A new year always make me feel like I have it together. During the Christmas break we purge closets, cabinets, the contents of school backpacks (ewww), the garage and any other nook and cranny around the house. With a busy household of seven, stuff tends to mate and multiply around these parts. Ah, floors I can see, empty filing cabinets and a new lease on being *organized* in the new year.
It’s interesting. As I detach myself from the things that can be replaced (but probably shouldn’t), I come to appreciate and cherish those things that are irreplaceable—namely, my family. Cleaning out the clutter of life once again brings to light the importance I place on relationships. Specifically? The man I call my main squeeze in life.
In 2009, I gave birth to a premature baby who came with special needs and then developed a whole host more after delivery; he endured a lengthy stay in the neo-natal ICU and five subsequent surgeries, gained ten pediatric specialists and has bi-weekly therapy. The last fifteen months have been just a wee bit stressful. That stress took its toll on our marriage. Truthfully, though, our marriage was in pretty good working order after nearly 15 years of wedded bliss. It wasn’t until Luke’s birth that I realized just how important regular maintenance is for any relationship.
I’m willing to bet the small amount of money still left in my bank account that every marriage has its stressers and every marriage can benefit from counseling. There are biggies, like the loss of a job, sick child or death of a family member. And there are the small things that build over time, like constant nagging, refusal to help around the house or years of passive aggressive behavior.
Rather than try to sort out all our problems and feelings ourselves, we opted to enlist the help of a bona fide marriage counselor. Yes, we have plenty of friends and a parish priest who were willing to listen, but we knew we needed a neutral third party. Our counselor was Catholic (bonus) and she was fantastic (double bonus). I’m sharing a few things Scott and I have done, but they are in no way meant to substitute professional counseling. I encourage you to reflect on them, and if so inclined, make that call to the counselor yourself. For us, it was the most important phone call we ever made.
- We both took the time to learn, and put into practice, one another’s love language. Click here to find out more about the book and website by Gary Chapman.
- We strive to show each other respect. Always.
- We decided on a slot of time each day that allows us to reconnect and we put a higher priority on quality time alone, sans kids. Easier said than done, but we’re making progress.
- Rather than starting a conversation with a harsh start up, we opt for the soft start up. Harsh: “I can’t believe you forgot to take out the trash. Sheez, can’t you remember anything without me reminding you?” Soft: “I know you had a busy day. When you get a moment, could you take out the trash? That’s such a big help for me.” NOTE: When we first read this, we were both like, WHATEVER. That is, until we decided to put it into practice and I realized just how harsh I could be. This tip has truly revolutionized the way we communicate.
- And finally, after the kids are in bed, we’ve been watching less TV and talking more. Just about stuff, life in general, hopes, dreams, faith and funny (and sometimes not) things that happened during our day.
As you clean out those closets and prepare for the routine of the school year, take the time to organize your marriage. What needs to be purged? What needs extra attention? How can you be a better spouse in 2011? Those answers just might come to you at the curbside recycle bin.
Here’s to a new year, a fresh perspective and a greater love for those I hold most dear!
Kathryn and her husband, Scott, are the parents of five children. She loves Dr Pepper, an organized filing cabinet, a good burger and a date nights with her husband. In 2011, they celebrate 15 years of marriage. She can be found online at www.teamwhitaker.blogspot.com.