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


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


Happy Freaking Birthday

"I'm not scared you'll leave me for a younger woman, You're a good guy and I know you'll do the right thing and you won't leave, but I'm scared you'll want to."

And that was how we ended our vacation. Those thoughts in my head had intruded, unwarranted into my head on our trip as I suffered back issues that made me feel about 157 years old. Unable to keep up with the others on our trip, I felt lame, slow and old. The waiter at the restaurant didn't even ask for my ID when I ordered my margarita. Jerk. And the scores of employees wishing me Happy Birthday, felt like they were rubbing it in. It was grad week at Disneyland and scores of highschool and college grads poured into the parks with their boundless energy and everlasting optimism about their futures. I remember that feeling. Now it just pisses me off.


There seems to come a time in a married woman's life when she crosses a threshold. Either knowingly or not, she crosses over in the eyes of the world from Miss to Ma'am. Then one day, she looks in the mirror to find creases on chest, by her eyes and on her forehead that don't go away 15 minutes after getting out of bed. She's lost a bit of glow. It's not dramatic, she doesn't look very aged, but it's the sudden realization that there are now scores of women who have that girlish charm, that lively glow, that smooth skin and that zest for life that she used to have. By now, she's had some kids. She's wiser, but she feels haggard and tired. She can barely remember what having a flat tummy without trying, feels like, and a little piece of her dies inside everytime the waiter hands her alcohol without asking for an ID. It's a subtle shift, like I said- it was nothing dramatic. But the moment that realization hit me, I panicked.

Now, Tim is a good guy. He's faithful, loving, kind, honest and hard-working. He's everything a man should be. He, as society allows, is getting better with age. I, on the other hand- as society demands, have now started buying products labeled "anti-aging" (because evidently you have to be proactive with this stuff). Screw you, society. The feminist and logical part of me knows that this is all bullshit. That I will continue to be beautiful to Tim until I'm dead. That he would never trade me in for a younger model. I know this. I do.

But the insecure anxious teenager inside me is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will want to.

It's hard for me to reconcile those two inner voices. It feels like an unfair and uneven playing field. As we age, he's getting better, and I'm just getting...softer. The whole "growing old together" sounds so romantic until the "growing old" part actually starts to kick in.

So there I sat in the airport, silent tears streaming down my face, feeling indignant at the relentless march of time, grieving my youth, and resenting my current irrational state. "This is ridiculous" I think, "you're crying in public, and now Tim is frustrated because he doesn't know how to help you." I felt a twinge of guilt because he didn't do anything wrong, and yet here he was feeling like I was punishing him. It wasn't fair and I knew it. I felt like I was losing my grip on reality. I preach passionately to our kids that it's what's on the inside that matters. That kindness is better than cuteness. That women are not objects, nor do they have an expiry date. I know at this point that I'm trying to manifest a Utopia. That this world doesn't yet exist. So how do we, the movers and shakers who are trying to shift the paradigm, deal when we have one foot in what should be, and one foot in what is?

I wish I knew the answer to that. I wish it was as simple as just believing and being confident. The reality is that we are human, and often prone to feeling insecure and anxious.

I need to trust. Both highschool boyfriends I had before Tim, cheated on me. They got tired of me and found someone else that felt new and exciting. Sure, it was highschool and I shouldn't have taken those relationships so seriously, but the damage was done. The message was clear- if you don't keep their interest, they'll leave. This paints and grim and unfair picture of men. Sure, this applies to some guys, but not all, and certainly not Tim. I have to remind myself of what I know: that I am more than my outer beauty, that as I age- I gather wisdom, experience and grace, and that my husband loves me. Always, no matter what. I can't be willing to allow thoughts to the contrary in my head.


This was an incredibly hard post to write, I almost scrapped it as soon as I typed it up. But we always strive to be honest with you, and to live our life in a way that hopefully helps others in relationships know they aren't alone.

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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


Your Emotions Are Valid, But...

In my last blog post I talked about acknowledging and beginning to learn how to interact in a healthy way with my emotions. You can read my prior blog post here.

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Now what? I had emotions, I did not suppress them, but now what was I supposed to do? Well, I had to start learning what to do.

Ashley was a huge help to me in navigating the messiness of emotions. One thing she always told me earlier in our marriage, when I would try to convince her that she should not feel a certain way in a situation, was that emotions are valid. Regardless of the situation, your emotions are valid.

But, your emotions may not be proportionate to the situation. I came to realize that there were situations in which I rationally knew the strength of emotion I was experiencing was not proportionate to the severity of the circumstances.

Emotions that tend to be classified as “negative” are often tied to negative cognitions. Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough,” “I should have known better,” “I’m not lovable,” etc. What happens for many of us is that there are events in our lives that affirm these negative cognitions in our brain. An event happens when you are 4, then 8, then 11, then 17, etc. Your brain has connected all of these events. My counselor used the word picture of train cars linked together. Now, when you experience an event that brings up the negative cognition, “I’m not good enough” for example, the force of all of those train cars collide into your current event.

Ashley and I were at the mall one day. We were both in a store looking at items and then I turned around and she began leaving the store with the kids without telling me. I became extremely annoyed with Ashley that she hadn’t let me know that she was ready to leave. I realized that my level of emotions was not commensurate with the situation and I started thinking about it. Why did I have such a strong reaction?

I realized that I had a fear, or negative cognition, that “the people I love will leave me.” There were seemingly simple events that happened in my childhood, combined with my personality that influenced that fear. Later, in 8th grade, my first real girlfriend, and first girl I told “I love you,” left me. Then, early in Ashley’s and I’s marriage there were events that made me think that Ashley would leave me. These events compounded in my brain to make such a simple thing, like Ashley leaving a store without telling me, elicit a big emotional response.  

Your emotions are valid, but maybe they are not proportionate to the circumstances. Part of discovering more about yourself is recognizing these times. When you do, you can look back on your life and ask the question, “Why do I react this way when this happens?” The answers may surprise you. These instances are an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and for your partner to learn more about you.

For Ashley and I, these conversations revealed things about each other that we never knew. It is helpful as a partner, to know why your partner reacts the way that they do. It allows you to be more understanding the next time it happens. It also allows you to make little or big changes to help your spouse. Regardless of the severity of the emotions, your partner is responsible for his/her actions. However, if you can make loving changes to help your partner, you should.

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Now, when Ashley and I are in a store together, she comes and tells me, “Hey I am going to be over here.” or “Hey I am heading to the next store.” It is a little thing, but it is a way that she tells me that she loves me and is considerate of how I feel.  

It can be scary sharing with your partner your most deep-seated fears, like “I’m not good enough.” It takes vulnerability to share with your partner the events in your life that piled up to make that fear as strong as it is. Above all, it takes trust. In sharing these things, you also reveal to your partner how they can hurt you the most.

Sharing is scary, but it creates intimacy. To be intimate, you must risk being hurt. So take that risk; and, as a person who hears the fears of your partner, never betray that trust, it may take you a lifetime to earn that trust back.

-Tim

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

Dam(n)

I consider myself a pretty good listener. I enjoy hearing people out, listening to them talk about their issues, and offering advice when asked. The one person it seems to be the hardest to listen to- is Tim. You see, for a long time in our marriage, he didn’t speak up whenever there was conflict. So now, when he does, I have to catch myself and really listen, instead of immediately going on the defensive and writing him off.

You know, for having feelings. Yeah, I know. I’m working on it. Here’s a little history...

When we were first married, and for quite awhile afterward, our pattern went like this…

1.) Ash acts
2.) Tim doesn’t react
3.) Ash runs amok.
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You may laugh, but simply put- that’s exactly how our life was.  As Tim mentioned in his last post, he really wasn’t present emotionally during the first years of our marriage. Which, as a fairly emotional person at the time, was a cruel shock for me. I had this boyfriend who doted on me, said all the sweet things, wrote me letters on a daily basis telling me how much he adored me…and then once we were married, that all but disappeared. He felt cold, distant and unmoved by anything I did. I would ask him to tell me how he felt, I craved words of affirmation, of adoration, but it seemed like he didn’t have much to give anymore. It was like he had built this dam to keep any and all emotions at bay. The only “upside” to that in my mind was, he basically let me have and do whatever I wanted without complaining or resisting. Yet all the while, Tim had feelings about these things that he wasn’t sharing. And his resentment was growing under the surface. Eventually, something would tip the scales and he would shut down completely. Then all of it would come tumbling out in a frustrated mess that left me shocked and angry. I remember saying things to him like, “Oh NOW you have feelings you want to share? Now you want to talk about how you feel?” I was so upset by the fact that the only emotions I seemed to be able to elicit from him were anger and sadness. When he would confront me about how he had been upset about something but hadn’t told me in the moment, I would snap at him, “If you didn’t want me to do ____ or didn’t want us to _____ YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING THEN! NOT WAITED A YEAR AND THEN THROW IT BACK IN MY FACE!” What I didn’t say was, “I’m feeling insecure about my life generally and you disapproving of this feels like you disapprove of me, and I don’t know how to handle that.” and “I want your input and to know your thoughts, but I’m afraid that if we have conflict- you’ll decide I wasn’t worth it and walk away.”

He would, at that point, turn off all emotional expression and simply walk away. The message I got was, “I don’t care enough to fight about this with you, come find me when you’re ready to apologize.” and “I’m taking the power in this situation by ending the conversation when I want to, without taking any responsibility for my part.” I completely missed his message which was more like, “I don’t really have the tools to communicate this effectively, and I’m worried that if I show emotion, you’ll judge me. But I’m also afraid to say ‘No’ to you, because I don’t want you to leave me.” That was at the very core. If you follow anger or frustration down to it’s core- you’ll always find fear, sadness or both.

We continued on this cycle up until Tim started counseling about 2 years ago. I felt triumphant when his counselor began encouraging him to express his emotions. HA! Hadn’t I been telling him this for years? His homework was to start telling me how he was feeling. I imagined him sitting me down and ravishing me with poetic-like statements about his endless love and admiration for me, how he couldn’t live without me, how I and only I- his perfect dove would forever be the apple of his eye.
God laughed.

And what I got instead was verbal diarrhea. It suddenly seemed like I couldn’t even move without Tim telling me it upset him, or pulling up something from our past and telling me how he really felt about it. This was not what I had hoped it would be. It was like the dam that Tim had constructed to keep back his negative emotions had been blasted to smithereens, and I was left drowning in the torrent. I remember thinking, “What have I done?” In that moment, I wished the old Tim back. The seemingly placid, easy going one who didn’t call me on my crap or express frustration and anger. I wanted so desperately to put the lid back on that Pandora’s box. It was so messy. So imperfect. After weeks of conversations every week about all the things he was working through, it all came to a head when after a counseling session, I asked what they had talked about. It was me, they had talked about how Tim felt about my mental health issues. My stomach dropped as Tim expressed how it had been for him, dealing with my issues for so many years. “So you resent me because I have depression?” I asked, my voice quivering. “Yes, sometimes.” he admitted in a low voice. I had absolutely no idea what to do with that, so I just cried. I held in sobs until my stomach hurt, and refused to let him hold me. His love language is physical touch, and in that moment, I wanted him to hurt. I was so raw, and so was he. We were tired. And in that moment, I had to make a critical decision.

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Was I going to choose to be on the same team about this? Was I going to be supportive of this new version of my husband who told me the truth even when it really hurt? Or was I going to build a wall to shut him out because I didn’t want to get hurt? I wish I could say that it had only taken a moment, or even a few hours for me to get to that place, but it took a few days of uncomfortable silence. I had been pushing and pushing for him to be open with me about his feelings about me for years. Now he was doing just that, and not all of it was pretty. How could it be? I wasn’t perfect. I had to take the honesty whether it made my heart fly- or sink. I remember thinking- “Marriage sucks right now.” I think I was right. It’s not always fun. But I can tell you, as Tim has learned to unlock this side of himself and feel more safe around me, the honesty has been so sweet, even if sometimes there are flies in the honey.

-ASH


I looked into the crowd & found Ashley...

I’m all the way to the right, #33

I’m all the way to the right, #33

My senior year in high school it became a thing that every time I made a free throw during a basketball game I looked into the crowd, found Ashley and winked at her. I do not know how it became a thing or when I started doing it, but it ended up being a memorable event for Ash and I.

I tend to be a private individual. Shocking as that may be given that Ash and I are now putting our life out in public. But that is not my natural bent. Ash feels more comfortable in public. She thrives off of being around others. Ash loves theater and being on stage performing. I used to feel uncomfortable expressing public affection to Ash. Quite frankly, I do not know how I started the wink thing, given the fact that for that moment, Ash and I’s relationship was on public display. My friends on the basketball team gave me a hard time and my coach would shake his head. But I think the fans found it endearing and Ash loved it.

You can see a clip of this below.

As Ash and I have gone through our relationship, I realized that she enjoys it when I acknowledge our love and her publicly. I am just fine with telling Ash Happy Anniversary or Happy Birthday in private and giving her a homemade card. She enjoys those things, but I also know that she enjoys it when I acknowledge her publicly. As result, I make an effort to do so. I will go on Facebook and write on her timeline or tag her in a post, even though I do not usually post on social media.

Often times, the way that your partner feels most loved is different than yours. You must be mindful of the way your partner feels loved and move outside of your comfort zone to love them in that way, even if it may make you feel uncomfortable.

The basketball wink is one of my fondest memories in high school. My love for Ash overcame my uneasiness of putting our relationship on display and I’m so glad we can look back and remember those moments.

-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

When You're Gone...

When You’re Gone…


So for those of you who don’t know, I struggle with depression and anxiety.

I hate saying that, it feels like I line I’ve rehearsed so many times that it barely has any meaning anymore. Like when you fixate on a word, “Apple” and say it so many times you start to giggle at how silly the word sounds tumbling off your tongue as though suddenly it’s in a foreign language. But I say it a lot, because I want people to know how common it is, that they are not alone.

Anyway- this stuff affects way more than I would like to admit that it does. Like when Tim leaves town. I have this intense FOMO (fear of missing out) which stems from abandonment trauma. (Don’t you love Millennials? We are so adept at relating all of our issues back to our traumas.)

So when Tim has to leave town for work or just a few days away on a guys trip- I. Freak. Out.

Not externally of course, but my dependency issues rear their ugly head and I run smack into them, always a bit surprised to see them, but eh- who am I kidding?

I was pretty spoiled for awhile because after we got married, we were rarely apart. However, right after we got married, I got pregnant. *cue crazy lady hormones I distinctly remember Tim going out to play video games at his friend’s house and sobbing on the couch because he wasn’t there. This -ish runs deep. It’s serious. Seriously annoying. Of course then, I was a pregnant newlywed, so I had an excuse. Now,...I’m a woman in my early thirties in a solid, happy marriage, still confronting my abandonment issues. It’s the worst. So here’s a little rundown of how this usually goes. This is deeply embarrassing, but I’m sharing it because I’m sure I’m not the only one who deals with this crap.

Day 1- I’ve got a brave face on. I drop Tim off at the airport, or watch him fold his 6’6” frame into the back of a tiny Uber, and I’m okay. “I’ve got things to do, I’ve planned things to keep me busy and occupied while he’s gone. I’m gonna be okay.” The kids are upbeat and although bedtime is hard because they all miss him, we all survive. And I get about 4 hours of sleep.

Day 2- I become the “fun mom.” In order to distract myself from the impending implosion I can feel coming, I am running around town, spending more money than I should be on the kids, showering them with new things, new experiences...hell- maybe we will go take our own trip somewhere. Expedia reminds me my bank account has told me to stay home, so instead, I’m riding a caffeine and sugar high until we all crash at bedtime. Only now that the fun people have gone to sleep and it’s just me- I get anxiety. So I Netflix and Chill-the-heck-out on my phone and only get about 3 hours of sleep.

Day 3- Running on 7 hours of sleep in 48 hours is just not sustainable for me. I wish I was that woman. I think I am that woman, until suddenly on Day 3, I wake up and look in the mirror wondering who gave me 2 black eyes in my sleep. But no, that’s just the dark circles. *sigh On Day 3, the kids somehow communicated this message to each other, “It’s Time.” They fight, yell, whine, and complain all. Freaking. Day. And to be honest, I can’t blame them. With the bar set so high on our adventures of Day 2, they are not content to stay home while this creature that resembles a bedraggled version of their mother is trying not to get tears and self-loathing in her coffee. Then, it happens. Suddenly, I can’t take the whining, the arguing and their attitudes anymore. *cue implosion. I rant, I cry, I storm off to put myself in time-out. Meanwhile, my kids are looking at each other like, “Did we break her?” There is silence. I feel terrible. I scrap the pieces of myself off the floor, off the wall and off the bed, and shuffle out to them. I apologize and like the amazing humans they are- they forgive me. I usually end up buying them icecream for their trouble. Everyone goes to bed early that night, and I am still up trying to pass the time, thinking, “Only tonight and then one more night.” I get 5 hours of sleep.

Day 4- Today brings determination to do better. I’m working hard to stay positive even though the kids are just as exhausted that Dad’s not home yet. We don’t ever begrudge him the trips, but gosh how we miss him. I pick back up where I left off from Day 1 at getting things done, and clean up around the house a bit. I pay the kids to do the dishes. My smile is weak, but I’m still standing. Only one more sleep. I get about 5 hours because I’m emotionally and physically depleted.

Day 5- Coming home day, I’m racing around the house cleaning like a madwoman, so I can look like I had my -ish together the whole time. I move furniture, I buy a new rug for the kitchen, I light candles. This house looks amazing. Time crawls by that day, as I’m hitting refresh on the flight tracker watching his little plane icon travel home. I feel crazy. I know I am, but I don’t even care at this point. I’m just excited that Tim is coming home.


-Ash