How We Stay Happily Married With Such A Full House
You might not know this about me, but I’ve known my husband for all but three years of my life. Isn’t that CRAZY? We went to preschool together! And elementary school and middle school and high school. We never dated back then, but that’s a story for another day; and we must’ve started dating eventually because now we’ve been together for more than 15 years and married for almost 14.
So as of yesterday, we have officially turned into a household of 10 people! We welcomed a new exchange student from Ethiopia, and we are sooooo excited. This brings our family’s tally to six kids ages 12 to 3, two exchange students, five dogs, a cat, a goat, a mini pig, and of course two fairly busy parents.
With all the kids’ activities, farm chores, a busy work schedule that includes traveling, and LOTS of cooking and cleaning; it can be easy to put each other on the back burner.
In fact, I have to tell you something embarrassing…after being pregnant for the better part of the last ten years, doing or saying anything romantic at all seemed like too much effort to me for years.
I felt tired and touched and others-focused all the time. So when we were alone, I wanted a chance to turn inward (because hello!! I’m an introvert in a house full of people) or have an adult conversation; I didn’t feel like I had enough energy for anything else. Understandable, probably; but long stretches of that kind of co-habitating can be hard on a marriage. I bring this up because I think it’s important for mothers of small kids to be honest about this issue. Without small intentional movements toward our spouses, we can easily and unintentionally move away from them.
At this point, you might think I’m going to talk about intimacy in marriage. Like THAT kind of intimacy. While of course sex is important, that’s not what this is about! Are you relieved?? Actually, this is about making a conscious effort to do the small things in our marriages that reinforce the bond; because ultimately, the little things add up to our whole lives, right?
Here are 4 ways that my husband and I stay closely connected with each other, and surprisingly they don’t have much to do with going on dates:
We tell each other how we really feel. Talking things out, especially when we don’t agree, takes a lot of energy. Sometimes it would be easier just not to say anything, but momentary peace can lead to resentment in the long run. I know to many Christians this might sound like I’m not submitting to him, but here are my thoughts on that…I’m a peacemaker on the enneagram chart. There are very few people I will choose to enter into conflict with, because I value peace above almost anything else. In short, my subconscious tells me it’s not worth the argument. But with Joel, because I trust him and love him deeply, it’s always worth the argument. It’s worth the time. It’s worth all the much-coveted energy. Listen y’all, Joel is a lawyer and a Marine—he is a really tough person to oppose and you’re not likely to win an argument with him. But if I don’t agree with him, I say so! And he always listens, because he thinks I’m smart and he values my opinions. Truth be told, I doubt I could genuinely “submit” (which to me just means let him take responsibility for a decision) if I had not made my thoughts clear to him.
We find time throughout the day to connect. We text each other several times a day with both logistics and simple “I love you” messages. Also, when he gets home after work, he greets all the kids and hears a snip of their day and then always says, “Will you follow me back to our room?” which is code for “Let’s be away from the madness to catch up with each other for fifteen minutes or so” while he changes out of his work clothes. This way, we are together by ourselves before we dive back into the hectic dinner/bath/bedtime hours. We face them as a united front!
Also, more often than not, we spend time together in the early morning hours reading Scripture and praying for each other out loud. This last part is important, because praying out loud with someone makes you vulnerable to them. It invites God right into the middle of our relationship, and if there is any hurt or sin between us He quickly points it out.
We take communion together regularly. There was a time not too long ago when it felt like we weren’t agreeing on anything. We were under an enormous amount of external stress, and it felt like all the rough edges of our marriage were showing. We talked and debated and could hardly ever find any common ground. And then Sunday came, and we went to church with all our hundred kids and raw hearts and thinly veiled frustrations. At church, we took communion just as we do on the appointed Sundays of the month, but this time the mystery of the bread and the wine became so real to us. Our minister always encourages us not to drink or eat if we are holding grudges or clinging to some unrepentant sin. So I prayed for forgiveness for my own resentment and for sinning against Joel, and unbeknownst to me he had done the same. When church was over, just like a newly cleaned dry erase board, our relationship was wiped clean and healed. I can’t even describe the spiritual mystery or the feeling of it, except to say that we felt Christ do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves or for each other.
We hug and kiss each other often. Like I said before, being with little kids (especially little boys) can leave me feeling overwhelmed with physical touch. I grew up as an only child—I’m not a toucher! But when Joel finally said to me casually, “You never let me touch you at all;” I realized I needed to make more of an effort. As in, a LOT more effort. We hug a lot now, and I ask him for hugs when I’m feeling anxious or vulnerable. Or sometimes I will sit down in his lap, which makes me feel like I’m safe and cared for in such a different way than other displays of affection. It’s amazing the connection both of these small actions create in such a short moment! They signal to our brains to create endorphins, and we’re reminded that all this busy chaos does in fact stem from a calmer time when we couldn’t think of anything else BUT each other.
If we’re being honest, we can probably all agree that being married and staying married is hard. It can be hard to honor someone more than yourself, especially if that person is a human with flaws that are different than your own. It can be hard to remind yourself every day to put someone else first, even above those other sweet people that actually came from you and whom it feels more natural to serve. But it matters. It matters that you make small efforts every day to love your spouse well and tell them the truth and do hard things for your marriage. And it matters that your kids see you making emotional, spiritual, and physical connections with your spouse on a regular basis.
How about you? What little, doable ways do you connect with your spouse? Please comment below and give us some good ideas!