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The Language of Love

I’m pretty sure that one of the most important things about having a successful marriage is learning to show love to your partner in ways that they appreciate. It’s not an easy task, because I’m pretty sure that most of us do the opposite; that is, we show our partners love in ways that we ourselves want to be loved. It’s easy to think that, “Hey, because I like this, then surely my partner will, too.” I spent a lot of time thinking that in my first marriage, assuming that my (then) husband would appreciate the ways that I chose to show him love.

I had it all wrong.

I’ve come to realize that the best (and only good way) to love your partner is to figure out the ways that they want to be loved, and then respond to that. Showing love is less about the giver, and more about the receiver. Doing things for the one you love that maybe you personally don’t enjoy all that much, but doing it anyhow because it’s something that they absolutely love. After all, loving someone should be about being unselfish, at least some of the time.

I feel like CBG and I have made a lot of strides lately in this department. We’ve been working on communicating the ways that we each want to be loved, and the other has been making an effort to meet those wants. I’m not even talking huge gestures, but more like small, daily acts that reaffirm over and over again, “Yes, you matter. I will make an effort for you, because your happiness is worth it.”  For me, this meant offering to watch one of CBG’s favourite TV programs with him (turns out, I actually love it too – who knew?). For CBG, this means making an effort to suggest things for us to do together (even something small like going out for coffee). These are just two small examples of how we are each making a small effort to love the other in ways that we know they want to be loved.

It all sounds simple, but the truth is, it’s a habit we fell out of for a little while there. We were each so focused on ourselves, and why our own needs weren’t being met, that we didn’t stop to remember that a happy and well-loved spouse will show love in return. Now, every time CBG supports my silly ideas (like our own personal Polar Bear Dip on New Year’s Day), or whenever he makes me laugh with his antics, I remember that those are things he’s doing for me. Because he loves me. And that makes me want to do something in return.

Give and take, and speaking each other’s love language. That’s what its all about.

The Shift

The other night as I prepared to drift off to sleep, I felt the wetness of my tear-stained pillow against my cheek. A bit earlier, as CBG and I had laid in the dark talking, a few stealthy tears crept out of the corner of my eye, ran down my cheek, and made landfall. I took a deep breath and relished in the feel of the warm, damp fabric on my face.

Happy tears feel so different against my skin.

I snuggled in next to him closer, listening to his slow, steady breathing, basking in the love that had grown just a little bit stronger over the previous few days.

Just like that…it feels like us again.

 

Fighting the Good Fight

Since I last wrote much of anything about the state of my marriage, things have improved a bit. I’m not saying that everything is suddenly great again; as we all know, relationships (and marriage) just don’t work that way. What I will say is that we’ve been talking, and we’re both committed to fighting our way back to a good place again. Fighting the good fight. Together.

It’s not easy. As I’ve written already, we’ve both got our own stuff that we’re each dealing with. Depression is a sneaky, ugly, vicious beast that snakes its way into all areas of your life, your marriage included. Maybe even your marriage most of all.

The last few days of spring-like weather have really boosted my spirits. So much so that I’m starting to have moments when I’m feeling like my old self again. I don’t want to get too excited by this, but March is typically the month when I start getting back to being me again. Tuesday was a particularly rough day for CBG and so I came up with an idea for how we could spend our evening together. The girls were off with their dad for the night, so we had the whole evening to ourselves.

We grabbed a couple of milkshakes and headed off to one of our favourite spots. A nearby beach where we’d spent a fair bit of time over the summer, indulging in plenty of “beach therapy”.  It was a beautifully sunny (albeit chilly) afternoon, but being there at the beach with the sun, the wind, and the crashing waves was just what we needed. We walked, we talked, we shared some laughs and some tunes on the drive there. It felt like old Sunshine and CBG again.

We’ve shared other such moments together over the last week or so. What this tells me is that it’s all still there, under the ugly muck of life right now. I love my husband and he loves me; the problem is that there’s a lot getting in the way of that right now. Some things we can work on — like being gentle and kind with each other. And spending quality time together. Other things — like CBG’s job situation, our depression, our money woes — not so much. The best thing for us to do right now is to focus on the things we’re able to do something about, and just put everything else on the back burner as best we can.

And that’s what Tuesday was all about. Because for a little while, standing there, soaking up the sun and hearing the waves and smelling the salt air, nothing else mattered but the two of us.

I look forward to sharing more moments like that soon.

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When Life Gets in the Way

A good friend lost her husband recently. The news came out of nowhere and I’m not going to lie, it shook me to the core. Another one of those stark reminders of the impermanence of life. And the unfairness of it all. And how at any moment, everything could come crashing down. It’s one of those things I can’t allow myself to think about for too long; otherwise the anxiety overtakes me and it’s incredibly difficult to function.

This gaping hole in my friend’s life got me thinking about my own life, and how, despite our vows to NOT allow it to happen, CBG and I have gotten a little bit complacent in our marriage. It’s easy to blame it on current circumstances — stress of my new job, CBG’s lack of job, our less-than-ideal financial situation. Stupid Seasonal Affective Disorder sucking the life out of me.

The real truth is that we’ve gotten lazy and complacent with each other. We’ve even – dare I say it – been taking one another for granted, just a little bit. But my friend’s husband’s passing has reminded me that there are no guarantees in this life, and honestly, we have no idea how much more time we have together. We could have 40 years…or a single day. But even though we’re relatively certain we have tomorrow, that doesn’t mean that we should waste today. We can come up with all kinds of excuses — lack of money, lack of time, lack of energy — if we want to. But by allowing those excuses to get in the way we’re doing each other and our marriage a huge disservice.

CBG and I sat down last weekend and had a long argument talk about our current situation. I won’t lie, it wasn’t pretty. But it brought us to a place where we needed to be — and gave us both the kick in the ass that we very much needed. No, we don’t have a lot of money right now. And I’m seriously lacking in my usual get-up-and-go. And yeah, CBG’s unemployment is dragging him down mentally and emotionally. But we’re determined to not let those excuses keep dragging us down. All we have is here and now, and dammit, we need to make the most of it.

Happiness is…

…just before drifting off to sleep, hearing your husband’s sleepy voice through the darkness: “I love being married to you.”

 

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The One in Which My Husband Proves his Love for Me…With a Spider

Yeah…you read that right. Weird, I know.

When my girls were little I was a stay at home mom with a dream of homeschooling my kids. Though I did educate them until my oldest daughter started Grade 1, unfortunately life (namely my divorce) prevented me from continuing with this. We used to spend our days together reading books, going for walks, baking, doing arts and crafts…all of the lovely things you’d expect from a stay at home mom homeschooling her two young daughters.

(Of course, there were lots of hellish parts about it, too, don’t get me wrong, but this is my story and this time I’m focusing only on the good parts).

My girls were particularly fascinated by insects and spiders. Because they were only around other children in small numbers, and because creepy-crawly things never bothered me, they never learned to be grossed out or squeamish by creatures with many legs. We spent lots of “nature walks” observing ants on the sidewalks, digging up worms, or watching spiders spin webs. After all, it’s educational, right?

Now that my girls are older, they’re a bit more hesitant around bugs, but still hold an interest in spiders. They *are* pretty fascinating, after all…spinning their webs and catching bugs and just generally doing their thing.

About a month ago we noticed that a smallish, striped spider had built a web in the window, directly beside our front door entrance (inside the house, I might add). It had built a big, beautiful web and positioned itself directly in the middle of it, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to come along. We spied our new friend and took an immediate interest in him.

CBG, however….was not nearly as impressed.

Y’see, my husband is arachnophobic. To the point where **I** am normally the person to usher out spiders that happen to get into the house, provided the cats don’t murder them first. CBG is creeped out by anything creepy-crawly, but spiders, in particular, are the worst for him.

As soon as he noticed the spider by the front door, he indicated that he would be making short work of our new friend…or better yet, that I should do it. The girls and I protested – loudly – and CBG relented. Reluctantly.

Very reluctantly.

Over the past month or so, the girls and I have continued to watch this spider with great interest. His web-building habits, the intricate patterns he creates. We have even noticed that he’s growing. Over this time he has also acquired a name —  “Stubby Longlegs” — as chosen by Lil’ Mo. Yeah…we’re a little weird like that. It’s part of our charm, right?

Every time we leave the house, we make note of Stubby Longlegs, while CBG makes disapproving sounds. But he has never, ever laid a hand on Stubby. Maybe CBG is too afraid of him at this point. Maybe he’s worried that if he does kill him, Stubby’s friends will find their way into our house in great numbers and get revenge. Personally, I think that this not-so-little-anymore spider is just one more way that CBG shows his love for me and our girls — that he is willing to knowingly co-exist with a spider, probably for the first time in his entire life.

And every day, as that spider gets a little bit bigger, so does CBG’s love.

*Not actually Stubby Longlegs.

*Not actually Stubby Longlegs.

 

Of Course Marriage is Work

I’ve seen some posts online lately about people talking about whether or not marriage should or shouldn’t be “work”. What I’ve realized is that your opinion on this subject really boils down to how you choose to define the word “work”, and what emotion you attach to the word.

I believe that we all can acknowledge that being married requires certain things. Showing compassion. Being considerate. Sharing. Occasionally putting the other person first. Picking the damn pop can up that your husband has left sitting on the living room floor for the entire week.**

Y’know…stuff like that.

Some of us call that work. Call me a selfish jerk, but I honestly don’t always feel like being compassionate and understanding toward my husband. Some days I don’t really want to share or be generous in any way. Like that last scoop of ice cream in the freezer? Hells no, of course I don’t want to share that when I’m PMS-ing hardcore and need a chocolate fix. Doing these things – some days – (hell, who am I kidding – some weeks) requires a little bit more effort than usual. For me, this is work.

For other people, it still requires effort to do all of these things in a marriage, but for them, “work” = drudgery. Clenched-teeth obligation. But let’s face it – we all do things every day that we don’t necessarily want to, because that’s just what we do. Things like pooper-scooping up after our dogs, washing the dishes after dinner, or wiping our baby’s butt. We don’t necessarily always want to do it, there is effort required in doing it, but you do it — because this is what is required. You can’t very well stop doing the dishes forever because you don’t want to. Well…you can, but eventually the pile of dirty dishes will fall over and crush you. But I digress.

I’m not one of those people who see work as a negative thing. I think that most things in life  require work, whether you call it work or not. Having pets. Owning a home. Having children. Knitting a sweater. Having life goals. All of these things require effort. The effort doesn’t make them any less meaningful or valuable or special — in fact, the effort involved makes them even more wonderful. Many of the most satisfying things in life are things that you’ve worked hard at and achieved.

For me, working on a marriage means striving — together — to make it better. To learn how to be strong when your partner needs to be, and to lean on them when you need the extra support. To face the challenges life throws your way and figure out how to not only conquer them, but how to be better and stronger together because of them. To learn how to be a little bit more compassionate and understanding  even when you really, really don’t want to. Some days the effort is easy. Others…not so much. But it’s what you do because you love your spouse, even if some days you love them just a tiny bit less. Not that I’m saying marriage is like a dirty diaper but guess what? I might not be cleaning up my husband’s literal crap, but some days I’m all over helping to clean up his figurative crap like…well…like stink.

Because in the end…it’s absolutely, 100%, without a question, worth it.

Even if you do have to share the last scoop of ice cream when you really just want the whole thing to yourself.**

 

**May or may not be taken from a true story.

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