5 Love Languages

I remember the day I approached my mother to tell her that I felt as if she did not love me. I could barely get the words out because I was crying so hard. She was totally shocked that I would question if she loved me. She listed off all the thing that she did for me out of love: meals, housekeeping, taxes, education, etc. I left that conversation starting to feel that maybe my mother loved me all along but I was expecting her to love me in a different way…

At a later time, I came across the concept of the 5 Love Languages. If you have never heard of the 5 Love Languages or would like a quick refresher click here). For the first time, I was able to understand that my love language is Words of Affirmation (to learn your love language click here: love language quiz). The reason why I felt as if my mother did not love me was because I was looking for compliments and encouraging words while she was showing her love to me with her love language: Acts of Service. We were speaking two different love languages. Both were saying I LOVE YOU but one was speaking Spanish and the other English.

Since my love language is words of affirmation, it’s my default to show love to others with the way that I feel loved (giving loving & encouraging words). But not everyone’s love language is the same as mine. Derek’s love language is Acts of Service. It means more to Derek if I do something nice for him instead of writing him a loving note. So instead of trying to tell him “I love you” in my own language, I have to make it a point to say “I love you” in his language. This is my attempt at telling Derek that I love him on Valentines Day a couple years ago:

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 What’s your love language? When was the last time you tried to speak the love language of someone else despite the fact that it’s easier to say “I LOVE YOU” in your own love language? Food for thought.

Making the most of your time before baby arrives

A friend asked for my thoughts regarding making the most of the time leading up to having their first child. I told her that I won’t say to “sleep now!” as I didn’t find this advice to be helpful. Firstly, how does sleeping now help a person not to feel tired months into having a baby? And of course I want to sleep well every time I can ☺. So with that said, here’s what I’d recommend:

1. Think of activities that you enjoy doing that aren’t baby friendly and then go do them. An example of this is going to the movies. If you enjoy going to the movies, do this as often as you can leading up to the due date. Another example of an activity that’s difficult to do with a baby is going to the theatre or a concert.

2.  Come home from work and decide to go out somewhere totally last minute. Enjoy being able to make plans without much forethought. And stay out late if you want to!

3. Schedule for date nights as you may take a break from these after baby arrives. Make sure you do a date night every week if not mboot  Tip: make these date nights times where you don’t talk about pregnancy or baby items but just focus on each other.

4. Document this season of your life whether that be via journaling or blog. Time goes by fast so make sure that you jot down the things that you’d like to remember.

5. Remember that you’ll never be fully prepared for those hazy newborn days. Much of it is learn-as-you-go. Do take a prenatal class but also put energy into your relationship with your partner! Work on being as healthy as a couple as possible as you’ll need to lean on each other during baby boot camp.

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The above points are an attempt to help my friend make the most of her time pre-baby. Is there anything you’d add? Help to grow this list with your thoughts. Thanks!

Reproductive gossip and being enough

This August, I’ll be married to my Yankee husband for 7 years. I’m 30 years old, he’ll be 34 in September. I was married at 23 years old, young by today’s norms.

There’s something about being married for 7 years + turning 30 in April that seem to have people talking. Talking about us. When we aren’t around. Talking about when we are going to have kids.

I had a feeling that this was happening (the talking) and recently it has been confirmed. I’ve had a friend tell me that several people have made comments to her re: when we’ll have kids. And earlier this summer, an old acquittance asked me the bomb of a question in a large group setting (after asking how old I am and how long we have been married). The “so when are you going to have a baby?” question came flying out before they had asked me about my job, how my husband was doing, etc.

Sigh. I don’t know which one I’d prefer. Either people talking about our reproductive plans behind our backs or being asked the “when are you going to have kids?” question in a public setting. Can I pick neither?

I’m 30 years old. I’ve been married for 7 years. I love my husband dearly. He’s the best gift I’ve ever received. He’s enough. I’m enough. We are enough whether or not we have children (biologically or via adoption). The talking about us having a baby + asking when we will have one makes me feel as if others view me as not enough, that we as a couple aren’t enough. But we are. We really are.

5 Reasons NOT to ask: “When are you going to have kids?!”

People are nosy.  People are curious. People want to share their thoughts and opinions. I’ve been guilty of this myself. But when it comes to asking a couple without children, “when are you going to have children?”, I’d like to recommend the biting of tongue technique. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Would you go up to a couple with no clue of their financial situation, and ask them:  “when are you going to be debt free?” Likely not. Why? Maybe because finances are private (for whatever reason). Maybe it’s due to the reality that a person can hope and plan to be debt free but cannot control the exact date of when it will happen. Maybe asking the question could discourage the couple due to their current reality. Hmm. But a similar intimate question is asked all the time re: “when are you going to have kids?!” The same reasons why people don’t randomly ask questions about finances could be applied here.

2. The typical question is loaded with assumptions. It’s often phrased as, “WHEN will you have children” vs. “do you plan to have children?”. We would never ask a high school student who we barely know, “when are you going to University?”. Why not? Well, that would assume too much. What if they don’t have the grades to get in? What if they have received rejection letters to each school they applied to? What if they are taking a year off? What if they want to go to college instead?. We may instead ask what their plans are for the fall.

3. When throwing out the typical question: “when are you going to have kids?”, be prepared that you may make a person cry. They may cry right then and there or afterwards. You never know if a couple could be trying to conceive and it’s not happening. I’ve read about a woman being asked this question while she was physically recovering from yet another miscarriage. A deeply personal question such as “when are you going to have a baby?” could cause a person to sob after you are no longer around. Be warned.

4. Continuing the topic of assuming,  I’ll throw a couple more “what ifs” your way. What if a person decides not to have children because they have a health condition that would make parenting extremely difficult.  What if having a baby would make their already challenging health condition much worse? What if a couple is aware that they have a predisposition of passing on a serious genetic condition and they feel that they can’t do that to their child. What if a couple recognizes that they both came from dysfunctional families and feel strongly that they are likely to repeat the cycle again. What if…. You fill in the blank.

5. Lastly, what if a couple can’t have children. I mean that they really can’t. I read a blog post yesterday of a women who tried for 10 years to get pregnant and even did two rounds of IVF. 10 years. There was nothing obviously wrong with them. They were classified as “unexplained infertility”. They tried everything to get pregnant and it did not work. As you can imagine, they are now totally spent emotionally and financially. They do not wish to get on the adoption roller coaster after all that they have been through. They are done. She is focusing on building a beautiful future as just the two of them. The sad reality is that some who desperately want to be pregnant and have a baby are not able to despite their best efforts. Next time you think of asking, “when will you have a baby”, keep in mind that it may never happen for that couple, ever.

Last week, I became aware that it was National Infertility Week. I’ve learned that as many as 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility (and there’s such a thing as secondary infertility – an inability to get pregnant despite already having a child). In my life, I’ve been exposed to the heartache of infertility while standing by close friends in their darkest days. My advice would be this: unless you can sit down over coffee and talk to a close friend re: children, don’t spring this question on anyone unexpectedly or jokingly. Think of, “what if…” before asking such question to someone you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking about their finances. Children are wonderful. Babies are precious. Remember that some people won’t experience pregnancy, birth and raising children for whatever reason.  Biting your tongue may prove to be both wise and kind. And if you must ask, please do so 1:1 and not in the middle of a baby shower. For their sake and yours.

Can you add to this list? Thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

5 steps on how to fight fair: marriage arguments

Hubby and I had a fight last week. A not so pretty one. After 6 years of marriage, with the last year being the best so far, you’d think any fighting would be way behind us. You’d be wrong. Why? Because we are human. No marriage is completely free from disagreements and fighting. Now you may be thinking: well, my parents never fought! And you could be correct. Or maybe they hid it from you. For a couple to truly never fight, both persons may be on the far end of passive. Or, at least one may be quite passive and willing to go with the flow no matter their thoughts/opinion/true wishes. (Here’s the spectrum: passive – assertive – aggressive. Assertive being the ideal).

What I’ve learned in 6+ years of marriage and in my career as a social worker is this: fighting vs. never fighting is not necessarily a good indicator of a healthy relationship. It’s the quality of the fights that matter the most. It’s the way that we fight, not whether or not we fight at all. The following are some tips on learning how to fight fair; to conduct your arguments in such a way that your time and energy will be productive no matter the ultimate outcome.

1. When something upsets you, try to take a deep breath and evaluate if you must say something now or if it would be better to wait and bring it up later. The current setting (needing to run out the door, company is over, etc) may set the conversation up for failure. Often, saving the conversation for a different time will prove most fruitful. Just make sure that you DO come back to it and don’t end up stuffing it away as future ammunition for a fight.

2. One thing at a time. Really. This alone will make a world of difference. When you are fighting, stick to the topic at hand. Don’t bring up things from the past that don’t apply. Bringing up old items just to win an argument will actually do the opposite – you are much less likely to be taken seriously and also more likely to feel worse the next day.

3. Never say “always”. Just don’t. You will surely lose credibility as soon as you say “you always forget to take out the trash” and then they come back with, “always eh? well what about last week!”. Done. You lose. Stay away from using the word “always”, always.

4. While we are on the topic of things not to say (such as always), it’s very helpful to use “I” statements instead of “you”. An example of an I statement is: “when you _____, I feel _____. I need you to ______”. Taking it a step farther, a “you” statement could look like: “you never tell me that I look nice”. Changing this to an “I” statement could be: “when you don’t say anything when I’m dressed up, I feel hurt. If you think I look nice, I need you to say it to me”. This example not only helps the argument to go a heck of a lot smoother by using “I” statements, but it also clearly states what the person needs from the other. We must stop expecting others to “just know”.

5. Remembering that we don’t always “fight fair”, make sure to eat some humble pie time and again. Own up for your share of causing the fight to get out of hand. Apologize with the pure intention of learning from your mistake and changing how you operate to fight fair in the future.

Learning how to fight fair is a process. But it’s fundamental to a successful marriage. Just like a person in a boxing ring, fighting fair is the key to success and a good reputation. What matters is not “fighting vs. never fighting”. Conducting a clean fight is what makes all the difference!

 

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5 Marriage Tips

We have been married for 5 years now. Over the years, we have been given various marriage/relationship tips. Some of the advice has been extremely helpful and others not so much. With that in-mind, here are some tips that I’d give to married couples:

1) Sometimes, it’s okay to go to bed angry. As newlyweds we were told to never go to bed angry, ever. This resulted in me trying to talk things out while hubby just needed some time and space to regroup. There were some evenings where we stayed up way too late trying to resolve conflict that couldn’t be resolved in one evening. Going to bed angry does not mean that your marriage is doomed. The important thing is to seek to resolve conflict and don’t let things fester. Pulling an all nighter isn’t always the best way to resolve conflict. Sometimes issues are best resolved after a full night of sleep.

2) Use “I” statements. This one I cannot stress enough! When arguing, replacing “you” with “I” will help tremendously. An example of this is, “you don’t give me enough compliments.” Taking away the “you” and replacing it with “I” could look like: “I feel hurt when I make the effort to dress up and I don’t hear a compliment.” You causes the other person to feel under attack. Using I instead really helps the person to see your heart and as a result, they are more likely to want to listen and respond positively. Believe me, get rid of “you” and use “I” and see the results!

3) Don’t lose sight of your own shortcomings. It can be easy in a relationship to start focusing on the other person’s faults. If your mind keeps replaying a “record of wrongs” it may be helpful to sit down and try the following exercise. On half of a piece of paper write out all of the positive things about your spouse. On the other half of the paper write a list of your own shortcomings. This exercise can help a person out of a mental rut of fault finding. While your spouse may have negative traits, they also have positive ones. And we each need to remember that while they may have shortcomings, we do as well.

4) There is one saying from the Love & Respect conference that can radically transform your relationship for the better. Dr. Emerson repeats through out the conference, “not wrong – just different.” I wish that I grasped this sooner in our marriage. It is not wrong for our spouse to be different from us. Yet, our default is to want them to operate just like us. When our spouse puzzles us or frustrates us, repeating: “not wrong – just different” can go a long way!

5) This last one I’m not so great at but I believe in the rewards from doing so. Get in the habit of hugging or kissing your spouse every time you come home from work. This can set the tone for the rest of the evening. Instead of being rushed, spend a couple of seconds showing that you are happy to be together again.

If you have marriage advice that someone gave you or you’ve learned along the way, I’d love for you to leave a comment below.  Marriage is a journey, we never “arrive” so to speak. Learning new ways to improve our relationship is something each of us can do until death do us part.

Date Night Ideas for $10 or less

While engaged, we had several people strongly recommend that we guard and protect a weekly date night. For the most part, Friday nights have been our date nights. Date nights are a wonderful time to re-connect and have fun together.

Playing board games can be a fun date night!
Playing board games can be a fun date night!

While the positive benefits of date nights for a marriage are numerous, there are really two common themes why couples don’t go on date nights. The two biggest reasons for couples not going on date nights are: 1) children and 2) money. Children certainly make date nights more challenging. There’s both the scheduling and paying for a babysitter. Yet, I do know several married couples with children who go on weekly date nights. I have heard the argument that it’s even more imperative to have weekly date nights while raising young children.

Financially speaking, date nights do not need to break the bank. While on a budget, date nights require creativity. Here are frugal date night ideas that we have done:

– coffee at Starbucks and an evening of reading in Chapters ($10 for the drinks)

– hike through a local conservation park ($3 in fuel to get there and back)

– found local (free) events such as the Buskers and walked around ($7 for fuel)

– rented a movie and bought snacks for our @ home date night ($5-10)

– half price apps at a local restaurant ($8+ tip)

– gone biking (me) and rollerblading (hubby) on waterfront trails ($7 in fuel)

The list could go on and on. Sometimes our date nights include face-to-face time which means we spend a lot of time talking (something females tend to prefer). Other times it’s side-by-side activity (something males tend to prefer) where we are doing something fun together but it’s not really heart-to-heart time. Both are OK and necessary in a relationship. But now you are left wondering, how do parents achieve $10 or less date nights when they require a babysitter? Here are a few ideas:

– see if there are any family members or friends willing to babysit for free

– if you have friends raising children as well, see if they will babysit yours for your date night and then offer to babysit theirs for their date night

– sometimes date nights can be done by staying in. just be intentional that one (or both of you) doesn’t fall asleep on the couch or isn’t doing laundry during date night!

In regards to money and date nights the popular saying, “where there’s a will there’s a way” is true. Are you now or have you ever been intentional about date nights? I’d love to hear about it by you leaving a comment below. If you have other ideas for affordable date nights, I’d love to hear them!