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Before you read any further let me start by saying that I know many of you will think this is a far more personal issue than I should be discussing in a public blog. But let me remind you that the purpose of this blog is to discuss common issues that regular, every day couples experience, to explore why we women do the things we do, why we feel the way we feel, and how to come to terms with it so we can live happier and more fulfilling lives. If you have a dissenting opinion, please be respectful in how you present it. Keep in mind that what I am about to discuss is not whatt works for everyone. Its simply what I have observed in my own marriage. Please feel free to submit your own experiences in the form of submissions or comments. All points of view will be treated with respect.

I’ve realized that the number one issue in my marriage is that I do not respect my husband.

And why?

It is not through any great failing of his own but because I have completely emasculated him by constantly trying to assert myself as the primary authority figure in our home.
 
The feelings of fear and insecurity that threaten to swallow me whole when he doesn’t step up like he ought to is what has propelled me into the role of leader. Or pack master if that makes the analogy more clear. It is a role that is foreign to me, that I am not well suited for, and that I do not want.

Let me explain in a little more detail... when the pack master shows signs of weakness or incompetence a rival will challenge him for authority, because a family NEEDS stability. Without that stability the family is in danger. I have tried to provide that stability when he has not, but I can’t and I don’t want to. It’s not my job, and its not what I signed up for. And by insisting upon asserting my self as leader I have left my husband feeling unecessary and incapable. I have never failed to voice my disappointment when he makes a bad call, thinking it was in the best interest of our marriage to maintan an open and completely honest dialogue. That's what all the magazines say, right? 

Now don't get me wrong, communication is absolutely essential, but the way I was doing it was tearing him down and communicating to him that I thought he was a failure. And that's no way to treat the man I love. He is my husband, and the father of my children, my friend. He is supposed to be strong, decisive, assertive... The king of his castle. And yet I have abused him as no one would ever dare treat a king. It is now that I realize I should not be surprised by his behavior. I have taught him that even when he does the right thing its not acceptable, or it's not enough because he didnt do it just right. I have been overly critical and bossy. If I want him to be the leader I need to treat him with the respect his position is due, even when he messes up.

So what am I? What is my role?

I am a wife and a mother. A woman. And as a woman I am better suited to being a support role with a more quiet and subtle form of authority. I do not view myself as less important than a man, just simply different, with different skills that are complementary to those of a man. But am I not also a queen? My husband is the king of his castle, is he not? But if I am to expect him to treat me as a queen I must first treat him as the king I desire him to be.

Can or should a woman not be the primary authority in her home? She most certainly can, and should when the situation calls for it or when a male leader is not present or is temporarily incapable of leading, but she should only fill the role as the head of the household till such a time as the position can be given over to someone better suited to the task. Many of you may balk at this, I know I certainly would have just a few days ago. But I have since come to I know the impact and understand the impact of trying to play the male role when there is already a man there to fill it. It leaves me feeling like a mother to my husband, rather than a partner, and it leaves my husband feeling like I dont need him. I want him to return to the assertive, confident man he was when we met. And to do that I must abdicate the throne... and be willing to let it sit empty till he realizes it’s his rightful place.

GOD GRANT ME STRENGTH!

 
The number one biggest mistake couples make is they forget to date their spouse! Going out on dates is how you guys got to know each other and how you fell in love. So wouldn't it make sense that continuing to date even after the wedding would help KEEP you guys in love?! 

So you agree that continuing to date your spouse is a great way to keep the passion going, or reignite if need be, or maybe youre just willing to give it a shot to see if it works... with the economy in the crapper many couples have very little extra cash laying around to spend on extravagant dates like you used to before the wedding. So here is a collection of cheap or no-cost date ideas! But wait!!! In order for this 'date your spouse' thing to work we need to lay down a few simple ground rules. You CANNOT skimp on this.

1. Its a DATE: The number one most important rule is that for it to feel like a date you have to treat it like a date. That means when you make plans for a date with your husband/wife, for heaven's sake CALL IT A DATE! Or at least say something that will communicate to your spouse that you are inviting them to join you in this activity because you want to spend time with them! I don't know why we forget to do this, but its a major pet peeve of mine. I'm not the type of person to assume intentions, or at least I try not to. So unless my husband says 'Hey, I'd like to take you out this weekend, what do you think of dinner at _____?' or 'Hey, I got us a sitter for Saturday, I thought we could go see that movie you've been talking about.'... it just doesn't seem like a date to me. Its just going out to eat, or me sitting through a movie with a fussy kid. Which brings me to the next ground rule.

2. Plan Ahead: If you have children, dates MUST be planned out. Yes, spontaneity is the spice of life, but when you have children the only things that are spontaneous are messes and hissy fits. For it to be a date it has to be kid free (unless its a family date, but that's a topic for another article). For it to be kid free you need a sitter. Sitters require a certain amount of notice. Try to plan dates a couple days to 2 weeks in advance to ensure you have time to find a sitter. Now please dont make the mistake of thinking that dates being planned means they cant still be spontaneous... for your spouse. I cant tell you just how excited I would be if John came home and said 'Hey honey, I got a sitter for tonight. What do you say we pack up dinner and picnic it at the park?'. The fact that it took planning on his part to find a sitter would communicate to me in a BIG way that he thinks I am special and wants to spend time with me.

**NOTE**
Not all dates have to be kid free, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Many of the date ideas listed below can be done at home, and can certainly include your children, but be sure you get in at least one kid free date a month to nurture your marriage relationship. You guys had a special relationship before your children came along, and while spending time with your kids is important, you still need to make sure you spend time as a couple, sans offspring.


3. Do Things They Like: Another thing about dates is that you need to occasionally plan things your spouse will enjoy... that you might not. This will really help tell your spouse that you like them and want to spend time with them... even if it means going to the gun show or the occasional hockey game. Making time to do something your spouse enjoys will tell them, without you having to say a word, that they are more important to you than your own interests.

Now that we have that out of the way, here is the list you've been waiting for. 

50 Fun and Cheap Date Ideas
Borrowed from Six Sister's Stuff. Some of the date ideas reference recipes that are available on their site, complete with links. Please click on 

1. Make your own fondue. Use a fondue pot (or crock pot) and dip fresh fruit, cake, cookies, marshmallows, and pretzels in melted chocolate. Try this delicious recipe!

2. Make homemade pizzas together. Try our Easy Pizza Crust Recipe and choose your own toppings!

3. Fly kites. You can usually find them at the dollar store!

4. Try a new sport together. My husband is an avid snowboarder, so we hit the slopes! It was so fun to see him doing something he loves, even though I had quite a few wipe outs!

5. Have a game night. Pull out all of your board games for a friendly night of competition. Be sure to have some treats for the occasion, like our Gooey Almond and Coconut Chex Mix.

6. Be a tourist in your own city. Find what tourist attractions are in your city and spend the night acting like tourists, which includes taking cheesy pictures!

7. Go rollerblading (if the weather is bad, try an indoor skating rink). We found ours at a thrift store for just a few bucks!

8. Explore. Rent a four wheeler, snowmobile, scooter, waver runner or something you can do a little exploring on. You can often find deals online for cheap rentals!

9. Go to a thrift store. Each person gets $5 to spend! See who ends up with the best item(s)!

10. Have a picnic. If the weather doesn't permit, lay out a blanket on the floor and eat in the living room!

11. Go see a play. Whether at your local community theater, high school or a big production, there is plenty of entertainment available!

12. Stargazing. Pack a blanket, pillows and food, like our Ham and Swiss Poppy Seed Sandwiches or Chili's Copycat Salsa, and go somewhere to see the stars. Do some research before and look for constellations.

13. Go to a park (if weather permits). Swing on the swings, play frisbee, or feed the ducks!

14. Check out a local museum. They usually don't cost much, if anything, to get in!

15. Have a "crazy dinner." Each person gets $5 (or whatever amount you decide) to spend on any food item at the grocery store for dinner. Come home and prepare your meal! You might end up with some random food!

16. Make ice cream sundaes. Head to the store and buy some vanilla ice cream and your favorite toppings. Relax and enjoy your tasty treat!

17. Go to a local sporting event. Luckily, sports are going on year around! Grab some snacks and head out to the ball game!

18. Treasure hunting. Head to the ATM and get out $10-$20. Drive around to some local yard sales and see what you end up with! There are tons on the weekends!

19. Go on a bike ride (if weather permits). If you don't have a bike, check the classifieds for a great deal! You could even pack a lunch!

20. Have a living room camp out. Make a tent out of blankets, watch a movie and sleep out on an air mattress. As you can see, we had a little visitor!

21. Love Languages. Take The 5 Love Languages Test to see how to improve your relationship. End the evening with our Easy Chocolate Dipped Strawberries!

22. Go for a swim. Head to a local pool and relax in the pool and hot tub!

23. Have a coupon date. Only eat or do activities you have coupons for. We used our local coupon book from the mail and went to the driving range and dinner for about $12 total! You can also check out our newest sponsor, Coupon Lynx, for some great deals!

24. Volunteer. Sign up to volunteer at a soup kitchen, retirement home or somewhere that could use a helping hand!

25. Go to a local fair or carnival. Be sure to bring some cash to play some games!

26. Take a free factory tour. You would be surprised what factories are around you! We toured a cheese factory and had free samples at the end!

27. Visit the zoo. If you don't live near a zoo, go somewhere to see your local wildlife.

28. Take a drive. Get out of the house and take a drive. Take a look at nature or local scenery! For example, changing leaves in the fall, flowers blooming in the spring, etc. You might want to bring some Muddy Buddies in case you get hungry!

29. Have a movie marathon. We were able to get the Back to the Future Trilogy and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for less than 10 dollars each online (both my husband's choosing)! You might want to have some of our Snickers Popcorn to munch on!

30. Wii Game Night at home (or any other gaming system). Grab some food and drinks and stay in for the night playing your favorite games! Make some wagers on any sports you might be playing. We occasionally have a cute, little third wheel on our dates. :)

31. Go bowling. To make things a little more difficult, try different styles like only using your opposite hand, "granny" style, eyes closed, etc.

32. Make indoor s'mores and read campfire stories. If you don't have a gas stove, you could light candles to cook your marshmallows over! As you can tell, I was pretty excited!

33. TV show marathon. Pick a TV show and get a whole season's worth of DVDs (or use Netflix, you can get the first month free) and watch it together! Of course, you'll need some popcorn so try our Cinnamon Bear Popcorn Recipe!

34. Theme night. Pick a theme for the night and center everything around it. For example, Mexican night. You could eat Mexican food and go salsa dancing! Our Chili's Copycat Skillet Queso would be the perfect addition to your evening!

35. Try a new restaurant. We usually end up eating out at the same places. Pick somewhere neither of you have been and try it out! Who knows, it might be a new favorite!

36. Take some lessons. Try taking a lesson for a couples dance, pottery or a cooking class!

37. Restaurant hop. Go to a different restaurant for each course of the meal. Make three stops for an appetizer, main course and dessert. Take turns picking where to go!

38. Have a spa night. Since your husband/significant other probably isn't into manicures or pedicures, you could try massages, bubble baths, etc. You can buy some white towels and robes to make it really official (I found my white towels for $3 each at Wal Mart.).

39. 20 questions. Write a list of 20 questions to ask each other or find one on the internet. Go over your answers afterward. Here is a list of 20 questions for married couples.

40. Make breakfast together and eat it in bed (you could do this while the kids are still sleeping). We love french toast! You can check out our Recipe Index for some delicious breakfast ideas!

41. Exercise together. Attend an exercise class at a local gym, take a walk or jog together or do something active!

42. Go for a test drive. Head to your nearest car dealership and test drive your dream car!

43. Take a hike. This website will show you places near you to hike!

44. Breakin' records. Read through the Guinness Book of World Records together, and find something the two of you could potentially achieve as a couple and then do it together as a cheap date.

45. Visit a bakery. Go to a local bakery and pick out a treat for each other.

46. Cook a meal together. Find a recipe you've never tried and make it together. Be sure to include some dessert, like our Chili's Hot Fudge Molten Lava Cakes!

47. Write a bucket list. Make a list of things you want to do before you die and go do one to cross it off the list!

48. House hunting. Tour some homes and plan out your dream home!

49. Restaurant at home. Find recipes from some of your favorite recipes online, create a menu and have a lovely meal at home! Here is our Olive Garden Date Night and menu (recipes included)!

50. Go to the arcade. Get some quarters and head to your nearest arcade! Play some games and buy prizes with the tickets you win.
 
We all know by now that men and women are vastly different from each other and the way we handle being sick is no exception. When a man gets sick he never tires of having you check up on him, asking him if he needs anything and attending to his every whim the second he calls for you, not to mention that he expects to get to lay around as much as possible without being bothered by the children. But when a woman gets sick she better have to be hospitalized before the average man will do anything to help her with the chores or the children. Somehow women are expected to still do everything they ordinarily do regardless of whether or not they are sick. I've recently had some experiences with this exact issue.

Im not sure what has been making me sick lately, but I have been sick off and on for the last 4 months. Not to get too graphic or anything, but this all started with an unusual period that lasted over a month and darn near killed me... Im very slight of build and tend to be anemic anyway but that type of blood loss over such a long period of time is particularly bad for someone as small as I am. I was getting heart flutters, dizzy spells, black outs, I was always cold and hardly had the energy even just to eat. After some intense iron supplement therapy the bleeding stopped and I have regained some semblance of my former strength but my immune system was certainly compromised by this sudden decline in my health... since then I got some kind of stomach virus or parasite that has made a come back 4 times now. This virus causes intense nausea, vomiting and frequent watery stools. I lose a few pounds each time it happens and have been struggling to gain it back. Normally I weight around 125lbs but currently only weigh 114. I haven't been that thin since high school and it scares me. In addition to this I have been fighting allergies, upper respiratory infections, just got over pink eye and had a miscarriage (we weren't trying, and I probably miscarried due to my current poor health)... not to mention having to care for my daughter who is entering the terrible twos phase, has also been sick and is probably teething. Needless to say, I have been horribly exhausted lately, and my husband isn't much help.

As a result my house has suffered. I try to keep it decently tidy but some things have piled up (like laundry- its clean but is sitting on the couch unfolded) and my husband has taken to nagging me about getting the house cleaned up.

My response is a metaphoric middle finger. I just tell him that I may be feeling better than I was but I have been so sick for so long because I keep trying to keep up with all of the house work instead of staying in bed and getting better. He still complains but I just gently remind him that the house will get better when I get better, and his nagging isn't going to speed anything up. I also suggest to him that if he would like me to get better sooner he could do the dishes or help fold the laundry. He hasn't taken me up on this yet, but he is complaining about the house less and less and actually bought some medicine for me the other day without me having to ask him to. Obviously he does care that I am not feeling well but is crap at expressing it.

Ideally he should be picking up some of the slack, and I always suggest that he do exactly that but it never happens. This is mostly because he comes from a small family. He is the middle of three children, with a 5 yr gap between each child. His older sister was 10, and he was 5 by the time the youngest was born. His mother had plenty of time to adjust to each child and learn how to handle the extra work involved before the next baby came along. So I have no doubt that his memories of always having a tidy house when he was a kid are pretty accurate. But he seems to be forgetting just how hectic things were when the next baby first came along. Not to mention the fact that his family eventually was wealthy enough to hire a cleaning lady to come in once a month to do the heavy cleaning. His mom has had YEARS to perfect her cleaning routine, in addition to having professional help in recent years. John and I have only been married 4 years this October, and Elsa will be 2 this July. I haven't had time to fully adjust to the constantly changing demands of my house and family, especially when you take the health issues into consideration. Additionally, I have a different standard of what a clean house is. I grew up in a family of 6 people. There were 3 of us older children that were responsible for keeping the house clean as well as doing the laundry and dishes. I had help. The only cleaning I did on my own was clean my room and whatever room of the house I was assigned to. Laundry, dishes, and deep cleans were a family affair. And since there were so many people living in such a small house, the cleaning was just an on going task. I cannot honestly say that my house growing up could be described as tidy, except for the occasional dinner or party. But it usually was pretty clean. There is a big difference between clean and tidy, and if you're not from a big family that concept may boggle your mind, as it does my husbands. To him, if the house is unorganized, its messy. But to me if things are not coated in dirt or other unsanitary debris its clean, whether or not its tidy. But anyway, keeping my current house clean... I have to do it all on my own. No help from any one. And with the way I am accustomed to cleaning (being able to delegate some of the work to other people) it can seem rather overwhelming, especially when I'm not feeling 100%.

That aside...Yes, its true, my husband and I live a rather 1950's style existence as far as home life is concerned. I am a stay at home wife and mother and my job is to keep the house clean, take care of the kids and make sure dinner is on the table most every night. I know this doesn't work for everyone, and that's fine, and when I am well I do enjoy the lifestyle and its what my husband grew up with so I don't mind providing that. Its just that there seems to be a bit of a breakdown in my husband's understanding of what actually goes on here while he is off at work all day. He regularly tells me that I don't have any idea of what he deals with at work and that I need to be more supportive and understanding that he cant give me everything I need right when I need it, to which I reply that what he just described is the story of my life. I could argue and say that he doesn't get what I go through, or know how difficult my day is but until we can trade places for a month I don't think he will ever accept that I really do understand that he has a difficult job... and so do I. The house may not look any better than it did when he went to bed last night, but it certainly looks better than it did just before he got home! 

Now I do try to tidy up as the day goes on, but my daughter is just like any other almost 2 yr old. She enjoys getting into everything, particularly the things she knows she isn't supposed to have, and somehow manages to get things I was certain were out of her reach or in rooms that are normally kept locked. She almost never eats while in her high chair, and since she doesn't eat much anyway I try to get her to eat as much as I can any way I can... even if it means getting crumbs all over the carpet or in my bed. She also likes to help herself to whatever is within arms reach in the pantry, usually resulting in rice, bread or cheerios getting dumped, by accident of course, all over the kitchen floor. AND Elsa hasn't been napping lately so I have even more messes to clean up and without the 2-3 hour child free window I ordinarily have. So I focus on the essentials... or rather the messes that if not cleaned up pose a health risk. If and only if I have the time or energy do I work on organizing things or cleaning up the 'tidy' messes. So when John complains that the house is a wreck I'm totally baffled because when I look at it I see a clean house with a little laundry on the couch and a couple dishes on the counter that are only there because there wasn't room enough in the dishwasher that is already full and running.

So how do you handle being sick and being expected to keep up with so much? Basically, you just have to learn that your husbands complaints, while they might be valid, come from a totally different expectation than what you may have for your house. It might be helpful to discuss these differences and try to come up with what you both expect as the minimum requirements of cleanliness in your own house. When your spouse complains, which they probably will from time to time, remind them that the way you feel is directly connected to the way the house looks. If you feel good the house will look good, if you feel bad the house will look bad, and if your spouse wants to help fix that they can either help you feel better, or put on some cleaning gloves. If they aren't willing to do either then they need to just keep their mouth shut. And then just focus on getting better. I can tell you its not easy, but your health needs to come first. You're no good to your husband, your children, yourself, or your house if you're sick all the time.
 
Again, this week kind of overlaps last week's lesson, but also throws in the need for being positive. Actually, this probably should be lesson 1 but its something you will always have to work on, so its probably of little consequence where it falls in this 4 part article.

OFFER Your Help
Another thing you can do is to always offer your help. Let your spouse choose if they want your help. Often when I see John struggling with something I will move to help him without asking if he needs it and things usually end with him getting mad at me. This is because I am either helping in a way that interferes with what he is doing, there isn't anything I can really do, or he feels it would put me at risk. Another reason your spouse may reject your offer of help is that they wish to accomplish the task on their own, either to prove something to you, or to themselves, sometimes both. 

So I have learned that its better to ask than to assume. If you are hurt or confused by your spouse's rejection of your offer to help then feel free to ask them to explain why, though if tensions are high its best to wait till they have calmed down to try to discuss it. When discussing this topic its best to approach it with an open mind. Truth is that you may be pleasantly surprised by your spouse's answer, though sometimes their answer may hurt. If this is the case seek to understand why they feel the way they do so you can come to terms with it. If its something that can be worked on ask your spouse for suggestions on how you might handle it differently in the future.

Avoid Negativity
Something else that is tremendously important to do when trying to relearn to love your spouse is to avoid being negative at all costs. This means that you should try to avoid thinking negative thoughts about your spouse as well as avoid speaking negatively to and of your spouse. The more you think critically, and speak negatively the less likely you are to view your spouse in a positive light. Its hard to love someone you spend all your time bashing. Now, I do not recall where I read this insight but when I did I sought to follow the challenge presented to avoid negativity. I was shocked and appalled to discover that a good portion of my communication with John was negative or demeaning, that I often thought of him in negative terms, and was a little loose tongued when it came to venting to friends about our marital issues. No wonder he thought I wasn't any fun anymore! No wonder he didn't enjoy spending time with me! All I ever did was nag him every chance I got. If I were in his position I probably would think I was annoying too. 

Does this mean that I let all the things I want and need to say to John fly out the window in favor of being positive all the time? No, certainly not. I just have to be much more careful in the way that I bring something up. Instead of saying 'You never do this anymore. You don't love me.' I have to say 'Honey, do you remember when you did this? I really enjoyed that... Do you think we could do it again some time soon?'. This puts the want or need in the form of a request instead of a demand. This is often the best route to take because it reminds your spouse of something you enjoy without implying that they are failing to making you happy. Remember that your spouse does love you, they wouldn't have married you if they didn't, so if they stop doing something you enjoy give them the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming they are being vindictive. Chances are they've just forgotten about it and need some gentle reminding. Your spouse has a life outside of their relationship with you, they are busy and have a lot on their mind, just as you do...sometimes the needs of their spouse get lost or forgotten in all the mess they have to deal with on a daily basis. And I bet if you were to ask them they would  have a need or two of their own that you have been unintentionally neglecting.

Also, be sure to praise your spouse when they do something you like or would like them to do more often. Sometimes this praise need not be in the form of words, and sometimes it does. If your praise seems to embarrass your spouse then don't make it a long drawn out compliment. If they seem to enjoy a lot of praise then try to fill that need to the best of your ability, but within reason. If the good deed is not too personal, feel free to 'brag' about it to your friends or family. Obviously I like to hear those things directly from my husband, but it makes me feel even better when I find out that he has been saying nice things about me to other people too. It lets me know that when he compliments me its not just to get me to shut up, its because he genuinely appreciates what I did and is proud that I am his wife. Why is praise so important? If the good deeds of your spouse go unrecognized and unrewarded then they will be more likely to forget that its something you like, or may feel you do not like it and will stop. If you want something to grow you must feed it, and the food of good behaviors is encouragement and praise.

So this week, and for every week of the rest of your life, try to be positive about your spouse. Do not be so positive that you cannot see when the situation is really bad and needs an intervention, but seek to see the good in your spouse and cultivate and encourage those behaviors. Also, try not to force your help on your spouse. If they are doing something wrong, let them recognize it on their own and help them if they ask for it. Only intervene when someone or something may be hurt or damaged in the process.
 
The lesson this week is a little harder to accomplish so you may want to spend 2 weeks or more working on this one... Today we discuss giving up selfishness.

Paradigm Shift
Another thing we must be mindful of in our journey to get to know and love our spouse as they change and grow over the years is that we must always try to be self-less. In recent years there has been a big push for people to learn what they want and need and how to get it, usually by means of being assertive... which is all well and fine, and its good to have that knowledge... I mean, how can you teach your spouse about what you need and want from the relationship if you don't know what those things are? Knowing what you want is not inherently selfish...But as Gordon B. Hinckley said of life:

“Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others...By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.” 

When we shift our focus from ourselves to those we care about and develop a real love and concern for them, we stop begin so worried about what we are or aren't getting in return. I mentioned in another article on this site that anything you do for the purpose of getting a certain outcome can be called manipulation, but I would go a step further to say that doing something that is supposed to be a selfless act, with the intent and expectation of getting something in return is what the true definition of selfishness and manipulation is. In marriage life should not be an equal 50/50 effort as everyone is fond of saying... That sort of relationship is, in essence, a game of tit-for-tat in which you only do something for him if he does for you and vice versa. This is great in theory but often leaves one or the other person feeling like things are not balanced and that great effort will be required to restore that balance...they become focused on what they aren't getting, and therefore focused on themselves rather than the real reason they ever cared at all. 

The concept of which I speak can most closely be related to the love a parent has for a child. All you expect of your child is that they learn and grow and follow certain basic rules. You do not berate your child for showing their love for you in a particular way, you learn what their actions mean and you adjust to it. With a spouse you should seek to give a full and honest effort to everything you do, even if your spouse gives you nothing in return, just as you would for your child Why? Not for any reason other than you love them. It is through this attitude that an unwilling or resistant spouse may begin to see just how much worth they have in your eyes, that you would still make sacrifices for them even when they are not or are unable to give you the same. All is not fair in love and war, one person will almost always be giving more effort than the other at various times but the trick is for both of you to play co-supporting roles rather than co-leads, realizing when more effort will be required of you and when you are the one in need of assistance yourself. Life is instead a balancing act in which you both seek to give 100% regardless of the effort being put forth by your spouse, that you try to keep the scales level even if it means giving more than the widely accepted 50%. 

I know this is a scary concept... but learning to truly love someone means risking emotional pain. It's about making yourself vulnerable to your spouse, to let them into your life completely. I know that opening yourself up like that can be terrifying. I also know that it can be a wonderful and satisfying experience.
So what can we do to help us learn to give our all to loving our spouse? First off, try to be understanding of what your spouse is experiencing. Realize that though you may not think its any great challenge, what your spouse is facing may appear to be a proverbial Goliath. Be respectful of that and never belittle their situation, try to understand, even if you don't agree, and offer to help in any way you can. 

Desire Their Happiness
You must also develop a desire to see them happy...'DUH!' you might say, but to love is more than just wanting them to be happy. John could be perfectly happy sitting at home all day eating junk food and playing video games, but what a sad existence that would be! He is a magnificent, intelligent, and capable being! To be wasted on such frivolous things would be a shame. No... more than simply desiring your spouse's happiness you should also desire them to grow and develop into something greater than they were when you met them. Love them as you would your own child. 

You would encourage your child to do the things they are good at, to develop new talents, meet head-on the challenges of life and ever be at their side to help them face it all if they call on you for help. And so you should treat your spouse. If they have not yet earned a degree encourage them to start taking some classes, recommend ones that deal with subjects they are interested in or excel at. If your spouse shows interest in a certain hobby or project encourage them to get started on it, doing what you can to facilitate the process. Make the suggestion and then leave it up to them whether or not they do it. Just as trying to force a child to do something usually backfires, so it does with adults.  

When you learn to care for your spouse in the way a parent cares for a child you will begin to see that there are things they must face on their own while you cheer from the sidelines. Sure there are things you have to do together but its not just the things you learn together that bind you in happy marriage, but also the things you learn and the ways you grow independent of your spouse. It at least gives you things to talk about!


So this week, or for the next two or more weeks, try to be more supportive. Try to think more about what you can do for your spouse rather than what you want them to do for you. Ask about what your spouse's dreams are, what they would like to accomplish in life. Then try to be as supportive and encouraging as you can without making them feel forced to do it. Also, try to be more open with your spouse about how you feel, if you have difficulty with that. 
 
So your lesson for this week is somewhat of a continuation of last week, though its a little different. First lets discuss individuality in more depth than we did in the last post.

No Man is an Island... But a Snowflake
So how do you get to know and learn to love someone that is so very different from the person you thought you were marrying? I can tell you that the first and most important step is to accept that your spouse is a snowflake. No, I don't mean that they are literally a flake of snow, but that your spouse is an individual, completely and uniquely different from you or any other person who has ever lived. Try to identify these differences and seek to understand them.

This concept is of equal importance for both husbands and wives to learn and apply to their lives. Remember that your spouse had a life before you came into it, they were independent and took care of themselves. They had trials and conflict that they handled on their own and in their own unique way. So move over and let them do things in the way they are accustomed to doing them! As discussed in another article your spouse's way of doing things is not necessarily wrong, just different. Watch what they do and see if there is something you can learn from it.

Learn to accept and encourage your spouse's independence and self-reliance. You do not want a spouse that is entirely dependent on you. Sure, its nice to be needed and feel necessary but to be someone's primary reason for living gets exhausting and burdensome. You also will want to be able to take comfort in the fact that should something happen to you they will be able to survive without you. The last thing you need to deal with as you lay dying is being terrified of what will happen to your family when you're gone.

It also is a very exhausting life to be constantly trying to change your spouse. You must learn what is truly in your ability to control and be at peace with the things you cannot change. And I can tell you, though some may think my experience is limited, that you can only change yourself. You absolutely cannot change your spouse. Meaningful, life altering, lasting change can only come from within. Your words and actions may help persuade or encourage but nothing you do or say will have any good impact unless your spouse has a desire to make the changes themselves. 

A personal hero of mine, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, had quite a lot to say about marriage and the importance of individuality, her nearly 67 years of marriage as the resource for her insight. Marjorie certainly did not lead an easy life, but managed to raise a happy, healthy, and moral family and maintained a sweet and endearing relationship with her husband in spite of their challenges. You see, she was the wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley, a former Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church). At the time of Gordon's death in 2008 at the ripe old age of 97, the 'Mormon' church, for whom he was the prophet for 12 years, spanned the globe with over 13.5 million members, increased from just 9.5 million when he became prophet in 1996. During his ministry, among his many other church related duties, he traveled the world visiting members in other countries and participating in humanitarian aid projects all while trying to raise a family and be a kind and loving husband. Though I am sure they both would have loved to be together as much as possible, Marjorie was often left for months at a time to raise their five children on her own while Gordon attended to his responsibilities as the prophet. She was ever optimistic and a role model to many women in the church. Aside from being a loving and devoted wife, mother, grandmother of 25, and great-grand-mother to 35, she also traveled with Gordon after their children were grown and spoke at many church functions, often about her life and marriage.  She often counselled couples that they should not seek to control or recreate their spouse, and that doing so will only result in conflict and unhappiness. She and her husband discussed this very subject in an interview they gave for a magazine that is circulated among the members of the LDS community, here is part of the interview:

Church magazines: Why has your marriage been so happy for so long?

President Hinckley: The basis of a good marriage is mutual respect—respect for one another, a concern for the comfort and well-being of one another. That is the key. If a husband would think less of himself and more of his wife, we’d have happier homes throughout the Church and throughout the world.

Church magazines: Sister Hinckley, you have said that your husband “always let me do my own thing. He never insisted that I do anything his way, or any way, for that matter. From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly.” How has he done that?

Sister Hinckley: He never tells me what to do. He just lets me go. He has made me feel like a real person. He has encouraged me to do whatever makes me happy. He doesn’t try to rule or dominate me.

Church magazines: President, you have said: “Some husbands regard it as their prerogative to compel their wives to fit their standards of what they think to be the ideal. It never works.” How have you avoided doing this with Sister Hinckley?

President Hinckley: I’ve tried to recognize my wife’s individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.

Church magazines: What are some of the things she does that make you marvel?

President Hinckley: Oh my, many things …

Sister Hinckley (smiling): This will be hard for him.

President Hinckley: … She has run the house all these years. When our children were growing up, I was away much of the time on Church assignments. In the early days, when I had responsibility for the work in Asia, which I had for a long time, I would be gone for as long as two months at a time. We couldn’t telephone back and forth all the time in those days. She took care of everything. She ran the home. She ran everything and took care of the children.

We had a garden in our backyard. When I came home from one of my long assignments, I found that it had all been planted to lawn. She and the children had spaded up that backyard, sown lawn seed, and there was a beautiful lawn! The garden didn’t suffer, because we could plant another garden to the south of us. But that whole backyard became a beautiful patch of lawn.

That’s typical of the way she did things. She was independent and had a great eye for beauty.


So this week, continue to contemplate how you and your spouse are different, but observe your spouse whenever possible. Watch what they do, how they do it. Don't be afraid to ask them why they do things a certain way, this will help you understand them better. If you ordinarily are a bit controlling try to give your spouse more freedom to do things the way they prefer to do it... ie. If your wife is putting the cups in the bottom rack of the dishwasher, don't get on her about it, let it go, and perhaps ask her why she prefers to load the dishwasher that way. Do not correct the behavior unless someone or something will be hurt or damaged by the process. If your spouse has mentioned in times past that there is something they would like to do or have an interest in, think about ways you can encourage them to pursue it or ways in which you might be able to help them achieve their goal.
 
Sam Keen, an American author, philosopher and professor once said that "We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly”. In the pages of this website we often discuss how people are inherently imperfect, despite having seemed perfect when you first met them. So to search for the ever elusive Mr. Right is an impossible task that will more often than not result in you dying a very lonely and disappointed person. Even if you thought you found Mr. Right the fact that you are reading anything on this website would suggest that you are starting to realize that he is not entirely the man you thought you married. This person who once was the light of your life and all you ever thought you would need to be happy now makes you so angry that words fail you and you may even contemplate divorce on occasion. But all is not lost. The man you fell in love with is still there! At least in part.

You may want to try to get your relationship back to the way it was when you met, however this is generally impossible to recreate. Does this mean you will never again be happy with your spouse? Do you have to just settle for the way things are or come to terms with ending the marriage? Certainly not. I only say that its nearly impossible to recreate that intense 'in-love' feeling because you have been living together as man and wife. You know quite a lot more about each other now, somethings perhaps you wish you didn't know, and things that have caused great pain or disappointment. To recreate those same feelings as you had before would require you to erase all those memories and start afresh. While some people might be capable of doing this, that quality is exceptionally rare. Instead, you should strive to get to know the person you are married to as they are right now, something you will have to do periodically throughout your marriage. 

Continual Redoscovery
You may be wondering why these changes occur, thus making this process of continually rediscovering each other necessary. The answer is rather simple. You are in a state of constant change. Your spouse is too, as well as everyone you know and everything around you. Even your cellular construction is in constant change. Each year your body has completely renewed itself, old cells die off and are replaced by new ones... and quite literally, the person you were a year ago no longer exists. Despite the fact that you and your spouse live together, having many shared experiences, everything that happens in your lives will effect each of you in different ways. Even if you and your spouse never left each other's side and experienced all of the same things at the exact same time, due to the glorious fact you are two unique individuals you will change and grow in ways that are different from the way your spouse does. 

A harsh but poignant example of this would be a couple that experiences the loss of a child. One person in the relationship may take the loss very hard, become depressed, lose interest in life and curse God for having taken their child from them. As where the other becomes more spiritual, thanks God for the lessons they have learned from that experience, develops a new zest for life and would like to move forward and continue building their family by having another child. How can it be that they respond so differently to the situation? They both loved the child dearly, as any two parents should, they both grieved the loss of the child, and yet one moved on and became stronger for it and the other succumbed to their grief and was never able to move on. 

I pray none of you ever have to experience the loss of a child, but this helps to demonstrate that even though you share so much of your life with your spouse you both change in ways that are unique to who you are at your core. For some these differences can be insurmountable and they divorce for reasons of 'irreconcilable differences'. This is because they either failed to or were unwilling to start or continue the process of continual rediscovery of their spouse. Through this process there most certainly can be happiness after the honeymoon. It just will be with someone slightly different than you thought you were getting. And that's ok! You may even come to like this version of your spouse better once you take the time to truly get to know them.


So your challenge over the next week is to contemplate the major differences between you and your spouse, and how those differences affect they way you handle a situation. How are your differences a good thing? What can you learn from each other? Good luck!
 
Pretty much everyone knows about the 'Honey Do' list, but how do you actually get your husband to get anything on that list done? To be honest, there really isn't a whole lot you can do that will make him do it. In fact, trying to make  him do anything will almost always backfire. So how do you persuade him to get things done without wanting to kill him? Like I've said a hundred times, I'm no expert, but this is what I have been using and have seen good results with:
 
Ok, so this is primarily aimed at the ladies, but this goes for men as well. HAve you found that as you start your family and you and your spouse spend more and more time together, sharing the same space, sharing the same experiences, that you two have increasingly little to talk about? This actually is a much more common issue than people might think, especially if you're married to an emotional introvert.

So how do you strike up interesting conversation or make the most of the time you get to spend together without just sitting at home staring at each other?  Families that play together stay together, right? You have to have shared enjoyable experiences to garner feelings of closeness and a desire to be around each other, and enjoyable conversation is one of the ways you can accomplish that...
 
Ok, so a lot of people think that marriage is some sort of fairytale or Hollywood story where you just know the right things to say, and you always agree on everything, and if you dont eventually come over to the other person's line of thought you are able to convince them that your way is better...But that just isnt the way things work put here in the real world. There are going to be some things that you two just simply dont agree on, and probably will never agree on. So what do you do?