It's Spouses Day! Yeah I know I think those made up holidays are stupid too, but I figure it's a good day to transfer one of my favorite posts from the old blog to this new one. This was written a few years ago, and there have been more ups and downs since then, but it still rings true.
My husband and I love each other. That mushy, sweet, cuddly “annoy everyone around you” kind of love. He is my everything and I am his. We have loved each other dearly for about four years now. The catch is that we have been married for fourteen years. For about the first ten years of our marriage, we spent most of our time avoiding each other, determined to stay together for the sake of our kids but on the verge of divorce. People always ask me how we turned it around, and I usually answer that I don’t really know. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I do know what finally went right after all this time. I’m sure I’ll think of more after I hit “post”, but these are the big things that changed. Since I am a woman, these are from the perspective of what women can do to fall in love again, but I think most of them are applicable to men too.
1) Come Alive. Seriously. Quit just existing. Life is so short and the world is filled with so many amazing experiences, there is something that brings you joy, ignites your passion, makes you feel truly alive. Whatever it is, do it. Then do more of it. It is not your spouse’s job to make your life fulfilling. It is yours. When you come alive, you will have renewed passion for everything, including your marriage. Maybe it is something you do with your spouse- for Tyler and I together, it’s traveling, going to concerts (especially Pearl Jam). Find something that is just for you too. For me, it’s photography, pole dancing, and volunteer work.
2)Treat your husband as if he is doing everything right. Being unhappy, unsatisfied, complaining can become a habit. How would you treat your husband if he were doing everything right? Greet him with a big hug and a smile? Tell him you’re happy he’s such a great dad? Fix his favorite meal? Look at what he has accomplished instead of the things you wish he would have done? If you start treating him as if he is perfect, he will live up to that standard. It sounds crazy but it works, trust me. If you treat him as though he is worthless, he will live up to that standard as well.
3)Quit being the referee/quality control inspector. I think many moms fall into this mindset. I know I did, and still struggle with letting it go. We want our kids to have the absolute best, be perfectly safe, and we think our way is the only way. I am going to assume that your husband dearly loves his children and would do nothing to harm them, ever. If that’s not true, end it today. But if it is true? Step back. Let the rough play happen. Let the baby be not perfectly diapered. Let dinner when dad fixes it be corn dogs and French fries. If it’s too much for you to watch, walk out of the room. Dads relate to kids in a unique, special way that is so important. If you are complaining about how your husband cares for the kids, you are hurting your marriage and also depriving your children of experiencing life from a different perspective.
4) Give up control. I have felt out of control most of my life. I have ADHD and my mind is always reeling and I’m struggling to keep up with it. I think I became controlling to deal with that feeling. This goes along with #3, but goes further than that. Let him be the man. Let him make some decisions for you. We’re taught that as women we need to be strong but there is power in giving some responsibility to someone else. There is power in the knowledge that someone loves you so much every decision they make is with your best interests at heart. Let him plan everything about your next date, or choose the next vacation destination. Trust him to lead you, and he will thrive as a leader. I highly recommend giving him the chance to take control in the bedroom. That’s all I’m going to say about that
5) Don’t participate in man-bashing. I’m sure you’ve been in groups of women where everyone is trying to one-up each other with how annoying/imperfect/wrong their husband is. Don’t get caught up in those conversations. You can ruin the best relationship by focusing on the bad things. Every relationship has bumpy times, but dwelling on them makes the bumps much bigger. I’ve heard women talk about how awful men are with young sons playing at their feet. I have a news flash for you- those boys are going to be men. It is NOT OKAY to talk about how horrible men are with them around. Ever.
6)Share your secrets. Let your husband truly know who you are. Get to know each other. Tell stories about your childhood, your wishes and dreams. Tell him your craziest desires. He might say “wow I’ve always wanted to do that too!” or he might say “you’re weird” with a blank stare on his face and turn and walk away. Yes, I’m talking from experience on both of those. Sharing so much makes you feel so vulnerable, but vulnerability is the place where dreams come true, where growth happens, where you’re able to accomplish things you never thought you could, where you can truly share your soul with someone.
7) Believe him when he tells you you’re beautiful. He means it. You are beautiful to him because he loves you. Don’t reply by talking about everything that is wrong with you, or even worse getting mad at him for saying it because he can’t truly mean it (been there!) Just smile and say thank you. Eventually you may even start to believe it yourself.
8. Give up jealousy. This is a hard one. I work on this one every day. I think it comes from a place of insecurity, a place of not feeling good enough. My husband chose me, and yours chose you. That means everything. Finally coming to the understanding that I am the one who he wants, always, has helped the jealousy fall away. He can tell me about one of his clients flirting with him and we can laugh about it. I can see him watch a woman walk by and I’ll say, “She’s really pretty!” instead of sulking about the fact that he noticed her. There are so many different body types and there is something beautiful about every one of them. Admiring someone else does not mean that he thinks any less of you. I get to see all kinds of bodies in my job as a boudoir photographer, and yes, sometimes I see almost-naked or even naked men. Looking at them does not in any way diminish the admiration I have for my own husband’s body. It’s great if he has female friends because they will help him see things from your perspective. Yes, some husbands cheat. Stewing about it, worrying about it, feeling jealous is not going to prevent him from cheating on you. If anything, it is going to bring negative emotions into your marriage that might make him more likely to cheat!
9) Have sex. As often as possible. Even if I don’t particularly feel in the mood to start, by the end I am never regretting having done it, you know? I have found sexual desire is a “use it or lose it” kind of thing. The more you have, the more you want. If you get into the rut of not having sex, it is really difficult to get back to a healthy sexual relationship but it can be done! As you come alive and find your passion in everyday life, it will help your sex life as well. Nothing will make you feel more vulnerable than being completely open and honest in your sexual relationship. It is such a taboo subject to talk about. But once you get the conversation started, and start sharing your desires and listening to his without judgment, your bond will get stronger and stronger.
10) Treat your husband the way you want your son to be treated by his wife. I’ve heard a lot about how husbands should treat their wives the way they want their daughters to be treated. The reverse is true! Your son is learning how he should be treated by how you are treating his dad. I know what one of the major turning points was in our marriage. I don’t think I’ve ever even told my husband this, because I just realized it as I was thinking about the past. We were having a horrible argument- the kind where you are so angry and letting off steam and trying to say the most hurtful things you can think of, where the original point of the argument is long gone. I hope you’ve never been there, but I bet most of you have. In the middle of this horrible argument, I glanced over to see a photo on my desk. It was a photo of my husband at about the same age my middle boy was at the time. They have the same eyes and the same goofy smile and look like they could be twins. I imagined, someday, my sweet boy’s wife saying such horrible things to him, and it hit me so hard. I look at my husband and I see my sons, I see the hope, the love, the joy in their eyes reflected in his.
Be vulnerable. Have hope. Embrace the passions that make you come alive. Trust in yourself and trust in your spouse. And love. Always love.