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


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