Last winter our three-year-old got into the habit of yelling “Don’t’ Slip!” each morning as my husband braved the snow and ice. Even in the hot summer months, she’ll still race down the stairs saying “Wait, Daddy, Wait!” to make sure to blurt out “Don’t Slip!” with her red curls and dimpled grin. Then she’ll throw her freckled arms tightly around his neck and touch thumbs while saying “BFF!” Once at the end of church one Sunday, our little daughter even yelled out “Don’t Slip!” to a sweet 90-year-old woman with a walker and oxygen tank. It was an awesome moment.
Our four little people often have eyes and noses smashed up against the window, happily clamoring for daddy, as the door swings open each day. They all want to wrestle with him and excitedly explain how they went tinkles in the toilet or did their very first cartwheel or created a super cool Lego creation. As my husband comes in, I’m often stressfully running out the door to teach a class, or completely exasperated and in need of help since 5:30 p.m. tends to be the hardest and craziest time for kids! However, my children have inspired me to re-dedicate more effort, attention, and excitement to the comings and goings between the two of us, as husband and wife. These crossroads are so important to our relationship, and even the smallest positive efforts can make such a difference!
Here are six practical ideas that have really helped us:
1. EXPERIMENT WITH MAKING YOUR GOOD-BYES JUST A LITTLE MORE SPECIAL AND INTENTIONAL. This could mean a big kiss, or a great squeeze, or a quick flirty comment with a smile. It’s so easy to let this slip by and be “busy,” with whatever we are doing, but we all want our spouse to have happy feelings towards us as we part. For example, knowing of my heightened smelling abilities and gagging reflexes while pregnant, my husband knows how grateful I am when he takes out the trash or quickly makes the kids breakfast on his way out!
2. DISCOVER EACH OTHER’S PERSONAL NEEDS DURING THE TRANSITION of reuniting at the day’s end. Some may desire “wind-down” time, or a moment to get some pressing to-do's done, or some form of help from their spouse, or some may be starving or exhausted! I love how my father-in-law sits and rubs his wife's feet religiously at day's end.
3. ANTICIPATE BEING TOGETHER AGAIN. You could send a thoughtful or flirty text before re-uniting for the day. Maybe on your way home you could dwell on all the awesome things you spouse does do. Every now and then think about what you admire about him or her. I know it changes my focus (big-time) if I actually take a second amongst the craziness to look in the mirror and feel cute and beautiful before seeing my husband. While single and in college, I’ll never forget my roommate talking with such respect and admiration for her parents’ special and intensely close marriage relationship. She has fond childhood memories of her mother gasping, “Oh! Daddy’s almost home,” and suddenly and excitedly running in front of the mirror to put on a bit more makeup or fix her hair.
4. BE MORE FULLY PRESENT. Right now my heart and head are spinning with being so overwhelmed with way too much to do, and too little time and energy! When our minds are cluttered with chaos, it’s difficult to really focus on the relationships that matter most to us. The bottom line is that we want to find more peace and order in our lives so we can more freely be engaged in those important marriage and family moments. (A lot of the time we realize that we'll just have to wait until the kids are asleep in order to actually be able to hear each other and think straight!)
5. BE AWARE OF HOW YOUR STRESS AFFECTS THE WAY YOU TREAT YOUR SPOUSE. Isn’t it incredibly easy to get ornery and frustrated at each other - and sometimes for the silliest reasons?! Sometimes it feels like you are continually working against each other. When one of us (or both at the same time) is irritable, I have found that it's usually because we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Consciously deciding to understand your spouse and to find out more about their difficult day, will help you to understand their actions. Choosing to not take offense immediately, but instead to understand, is a lofty but important goal! It’s a daily effort to remember the two of you are a team and to seek to treat each other with respect and love, even when you're stressed.
6. REMEMBER THE 15-MINUTE GOAL. We loved someone’s advice of striving at night to give each other at least fifteen minutes. Those 15 minutes could be used to spill out all your current thoughts and experiences from the day, vent frustrations, catch up on meaningful events, or simply share the same space and enjoy each other's company. Just 15 minutes can be incredibly renewing and energizing. We need that daily connection!
Photo Credit: Caitlinn Mahar-Daniels
“A great marriage isn’t something that just happens; it’s something that must be created.”
- Fawn Weaver
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