Emotions Do Not Ask For Permission

Ashley had done some hard work through counseling and processed through a lot of baggage in her life. It was now 2016, and I had graduated law school and now it was my turn. Ashley had a tough conversation with me and told me that she did not want to continue our relationship in the way it was going. She told me I needed to see a counselor and work through some stuff. There was no coercion or threats, but I knew she was right.  It is impossible to distill the 11, or so, years of marriage that led to that point in a single post. But, we both knew that for us to have a thriving relationship for the next 50+ years of our marriage, I needed to do some work on myself.

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Out of wanting to not disappoint or hurt Ashley, I tended not to speak up or let my opinion be known. I thought, “better for her to be able to do the things that she wants then for me to ask her not to,” or “better to stifle my emotions, then to express them and hurt her.” I associated emotions with weakness. So in her expressing emotions and me being calm, I was being the strong one, the person that she could depend on to be steady. I also tend to shy away from personal conflict, so I was quick to try to make peace and move on when there was conflict, instead of dealing with the real issues.

I enjoy the logical side of being human. For me, rationality seems easy, clean, simple. Emotions are difficult and messy. I was even keeled, my highs were not very high, and my lows were not low. I was okay in the gray zone of emotions. I may not have been experiencing strong positive emotions, but at least I did not feel strong negative emotions. I came to ask myself, “What if I am not experiencing life how it was intended to be?” Humans are rational creatures, but they are also emotional creatures. For my entire life, I let my rational side overpower my emotional. What was I missing by stifling the emotional side of me?

Emotions do not ask for permission. They happen regardless of whether you want them or not. Unlike rational thoughts, your body does not ask you, “Hey Tim, this happened, how would you like to respond?” Nope, something happens, and before you know it, BAM! Emotions show up and you ask yourself, “What happened? I was just sitting here.” So, you have two options: You can stifle them, or you learn how to approach them in a healthy way.

For my adult life, thus far, I chose to stifle them. Going through counseling was messy. I actually asked for a chart with the names of the different emotions on them so when I felt something I could work on identifying the emotion. Shocking, I know.

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Counseling stirred up a lot of topics for Ashley and I to talk about, which was not easy. I had to start learning a balance between sharing, but not over-sharing. Somethings are actually best left unsaid. Sometimes, expressing emotions is overly selfish because the motivation is completely self centered.
I am still learning, and will continue to learn. Fortunately, Ashley has stuck by me through the process and we have learned a lot. Emotions do not ask for permission, but you have a choice for how to approach them.

-TIM

In Front of the Fire

Some of my favorite moments in my relationship with Ashley on a daily basis are the times when we are able to simply be together. No agenda, no project, only us.

I do not have a lot of memories from the early years of our marriage. My head was not in the right place and I rarely was in the moment. I was always looking for the next stage, the next job, school being done, our kids being a year older, etc. But, there is a moment I remember fondly.

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Getting To Know You...

I knew Ashley from track Sophomore year but I started getting to know her more in other places. The more I discovered about her, the more I became attracted to her.

This was Ash, just before junior year

This was Ash, just before junior year

We had a project in geometry together once. I went to her house to work on the project and I ended up staying for dinner. I got to meet her parents and her sisters for the first time. They were kind and welcoming.

We were in a church youth group together and went on a mission trip to Mexicali. I started to see Ashley’s heart for the poor and the needy. We danced next to each other in a “human video,” which was an early 2000s church thing. I remember dancing and laughing together, even though dancing in public was not my thing, I think I impressed her with my moves.

We started talking more. Junior year we had all of the same classes together. We always paired up in Forensics class solving mock crimes. She laughed at me because I could not figure out how to prick my finger to test my blood type. I kept poking the wrong part of my finger but I did not want to show how much it hurt because she poked her finger with ease and I did not want to get shown up. Finally she must have felt bad for me so she showed me where to poke on my finger to get enough blood.

I let her borrow my sweatshirt when she was cold. Pro tip: I would spray the inside of my sweatshirt before going to school with Axe Body spray, anticipating that I would let a girl borrow it when they were cold. That way when they put on the sweatshirt it would smell good.

Ash pictured here with her sisters, junior year

Ash pictured here with her sisters, junior year

When I look back at our classes together, we always seemed to be close by one another. She is beautiful physically, but what also attracted me to her was her compassion. She was friends with everyone, especially the kids that would have been considered outcasts in high school. I never heard her say a harsh word about anyone. I was safe with my preppy jock group and I did not venture far outside of that. She was adventurous and befriended whoever needed a friend. She did not judge, but took people as they were. She loved people better than I did. As an insecure high school kid, I think I knew that she would like/love me for who I was and that I did not have to be something I was not. I was what I think a lot of boys in high school want to be. I was smart, good looking, starter on the basketball team, and popular. But those things were not who I really was. I knew that Ashley would like me, even if I did not have all of those other things, and that is what drew me to her the most.

All of those things led to a conversation we had on Friday, February 13 that shaped the future of our relationship.

-Tim

MARRIED with kids...

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First of all, No- we are not currently pregnant, this is an ultrasound photo from our first pregnancy, the day we found our our oldest had boy parts. That was a surreal day. But more on that another time. Today, I wanted to share a little bit with you about being “Married with Kids.”

A little backstory- here was our plan… Get married, wait 5 years, have 2 maybe 3 kids, be perfect parents. You’re laughing inside, aren’t you? That’s fine, I’m laughing too. We plan, God laughs, right? Well, that WAS our plan, here’s what actually happened… Get married, get pregnant 5 weeks later (while on the pill), have 4 kids, be okay parents (we are doing our best, but are nowhere near perfect.)

So these two crazies got married and had to get a babysitter for their first anniversary. I don’t recommend this plan. But there we were.

We hadn’t even gotten used to each other yet, and here was this little human we suddenly had to make space for. I’m going to skip a LOT of time here and say, we didn’t really understand the absolute necessity of putting each other first every time, until we were probably about 8 years in. By that time, we had 3 kids and were trying for a 4th. Our lives revolved around breakfasts, snacks, Daniel Tiger, zoo trips, changing diapers, cleaning up all manner of human bodily fluids, scraping boogers off the wall, and collapsing into bed at the end of the day exhausted and not even sure we wanted to be there sometimes. Sure, we managed a date night once in awhile, but neither of us were living mindfully, and we certainly weren’t living mindful of the other person. I think Tim would agree with me when I say we eventually devolved into roommates who had good sex. We were basically in survival mode. And you know what? That happens. It happened to us, we know it happens to a lot of couples, because let’s face it- our kids often tend to demand more than our spouse does, and so naturally, we put the kids at the very top of the priority list.

But here’s the thing...the kids should not come first. Your person, your partner, should come first. Now before the mommy bloggers come after me with torches and pitchforks, let me explain why.

 
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I called up my mom, since she and my dad have weathered a nearly 30 year marriage and are still happily married with their parenting days behind them. In her words, you need to put your partner first, “Because you’ll have them longer!” She went on to say that parenting  goes so fast, and one day it’s behind you, you’re at your youngest daughter’s wedding dancing, and realizing- you’ve made it. You fought the good fight. You want to arrive at the end of your parenting journey hand-in-hand with your spouse and onto the next adventure.

This rings so true, I can’t even tell you the number of divorces I’ve seen after the kids leave home, because these two people who made this family have nothing in common anymore. I asked her, “Okay, so what would you say to our readers about why, if parenting is such a brief period of time in your marriage, why can’t you put the kids first while they are at home, and then work on your marriage and devote your time to that once they leave?” Her answer was that marriage just doesn’t work that way. She says that had she and Dad not worked on their marriage actively, there wouldn’t have been anything there to go on with once all us kids were grown.

Marriage is an investment. An expensive one, but one that is well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Tim and I are still in the thick of the parenting stage, so how do we invest in our marriage now?

We go on dates. We go on weekend away trips at least once per year. We talk about things. We text each other through the day. We’ve learned to be active listeners and to be humble when confronted. We laugh together, we cry together. We also dream, and make plans and goals together.

This sounds so much simpler than it actually is. Finding time and money to do these things is difficult, but however you’re able to carve out that space to put each other first, that has to happen if you’re going to have a chance at a long and happy marriage.

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You have to look at your marriage like a business, in a sense. Not just something that happens to you. You wouldn’t start a business without first making a business plan. If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail. Sitting down with your spouse, making a plan, setting goals and talking through your priorities enables you both to be on the same page. These goals and priorities can of course be fluid and flexible as life happens, but the one thing that should always be at the top of the priority list? Your marriage.

Not just for you, but for your kids as well. Showing your kids an example of a functional and happy partnership between you and your spouse not only gives them hope for their own marriages should they choose that one day, but it gives them the comfort and security kids crave from a peaceful home.


Bee Yourself

I am excited to start this journey of sharing the romance my wife and I had and continue to have. I hope that our stories and experiences inspire, evoke joy and sometimes evoke sadness. I hope that you can apply some of the things that we have learned over our 15 years of relationship. But our romance is just that, ours.

I encourage you to embrace the uniqueness of your relationship. Some principals are universal, but only you know how they will work best in your relationship. Some of the best parts about Ashley’s and I’s relationship are the things that are unique to us. The inside jokes we share, the songs, movies, and smells that remind us of experiences only we have shared. The fact that we can reminisce about events that have occurred in our past and reflect on how those events have shaped us now.

Us on our “chips and salsa date at our favorite place.

Us on our “chips and salsa date at our favorite place.

For awhile Ashley and I looked at some other peoples’ relationships and thought, “Maybe we should be more like them.” One couple in particular spent a lot of money going to the fanciest places that they could find, that was one of their things. Ashley and I found ourselves asking each other, “We are 30 now, should we be going to fancy restaurants?” Isn’t that what couples our age are supposed to do? But neither of us really feel comfortable in super fancy restaurants, either in the atmosphere or in spending that amount of money on one meal. We had to decide that being us is best for us, that spending $20 bucks on chips, salsa, guacamole, and drinks is what we like doing, and that’s okay.

I encourage you to embrace the uniqueness of you and your relationship. Embrace the oddities and idiosyncrasies. Love the best way you can and in the way you know the other person will feel most loved.

One of my favorite lines in a Disney movie is when the Genie tells Aladdin to “Bee yourself.” In your relationship, don’t try to be someone else, “Bee yourself.”

-Tim

Avoiding Tension on Vacation

“You’re taking 4 kids to Disney World?? Wow, you’re brave.”

We heard this no less than 27 times before we left on our trip in January of this year. Mostly, we were excited for this trip, but having heard that so many times it was starting to get to us. Tim's parents would be coming with us on this trip and we were excited for the extra company, extra set of eyes, and extra time that we would get to spend with them. Plus, they volunteered to take the kids for one night while we were there so that Tim and I could have a date night at the park. We would be gone a whole week, from Saturday to Saturday, and well that didn't feel like a long time, over the years, Tim and I have noticed that when we don't take time to stay connected even during vacations, we get grumpy and snippy and impatient with each other. We both set intentions before we left, that we wanted to relax and just have fun on the trip.

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The first part of our trip, we spent a few days with my Aunt and Uncle at the beach. It was so nice to relax there and watch them love on our kids. “The walls are soundproof, just so you know…” my uncle had said to us one night before we headed off to our guest room. We laughed, but yeah...we passed. There’s just something about the next morning when you know what you were up to last night... and so do other people... and the eye contact, and it just gets weird. So...yeah. (We have a story about that for another time.) But we found other ways to connect. We had nice long conversations on the drive to Orlando, and found that we were doing a pretty good job of just relaxing and enjoying the moments.

Once at Disney World, each day was a whirlwind of walking, riding rides, standing in lines, getting autographs- you know how it is. Each day, we found little ways to connect with each other: holding hands, walking together while our kids meandered out in front, stealing kisses, smiling at each other, taking selfies, taking our time, and taking advantage of a locking bathroom door in our room after the kids had gone to sleep. (You gotta get it when you can, you know??)

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This may all sound incredibly cheesy, and trust me, the feeling isn’t always there. But kindness begets kindness, positivity begets more positivity. Just exchanging a smile here and there often goes a long way in keeping anxiety and tension levels in check. Find little romantic things to do even on vacation. Tim would get up before me and go down and get me a latte each morning before I got up. It was a small thing, and obviously he was there getting himself coffee too, but I saw that little gesture as his way of saying, “I’m thinking about you.” When you’re looking for those little things, you’ll see them.

Staying connected just in everyday life is hard enough, staying connected while on vacation often falls to the bottom of the priority list because we often have so much else going on. Keep it at the top of your list, and notice how much easier and joyful your vacations become. That was our best and favorite family vacation so far, and we didn’t come home feeling like we needed a vacation from our vacation.

-Ash

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