Hey, I Need Help! Part 2

Last time we looked at how chores around the house can cause major stress in your marriage. If one spouse feels they do a majority of the chores while their partner relaxes, this can lead to resentment and anger.

So how do you divide these chores up so  no one is feeling  they are doing an unfair percentage of the work load?

First, do either or both of you need an attitude change?

Photo by Rachael Ball

Photo by Rachael Ball

Maybe you do most of the work…. But do you have expectations of your spouse that cause you to demand things your way? Have you lost your servant heart in all the resentment? Fix your attitude and get in a place where you can forgive and start a new discussion with a servant heart.

And if you suddenly realize that you are the one relaxing, then it’s time for you to think through why that is. Do you notice when things need to be done or your spouse is exhausted? Do you wish he or she was more relaxed? When you think of helping out with chores, how does that make you feel? Maybe you are OK with messiness, or maybe you just don’t want to help out. Figure it out and make a decision to be a servant to your spouse and take part in keeping your household orderly.

Now you can have a discussion to clear the air and start fresh. Listen to understand each other. Forgive if needed. Bend if that helps. Throw out any unrealistic expectations.

List all of the tasks that you both do around the house by frequency.

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Decide which tasks you each prefer to do on a regular basis. For example: One may prefer to cook. That’s great. You’re probably better at it and don’t mind doing it. Narrow the list this way.

The rest you need to creatively work at dividing up.

Maybe neither of you want to vacuum. But you can trade off every other week. One may decide to do the vacuuming if the other spouse mops. You can horse trade. I’ll do this if you do that. Try to work through the list with this give and take cooperative attitude. Be creative. The goal is to equitably share the chores.

If there are items left on the list still, you could agree to do those together. Four hands work faster!

Every family is unique. Your situation may determine who does what chore. If only one spouse is working, the other spouse will usually have more on their list. Find a way to work at sharing the work load around the house so that no one feels they are doing an unfair amount of the work.

Hey You! Listen Up!

Has your wife ever said, “You’re not listening to me!”

There are times when these words come out tearfully and loaded with overwhelming emotion or with anger and frustration.  Either way, the message is clear:  All of us guys can do a better job at listening to our wives.

Photo by CELAL TEBER

Photo by CELAL TEBER

The familiar scenario has the husband getting home, rummaging through the mail for bills, making a quick run to the bathroom, and returning to the family room to open his laptop to check the last few work emails. He yells back to his wife in the kitchen the obligatory, “How did your day go?”  She reviews the challenges of raising 3 active kids, and the stressful issues that came up.  When she looks around the corner to discover her husband with his gaze fixed on the laptop, she asks, “Have you been listening to me?” to which he replies, “Of course.  I just have to get this one email done.”  And that means he should be done in 20 to 30 minutes.  She walks back to the kitchen thinking, “Right! One email.”

Has this scenario ever happened in your home? Some of us, habitually turn on the TV or read the newspaper.  Still others disappear to the office to put things away, emerging in 45 minutes.  So much is vying for our attention, we often are drawn away from attending to the ones we love.

And then we hear that this pattern of behavior is justified because, well…. Men just need some time to unwind.

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

We basically just get our priorities all wrong.

Am I guilty?  Convicted to the core.  I have done this for years.  It is a worn-in pattern.  But it can and should be changed.  If we love our wives, we should first look to their needs, giving them our undivided attention.  How did their day really go?  We should actively listen to hear not only the message but the heart.  Maybe she revealed the facts about her day, but if you listen to hear her heart she is really saying “I just need a hug.  Today was rough.”

I have a bad habit of “kind of” listening.  That means I do something else and listen in the background.  I have even caught myself needing to “play back” what Darleen has said, as if I have a tape recording in my head.  Ouch!!!  Yes, I do love you, but I only half listen when you talk to me.

So here’s the deal.  listen and pay full attention to your spouse.  No more half-baked efforts.  On the way home from work, decompress and use the time to transition your mind to the people love. If this applies to some of you ladies out there, then so be it.

It is often said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak!

Fables and Fairy Tales

There is a long tradition of teaching life principles with short stories like Aesop’s fables, parables, and fairy tales.  I ran across one such pithy tale in a book by Mort Fertel, Marriage FitnessAmazon.  The story is one of love and sacrifice.  I was struck with how well it illustrated the concept of Selfless Serving, a cornerstone principle of our blog.  Here’s a brief summary of the tale.

There once was a brave knight in King Arthur’s court, Sir Gawain, who uncovered a plot to kill the King.  To save the King’s life, he had to agree to marry Ragnell, the unsightliest maid in the kingdom.  On their wedding night, she was amazed that he never showed revulsion or pity for her and she asked one thing of him.  She asked for only one kiss.                                                                                  

Photo by Gabor Palla

Photo by Gabor Palla

Sir Gawain gently kissed his bride.  When he opened his eyes the most beautiful women he had ever seen was lying next to him and he asked, “Where is my wife Ragnell?”  She replied, “I am your wife Ragnell and now I must tell you the rest of my story”.

Ragnell told him her evil jealous stepbrother had a sorceress put a curse on her, turning her into the ugliest woman in the kingdom and because he had treated her with love and not pity, she could give him a choice.  She could be beautiful by day so that all would see Sir Gawain was a lucky man married to a beautiful woman, or she could be beautiful by night when they were together.  Ugly by day, beautiful by night, or beautiful by day and ugly by night.  It was his choice.                                                        

Sir Gawain immediately declined to make that choice.  He said that she must choose and he would accept her decision.  And at that, the curse on Ragnell was lifted and she was once again beautiful by day and night.

In this simple tale, we are shown that we have choices.  Gawain gave up his right to choose and let his wife choose the best for her.  We can also choose to serve our own needs and wants, or we can choose to surrender our desires and selflessly give to our spouse.

Here’s a Date Night idea.  Take turns asking your spouse these questions:

  1. Do you feel that I am attentive enough to your needs?
  2. Do you think I take the time to really hear what’s important to you?
  3. What would you say are your four most important needs?
  4. What can I do to better meet those needs?

Remember marriage is a “We” relationship.  No one is perfect.  We can all improve and we need each other.  Help each other so that you can better serve and love one another.

Who knows, you may make a fairy tale marriage!

Lions and Bees and Otters and Bears, Oh My!

We all remember Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz repeating over and over “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” So it was sure funny when I ran across a book by Dr. Sandra R. Scantling titled Extraordinary Sex Now: A Couple’s Guide to Intimacy in which she cleverly refers to our marital relationship in terms of Lions and Bees and Otters and Bears.

Oh, my!

Since my last blog covered being “in the mood,” I thought I’d stay in the mood with a few comments about Dr. Scantling’s book. While the title may suggest a racy exposition on the subject of sex, I found her book was quite insightful in detailing relational styles and how they affect our intimate interactions. It is more a primer on how to understand one another than on how to do one another.

Now about Lions, Bees, Otters, and Bears…  Here’s a very brief summary:

  • Lions –  Energizers – communicative, controlling, critical, assertive, energetic, demanding, risk takers
  • Bees – Workers – practical, analytical, organized, perfectionist, precise, orderly, hardworking, planners
  • Otters – Players – playful, dreamers, artistic, impulsive, disorganized, fun-loving, rebellious
  • Bears – Stabilizers – cooperative, agreeable, conflict avoiders, thoughtful, stubborn, generous, nurturing

Do you see yourself and your spouse in the list? Many of us are a combination, such as a Bee/Bear or a Lion/Otter.

You can see that certain temperaments will have a challenge functioning on a day to day basis with a non-complementary temperament. Sure, a Bee can get along with a Bee because they are so well organized. And two Bears will have a wonderful time because they’ll never disagree; they’ll just go along and be happy Bears.

But what about two Lions? Who gets to make the decisions? Who gets to lead? And consider two Otters. They want to have fun, no matter what. But what happens when one wants to hike and the other wants to visit with friends all day? Who decides? Yes, the Bees already have an answer: Take the friends on the hike!!  Those clever Bees!

You get the idea. Maybe we can get along with a spouse that is similar to us. But generally speaking, we tend to marry the opposite of who we are. A Lion will marry a Bee or an Otter and the sparks will fly.

Dr. Scantling’s book breaks down these complicated interactions and gives detailed suggestions on how to cope with divergent personalities. If we can learn how to get along better outside the bedroom, it will be easier inside the bedroom.

This speaks to the primary themes of Common Sense Marriage:

Personal Growth and Selfless Serving.

When we work at growing by seeking to better understand ourselves and our spouse, we can apply that understanding and become a more empathetic partner. We actually serve each other when we increase understanding. And we grow closer and desire to share that closeness in an open and intimate way.

So, who are you? Lion, Bee, Otter or Bear? Would you love to find out? Stay tuned and we’ll go exploring together.

I’m Just Not in the Mood!

Have you ever heard your spouse say, “I’m just not in the mood?” Have you have ever said that to your spouse? No, I don’t want to have sex tonight because…. And we fill in the blank with a busy day, kids drove me crazy, washing machine broke and water was everywhere, too many things going on at work, or I’m mad at you. The list is endless. There will always be “things” that get in the way of us sharing an intimate time.

So let me confess; it’s easier to blog about how to handle your money than how to have a better sex life. But since our blog is Common Sense Marriage, I guess it’s only common sense to talk about sex occasionally.

The question is should we let our mood determine our actions?

There are legitimate times when we are affected by circumstances that prohibit us from being intimate with our spouse. There may have been a death in the family, a physical condition or sickness, or a truly stressful job circumstance.

Apart from exceptional circumstances, we need to be in a position that we don’t use the MOOD card. We should be selfless lovers, willing to put aside our lack of interest, and think in terms of serving our spouse. You may ask “But can I get interested in sex when I just don’t feel like it?”

Photo by Unknown

If we had to wait until we “felt like it,” just think how many things in life would not get done. So what do you do when you don’t’ “feel” like you want to do the dishes, or the wash, or go to work in the morning? I bet you do it most of the time out of a sense of duty or some other practical motivation.

In relation to being open to having sex with our spouse, it may be as simple as acting first and the desire and feelings will follow. I’m simply saying that doing intimate things will likely get you in the mood. Clear your schedule and make time for being together. Clear your mind of all the “to do” lists and tasks and reset your mind on the joy of sharing time with your spouse. Prepare your heart to be open to give and receive love. Be proactive. Act on those things that will set the stage for a wonderful time together.

And if God intended sex to be a joyful experience to be shared frequently between husbands and wives then we should not let our mood get in the way of us experiencing more of that joy together.

Think about it! You might even get in the mood!

Love Requires Sacrifice

Serving one another is the cornerstone of a thriving relationship. For many of us, lovingly serving our spouse is joyful. We do or say things that are kind and giving. We aren’t required to, but we give out of a heart that is loving. We open the door for our wife, we compliment a wonderful dinner, or we leave a thoughtful note that expresses our appreciation. There is an ease to expressing our love in a way that serves our spouse.

But what about the times when it’s not so easy? What happens when the acts of kindness are getting few and far between? We may feel ignored by our spouse. Days or weeks go by with no thoughtful acts of love. What do we do then? How should we respond to a vacuum of the simplest acts of kindness? How do we give when we feel so empty, unloved, and unappreciated?

Sacrifice is defined this way —

To surrender or give up

To permit injury or disadvantage to for the sake of

something else.

To yield, surrender, offer

To resign oneself to endure, forbear

Self-denial

At times in our relationship the very act of selflessly serving will reach the level of sacrifice. Our own emotional bucket may be low or empty, but love still finds a way to give. We can love sacrificially if we understand that truly loving is not dependent on us being full. We can give even in our emptiness. It is yielding our needs to the needs of our spouse. It is self-denial. This is selfless love.

A recent film portrayed this kind of love when a young couple was engaged to be married. She shared her dream of a large family with many happy children. WWII broke out; he was drafted and came back three years later with an injury that left him unable to sire children. They stayed married for years but the intense desire to have children of her own never went away. She tearfully decided to leave him. Before she left, he told her that he loved her so much that he didn’t want to stand in the way of her dream. He loved her so much, he let her go.

He was depressed and despondent. The one he loved so much left him because he couldn’t give her what she so desperately wanted. Time passed and his despair deepened.

And then, there was a knock on the door. His wife had made the difficult choice to return to him. They grew old together and found their joy in each other. He was willing to give up what he wanted so she could have what she desired. And in the end, she gave up what she desired to have what she really needed, the love of her husband.

Sacrifice – giving up something for the sake of something better. At times, your love may require sacrifice. It may require all that you have to give.

More on Daily Doses of Selfless Serving

Everyone wants to have a great marriage. When dating, couples will often think “How can our relationship be anything but perfect? We are so in love and we have no problems.” So what happens? Why is the illusion of uninterrupted bliss destroyed?

There is a component in most dating relationships that is unique. While dating, we tend to be other centered. We are generally more thoughtful, kind, and considerate. We go out of our way to do special things for each other. We are less inclined to make a big problem and have a long discussion over minor disagreements. We tend to see the best in each other. We are more forgiving and less apt to hold a grudge. There is a high degree of serving and loving each other selflessly.

What happens to relationships over time? Why does the euphoria of dating disappear to be replaced by the doldrums of daily life? Quite simply, for many couples, making their spouse a priority is replaced with other priorities.

Here’s how to keep the love alive and growing. Get in the habit; yes make it a habit, of doing kind selfless acts of service for your spouse. This can be accomplished in word and deed.

Praise and compliments should be the ordinary.

“Thank you, honey. That was a wonderful dinner. You’re such a good cook.”   or…

“Thanks so much for fixing that. It really helps me.”

The daily things we do for each other are often taken for granted. Verbalize your appreciation. Express your thankfulness with a hug and a kiss. Look for opportunities to verbalize your awareness that your spouse has done something for which you are thankful.

Selfless acts of service can take many forms. Never underestimate the power of a neck or foot rub. After a long day at work, if your spouse has to bring home some of that day’s work and is hunched over the computer long after dinner, sneak up behind him/her and begin a five or ten minute neck and shoulder message. Whisper something endearing about how his/her efforts every day are really appreciated.

And since I am a firm believer in reciprocity, the thoughtful selfless spouse can offer a relaxing foot massage to the wife who has been on her feet all day at work or taking care of the kids and shopping and cleaning. These simple deeds profoundly nourish the relationship. They offer daily doses of love.

You need to be the expert on your spouse. What acts of service or words of affirmation are most meaningful to them? ASK them and make a habit of making these a priority in your day.  Each day, find ways to serve your spouse. Nurture your love daily and before long it will seem like your still dating.