is done talking so you can slam her with the great point you just thought of.  If you listen to what she is saying, it will help you understand more about who she is and hopefully help prevent the conflict from happening next time. 

4.  I try to never raise my voice:

I know this is more related to people’s personalities, but I feel it is important to not raise my voice in an argument.  Now, I realize I’m not a raise-your-voice type of guy, so this may just be easier for me.  But, I feel when you raise your voice, you are escalating the issue…like adding gasoline on a fire.  If both of you keep raising your voices, the argument is only going to get worse.  If you can force yourself to stay calm, even if the other person isn’t, it will make things easier.

5.  I try to never go to bed with unresolved issues:

I know this is kind of cliche, but it is so true.  The longer you leave issues unresolved, the more long term damage it can cause.  The quicker you address it, the better.  And no matter what, don’t go to bed before you can talk through whatever it is.

6.  Don’t get on the crazy cycle:

How the crazy cycle works is this…  One person does something mean or hurtful.  In response, the other person is mean or hurtful back.  In response to THAT, the other person is mean or hurtful again.  In response to THAT, the other person is mean or hurtful again…  You can see where this is going.  This usually occurs in an escalating fashion to where both people are trying to outdo the other with how mean and hurtful they can be.  To get out of this, you need to control YOU.  You can’t do anything about what your wife says or does, but you CAN control how you respond.  When in doubt, be humble, loving, and gracious.  This can help diffuse the situation, or at a minimum…not make it worse.

So, here is my challenge to you…

Don’t see arguments as a bad relationship sign.  Rather, use them as a chance to work on your communication.  Learn from your mistakes so you can be more loving next time.  And most importantly, when you do get in an argument, forget about winning or being right.  Be the first to humble yourself and apologize.

Bring on that Girly Stuff

IMG_6856By a show of hands…who likes to do household chores?  Anybody?  Cooking, grocery shopping, dishes, laundry, vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, folding clothes, kid duties, dusting…anybody?  I sure don’t like chores, and I’m guessing most of you don’t either.  What is interesting is that in most families, the large majority of this responsibility list above is handled by the wife.  Why is that exactly?

If you look back 40-50 years, you’ll see families that were starkly divided in their roles.  The husband worked a 9-5 job.  The wife stayed at home and took care of the house.  It was simply the way it was then.  We now live in a different time though.  In many, if not most, families BOTH people are employed full time.  If the wife is working outside the house, then why is she still expected to take care of everything at home?  I believe it is simply tradition that has passed along role expectations, but in reality there is not as much necessity for it as there used to be.

Cookies ROCK!…don't cajole your wife into making them for you…step up!  Make them for HER!
Cookies ROCK!…don’t cajole your wife into making them for you…step up! Make them for HER!

There are still plenty of families though where the wife DOES work at home.  When this is the case, sure…it probably makes sense for the wife to take care of the majority of these.  But, I feel if a husband leaves all these things to his wife to take care of, he is missing out on a big opportunity to show her love.  Just like men don’t like doing these types of chores, for the most part, women probably don’t like it either.  A great way to show your wife love would be to surprise her by helping out.

How great would your wife feel if…

  • You stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work and got the food you need to make dinner and told her not to worry about dinner because you have it covered.
  • While she was out of the house you cleaned all the floors and bathrooms
  • After dinner you told her to go do whatever she wants while you take care of the dishes.

Small things like this don’t take a lot of effort.  They simply take a little planning and an intentional act to do something for your wife.

 It’s Good to Have a Plan:

Every couple of years, Julia and I sit down and discuss responsibilities.  I feel it is important to have expectations of who will be the one responsible for certain chores on a regular basis.  That doesn’t mean the other person can’t help out sometimes, but we like knowing who the responsibility ultimately falls to.  For example, I am responsible for taking out the trash, taking care of the yard, doing the dishes, and cleaning the bathrooms. Julia is responsible for planning the meals, cooking, laundry, and taking care of Eli (when I’m at work).  When I’m off work, we split Eli duties.  We also vacuum as needing splitting it between who is able to.  At least that is our plan.  Julia often cleans the bathrooms though, and I often cook dinner.  We have a standing rule that whoever cooks, the other person cleans up.  It works pretty well, but sometimes I try to sneak in and do both!

Eli in training :-)
Eli in training :-)

If your wife is “falling behind” on her duties, don’t nag her about them, pitch in to help out!  A few months back, Julia started working part time outside of the house, and her schedule got a lot busier.  As a result some of the things she was always on top of at home fell behind a little.  One was laundry.  It wasn’t because she was lazy or not motivated, she just didn’t have the same amount of time to keep tabs on the levels of my clothing drawers, which is understandable.  I would get to the end of white shirts or socks and not have any more to wear.  At first I was a little frustrated.  I didn’t want to be the “Woman, clean my clothes!” type of guy, so I just re-wore shirts and waited until she got around to it.  After a while, I realized that I wasn’t having a Godly attitude about it.  So, I decided that when I ran out of something, I wouldn’t nag her about it, and I wouldn’t stew about it quietly, I just cleaned them myself.  Not with an attitude of, “I can’t believe you’re making me do this” but one of, “this is a great way I can show her love!”  Of course a simple, “hey Babe, I’m almost out of whites…do you think you would be able to do a load in the next couple days?” would have been fine.  But, I wanted to take it one step farther and help out.

My Challenges for You:

  1. Don’t be a caveman and expect your wife to do it all.  Don’t fall back on the old, “laundry isn’t my spiritual gift” excuse.  Learn to do EVERYTHING.  You may not be the one who has to cook or clean on a regular basis, but I think all men should know HOW to.  What if your wife is sick?  Are you going to remind her that you are out of clean socks between her trips to the toilet to throw up?  What if she’s out of town?  Are you going to expect her to pre-cook meals for you before she leaves?  If you can learn to do these things, it will make things so much easier on your wife and will be an opportunity to show her love.
  2. If you don’t already have one, sit down with your wife to discuss a plan of who will be responsible for which chores.  Even if she is a stay-at-home mom, don’t assume she should be responsible for everything.  Come up with expectations of who will do what.  Make sure you’re participating, and as you go along, make it a point to help out with “her” jobs whenever you have the chance.