Monday, January 9, 2012

The Four Stages: Revisited

Awhile ago I shared that Mark and I are in this stage of communication: 
Stage 4: Talk to your husband?! What is that?  Because there are all these other little people talking or interrupting CONSTANTLY.  You can't even *think*, let alone have a conversation. 
From the sounds of it, a lot of you are there, too.

It has been a challenge for us to try to figure out ways to maintain a good level of communication-- which I would define as: uninterrupted time to talk; the opportunity to share on a deeper level than just the daily conversations surrounding the management of the house and kids.

Just so you know, we're not experts by any means.  We are smack dab in the middle of this stage, struggling to figure it out ourselves.  I do feel so blessed to have witnessed solid, faithful, decades-and-decades-long marriages in two sets of grandparents and in my mom and step-dad.  I have also seen the devastation of divorce- years ago- with my mom and biological dad.  I  know that my parents' divorce has shaped me and has made me even more purposeful and protective of my own marriage.

Here are two reasons I think this communication-thing is so important:

1) Titus 2 talks about how the older women are to train the younger women (that would be me) to love their husbands.  I can't love my husband very well if we're not communicating; if I don't know him, if I'm not working to strengthen and nurture our relationship.  It's my responsibility as a wife to do so.

2) The enemy prowls around, like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  His goal is to kill, steal and destroy.  I see so clearly that he is working to destroy Christian marriages, and while that should not make us fearful (because greater is HE who is in us than he who is in the world!), I think we need to recognize that there's a spiritual battle going on over our marriages, and we have a responsibility to be prayerful and vigilant. 

It's always my goal that our marriage is thriving, not just getting by.  Now for some practical stuff:

I think a key to thriving in your marriage is prayer.  Pray for your spouse*, pray with your spouse, pray over your struggles, pray for the strength of your marriage, just pray already!  So many times in our marriage, God has answered specific prayers and I can look back and see His faithful hand in our relationship.  He is good, and He desires good things for my marriage and for yours.

The main thing I recognized that needed changing in our home in regards to our communication troubles was this: the constant interruptions from our kids.  As a mother, our time is very rarely our own.  Throughout the day, we are continually being interrupted by our kids- for a drink here, a snack there, a diaper change over here, a squabble that needs sorting there, a heart that needs mending, a hug, a word, an instruction, a prayer, a meal.  You name it: as mothers we are on call, all hours of the day.  But when Mark comes home, I need to mentally shift from being available to the kids to being available to him.  That's a difficult thing when all day long your focus is the kids.  That doesn't mean that I'm no longer available to them- but it does mean they may just need to wait.

What that means for us is that when Mark comes home from work, we make an effort to sit together or work alongside each other to talk about our days.  {This is often a time when I'll say- "Okay- everyone outside for 20 minutes!"}  When the kids run in- and they do!  numerous times!- to say this or that, we are learning to tell them to wait; to not interrupt, to please let daddy and mommy talk for a few minutes.  I think it's important for our kids to see, too- that we are loving and honoring one another that way.  And for us, taking that initial time together to cover the basics opens up our evening time to get to more quality conversation.

[One other thought I'm going to tuck in here, and that is to encourage your husband.  Compliment him, tell him every single day how thankful you are for him, for his hard work, for his provision for your family.  Speak well of him to your children and to others.  Tell him you love him, and show him with service and thoughtfulness and kindness and affection.  Greet him warmly at the door, give him a hug and tell him you've missed him.  Okay- that could be a whole other post entirely, but that's all I'll say now.]

The other thing we are always trying to be more diligent at is having planned at-home date nights.  (If you have a sitter and can afford it, by all means: get out of the house!- but if you're like us: just plan dates at home.)  I emphasized the word planned because it makes all the difference for us.  When there is a regular night set aside for that- written on the calendar, anticipated and assigned (either Mark or I in charge of the plan for the evening)- we have far greater success at those date nights actually taking place.  Or- at least they're not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants  "Oh yeah!  It's date night.  What are we doing?  Who was supposed to plan tonight?" kind of an evening.  If I know it's my night, I am far more intentional and thoughtful about what we'll do and what we can talk about.

One more thing: because we rarely have an opportunity to get away, Mark and I try to go away for even one or two nights once or twice a year.  This has become eagerly anticipated by both of us.

I'm counting on your inspiring ideas in the comments of this post, too!

*Here's a link to the list I posted in 2006: Praying for my husband.  

6 comments:

  1. What a GREAT post. We are just now starting that tradition, where you dedicate a bit of time to talk together when hubby gets home. Everyone wins; the kids see affection between their parents, they {eventually} learn not to interrupt, parents get a break, etc. With crazy Texas weather, we can't always send them outside, but they ideally find something to do for a few minutes. And throughout any given day, I cheerfully say at least once, "Okay, no words for five minutes! Mommy's ears need a little break!" I know they're relieved sometimes, because they get a little break too! :)

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  2. Great post!
    We are in the middle of this stage as well and have always said, "okay we are going to start date nights once a month".. and then life happens and date nights get pushed aside! I love the idea of at home date night. What kinds of idea/things do you plan for date night?

    Kara

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  3. Valerie~
    Yes- big emphasis on the word *eventually*! :)


    Kara~
    Yeah, that's us, too. I think it's been at least a month since we've even had one! :)
    Some things we've done:
    -feed the kids earlier and then one of us will go pick up take-out for us to share later, after the kids are in bed
    -play a game together
    -watch a movie
    -get a favorite snack or dessert and share it and just talk

    (For a few dates Mark used the alphabet to prompt some ideas: for "B" we had blizzards and played Bananagrams, for "C" we had yummy cheese and crackers, ...etc.) That was fun!

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  4. We have some great friends who "trade" with us - taking turns watching kids for each other so no babysitting costs. We each watch each other's kids in our own home, which makes it great because then my husband and I don't have to buy dinner or spend money, we can just be together at home, but alone. They actually take our kids overnight, which again allows us to decompress more fully (important especially for our situation). Also, we don't allow our kids to come to our bedroom or stand at the doorway and ask for us (unless someone's safety is at risk of course!). I know a lot of people wouldn't agree with this, but it is especially important to my husband. And our kids are learning that they can save that exciting idea for a few minutes until we are ready to come out and be with them fully.
    We struggle terribly with fun ideas for our dates - I love the alphabet idea!
    Koe

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  5. I completely agree with you about needing to make time to talk with our spouse. My wife and I have a sitter come every other week so we can have a date night together. We have also found what you mentioned to be true - one of us must be in charge of our "date" time in order to make best use of our time. Without a plan our alone time isn't as focused as it could be.

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  6. It's always encouraging to hear another mama talk about parenting/family/marriage issues. Yes, the interruptions - have mercy! It's so incredibly valuable and just as incredibly difficult to teach my girls that they are not the focal point of our family. They are a very dear part of it, but they are not everything. What wonderful challenges, eh?

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