It seems as if one of the easiest things to slack off on is my marriage. At least my kids will scream if I’m not doing an adequate job…but the state of my marriage is a silent thing until those moments when obvious issues crop up (i.e we fight/miscommunicate/withdraw/other negative things).
We’re not perfect and I know we won’t ever be and we for sure aren’t required to be, but adding habits of awareness to how I am monitoring my input to this relationship seems like a step in the right direction.
“The older I get, the more I’m aware of how little I know, so I’m pretty sure our current work is merely one more bend in the journey. And it is a journey, isn’t it, finding little epiphanies here and there that reveal why we’re here on Earth and how we can best till the soil?”
– Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike
I can pay attention to the little things, do extra little things, and devote this month to learning a little more about who we are together and how that works. We’ve been married almost three years. It is awesome, but I know that a passive approach is not the way to continue the awesome.
Here are a few things I’ll be trying to focus on this month or have done in the past. I’ll call them my marriage practices. I’ll probably continually add more and update and revise, but that is the beauty of it all: it’s a lifetime process.
And what better month than February to think about love?
- The Gift* of No Interruptions: Sometimes when I am listening to my husband tell a story or describe how whatever set of code works, I don’t listen as well as I should. My mind might wander when something (read: computer programming) needs a little more attention or I’ll be jumping to ask questions or make comments or finish his sentences instead of just listening to how God created my husband to tell his story. I need to practice attentive listening without interrupting
- The Gift of Undivided Attention: With two little ones (and then everyone else, and the internet) to pay attention to, sometimes it’s hard to make sure that we get time together where we don’t have to compete for attention. This countermeasure is called Plan Dates mode.
- The Gift of Flexible Evenings: Since we just switched to a different definition of Israel’s job, we are hoping that will mean more free time and down time in the evening (and in general! Hurray!), I’m going to try to have my stuff done (and hopefully dinner started) by 5:30 or 6pm so we can be free to do what we want with our evenings.
- The Gift of Honest (and realtime!) Admiration: Say it when you think it. I started doing this a few months ago and it really is fun. If I think something good or complimentary about Israel, I just say it. At that very moment even. Just say it.
Try it with your spouse? It gets to be more natural eventually and it will brighten their day and give them joy to hear the reasons you love them, that you love them, what they’re good at, what you like about them or that you think they’re the bees knees. Or hot. Even.
Just say it before it gets stale. Say it in context. Say it when you might have to explain your train of thought or give examples. But say it anyway. It goes a long ways to showing how you appreciate them. Of course you should consider your environment and keep it appropriate…but that being said, try it!
- The Gift of No Regrets: This is more for me than him, but I want to consider how I would want to remember my marriage 50 or 60 years down the road. Would I want to remember that I was petty and entitled, or that I loved, inspired, encouraged, honored, and pursued him well?
- The Gift of Honesty and Trust: Sometimes speaking up for myself is hard. I don’t want to rock our little marriage boat, but sometimes it is necessary. I have to trust my husband enough to be vulnerable and honest about my needs, concerns, and desires. I don’t want to misrepresent myself for the sake of keeping the peace. Anything that is important enough to bring up is important enough for us to risk a momentary rift to discuss it. Though being thoughtful and kind and choosing the opportune time is vital to this I think. This is still a very new area that I struggle with a bit. It’s a work in progress.
“Most of life’s decisions don’t come with black-and-white answers, and that’s a beautiful, marvelous thing. We’re each given freedom to choose our decisions, and that responsibility is the very definition of living with intention, after all: making daily choices so that your life lines up with your passions and values. It should all make sense in your head.”
– Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike
Read this article as well. It introduces the practice of this question: How can I love you better?
* I used the word ‘gift‘ to remind myself these are things I am choosing to do, not things that are demanded of me or that I am going to force on other people. It feels like a more graceful and thoughtful way to enact change..instead of saying “Stop interrupting!” And things like that. Hopefully this month will be fun and special. I’m praying that God will open my eyes to the little things that make the difference in our marriage so I can continue on with a better understanding and awareness of how our marriage works.
I’m sharing this post as part of the awesome Blue Bike Blog Tour come join us? in honor of Tsh Oxenreider’s new book: Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.
Tsh founded the site The Art of Simple and I am often inspired by the idea of living more intentionally and simply. She says: “It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.”
I’ve really enjoyed reading about her travels and inspiring approach to life. I can’t wait to finish reading this lovely book. Any book that combines travel, thoughtful reflection and an invitation to live more carefully is a winner to me.
But you don’t have to take my word for it! (<—Who said that?)
What are some of your marriage practices?
How are you becoming more thoughtful and intentional in your life and relationships?