Tag Archives: marriage

What is a Love Tank and how does it affect me?

love-tank-logo-300x297Imagine your wife is holding a large bucket filled to the top with water.  Now imagine that water level is directly correlated to how loved she feels from you…it is her love tank.  That’s awesome because the bucket is totally full!  :-)  She’s happy, you’re happy…everything is awesome!  But, after a bit of time you forget to clean the dishes like you promised and the bucket gets bumped and some of the water splashes out.  That’s ok…there’s still a lot of water in it and she’s still feeling pretty loved.  But, a little later, you let her know that you told the guys you would go out with them…but forgot to make sure she was cool with it.  Uh oh…more water gets knocked out.  Then, you make a comment about an outfit she’s wearing and a bunch of water spills out.  Well…now she’s down to very little water in the bucket.  And remember what the water is correlated with?…how loved she feels!  So, now that her tank is about empty, she’s not feeling the love anymore.  Life’s not so awesome now.

So to fix this, an easy solution is to just tiptoe around life and make sure not to “bump the water bucket”…right????  Just be really careful that you don’t mess anything up and you’ll be good?????  Unfortunately there is one more detail in this love tank.  There are small holes poked in the bottom.  So, even if you don’t knock any water out…it will still slowly disappear.  

Fortunately, you have the ability to replace water in the tank.  You do this by showing your wife love (gifts, service, physical touch, kind words, spending time together…see my previous post for info on 5 love languages if you’re not familiar).  What is it that makes your wife feel loved?  Telling her something you admire about her, going out on a date, cooking dinner for her, buying her a new pair of earrings?  When you do these things, you help put water back in her tank.  

Do you KNOW what fills up your wife’s tank?  Don’t just assume it’s buying her a box of chocolates.  That may not actually mean as much to her as you think.  Sit down and ASK her, “what fills up your love tank?”  It’s an easy question and should be easy for her to answer.  Chances are she will want to know about you also, which is great because…YOU’VE GOT A BUCKET TOO!  The more each of you know about what fills up each other’s love tanks…the better you’ll be able to keep them filled.  

My challenge to you:

Low Bucket Syndrome (or LBS) is a condition that NO ONE wants their wife to have.  Luckily it is 100% preventable by YOU!  In order to prevent, you need to consciously be working on it.  Know what fills her tanks and always be finding ways to fill it up.  Also, it does help if you don’t knock water out.  :-)

A well balanced marriage

Balance

Something I always challenge myself in is finding ways to show Julia I love her.  Often, this results in some method of serving her…doing something so she doesn’t have to: unloading the dishwasher, putting Eli to bed when it’s “her turn”, cleaning the bathrooms, etc.  She does the same for me too.  When I come back from a business trip, she goes out of her way to have a nice home-cooked meal and family time.  She also takes care of me in ways I don’t think about or sometimes even realize (changing sheets & towels, grocery shopping, changing out my toothbrush…I’d probably be using a 4 year old brush if she didn’t do that).

All these things are great, but I think an important aspect of this is to keep balance in it.  I don’t mean being able to stand on one foot.  I mean…sharing the load, helping each other, and never doing too much of any one thing.  I wrote a post a while ago here about the importance of sitting down to discuss who is responsible for which jobs around the house.  I think this is a VERY important step to do.  You don’t want all work to fall on one person.  And you don’t want frustration to grow due to resentment or misunderstood expectations.  So, discussing this is critical.  But, even though you decide your wife is “responsible for” a given job, it is a good idea for you to pitch in every once in a while.

Julia is responsible for planning our meals.  But, every once in a while, I like to surprise her by planning something instead.  Maybe when she’s had a busy day I will suggest, “hey, why don’t we have ___ for dinner tonight?  I can run to the store after work, then will cook it while you relax…is that cool?”  Or when the trash is getting full and I haven’t taken it out yet (my job), she doesn’t hound me about it, she just takes it out herself.  But, she’s not bitter about it, she doesn’t grumble and complain, she just does it as a way to help ME out with my job.

Balance is important in ALL aspects of life.  Physical exercise is great.  But, if you do it every day at the expense of time with your family, it may not be so great.  Spending time with other guys is great, but if you do that more than spending time with your wife…not great.  Eating healthy is great, but I think I’d go crazy if I never had dessert again.  In the same way, you need to have balance at home.  Learn how to cook, do laundry, clean, take care of the kids, iron…even if you decide she’s the one who is responsible for it, if you know how, you can help from time to time.  Or if she’s sick, you can take over everything without missing a beat while she recovers.

My advice to you:

First, make sure you’ve had discussions about who does what in your family.  Then, guys, anything that is your wife’s “responsibility”, learn how to do it.  And pitch in from time to time so she doesn’t get burned out or feel overwhelmed.

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.

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…

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.

Ice ice no baby…literally

87611732A few weeks ago I participated in a man’s rite of passage.  The passage from being a man one day…to being a man who won’t be creating any more kids the next.  That’s right…it starts with a “V” and rhymes with schlasectomy.  Overall, it wasn’t too bad.  The worst was the interminable drive home when I felt like I was going to die.  But, once I got home, I did a lot of resting and felt much better.  For the next couple days, it was actually nice to have no responsibilities…and lots of drugs (prescribed by the doctor).

Julia was amazing.  Whenever I needed something, she was there.  Books, remote controls, ice, food, pillows, movies, water…more ice…she was ready with it all!   I got taco pie, guacamole, frosted lemonade…whatever I wanted.  After all (in the words on Phil Dunphy), “is it a vasecta-you or a vasecta-me?”  I felt so loved how she took care of me.  I felt free to rest and to allow myself to be taken care of.

It was a difficult weekend for Julia though.  She was waiting on me hand and foot, plus taking care of Eli, plus visiting with out of town company and baking things.  She was stressed and I could feel it.

It was tough for me to be passive, especially as I started to feel a little better.  I wanted to stop and clean up the kitchen.  I wanted to tell her to sit down and relax while I made a nice dinner.  But, she wouldn’t let me.  She knew that the most important thing was for me to rest so my body can heal.  She was determined to take care of me and wouldn’t have it any other way.  So, I had to resist the urge to exert myself.  Julia was right.  It was the right move, and the rest I got helped me to recover quickly.

Looking back on it, it was actually a really awesome weekend.  I felt special and very much loved.  I learned first-hand from Julia’s example how much taking care of your spouse means to the person being taken care of.

My advice to you:

Sometimes you will be the person that needs the help, and sometimes you will be the person who needs to be helping.  In either case, do your job well!  I know that I will be there for Julia the next time she’s in the spot I was.  Make sure you see when your wife needs it and help her out too.

Just get her flowers for crying out loud!

Seattle 081Julia loves getting flowers…this is something I know.  She tells me frequently, and it is very clear.  She doesn’t tell me in a nagging pestering way making me feel like a louse for not getting them.  But, sometimes we talk about things we can do to show each other love and things we really appreciate, and flowers is one that seems to always come up.

You would think this clarity would be great right?  I’ve been granted access to this secret knowledge of a way to Julia’s heart…score!  So, what could go wrong??!!  I’ll tell you what goes wrong…I don’t get them.  It’s as simple as that.  “But Michael, that doesn’t make any sense!” you say…”if she tells you that she feels loved when you get her flowers, and you are always trying to find ways to show her you love her, then why don’t you just get her some flowers?!”  That’s a very good question, to which I don’t have a good answer.

Now to be fair, I DO get her flowers sometimes.  Sometimes it’s for no reason at all.  Sometimes it’s when she’s having a rough day.  But, my issue is the frequency.  To give context for comparison, let’s says her ideal desire is flowers once a month (I’m just throwing that out there as a basis to compare to, not that it is accurate).  If that is her desire, my frequency is around once every 3 months probably.

So, here is the issue…there is a big opportunity for me to show her that I love her, that I was thinking about her, that she is more important to me than the small cost of getting something pretty even if they only last a short time.  Even though I do it some, this bothers me that I’m missing out on an opportunity to knock her love-socks off.

IMG_1061I don’t have a magic answer to master situations like this.  Obviously…because I am far from figuring it out.  But, my hope is to continue to think about her and think about how I can show her I love her.  I’ve recently been thinking that I wished I would get Julia flowers more.  Then, yesterday, I was at the store getting some groceries, and when I passed the flowers section, it wasn’t even a question of whether or not I wanted to get some.  I picked out some flowers I thought she would like and put them in a vase at home.  When she saw them, she came up with a big smile and gave me a hug and a kiss and told me thank you.  Score!  :-)

My challenge to you:

Is there an area that your wife could feel loved in that you’re not doing all you can?  Maybe it’s getting her jewelry, you cooking dinner, cleaning the house, taking her on dates, helping out more with the kids.  Think about what your wife has expressed about ways you can show her love, and think about if there are some of those areas you’re NOT taking advantage of.  Then…make a plan to make it happen.  Keeping it at the front of your mind is going to be the best way to help make it a reality.

The marriage trap

New-Members-Only-267x300”Free tablet for new customers!”, “Special 12 month introductory rate!”, “Sign up today and save 20%!”…don’t you love these types of promotions?!  I always get excited when service providers try to woo me with deals that can save money or give me free stuff.  But, you know what stinks about these specials?  The company does so much work to get you signed up with all these promises and special deals, but once you’re locked in, they often do little more than the minimum that is expected of them.  There are no more special deals or free stuff.  They often assume they don’t NEED to put much effort into making you happy or keeping you since you’re already locked in.  After some time with high rates, no more specials, or a few instances of bad customer service I find myself wondering if I need to stay with that company.  Maybe there is another service provider out there that would be better and could give me some special deals to move to them?!

I realize that unfortunately I sometimes treat my wife this way.  When we were dating, I put so much thought and effort into making her feel special.  I was constantly thinking of special things to do for her and cool dates to take her on.  It’s never been my intention, but, now that we’re married, over time it has been easy to fall into the trap of not putting as much energy into PURSUING her as I used to.  I call it the Marriage Trap…and it is lame-o!

Here is what I want to do…I want to pursue my wife…even now.  Sure, she has a ring on her finger.  Sure, we have a life and family together.  But, I never want to take it for granted that she has chosen me.  I want her to choose me over and over again every day!  My hope is to always be thinking about special things I can do to show her I love her.  I want to plan fun dates and experiences for us to go on together.  I want to bring her gifts to show I was thinking of her.

Now, I do believe that marriage is for life.  And I don’t think that a LACK OF pursuit justifies “shopping around for other deals”.  But, I think it is important for a husband to continue to treat his wife as he did when they were dating.  God has brought you together and has a plan for your marriage.  You owe it to your wife, to God, and to yourself to make it the best marriage you can.

My challenge to you:
No matter how long you’ve been married, make sure you continue to pursue your wife and treat her as good (or better) as you did when you were dating.  Don’t give her the opportunity to be disappointed in who you’ve become or the lack of attention you give her.  Keep blowing her away with awesomeness and you will see your relationship continue to grow!

The number one cause of divorce is…

IMG_2153People don’t generally enter into marriage planning to get divorced.  Things are usually great at first and then…things change.  I desperately DON’T want this to happen, so it begs the question…what’s the number one cause of divorce?  Well, it depends on who you ask.  Some will say money.  Some will say children.  Some will say marital unfaithfulness.  And apparently some think it is sweatpants.  So…who really knows!?

Julia and I try to communicate about finances so we’re on the same page and make decisions together.  We love our little Eli and do our best to parent together.  We try to prevent close relationships with the opposite sex unless it is hanging out all of us together.  We made a point to not be social media “friends” with anyone we’ve ever dated before.  I feel all of these things are good, but none are guarantees.

I can tell you one thing I know.  Here are some things that are NOT the number one cause of divorce:

  • Cooking dinner for your wife
  • Telling her that you love her
  • Giving her flowers
  • Hugs / kisses
  • Writing a note telling her something sweet
  • Spending quality time together doing something you like
  • Going out on a date together
  • Buying a present just for fun
  • Cleaning the house without being asked
  • Taking the kids out as a way to give her some alone time
  • Smiling at her
  • Giving her a compliment
  • Listening to her

By the grace of God, Julia and I continue to have a great marriage.  I’m so thankful for the lessons we’ve learned over the years and the wisdom we’ve gained from others.  My goal is to continue to focus on PREVENTING divorce by avoiding bad things.  But, even more so, I want to focus on PURSUING great things!  If we can fill our relationship with awesomeness, there will be little room for the rest.

My challenge to you:

If you want to avoid divorce in your marriage, it IS important to focus on “defense”…how you can PREVENT it.  However, I think it is just as important to focus on “offense”.  Don’t just try to prevent a bad marriage from happening…actively pursue a GREAT MARRIAGE! 

But wait…I thought that was MY job

  1. What should I do if my wife wants to quit her job to stay home?
  2. What should I do if my wife has a promotion opportunity that would require us to move?
  3. What should I do if my wife has a good job and wants me to stay home with the kids?

To answer these three questions, I want to start by giving some background on what I think marriage roles should be:

IMG_7268Back when God first created people, his design was for the man and wife to work together to take care of their family.  Typically the man “worked the ground” and hunted to provide food, and the woman did more of the cooking and caring for kids.  This wasn’t because of societal expectation, but was because it made sense based on how they were made.  Men were usually physically stronger than women.  Farming and hunting was EXTREMELY physical work, so it made sense for the man to take care of that part.  But, BOTH the man and women WERE taking care of their family…just in different ways…based on their skills.  Fast forward to present day and apply those same concepts to a married couple.  BOTH people should be responsible for taking care of their family…based on their skills.

There are two parts to what taking care of a family means:

  1. Providing resources:  In the past, this meant hunting, gathering, and farming, but today this usually means earning money to BUY the things that are needed.
  2. Providing care:  This consists of cooking, cleaning, teaching, and much more.  How this looks has changed over time, but the basics are still the same.

IMG_6856I don’t feel that men need to be the primary bread winners.  In fact, in the right situations, I don’t think men NEED to even work to earn money.  I believe what IS important is for a husband and wife to work together to meet the needs of their family.  They need to figure out what is the best way to provide resources and care for their family.  Maybe this means the husband works (earning money) and the wife works at home (not earning money).  Maybe it means the wife works (earning money) and husband works at home (not earning money).  Or maybe they both are employed.  If both spouses are employed, this can obviously create some extra challenges in providing care, but many couples do this and do it well.

So, viewing careers from this perspective can help address the questions I posed at the beginning.  The answer to all three of these questions are the same.  You and your wife need to figure out the best way to meet the needs of your family.  What is the best way for you to earn money to provide for your family’s needs?  What is the best way for you to provide care for your family?  Maybe it means she needs to be the primary (or only) income earner.  If you would expect her to follow you to a new city for a promotion opportunity, it would be unfair for you to not consider following her if she has an opportunity.  If one of you needs to stay home, don’t assume it needs to be her.  If she can earn money, I’m sure you can learn to do things at home.  Figure out where each of your skills lie and find the best fit to use them to meet your family’s needs.  Just don’t make an assumption on what that should look like based on what other generations did before you.