Love, All Grown Up

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. Be a tree, give fruits, flowers, shade to others without expecting anything from others. Whatever you want from others first you have to give that to others. Whatever you give to others, you will be given in return. If you give love, respect to others then surely you will be given love and respect from others. That’s why we should learn to give good things to others.”- Deepak Panwar freeimage-814506 A couple years ago, my husband and I found ourselves in the midst of a marriage crisis. We had no idea how, but we had gone from twitterpated young lovers to disillusioned married people. We fought constantly, and our words were almost always disrespectful, sarcastic, and unkind. We tried everything we could think of to reconnect: Date nights, talking more, sharing interests… it all just ended up serving as the Band-Aid over the gunshot wound. We were toeing the line of ending a marriage and splitting a family.

I stumbled across an advertisement for a marriage self-help book one day. In my head I scoffed and thought about how silly and trite it probably was. But, part of me knew I was running out of options to save my marriage. I ordered it, and jumped into reading. Of course, some of it was exactly what I expected in terms of catch phrases and fluff. To my complete shock, the main message was absolutely revolutionary to me. It told me to stop demanding and expecting from my partner. To stop speaking and behaving disrespectfully. My brain rebelled, “But, he makes me angry! He disrespects me! I’m not going to roll over and let that happen to me! I’m not going to bend over backwards for someone who won’t do the same.” I sat with these feelings for a good week until I finally figured I could probably swallow my pride long enough to give it a go… because honestly, what else could I do?

We decided to table the issues we had been arguing about for months. It wasn’t about better listening or communicating more clearly. It wasn’t about expressing needs asking for concessions. The focus was on the here and now- our words and actions towards each other in each moment. We were challenged to behave as we did in the beginning of our relationship with random acts of kindness and love. It wasn’t overnight, but change started to happen. We began to look at our relationship in terms of what we could bring to each other, and not what the other person owed us. Hearts softened, and we learned that though we couldn’t take back old slights and wrongs, we could forgive them without having to battle over who was right or responsible. Our words and actions towards each other became kind and respectful. The knot in my stomach that was all the old hurt and anger I had been hanging onto started to melt away, and I felt like I could breathe again. Of course, no couple is perfect, and sometimes old habits like to run amuck. But, we continually came back to the idea that we were in this relationship to love each other, not to tear each other down or win emotional battles.

What is left today is a relationship that feels all grown up. We are happy and, dare I say, still a bit twitterpated. We are tackling life one day at a time, and we do it knowing that we are a team. Not because we have to be, but because we choose to be. We love, laugh, trust, respect, forgive, and keep moving forward.
couple on beach
Relationships grow and evolve through so many phases- lust, twitterpation, adventure, comfort… But I truly think that love grows into its finest form when you realize that your highest calling to your relationship is to treat your partner with infinite kindness and respect. When you can look at them and know that you want nothing more than to never be a source of pain or disrespect to them… and that is reflected back at you. That it’s not about being right or in charge. That it doesn’t matter who makes more money or has more success. I think it’s when you realize that you can take on the world and anything in it… because you are a unit based in respect and driven by the desire to do right by each other. That binds you tightly to each other, and how can trials tear you apart if there isn’t a gap for a foothold to be had?

#Erin

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Tickle me no more!

A Reader:

“Can someone explain to me what is wrong with men? My fiance is currently not talking to me (childish) because he claims I speak to him like a child. Example: Telling him not to tickle me when I’m holding a baby. Or explaining he has to take his cough medicine as directed and not when he feels like it. Sometimes my 11 month old baby acts ten times more mature and aware of her surroundings than he does!”

Marie:

He’s either going to complain that you’re babying him or he’s going to like that you’re babying him. Men are ruled by their egos and to play along you’ll have to either play along or put an end to play time. There is certainly a time and place for scolding (um, do you want me to drop our daughter?) and a time and place for kind reminders (sweetie, it’s time to take your next dose). However if he’s responding so immaturely to perfectly reasonable requests, then there is likely something deeper going on.

First, check the tone of your voice. I am often snappier than I intend to be and it has an affect on Raul. I have to be careful that I’m very clear in what I’m asking of him and that my tone matches my intent. (Often easier said than done!)

Next, call him out on his complaint. “What about what I just said or asked makes you feel like a child?”  Hear him out, however ridiculous it may sound and then take a deep breath. Once he’s had the opportunity to say his piece, you can kindly remind him that your response was a reaction to him- by not caring for himself or being considerate of you, you get frustrated with him. You are sorry if he feels demeaned, as that wasn’t your intent, but you’re also disappointed in his behavior by acting and responding so immaturely.

At this point, as long as you both are still conversing at normal conversation levels, this would be a good opportunity to make your expectations clear. “I will never be ok with you tickling me while I’m holding our daughter.” or “I’m concerned that you’ll get more sick or stay sick longer if you aren’t following the medication guidelines properly.)

Next you’ll want to remove yourself from these ‘bad guy’ situations. Set up his phone to pop a reminder to take his meds. Make a point to hug him when you’re not holding a kiddo. And if he’s being immature again, call him out on it (nicely!). If you have him helping you with a task, you’ll just have to accept that it might not get done the way you want it to. Assign him the tasks that you don’t mind if it’s not exactly as you would do it (ie. taking out the garbage vs folding clothes).

Lastly, if he still won’t grow up and cooperate, it’s time to fight fire with fire. Flip the tables on him. As soon as he gets all pissy, start crying at him for not listening to you and making your life harder. He’ll likely freak at the tears and say whatever he can to shut you up. Sob, “I’m trying so hard to__________ (insert action he was just complaining about) and you just come in here and mess it all up! Boohooohoo!”. They hate crying worse than nagging.

It takes time for a new-ish guy to learn how you like things done and it takes time for you to learn his strengths and weaknesses in supporting household chores. Patience and planning ahead will go a long way to keeping the peace.

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