My husband doesn’t make me happy

My husband doesn’t make me happy.

We just made it through our second “seven year itch” and he still doesn’t make me happy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem here.

Around the time of our 7th year of marriage, Tom and I each had a friend who was suddenly getting a divorce.

When we found out about each of them getting divorced, we were shocked. When we had spent time with them, they seemed happy and got along well. We didn’t think they were any different from us. Neither of our friends came to us for advice. Neither of them let us know that there was anything wrong in their marriages.

In both of these situations, the wives said their husbands didn’t make them happy any more.

My husband doesn’t make me happy. Why am I still married?

Tom and I went through marriage prep in the Catholic Church. That was one difference between us and our friends. We met 6 times with a married sponsor couple and then attended a weekend retreat to prepare us for marriage. We were “prepared” for marriage. Were we really prepared for our life together?

When we got married, we were like a new car – newly-weds with nothing but a smooth ride ahead. We were low on mileage and had no scratches or dents. We hadn’t even hit any bumps in the road.

What happens after marriage prep? What happens after you drive off the lot in that new car? Your car is now worth significantly less.

From experience, I can tell you that discussing and planning for marriage – getting prepared – is a lot different than living the married life. If you’re married, you know planning for the wedding is different than living in marriage. Even though we went through marriage preparation, after 7 years of marriage, we found ourselves growing apart.

We had promised each other we would go back and review the materials we kept from our marriage preparation, each year on our anniversary. I was in Iraq during our first anniversary. The next anniversaries came and went without much thought of reviewing those old notes.  As the years started passing by, we lost that new car smell. We started getting used to seeing a few scratches. We even missed some regular maintenance.

Tom and I didn’t want to end up like our friends. What could we do to avoid what our friends went through? Marriage counseling? That was pretty much the only thing we had heard of up to that point. All that we could see offered to married couples were responses to conflict – a therapist or a divorce attorney.

After 7 years, Tom wasn’t making me happy. We needed to do something, right?  I did some digging and learned that there is more out there for marriages.

We took our not-so-new-anymore car for a long overdue visit to the mechanic. We found a World Wide Marriage Encounter weekend. It is a time-free weekend away from all of life’s distractions to focus only on each other.

That weekend opened up my eyes in our marriage. I’m the optimist in our relationship. I learned that our relationship was not as good as I thought. It wasn’t that we did not get along. It was that we had allowed parts of us to be hidden from each other. We allowed ourselves to grow apart and become roommates, roommates with benefits.

It is hard to believe the tears and emotions we shared that weekend. We had years of built-up heartache and pain. At the same time, we grew closer together intimately than we had ever been before. We were open and honest in a safe environment.

I learned that Tom had feelings. He learned that I am real too. Now, I’m not sure why he didn’t think I was real before – I have plenty of faults and imperfections, believe me! We learned how to communicate in a more intimate way which has allowed our relationship to flourish.

We were fortunate that we had a wake-up call when our friends divorced. I’m telling you today that you don’t have to have a wake-up call to decide to place your marriage as a priority.

According to the Heritage Foundation, federal and state governments spend $150 billion per year to subsidize and sustain single-parent families. Only $150 million is spent to strengthen marriage. To put that into perspective, for every $1,000 spent to deal with the effects of Family disintegration, only $1 is spent to prevent that disintegration.

If you are married, speak positively about your spouse enough that he or she hears how much you actually like them from a third party. Encourage your friends who are married. Don’t let your friends speak negatively about their spouses – certainly do not encourage it. You don’t know the whole story.

It’s better to get regular oil-changes and check-ups on your car than to neglect maintenance and hope it will last for 200,000 miles. It’s no different in your marriage.

The result of Tom and I attending one weekend marriage retreat together is that our marriage is a priority. We are not a statistic. Tom and I were inspired to begin the Celebrate Marriage program at our church to give married couples a supportive community. Celebrate Marriage gives couples the opportunity for Christ-centered marriage enrichment through large group, small group, and individual couple experiences.

Marriage enrichment programs are becoming more common. The government statistics do not show that they are in the business of supporting existing families before they are broken. We, however, can take a stand and do our small part in giving hope for marriages in the future.

Tom is not responsible for my happiness. I am. He cannot make me happy any more than he can make me change my mind about my favorite kind of chocolate. I learned how to take charge of my own happiness and not put the responsibility on Tom. Tom can make me happy, but he is not in charge of my happiness.

It is true, my husband doesn’t always make me happy and I’m okay with that.

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Is your marriage worth one day?

The best thing that Tom and I have done in our lives has been attending a marriage retreat.

Who helps you to improve your marriage? Does your spouse or your kids? What about your boss? Do you remember all of those extra training hours your boss required for an improved marriage? Me neither.

As married couples, oftentimes we see a marriage retreat as a place for those “other” couples, you know, the ones who have problems.

We forget to take time for our own marriage, and in the Catholic church, our covenant. Tom and I believe we are called to marriage just as a priest, deacon, or nun is called to religious life. The church is Christ’s bride as I am Tom’s bride. Our loving relationship is built upon those grounds.

I remember going above and beyond the minimum requirements we were instructed to complete before we were married in 2002. We attended a Tobit retreat and met multiple times with a sponsor couple. We even decided that we would review what we learned each year on our anniversary. As each year passed, we would reminisce about our wedding. Seldom, maybe once or twice, did we open our marriage preparation books. I thought we had a great marriage. Of course it wouldn’t fail.

It was several years after we were married when we kept hearing about our friends’ and some family members’ relationships ending. None of the divorces came with much, if any, warning. That was when Tom and I decided to take a step towards strengthening, not just coasting along in, our marriage. We too had become roommates and were far from God’s call for our marriage.

Our experience at the Worldwide Marriage Encounter retreat (WWME) brought us back together. Christ became the center of our marriage. It continues to break our hearts when we see broken and struggling relationships. A belief that God wants the best for all marriages continues to inspire us to provide ongoing opportunities for enrichment through the Celebrate Marriage ministry. We continue to answer God’s call to share our journey.

We would like to offer you a day away from the everyday routine. Is your marriage worth one day? Take a day just for you and your spouse to focus on one of God’s greatest blessings, your marriage. Married couples of all ages are invited to join us for the annual one-day retreat, “Celebrate Marriage”, at Our Lady of the Greenwood.

EVENT DETAILS

August 22, 2015
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (A special marriage blessing will be offered at the 5:30 PM mass)
Cost for this event: $15 (includes materials, childcare, and lunch)
Register online by clicking on Celebrate Marriage

Our Radio Debut

Today is our radio debut. Tom and I were interviewed by a talk show host who goes by the name “MJ” at Catholic Radio Indy. The program is called “Faith in Action.” This is the first time that I will hear myself speaking with Tom to share the love for our ministry.

If you would like to listen to the program this week, online or or the radio, you can tune in to 89.1/90.9 FM or online here: Catholic Radio Indy.

You can also listen here: Listen to Podcast Now

The program will be aired the week of July 13th. Here are the times and days:

Mon & Thurs 4 PM

Tues & Fri 10 AM

Saturday 9:30 AM

Thank God I’m an over-stressed wife

A few weeks ago, I found myself at a breaking point. I had reached a moment when I realized I could not handle everything I am currently committed to. It wasn’t just my every day commitments. It was the extra things on top of all the things I said yes to months or even years ago.

Motherhood. Being a wife. Being a friend. Being a realtor. Singing in a praise band. Toastmasters. New leadership roles in Toastmasters. Planning a 2 week surprise vacation for my husband. Summer schedules with all the kids at home. Making time for fun this summer. Laundry-even just every couple of weeks. Yes, I only do laundry every couple of weeks. Does that mean we have too  many clothes or is it better because I only have IMG_5662to worry about it once every two weeks? Dishes. I thought we just ran the dishwasher. Why are there so many dirty dishes? What are we having for dinner again? Didn’t I already plan dinner? Oh, wait, that was yesterday. Well, I thought we’d have leftovers, but for some strange reason the kids actually ate what I made and now I have to throw something together. If the kids don’t eat it, that solves my lunch dilemma for tomorrow. Why are my kids so messy? Why are there toys in the water table that don’t belong outside or in water? Yes, I do love to clean up the messes of each of my children. Perhaps if the laundry basket had a target or basketball hoop, the kids might learn what it is for. Whose idea was it to move again? I mean, I really love our new house, but moving is such a different experience when you have 4 kids. I love yard work, but I am glad it did not rain very much last week so I could skip mowing this week. I love my flowers, but now I am doubting my decision to plant over 100 more in addition to what was already here. Now I have 15 pots to water every few days.

That was my brain-okay, maybe only a small snippet of what was going through my mind. There I was, at the end of a relatively productive day. I made it through another day of achieving everything I really needed to do in order to just barely get everything on my list done. Who am I kidding? I don’t keep a list.

I decided my day would have been even more fantastic if I could get the basement painted (new house = new projects). When I was excited about painting the basement, my husband decided to spontaneously honor our 6 year old’s wishes and made a fire in our fire pit. I decided to stay inside to paint. They all enjoyed s’mores and had fun playing outside – staying up much later than I would have liked.

Much to my surprise, when my husband came inside he had no interest in helping me paint the basement. He knew I wanted to get it done before our vacation.

That was it. I found my breaking point.

It is difficult for me to share this, but the glass of water I held in my hand at that point in time was lucky to have survived. It took nearly every ounce I had left that day not to toss the glass across the room and watch it shatter into a hundred tiny pieces as water coated my very not clean floor.

I decided to call it a day. A quick shower and bed. After all, my husband said he was too tired to help me paint. I assumed he was turning me down and didn’t care to spend time with me.

Reflecting back, I am glad I held my tongue and didn’t say or throw anything. I thank God for the grace of overcoming the moment without using harsh words. I wanted to yell, to scream something at Tom. He wasn’t the source of my frustration.

After my quick shower, Tom made a comment on how fast I showered and how eager I seemed to want to go to sleep. I told him that apparently he was too tired, so I would just head to bed.

That’s when tears began to stream down my face. My instinct was to say horrible things, but somehow I was able to refrain. I confessed to Tom that I was overwhelmed, that I could not handle everything I was doing. It was true, we have both been very busy.

Tom looked at me with such compassion and understanding. He embraced me and held me tight until the river of tears stopped flowing that night.

I always try to justify how busy I am by saying I am doing it for the kids, for opportunity, for my husband, for a better life, for XYZ. If I can justify my involvement and busy-ness, then I will keep doing it and keep adding to it.

My moment of being overwhelmed was a small gift from God. It was good for me to feel frustrated, to feel overwhelmed. It was good for me to experience the tears and admit that I am weak.

When I am able to admit that I cannot do everything, I find myself relying more upon God. I have to let go a little. I know I cannot do it all. Every once in a while, I need a wake up call. I cannot be good at any one thing if I try to do everything all the time. It’s okay to feel weak.

I feel refreshed. I’ve been able to take time to reevaluate my priorities and let go a little.

I desire to be a good wife and a good mother. Everything else is second. Otherwise, I am unable to be an example of Christ for others to follow.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:13

Faith in Action

We had the opportunity to once again be featured on Catholic Radio Indy’s program “Faith in Action.” Tom and I were interviewed by MJ for 15 minutes.

It is a strange experience to hear yourself speak on a radio or any sort of recording. “Is that really my voice?” is what Tom kept asking me.

The interview went well. MJ is a very conversational host, so it allows for a nice flow to her program.

That’s when we realized we missed an opportunity. Lesson learned.

We had so much to share about the growing Radio2Celebrate Marriage ministry. We were so excited that we completely forgot to mention anything about our upcoming event, Celebrate Covenant. One of the driving reasons for our interview was to mention something about the event we have planned for this Saturday. An entire 15 minutes went by when we realized we had missed the opportunity to invite the listeners to hear Keith and Kathy Syberg speak on Christ in marriage.

We are still very new to figuring out the best ways to not only spread the word about the importance of having events to enrich marriages, but also to promote our ongoing events.

If you would like to listen to the program which aired this past week, you can listen here: Listen to Podcast Now

I don’t ask my wife tough questions anymore.

 

So, the other day, my wife and I were on our way to attend a wedding in Columbus, OH. During the drive, we had a long conversation about all sorts of topics. During the conversation my wife revealed to me that she doesn’t like to make requests of me. Part of her concern is that she doesn’t like to nag me. Another part is that she thinks that I should be the leader of the relationship. If she makes requests or suggestions or demands, then she is infringing on my role as a responsible husband. It is almost as though I become less desirable to her if she needs to make these requests known to me. It transforms our relationship from one of husband and wife to one of mother and child. Honestly, I think part of it is that she also just likes the idea of me being able to read her mind and anticipate her every need.

It isn’t that my wife won’t make requests, just that she prefers to not make them if she can find another way to make a need known to me. A good example is when I dress the kids and she casually asks, “Are you really planning to send them to church wearing that?”

Well, in fourteen years of marriage, this insecurity or concern or hesitation or whatever you want to call it had never come up and I listened as she explained it to me. I was quite surprised to learn that this concept applied to just about every aspect of our relationship: how we handle chores, who gets to make a late night run to the store for milk and cereal, how we manage our money, where we go for a date, how we have fun in the bedroom and how we serve the church.

One of the strangest things about this is that I actually want my wife to make requests of me, especially when it comes to important things in our life, like bedroom fun, dating, money, bedroom fun, ministry, navigating the holidays and more bedroom fun. This revelation made me squirm inside because some part of me figured that one day we’d get to a point in our relationship where she would eventually be comfortable making requests of me for whatever. Here she was, telling me that she didn’t aspire for that same goal.

So, I thought as I listened. “How can I turn this little bit of information into something helpful for us?” Then it hit me like her look from three weeks ago did when I was late coming home from work for a dinner she had prepared for the family, even though she had managed real estate transactions all day and done homework with the boys while aggressively promoting our next ministry event while nursing the baby while folding the laundry while telling the kids to stop hitting each other with Nerf dart guns… Did I mention that she somehow also made dinner?

Anyways it hit me. She might not want to make unsolicited requests, but I could ask her to make them. Then I was making the request, not her.

Being a generally lazy and forgetful husband, I decided to make the most of technology to assist me.

Here is how it works.

  1. I set an alarm on my phone for 10:30 AM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I set it to have three thirty-minute snoozes. The title of the alarm is “Ask Marcy how I can serve her.”
  2. I set another alarm on my phone for 1:00 PM on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with the same name and snooze characteristics.
  3. When I notice that an alarm goes off, I send my wife a text that asks her how I can serve her today. I vary the question so it is never the same. That way she can’t observe the pattern or guess what I’m doing. The content of the question is basically a chance to ask her how I can best love her today. I think it is important that the question says the word “today” in it so there are some boundaries and a timeline for me to accomplish it.
  4. As soon as she answers, I commit to accomplishing it before the day is over.

 

That’s it: Set an alarm. Ask for a request. Do it.

I started my experiment on a Monday. She requested that I get home in time for her to go to an appointment with one of her real estate clients. I made it a point to get home 10 minutes earlier than necessary.

On the following days, she made simple requests like pouring a bubble bath and a glass of wine for her after the kids went to bed, or giving her a short foot massage or talking about the budget. I forget what she asked on many of the days because they were quite small and simple.

One day went by where I chose not to ask. I was swamped with work and I’ll admit that I didn’t want to put myself out there that day. She didn’t seem to notice.

On Thursday the first week, she had a meeting with the praise band at Oaken Barrel. She had noticed my questions and how I was making an effort to fulfill her needs so she decided to bring me growler of Indiana Amber. Score! I got to fill a bathtub with bubbles and was rewarded with beer.

I kept the questions rolling most days and continued to follow her suggestions for how best to serve and love her. The next week she surprised me at the office by bringing me a slice of pizza from my favorite pizza place, Brozinni’s. I had not anticipated the return on this to be so instantaneous.

So, I can imagine some problems with this process:

Maybe there will be a day when my wife makes a request that I can’t fulfill or one that I don’t want to fulfill. So far, this hasn’t happened. Maybe I’m just lucky. But if it did, it seems like a really good time to open the lines of communication and dialog to figure it out with her. (If you don’t know what dialog is, I’d recommend that you attend a weekend marriage retreat like World Wide Marriage Encounter or Retrouvaille) This seems like a really good time to understand my feelings associated with the request and to share those feelings her. It also seems like a good opportunity for her to understand how her request makes me feel and whether or not it is one that recognizes my dignity as a child of God. If Marcy kept requesting things that I could not or would not provide, I think I’d either stop the experiment or I’d seek her help in understanding why she is requesting a flavor of love that I’m unwilling or unable to deliver.

Another problem I can anticipate is that there will be days where I don’t want to ask the question because I’m not open to the idea of doing whatever she might request. On these days I have two choices. I can skip the question and hope that she doesn’t notice or I can explore my reservations and try to figure out why I’m not willing to risk asking the question. Days like this do happen to me and I’ll admit that I’ve done both. Sometimes it seems like my day is too full to dare trying to squeeze in one of my wife’s requests. Sometimes I’m just tired. Sometimes I am busy when my alarm goes off and I forget.

Whenever I’m tempted to skip the question I’m reminded that this is an opportunity to remember that love is a choice. Will I choose to set my wife’s needs above my own for even just a part of today? If not, why? What is going on inside me that needs to change so that I’m confident that I can ask the question and answer her request to the best of my ability? This question helps remind me that it is my role as husband to actively love my wife and not to wait around for her to change in a way that matches my conveniences.

The simple act of asking her this question had an immediate positive impact on our relationship. I like to think that we already had pretty good communication skills. We understand how to share feelings, how to communicate intimately and how to listen without judging. However, this little question is a gem that has added a cherry and whipped cream to our caramel ice-cream sundae. It has put the big red bow on the Christmas present. It has put the “oo” in good.

I think it is worth mentioning that this isn’t exactly my idea alone. Dr. Gary Chapman outlines a similar strategy in his book, The Five Love Languages. Where his approach is designed to help you discover your spouse’s love language, mine is to simply ask them instead. I want to give him some credit though because it is a great book and the same concept of loving your spouse in the manner which means the most to them applies to both his approach and my process. I suspect that his book somehow influenced my process.

So… Back to the disclaimer from the top… If you are a wife and you’ve made it this far, please remember that you can’t change your husband. Feel free to try it out on your husband if you want, but I honestly have no idea if it works the other way around.

If you consider yourself to be a typical husband, I dare you to try this experiment for three weeks. Even if you’re wife shared this article with you, I’d still dare you to try the experiment for three weeks. Maybe she didn’t read it and she will be pleasantly surprised. Please let me know how it goes.