Fighting Like Siblings

When I hear people talk about how their parents dealt with conflict in marriage, there seems to be one of two extremes. Either, the parents “never fought” or they got into all out screaming matches. Neither of these is a healthy way to address conflict in a relationship.

I have never heard, “Well, my parents would respectfully disagree with each other and modeled conflict resolution well.” Being a parent, I understand not wanting your kids to see you and your partner in conflict. For some reason, we have this idea that it will scare our kids or make them think less of the marriage relationship. But, I have heard many stories from adults who never saw their parents fight. Suddenly, when they are in a relationship and a conflict happens, the person is shocked because they thought that there were no fights in a healthy relationship.

Note: having a yelling match is also not great modeling for your children, or healthy for your relationship with your partner.

As a parent, I encourage my kids to share with their siblings when their feelings are hurt and ask their sibling not to do the thing that hurt their feelings. But, I can’t remember the last time that Ashley and I had a similar conversation in front of our kids.

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Part of the problem is that we give instructions better than we follow them ourselves. We demand that our kids respect their siblings’ feelings even if they do not understand them. Myself, on the other hand, am quick to attempt to invalid Ashley’s emotions when I feel defensive. Ashley and I can also be accusatory when we share our feelings, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to our partner.

I realize more and more as I am writing this blog how helpful it is to think about how I instruct my kids to deal with conflict with one another and how that translates into how I should deal with conflict with my spouse, especially in front of the kids.

Ashley and I are imperfect human beings, so our conflicts are imperfect. But, to the extent we can model respect, grace, repentance, and forgiveness in conflict, the more likely our kids will have a healthy view of conflict in relationships. If I approach conflict with my spouse the way I instruct my kids to deal with conflict with one another, my relationship with Ashley will grow. The next time you have a conflict with your partner, take a step back and ask yourself, “How would I instruct my child to deal with this conflict?” You may not want to follow your own answer, but it may surprise you how helpful your response is.  

-Tim


Making Her Feel Beautiful

Ashley talked about being “visually generous” in her last post. Often the other side of that coin is helping to make your wife feel beautiful.

When you first met your partner you likely noticed them and said something about it. “Hey, I couldn’t help you noticing me noticing you.”

 
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Seriously though, you probably complimented something about them and your partner felt flattered. As humans, we enjoy being noticed, at least by the people we want to notice us. That does not change for your partner after you have been together for awhile.

Probably one of the most discouraging things to happen to your wife is for her to get dolled up for a date or event, you coming home and saying, “Okay, are we ready? Let’s go.” The whole time your wife was getting ready she was anticipating the look on your face and hoping that she would be noticed. If you are married, your wife remembers looking down the aisle at your face after she walked through those doors. To her, that face is what it means to feel beautiful.

 
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No, your face will not always look like that. But, it is remarkably easy to say something nice about your spouse and how she looks. You can compliment her hair, her earings, her makeup, her shirt, her skirt/pants/shorts, her shoes, how she smells. Literally anything on her body. I guarantee you, if you compliment something, she will wear that thing more often. I know that words of encouragement do not come naturally to me. But, the more I practice it, the easier it becomes, and the more spontaneous my comments happen.  

A pastor Ashley and I used to listen to said, “whatever your wife is, that is what you are into.” If your wife is brunette, you are into brunette. If your wife is blonde, you are into blonde. If your wife is thin, you are into thin. If your wife is formerly thin, you are into formerly thin. Your wife should be your standard of beauty. Such a concept is foreign in our culture. But, if you can think about your wife that way, it will dramatically affect how you see her and how she sees herself. If your wife feels beautiful and sexy, her confidence increases dramatically. You cannot control your wife’s self image. But, you can help, by finding ways to compliment her, both physically and emotionally. Beauty, is not just the outward physical appearance.

So make a conscious effort. The next time you see your spouse, compliment something about her. Even if she denies it, inwardly you have made a difference.

-Tim


Friday the 13th

I used to be superstitious about Friday the 13th…

This is me in the courtyard just a few moments before our conversation. Tim is behind me. Feb. 13th, 2004

This is me in the courtyard just a few moments before our conversation. Tim is behind me. Feb. 13th, 2004

On Friday the 13th in February 2004, it was Decade Day at school. You and I coordinated to go as a 50’s couple. I had a poodle skirt and black t-shirt with my hair pulled up into a high ponytail. You wore a white t-shirt, jeans and a black leather jacket. Someone snapped a photo of me as we were hanging out in the courtyard to eat lunch. At some point as I sat eating with our friends, you came over and touched my arm and said, “Hey can I talk to you for a minute?” Immediately, I got flashbacks of freshman year when you had turned down Cait, and thought, “Crap. He is going to have the talk with me about how flattered he is that I was interested, but he didn’t like me in that way.” My face felt cold as I followed you over by the fountain. You propped your leg up and leaned back against a pillar, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

The day before, I’d been at the library during lunch talking to your friend Adam about you. You had been so hot/cold. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Some days you had been super flirty, so sweet and attentive, I was getting my hopes up again. Then the next day, it seemed like you barely noticed my existence. I was getting whiplash. So like the mature grown-up person that I was, I asked Adam to talk to you for me and see what was going on. He said he would talk to you later that day after school. I spent the rest of that day trying to focus on classes and then cheer practice, and then homework. The next day was Decade Day, and we had agreed to match, but... you would have done that with anyone, right? Or did it mean something?? I wanted an answer, but I was afraid of what it would be. I prepared myself for a “no” and immediately regretted asking Adam to talk to you. I felt that no answer and just going on as we were would still be better than “no.” You felt so far out of my league, I had little hope.

“I have feelings for you, and was wondering what you would think about the possibility of us dating because I would like to explore having a relationship with you and see where it goes.” - You

I felt dizzy and in disbelief. This kid I had spent the last year and a half pining over, was standing there telling me everything I wanted to hear. I probably grinned like a lunatic. But then I panicked. “What if we dated, then he found someone better, broke up with me and then I had lost him both as a boyfriend and a friend?” Over the course of that year, I had really grown to appreciate our friendship and didn’t want to lose that. So I said, “I like you too. Um, but I want to think about this.” You were calm, cool and collected and I tried my best to mirror you. Didn’t want to scare you away. I saved the squealing and screaming until I was safely in the car with my mom on the way home from school.

When I got home, with shaking hands I sat down at the computer, I made the decision to tell you how I felt. I don’t remember everything I said in the email, but basically I told you I was tired of high school relationships and getting my heart broken. I didn’t know if I wanted to date at the moment because I wanted the next person I dated to be “The One.” I hit “send” and immediately wanted to take it back. What was I thinking?? I had just screwed this up. I knew you were going to be like, “Woah girl, I just wanted to date you- not marry you.” But I liked you so much and valued our friendship so much, that I chose to give you an out so that we could stay friends and I wouldn’t lose you. I think I checked my email every 2 minutes the rest of the afternoon. Finally, just before dinnertime, the Juno email loading bar paused at 97%, which means I had gotten an email. It was from you. I opened it, afraid to read it. I scanned it quickly looking for words like, “crazy” or “nevermind.” Instead, I found 5 words that cemented the way I would forever feel about you, “I will wait for you.”

-ASH

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

I Met Someone Else

Sophomore year had left me ready to move on. I had a big mission’s trip to Mexico City planned, and I was ready to forget about you and Liz. I left Phoenix feeling excited about the future. When I landed in Dallas and took the bus to our training camp, I couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for me. When I arrived at camp, I immediately met my team who were all super friendly and just as excited to be there as I was. There was a boy on my team who immediately singled me out. Jackson was a southern boy who lived in white t-shirts and jeans, played guitar and sang like an angel. He wasn’t you, but he was really into me.

 
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I remember thinking, “But…I’m not the prettiest or coolest girl here, and he’s obviously the prettiest coolest guy here, maybe I’m imagining things.” But nope. That kid was totally into me. So I leaned into the feeling and thought, “Well, if I can’t have Tim…this guy is pretty amazing, maybe I should go for it.” So I did. Jackson and I agreed to continue our relationship long distance. He called me every night and for a few months, it was perfect. I had a boyfriend. He would sing to me over the phone, tell me about his football games, and say, “I love you” in his southern drawl. We made promises to each other to wait for each other and reunite in college and then get married. He was trying to persuade his family to come to Arizona on vacation. I talked at length with his Mama on the phone, got to know his little brother who adored me, and generally felt like this could be it. It wasn’t you, but at least he had wanted me, and this felt easy.

As with most high school relationships, Jackson and I slowly drifted apart. I got the sense there was someone else, and to be honest babe, I never really got over you. You and I became closer during the first semester of junior year, and I started to relax around you. We dissected cats in Anatomy class, joked around in Chemistry class, and solved crimes in Forensics class. You got flirty, but I convinced myself you were that way with every girl, and tried not to think about it. After all, I was still dating Jackson.

Eventually, Jackson called me one day to tell me there was another girl and he wanted to take her to homecoming. I had a mixture of emotions, part of me was relieved. Things had grown tense between us, and I was ready for the relationship to end, but I also felt like, “Was I not enough? He found someone else when he told me he wanted to marry me!” I hung up the phone with a pit in my stomach, feeling both relieved and sad. And alone again. Back at square one.

I hadn’t been enough for Jackson. The guy I had dated my sophomore year left me for someone he swore “meant nothing” to him, and I had convinced myself that You were never going to be into me. November ended with me feeling like I never wanted to date again. And then something shifted with you that left me reeling…

-Ash

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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The First Time I Saw You -Ash

I remember the first time I saw you.

It was freshman year in highschool and we were on a field trip to GCU. You and your friends were playing frisbee on the lawn and this girl Cait who had a crush on you at the time was remarkably how cute you were and pointing you out to us girls. I remember thinking you were really cute. Then at some point later on she sat you down at lunch and asked you out. You turned her down. I remember thinking, “Who turns Cait down? She's one of the prettiest girls in school.” And suddenly, you were super intimidating to me.

Sophomore year, I remember being so excited on the first day of school when you showed up in every single class I was in. I would just sit and stare at you all during class. I would sit and think, “I'm going to marry that boy.” I had it all planned out. Your dad, I found out, was a military chaplain so that was perfect. He could marry us in his uniform. As I sat observing, I began to notice you paid a lot of attention to this other girl, Bekah. You guys were just friends, but I could tell you liked her a lot.

We weren't really even friends at that point and I sent my best friend, Jess over to ask you what you thought of me. You told her you didn't like me “like that” but thought I was a cool girl.

Never ask questions you don't want the answer to.

I wanted to cry. Pretty soon thereafter, you started really hanging out with this girl, Liz. She was pretty, blond and super athletic. I felt like she was the opposite of what I was and that's what you wanted.  My heart hurt. I wondered if maybe being around you more, you would finally see the light and develop a crush on me, so I decided to join the youth group at the church where you and a few of our friends went. On my first night there, they announced the missions trip to Mexico and asked who would be interested in going. I shot up my hand thinking maybe you would be impressed by me volunteering to go.

You didn't even notice. But you did go on the trip, and I was so excited to get to spend some time with you without Liz there. On the drive down in a van full of girls, I remember sitting in the back listening to, “Stand By Me” I cried quietly to myself feeling very hopeless that we would ever be together. I begin to wonder if I should date someone else or move on. But no one else interested me.

In Mexico, we talked more and I felt like we were becoming friends. I knew I shouldn't get my hopes up, but you let me borrow your sweatshirt when I was cold one night. It smelled so good (Old Spice Pure Sport) and I thought, “Okay, maybe he likes me?” But no, you were just being a good guy and a gentleman. I still held onto a small shred of hope after that trip, but then track season started.

I joined because you and Liz were joining and I wanted to keep tabs and maybe impress you with my skills. In track, you just ran- how hard could it be??

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Sadly, not being a runner, I was terrible. Like really bad. So any hope of trying to get your attention pretty much died. Although one day, my knee gave out during practice and you carried me back to the school. You were strong and I was so smitten. One practice we had at Mesa community college, my grandparents came to watch and afterward we went out to lunch at Burger King. My mom had pointed you out to Momo and she remarked to me at lunch how handsome you were and said she had a feeling things would work out. My heart sank and I try not to cry because at that point, I had truly given up on that. I felt like I had lost you, which was weird because it wasn't even like we had dated. I was done though, my friend Jess had encouraged me to move on. You just weren’t the right one. So I did. And that was how sophomore year ended… little did I know, things were about to get serious. But not with you.

-Ash

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