Like A Race Car

So it’s been a minute…

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It’s hard to keep up with a blog when you’re overseeing your renovation, when you’re packing up, when you’re moving…and when in the midst of it all, depression hits you like a baseball to the face. Do you ever think to yourself, “When ‘xyz’ happens…I’ll never feel depressed again”? Yeah, I think that a lot. I thought that about moving! I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that my depression can be kept at bay by a change in circumstances, a new job, new friends, new things… If only it worked that way. I was running myself ragged all of September, knowing the crash would come eventually, but hoping I could outrun it. Also, not how that works. Finally, at the end of September, right after we moved in- it hit, like a Category 5 hurricane wreaking havoc, leveling things and causing everything in my life to come to a grinding halt.

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It was within the last few days that things started to spiral, and in the midst of napping, drinking tea, and nursing myself back to life, it hit me- taking care of everyone else does NOT fill you up.

Do I feel fulfilled hosting parties, coaching clients and making my house a home? Yes, absolutely. I love it. But does it fill me up? No. So what’s the difference between feeling fulfilled, and being filled up?

Well, it’s like a luxury sports car. Its potential is realized and fulfilled when it’s going from 0-60 in 3 seconds, when it’s hugging the road through the curves, and making that satisfying roar as you shift gears. But running like that non-stop and what happens? Eventually problems arise. Maintenance has to be performed, gas needs to be put it (the premium special kind!) and it needs new tires. You cannot expect a car to continue operating at peak performance out of sheer willpower, and I cannot expect that of myself either.

So what’s a girl to do? I have to go in and do maintenance. I’m back on the medication and supplements my body needs to function properly, I’m sleeping when I need to, and I’m choosing joy as much as I can. I carve out spaces in my home that are visually pleasing to me, that spark joy. In part, so that when I’m at my lowest, I am surrounded by beauty. I put in the time, the creativity and design in my home and in my life, so that when I hit the low parts (again), I can put my feet up, bask in beauty and allow my spirit to recharge.

Looking forward to rebooting the blog, because we’ve missed you!

XOXO,

Ashley

Date Nights With My Baby

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You have probably heard many couples recommend date nights as a way to keep a relationship strong. Ashley and I echo that recommendation. But, what is the purpose of a date night? It is not just being together and eating a meal together, although that helps, it’s about being intentional in building your relationship. 

When you think of a “date night” you may think it always has to be something fancy. But the purpose behind a date night is what is important, not where you have the date. The purpose of a date night is to engage with one another in an intentional way to build your relationship. It’s not just about time spent together, it’s about being intentional with that time. 

Ashley’s and I’s date nights were not always this way. However, as we have grown we have seen the benefits of being open and vulnerable with each other about our strengths, our weaknesses, our desires, and our frustrations. Date nights give you both an opportunity to set undivided time to being together. That means not being on your phones and both being present for one another.  

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If you and your partner are not used to being vulnerable with each other, it will feel awkward at first. You are sharing deep parts of yourself and you want to feel accepted. The same goes for your partner. The conversation starters by Dear Young Married Couple found here, are a good place to start. 

It is a sort of dance that you do as a couple. You take a small step forward in sharing yourself and hope that your partner reciprocates. Then your partner takes a little bigger step forward and you try to reciprocate. On and on the dance goes. Sometimes one partner falters and you begin again, a little easier to get going this time than the last. 

As with many things in life, consistency and avoiding complacency are key. Never think that you and your partner have “made it.” Continue to grow personally and corporately. The best way to do that, is little by little over time. Sooner than you know it, you look back and see how much you have grown as a couple in the last five years. 

So give it a try. Next time you and your partner carve out time for one another, take a shaky step forward towards intimacy and see where you two go. 

-Tim


Love Mapping

One of the greatest desires for humans is a desire to know someone and to be known themselves. Ideally, your relationship with your partner should be the place where this desire is best fulfilled. 

In John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, one of the principles that he endorses is what he calls “Love Mapping.” Love Mapping is really just knowing about your partner, their likes and dislikes, their current relationships, their struggles, their successes. It was probably easy to have a good Love Map when you just started in your relationship. However, over time, you both got busy, you stopped asking questions and you stopped sharing because it seemed like your partner wasn’t interested anymore.

People and situations change. Therefore, it is important to continually update your Love Map of your partner. Things that are included in the Love Map include things as mundane as your partner’s favorite flavor of ice cream and things as sensitive as the most stressful thing that happened to your partner as a child. 

Photo Credit: Andrea Neff

Photo Credit: Andrea Neff

Things that we love, we are able to describe in detail and with enthusiasm. We all know this. If you know things about your partner, both great and small, it shows them that you have made space in your brain for them and that it matters to you to keep that information in there. Whether you remember to order their food without tomatoes, even though they didn’t ask you to, or you are able to describe what they do for work in detail, you are demonstrating to your partner that they matter. 

For much of my marriage, I failed miserably at keeping an update Love Map of my wife, as a result she often felt uncared for. The last few years I have worked on it and still have room to grow. This week my wife took me out to dinner for Father’s day. I took a picture of some of the suggested questions from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work book and we took turns answering them. Some of our favorite questions were: 

  1. If you could live during any other time in history, when would you choose and why? 

  2. What is the most exciting thing happening in your life right now? 

  3. If you could instantly possess three new skills, which would you choose? 

We ended up having a lot of fun. The next time we went out, Ashley asked me if I had any more of those questions to ask. 

I encourage you to search for Love Mapping questions online, find some of your favorite and have a conversation with your spouse. You may find out some things that surprise you about each other. 

-Tim

Courage To Sit

 
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
— Winston Churchill
 
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In your marriage, there are times when you ought to stand up and confront your partner and there are times you need to shut up and listen.

There are times in my marriage when I need the courage to stand and times when I need the courage to sit. Merriam-Webster defines courage as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

I have shared in a prior blog about one of my fears, that those I love will leave me. Because of that fear, I have not always had the courage to stand up and say something to Ashley when she has hurt me or I think we need to discuss something in our marriage.   

There are also times when Ashley needs to talk to me about something and I become defensive and fail to listen. It is amazing what you can learn about your spouse if you truly listen.

Wisdom is knowing when you need to speak up and when you need to sit down. It is not always easy to know the difference; but there are a couple things you can do:

  • Talk to a friend. We cannot see our own blind spots so it is helpful to have a friend, or friends, that you can talk to. A friend that can be honest with you and tell you when you are wrong.

  • Meditate on the issue. Attempt to step back from the situation and think about it. Think about your fears, your wife’s fears, and what ultimately will benefit your marriage the most.

This skill is one that is learned by doing and failing. Over time, you can develop a better sense of when to speak and when to sit. When you fail, apologize to your partner and tell them you will try better next time, and then keep your word.

-Tim


Well That Was Embarrassing

I know it’s not Thursday, but here’s a throwback for you about our very first fight. Enjoy. It’s about as stupid as you would expect from two 18 year olds.

So we were on a trip in Florida with Tim’s family the summer after graduation. After a few days at Disney World, the plan was to pile into a minivan and drive from Orlando to Georgia where Tim’s older brother would be getting married. Disney World was (of course) magical. We held hands, laughed, and were so carefree. I look back on it as one of our favorite trips because aside from our honeymoon, it was the only trip we had been on together before we had kids. We’ve been on other trips without our kids since then, but as a parent- you still carry the responsibility even if your kids aren’t with you.

Anyway-

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Nearly 13

So when I started this blog, I was determined that it would not be a parenting blog.

But it’s harder and harder for me to write about our life without telling a few parenting stories or relaying something or other having to do with kids. Thus far, we’ve opted to keep our kids faces hidden,…that will likely change soon, but for now, you’ll have to make do with stock photos unless you know us personally. :)

As we attended our oldest kid Jadon’s very last summative (it’s a group presentation once per quarter), it didn’t hit me until it was over that that was the last one we would go to since he is moving onto Junior High in the Fall. Isn’t that always the way? As we went to Trader Joe’s to snag a few grocery items before heading home, a rush of emotions flooded me, which I promptly swallowed and logged away for a future time when ugly crying would feel more acceptable.

Since then, I feel like I’m counting down the days…

Only 6 more Christmases, only 6 more birthdays, only 6 more grades…only 6 more.

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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


Our Charleston Trip

Ash and her cousin, Calvin

Ash and her cousin, Calvin

For a few days in April, Ash and I got to visit Charleston together. Ashley was the “Best Ma’am,” for her cousin who was the groom. As such, one of Ashley’s responsibilities was to plan the bachelor party. Ashley asked if I could come out to Charleston with her the weekend before the wedding to keep her company and go to the bachelor party with her.

I knew Ashley would be more comfortable if I was able to be with her there. It gave me the opportunity to see some of her family that we both enjoy hanging out with. Plus, we always have fun when we are able to explore a new city together.  

The Friday we got there we were able to have dinner at a local restaurant called Fuel and then walked down on King’s Street to check out some spots for the bachelor party the following evening. We found ridiculously good ice cream at a place called Jeni’s. Interesting enough, when we came back to our local AJs we found that they sell Jeni’s ice cream!

Saturday morning I woke up early and found a local pastry and coffee shop called Wild Flour Pastry. Ever since Ashley and I’s first vacation, our honeymoon, we enjoy finding a local coffee shop where we can go and spend our mornings on vacation. Give me a coffee, a pastry, and my wife on an outdoor patio in the morning, and I am set. If that can happen, I consider the vacation a success.

At The Cocktail Club on King St.

At The Cocktail Club on King St.

After a little rough start to the bachelor party that evening, one guy pre-gamed too hard and passed out before we went to dinner, we had a fantastic time. We had appetizers at a bar with local music, had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, ice cream again at Jeni’s, dancing at a nightclub, and finishing the night at a hip upstairs bar. Nightclub’s are not my scene, but I know that Ashley loves when I dance with her and I knew she was bummed that we were not going to be able to dance at the wedding (I had to fly home on Monday and the wedding was on Thursday). So I got outside of my comfort zone and danced with her and we had a lot of fun.

Enjoying sandwiches and coffee at Carmella’s on Bay St.

Enjoying sandwiches and coffee at Carmella’s on Bay St.

Sunday was Easter and we were able to spend the whole day together. We went to Wild Flour Pastry in the morning (again my favorite part) and got to stroll along King’s Street. We did a carriage tour around Charleston and explored some of the historic sites with her cousins and aunt and uncle.

Time on vacation with just Ashley and I is an enormous blessing. We usually end up talking about our hopes, dreams, and ideas that we have. Historically I have discounted my ideas as crazy and pushed them to the side. Ashley has been encouraging me lately to explore my ideas and not to instantly discount them. Ideas like starting a baby food jar recycling business or tinkering in customizing leather boots or working with Crossfit gyms to sell t-shirts internationally. Ashley has encouraged me to think of no idea as too big or too silly. The ability to share with her my ideas has required vulnerability, but her encouraging me and not discounting me, has made us closer.

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I encourage you to spend time on vacation doing the things you and your partner enjoy together, go outside of your comfort zone to do something you know your partner enjoys, and spend time dreaming together. In my experience, that is a good recipe for a great vacation.

-Tim


Why Do I Have To Tell You?

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Why do we always find it so romantic when our partner can “read our mind?” I think it’s because on a very basic level, we want to be known. But the honest truth is that we are human, and thus far- incapable of actually reading minds. We also tend to have a double standard when it comes to our mind reading expectations-

Me: “Why do I have to tell you? Why don’t you just know?”

But also me: “How would I even know that’s what you were thinking, Tim?? I’m not a mind reader!”

I never liked the idea that I had to tell Tim what I needed. Shouldn’t he just know? That would make life so much easier, wouldn’t it? My inner dialogue would go something like this, “I want Tim to tell me nice things about me, because I could use some encouragement right about now.”

Me: Why isn’t he noticing that I’m having a rough day?

Also me: I’m really good at just powering through, no one will even know I’m struggling.

Me: Why should I have to ask him to encourage me? Doesn’t he just naturally want to??

Also me: Maybe if I encourage him, he’ll return and then I’ll feel better.

Me: Well, now he feels great about himself and I am now not only having a rough day, but now I’m resentful.

Also me: He probably doesn’t think nice things about me if he isn’t saying anything.

Is this just me?

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I spent a lot of time chasing the “magic” in our relationship. You know, the phase where you’re just constantly affirming things, learning new things, and everything feels shiny and new and exciting. But the reality is, that is...a phase. (More on this in my next blog) The time eventually comes when it becomes imperative for you to communicate your needs to your person. So why is this so hard?

I think first off, many people are never really encouraged to express needs. Maybe they were told it was selfish to ask for things people didn’t naturally think of to give you. Maybe they were told they were unworthy of having what they wanted. Asking for things isn’t necessarily a safe bet. You’re risking what feels like a lot by putting yourself in this position of vulnerability. It’s scary. But if you want a functional relationship, you have to be brave enough to ask for it. Mind reading simply has no place in a marriage. I don’t think it ever becomes possible for your partner to consistently read your mind, but they can be observant, and make educated guesses. This requires both partners to equally be invested enough to not only communicate their needs and wishes, but to take note of the other person’s needs and wishes, so they can try for those educated guesses. Take the “magic” when it happens, but you must also be willing to settle in for the long haul and communicate.

A note for those who struggle with anxiety: Your Anxiety spends most of the time convincing you that: You’re not good enough to get what you want/need, you will be rejected if you ask, and your partner doesn’t care enough and that’s why you have to ask. Remind yourself that these are lies. Don’t allow Anxiety to call the shots. You can have a functional marriage, it is possible, and you are allowed to hope for and work for that.

-Ash


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