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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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


Capsulizing Your Travel Wardrobe

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I think I’ve done most of the traveling in our marriage, it’s just wound up that way. When I think back to how I used to travel and pack when I was first married, I just laugh. I still over-pack slightly, but gosh it’s nothing like how it used to be. Once I became a wardrobe stylist, I really began to embrace and love the idea of capsulizing wardrobes, especially when packing. Now when I travel, I rarely check bags if I can help it!

The basic philosophy for capsulizing your travel wardrobe, is so that you can double or even triple your outfit options without increasing the luggage. By packing thoughtfully, and being sure your pieces coordinate, it’s super easy to create a lot of looks with just a few key pieces. For such a short trip, each top should be able to be worn with any and all pants, skirts, etc.

Here’s how I get started:

1.) I map out my trip and what I’ll be doing.

So for this trip, most of my time will be spent cuddling or running around with my 2 year old nephew and holding my new little niece. My sister said she may want to sneak away for an evening with me while Daddy holds down the fort, so I’ll need to also pack something cute, but not fancy to wear to get out of the house. Also, at this point, I take weather into consideration. It is going to be highs in the mid-seventies and lows in the high 40’s, low 50’s. Cold by Arizona standards, so a jacket will be an absolute must. If it’s colder than that, I’ll just borrow a coat from my sister.

2.) Figure out the ratios

Because most of my time will be spent around the house, playing at the park, driving to doctor appointments etc., my travel wardrobe needs to reflect that. We generally tend to focus most of our packing attention and energy onto the events we are most excited about, and forget that those events don’t usually occupy our entire trip. You have to make sure you have enough options for the rest of your trip as well.

Total Pieces:

1 Button Up Shirt

3 T-shirts (normally, I’d pack two, but baby spit-up…)

1 pair of jeans

1 pair of yoga pants

1 dress

1 pair of pjs

Underwear for all the days

1 pair of comfy tennis shoes

1 pair of wedge heels

1 Jacket


3.) Capsulize

This is the fun part. I’ll be gone from Saturday to Tuesday, so excluding the first travel day, I have to make sure I’ve got outfits for 3 days.

Day 1: I like to travel comfy, yet chic, so for traveling there, I’ll be wearing a pair of black yoga pants leggings, a comfy button-up shirt, my “leather” jacket, and some cute wedge heels. I want to conserve space in my luggage since it will be all carry-on, so by wearing the bulkiest shoes, I’ll have those for when we go out, but I don’t need to pack them. Once I get there, it sounds like we will be going out into some desert area nearby so I can take some family photos of them, so I’ll simply change out of my shoes into some comfy tennis shoes that will be packed.

Day 2: Just a lazy day around the house, playing, and doing some cooking. I’ll re-wear the yoga pants and throw on a cute graphic t-shirt, suitable for lounging around the house. Because I’m running the risk of being spit-up on, I’m going to pack an extra t-shirt, just in case.

Day 3: Today, I’ll be taking my sister and the kids around town to a few doctor appointments, so I want to be a tiny step above yoga pants and a t-shirt, while still being comfortable enough to help her wrangle some kids! Jeans and that button-up from Day 1 would be super cute with this, paired with those comfy tennis shoes. And if we wind up going out that night, I can just change shoes to the wedge heels and instantly dress up the outfit. If I have extra room in my bag, maybe I’ll pack a maxi dress.

Day 4: Today I’ll be heading home, so again, comfy and chic, I’ll throw on a t-shirt and jeans and leather jacket with those wedge heels and get ready to jump into Tim’s arms, as no doubt, I’ll be a touch homesick and ready to be back in the swing of things with him.

Total packed pieces:

3 t-shirts

1 pair of jeans

1 dress

1 pair of pjs

Underwear

1 pair of comfy tennis shoes


My tip for maximizing packing space, is rolling your clothing into tight little logs you can stack and squeeze in there. I have loads more packing tips to share in a future blog, and guess what?? I’ll be traveling again in just a couple weeks to Charleston for my cousin’s wedding where I’ll be there a whole week! And guess what? Only carry-ons for me. In that blog, I’ll be sharing some of my extreme space saving tricks I’ve learned over the years of packing 4 kids’ worth of clothes into as little space as possible!


-Ash

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

Waiting For Death

So about a week and a half ago, I got a phone call out of the blue that my great-aunt had died. It was completely unexpected and we were all in shock. I feel blessed to be able to say that I was actually sad and felt the loss of my great-aunt. I have 4, and we are all close. I don’t think many people can say that. Saturday was the service, Tim and I packed up our Tribe and headed to Tucson to join the rest of my family. As I sat through the service, we heard from many family members about the life and impact of my Aunt Marilee. It was so beautiful. The whole family then made pilgrimage to her favorite steakhouse, “Lil’ Abner’s Steakhouse” in Marana, where we continued talking about her: swapping stories, tears, and belly laughs.

For better or for worse (but usually for better) my family is very close. Sometimes it’s a fine line between close and invasive, but usually we all get on well together, and as our matriarchs have said in so many words over the years, “We are Crawfords, and we sing.” And that we do. One of our traditions is to “sing Grace” instead of “say Grace” before a meal. We gather and someone starts us off in The Doxology. We always begin the first line, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” in unison. Then by the next line, “Praise him all creatures here below,” we have broken off into 6 part harmony. I don’t say this lightly, we sound incredible. I will have to record this sometime for you to hear. By the time we reach the end, “Amen.” half of us are beaming through tears as we all look around at each other. Someone always says, “Now THAT was GOOD!” and then we eat.

At some point during the evening, one of my cousins, Susie- whose mother was my Aunt Marilee, and I were having a conversation, when she made a wonderful point- “How come we don’t do this when the person is still alive? Why do we have to wait until their gone to gather and share and remember?” It’s tradition, I suppose. But she made an excellent point.

We have to start doing this more, to affirm and cherish those we love, before they have moved on. I always like to think that those who have passed can still hear and watch over us. I always wonder how surprised they are at the funeral hearing all the nice things people never said about them while they were still alive. Why does it take waiting until someone is on their very last breath, or until they’ve passed, to say these things? We should be saying them now. I am guilty of this just as much as anyone else. I never told my Aunt all the things I admired about her. I hope she felt as loved and appreciated as she was.

So then, why don’t we actually just come out and say these things? I think it’s because it requires a certain vulnerability on our part, we may cry, we are afraid of looking silly. I think another reason is because we often spend way more time looking at all the positive attributes of a person after they die. While they’re alive, we spend more time looking for ways to criticize them. That would be cruel to do after they die, so we do the opposite. But what if we left out the criticism all together and only looked at their strengths while they were still with us. What if reflections of other people wasn’t saved for the funeral. Can you imagine the life we would breathe into our marriages? If instead of saying things like, “Why can’t you just pick up your dirty underwear and put it IN the basket?” or “Well, you never have the laundry done on time anyway.” What if instead we found ways to affirm them even when we were frustrated.

Child psychologists have found that positive reinforcement carries more weight than does negative, when you’re trying to raise them. Focusing on what they ARE doing right, instead of where they mess up. But why confine this to our parenting? Aren’t we all children at heart? Don’t we all still need and crave affirmation and love? Whether we want to admit it or not, we do. If we are going to love our spouse unconditionally, it’s going to be a much smoother road when you’re able to shift your focus from everything that is wrong with your person, to all that is right.

-ASH

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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


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