December 16

Being Obedient in a Traditional Marriage – the Downside

You’ve agreed that he should and will lead your family, and you’ve agreed that you will follow.  No matter what.  So what happens when you find yourself following him where you don’t want to go?  Disagreements happen.  Differences of opinion happen.  But you’ve given him the final say, the final word.  So now what?  Being obedient in a traditional marriage — the downside.

Of all the things I hear the most from ladies who disagree with the idea of an old-fashioned, traditional marriage, this is the thing I hear the most.   “What about when you don’t want what he wants?  What then?”  It’s a great question.  In order to answer it I first have to point out that there are degrees of separation here.   Let’s talk first about those every day occurrences that don’t really amount to much.

For example, when he says it’s time to leave a party and you want to stay.  It’s not a life altering decision, and on first glance it might even appear that he is being a bit of a bully by telling you to get your coat and say your goodbyes.  Those watching can clearly see the look of defiance in your eyes as you struggle between compliance and the urge to argue.   What do you do?

You get your coat.  And say goodbye.

Easy? No.  But you agreed long ago that he is responsible for keeping your family safe and on track, and even when you don’t feel like it you have to let him do that.  Maybe he thinks you (or he) is bordering on having too much to drink and needs to get out of there.   Maybe he thinks he will be too tired to drive safely if you wait much longer.   Maybe he has been sensing the undertones of a brawl about to break out in the room and he needs to remove his family from the environment.   Maybe someone ticked him off and he doesn’t want to stay and make a scene.  Maybe the shrimp he ate an hour ago didn’t sit well.  Who knows what’s going on.  You just need to trust that there is something and he’s doing his job.  Period.

Not always pleasant. I know.  I hate to leave a good party.  (Mr. C will attest to that.)

Those every day occurrences are annoying but relatively easy to navigate with a little practice.  But what about the bigger picture decisions that you disagree with?   What if he announces that you are moving cross country?  That he is quitting his job to open his own business?  That his mother is moving in? (Dear Lawd, not that!)  What about then?

I love when I get this question from horrified feminist-leaning friends because I get to tell them that we have a contract for that.  They gasp.  Yeah.   Most of that type of thing will have already been worked out ahead of time in our Marriage Agreement.  You can’t agree to follow someone wherever they decide it’s best to take you without at least first agreeing to some kind of generalized road map charting the territory in which you are willing to go.  It’s key.  If you do not already have a marriage agreement in place, you should.   I highly recommend you do one asap.  A short simple one will do.  You can be as thorough or as generalized as you want. Just do one.

When completed, you would have already figured out a plan for all of the contingencies associated with all major life decisions, and if he is suddenly diverting from the plan you simply need to remind him that if he has changed his mind then you both need to discuss and negotiate changes to your prior agreement before he can simply uproot the family or dramatically change anything.   You do not have to blindly follow.  You get input.

Can he negotiate changes? Yes.  But it requires a nice sit down discussion.   You both get to lay out the reasons for wanting to make a change or keep things as they are.   You both get to state your case.   He must listen to you.  He must agree to take the entire family’s care and happiness into consideration before making any final decision.  And then, you must put it in his hands.  If you agreed to trust him to lead, you must let him lead.

Impossibly difficult to do sometimes.  Yes.  But not often, and almost never.  Most often he will decide something that is palatable for all parties.  He’s not a villain.  He’s not your enemy.  Presumably he loves you and his family and wants you all to be happy?   Yes?   That’s what you have to keep reminding yourself as he is making his decision.   If he comes back with something that you find hard to swallow, you will at least know that he had all the information and struggled with it and he knows he is taking the full responsibility for it on his shoulders.  He knows you disagree with him and that if it fails, it fails entirely on his conscience.  He carries the weight of that already.   Therefore, you need not remind him of it.

Try not to sulk.  For long.  Resist the urge to give the cold shoulder.  For long.  Pouting is allowed.  For a while.  It’s even permissible to say “Okay?” in a somewhat doubtful tone, once you can speak without saying bad words.   It’s okay for him to know you aren’t thrilled.  As long as he can see that despite that, you will follow.  You will support him in the journey.  You will have his back.

Are there exceptions to this rule?  Of course.  Safety of your children.  Your safety.   Drug or alcohol addictions.  Physical abuse.  If Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 12.46.11 PMany of those things come into play (or anything like them), this whole plan goes out the window, of course.   We are not brainless wives.  We are committed wives.   Use your head.   But if you are simply in disagreement because you are scared, find your brave girl pants and put them on.   You’re about to go on an adventure.

Mr. C has brought me on a few of those that were, admittedly, a bit terrifying.   They all worked out very well.  He followed his instincts, and they were right.
I have brought him on a few that were terrifying as well, actually, with a less stellar track record for turning out well.  It’s called living.   Don’t be afraid to try it.   Remember, like a muscle, your marriage can only grow stronger when pressure is applied.

March 14

Step 2 for Improving Your Marriage

If a man wants to make his wife happy, he should make sure she feels loved.   If a woman wants to make her husband happy, she should make sure he feels admired and respected, and then loved.  In that order.

Step2 Make Him Feel like a kingTwo years ago I wrote a post titled The Real Way to a Man’s Heart.  While reading through that post this morning I realized how much has changed in two years–namely absolutely nothing.  The advice in that post is as true today as it was two hundred or even ten thousand years ago.

The real way to a man’s heart is simple to understand.  If you have sons you already know that beginning when they are little boys, they begin to crave admiration.   When he is young, a boy wants to hear you compliment how fast he runs, how high he climbs, and how tall he can build a tower.  It does not change when they grow older.  A man wants you to see and admire what he can do, his ideas, and his accomplishments. It is often difficult for a woman to understand that his drive for admiration is even bigger than his drive for love.   Yes he wants love, but he can’t feel the full effect of your love or reciprocate it fully unless he first feels that you admire him.  If you want to see an instant improvement in your relationship with your husband, father, brothers or sons, you have to know and absorb into your brain that it is when you express admiration for a man that you stir his feelings of love for you.

Starting at a young age, the drive for admiration goes deeper than any want. It becomes a need. It is an essential element to building a boy’s self-confidence to carry him into manhood. Later, when he is grown, it is the boost that he needs to survive in the competitive world of men. When admiration is missing from his life, it is disastrous. Men who have lacked admiration often become cold and hardened. They learn to repress the craving for admiration because they’ve given up on receiving it, but the craving remains under the surface, just as strong as ever.

The best thing you can do is to begin to make it a point to notice and acknowledge these traits in all the males you have in your life.  In particular, notice and acknowledge those traits that are considered “manly man.”  Why? If you were to compliment a man on the way he was helpful to you when he mopped the floor, he might appreciate your acknowledgment, but it will do little to stir his feelings for you.  In fact, it might have the opposite effect.  He may feel a bit belittled.

What he craves most is an acknowledgment of his masculine qualities. Physical qualities to admire would be things like his large build and muscles, his strength, his beard, his rough and calloused hands, and anything that distinguishes him as male.  His physical abilities would be his abilities in sports, in lifting heavy objects, chopping wood, perhaps.

Mentally he desires admiration of his achievements, skills, and abilities. This can be anything from the way he provides for your family, to how he fixed a broken door, or the way he earned his degree. Tell him how dependable he is, how you admire his determination. Tell him you are proud of him.

Why? Because it makes him feel manly and being made to feel like a man is one of the most pleasurable experiences a man can experience, and when a woman gives him that kind of feeling, she becomes indispensable to his happiness. Don’t forget, as the late Maya Angelou said “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Do this often and your husband will learn to turn to you for comfort and companionship. You will win his deep love and devotion.

If you aren’t sure what to admire, follow these simple steps:

(1) Spend some time thinking about him each day. Think about what he is doing. Think about things he has said. And,

(2) Watch him closely. If you keep your eyes on him with the intent to see the good in him, you’ll find things to admire.

and most importantly (3) Listen to him.

If he talks about his work and it bores you, resist the urge to look away and pay attention to your own tasks. Stop what you are doing. Put your phone down.  Close the lap top.  Look at him and listen. Do you hear and see a man who is devoted to his work? Do you hear and see a man who is working hard to provide? What is he excited about? What skills does he have that you never acknowledged? Is it something to admire? Perhaps he is talking about things you don’t understand. Don’t be surprised to learn that he may be doing that on purpose. He wants you to admire his vast knowledge as well and he may talk outside of your scope of knowledge just to drive home the point of how much he does know.  Don’t get frustrated.  Simply smile and tell him that “it all sounds very complicated. I’m glad you’ve got that under control.”

Lastly, when you express your admiration, be sure to be sincere. Do not take this lightly. Superficial flattery will come across as an insult, just like it would for you or me. Anything you say that is not sincere will be easily detected as a lie. He will resent it. Be sure you’ve observed and listened and the things you express are heart-felt. Doing these things will bring amazing rewards to him and his personal growth. It will build his self-confidence and give him the fuel to become an even better man. But more importantly, when you have accepted him exactly as he is (as we talked about in our post a few days ago), and you sincerely admire your husband’s masculinity, it brings significant rewards to your relationship.

March 10

The First Step to Improving Your Marriage

This blog began almost two years ago when I was inspired to begin writing on behalf of the housewives of the world.   Beginning next week I am going to be adding on to the foundations of my original posts with a fresh new relationship-based or family-based post each Monday.  I am also going to re-blog (and update) one of those original posts that I wrote each week because (1) I was and am still so deeply passionate about those foundational thoughts and (2) I’ve learned much since then and feel like I need to tweak a bit here and there.  You can watch for those re-blogs on the weekends.   But I wanted to throw this one out there to kick it off today.  The First Step To Improving Your Marriage.  My very first post ever–updated and refreshed.  Enjoy!


 

Is your marriage as happy as it could be? Do you fear your marriage is heading for divorce? Is your husband distant? Does he seem cold and uncaring? Does it feel like your marriage lost its spark? Read on for some possible insight as to what might be going wrong as well as some proven steps for improving a marriage.

Are you living a typical, modern American marriage where everything is split 50/50? The bills? The chores? Childcare? Do you have separate checking accounts? Do you have and plan separate retirement accounts, if you have one at all?

Step to Improving Your Marriage
Mr. C and me (pulling his ear)

On a typical night, is it unknown who will prepare dinner? Are you thinking right now that it won’t matter because it’ll probably be take out? If we are in agreement so far, it’s likely that the kids don’t care who is home because they are on their electronic devices, and it doesn’t matter anyway because they don’t seem to respect mom or dad. Mom and dad are both exhausted and they fight a lot. The house is a mess. The laundry is piling up. The lawn needs to be mowed and there’s no time to do it. Grandma is wasting away in a nursing home and you only get out there once a week, if you’re lucky. Life is a mess.

Is that you? Or something similar?

If so, I’ll bet there is an underlying sense of distrust. Disgust. Anger. Jealousy. And Suspicion. Living separate but equal lives –which is what you’ve been doing until now– breeds those kinds of attitudes. Why? Because you have only “become one” on paper. You’ve left a wall of distrust between the two of you in every other area. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

For thousands of years there was a system for marriages that worked, and it worked because men have certain tendencies and needs and women have some very different tendencies and needs than men, and it just so happens that the two –when honored–fit together like a lock and key. The new modern system of living doesn’t honor any of our natural tendencies or needs. That’s why you are miserable. That’s why your husband is unhappy. If your marriage is suffering, you might benefit greatly by giving the old system a try.

The system works beautifully. Think of how many elderly couples have beautiful marriages that have lasted a lifetime. How did they do that? Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share the answer to that question and more with you. If you want to improve your marriage, you can. It’s not too late. But it will require that you clear your mind and open your heart to the possibility. Are you ready? Here we go. Step one.

Now I know that your opinion of your husband might not be terribly high right now. Hard feelings will deflate anyone’s passion and understanding for another, but I’m going to talk about the single most important step in repairing your marriage right now.

That step is to accept your husband for the man that he is. <GASP!> Yes. I know. How can I say that? And how can you do it? He’s a mess. He doesn’t put out as much effort to your home or to your marriage that you do. He spends money on stupid things. He doesn’t spend as much time with the kids as you’d like. Or any one of thousands of other complaints. Yes. I know.

But the first step to fixing all of the things that ail your marriage is accepting him and his ways of doing things. It means accepting his hopes and dreams. Accept his weaknesses and faults. Accept that he insists on wearing gym socks with sandals or the way he eats one row at at time off of the corn on the cob. Accept his quirks. You do not need to agree with everything he thinks and does. You just need to accept and respect his right to think and do them. (Just as you want him to respect your rights, quirks, and less-than-stellar moments.)

I’m also not asking you to ignore his weaknesses or tolerate them. Acknowledge that he is human. Acknowledge that he has faults, but then decide not to focus on them.  Look the other way. Find his positive traits and focus on those instead. You will find that if you put an honest effort into doing that, your opinions will change.  You will see him differently–as a keeper. You will no longer feel the need to change him. Instead you can focus on building a life together with him.

More than likely if you haven’t completely accepted him in the past, you’ve tried to change him. And it’s likely that you are reading this and thinking to yourself that you don’t try to change him. I used to think the same so I’m going to respectfully argue that you do, but perhaps in ways that you are not even aware you are doing it. Maybe you see yourself in this list of ways that women try to change men:

Attempting to change his eating habits and/or table manners (or eating in front of the t.v. manners.)

Nagging him about his driving–speed, directions, the way he turns corners.

Complaining about his cleaning habits or lack thereof.  Those passive aggressive remarks count too.

Advising him regarding swearing, drinking, smoking, belching, or talking too loudly in public.

Telling him where and how he should spend his money. Oh lord do they hate that.

Nagging about his playing video games or watching t.v.

Nagging about his neglecting household duties or repairs, yard work, and household bills.

Complaining to him about his lack of social skills. (Or secretly feeling embarrassed to bring him to events and outings.)

Pushing him to spend more time with the kids.

Complaining that he doesn’t attend church.

Leading him to be more manly or to be more strict with the children.

Pushing him to have more ambition or the opposite–to stop dreaming.

Do you see yourself in these? I’ll bet you do, but you have good reasons for doing those things, right? Yes. Women try to change men for lots of reasons. But whether it be to improve life for yourself or your children or for his own good, you still need to stop doing it. Why? Because it is causing problems in your marriage and nothing else is going to get better until you stop doing this first.

When you nag and push and complain and try to change him, you are destroying the love between you. You are creating tension and resentment. You are hurting his ego–a huge no no, and one that we will discuss at length in a post next week. When that happens, the love between you can actually be completely destroyed. Trust me. He is aware of his weaknesses but he expects you to look at his good points just as you expect him to look at yours. How would you feel if he suddenly decided to compare you to other women?

Trying to change him doesn’t work. He will simply dig in and rebel. You will only find yourself in a worse position than when you began. You will find yourself in a place where he can’t bear the sight of you. He will start staying out later and later. Your marriage will crumble.

So how can you help him to improve himself? You can’t. You have to be ready to accept that he is going to stay exactly how he is today. But here’s the thing. He can change himself, and when a man feels that a woman completely accepts him as he is, he is often inspired to do just that–to become more. When he believes that you are proud of the man he is, he will want to become a better man.

So where and how do you begin this process? Start by giving him his freedom. Let him do everything exactly as he wants to do it. Don’t coach him on how to dress, what to pack for a trip, what to eat, where to go, how to do anything. Don’t counsel him on religion or politics. Don’t lecture him on health. Let him solve problems for himself. Let him learn as he goes. Let him know his choices and allow him to use his own free will to make those choices. Let his spirit be free. It’s the only way he can develop as a human being. Why is it that we as women have such difficulty with this? Why do we struggle with allowing men to be the kind of men they want to be without interference? Why do we try to control them?

One of the hardest lessons I had to accept was surrounding my own self-righteousness. But it was true. When I pointed out my husband’s faults, I was putting myself in a position to judge. But did I have that right? Was I better than he was in any way? Am I a better person? No. I just didn’t believe I shared that particular fault, so I felt qualified to judge him. But I certainly had my faults. I may be better with cooking than he is, but he’s better with budgeting than I am. I might be better with deciphering legal contracts, but he is a better negotiator than I. He stays naturally lean and fit while I struggle with my weight. And the thing is that he has never once tried to point out his superiority over me with any of those things. Never. He accepts me just as I am. Yes. My greatest lesson was learning that it was I who needed changing. Not him.

I needed to stop demanding, giving ultimatums, criticizing, nagging, pushing, pulling, pressuring, suggesting, hinting, or comparing him to others. I needed to accept him. I needed to look beyond the faults and see the positives. When he was not paying as much attention to the children as I thought he should, and I looked past that, I saw a man who was working 60 hours a week then coming home and trying to fit in household repairs and other domestic chores. That was admirable. To then nag him for not spending time with his daughters was ludicrous. He was already stretched beyond his means as it was. He was doing the best he could.

Likewise when I was tempted to scold him for being difficult at work, I had to look past my worry about him possibly losing his job as a result of his defiance. I had to look into his world where i was shocked to discover that he walked into a literal battle ground every day. In his world there is a constant battle of one man over the other to try to stay on top or risk their jobs and everything else in their lives. He had to fight at work just to maintain his position so that he could care for us–so that he could keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. That was also incredibly admirable (and humbling.) My husband was not careless or inept. He was a warrior. And I’d failed to see it.

And when I did and he saw that I respected him and trusted him to do things on his own, his attitude began to shift to one of a more confident and happy man. From that point on, everything began to improve.

In fact it’s true for most marriage that women marry then try hard to change their husbands, but men marry hoping that the woman never changes. Unfortunately it is the exactly opposite that happens in both cases.

So here’s your assignment for tonight.

Step One: Accept your spouse in every way.

Step two: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Gather your courage. Punch down your ego. Sit him down and tell him that you’ve messed up. Tell him that you are sorry. You’ve judged him in the past. You’ve not been supportive of him. You had not understood him. Tell him that you are very happy with the kind of man he is and that you are happy he didn’t let you push him around. You are glad he’s held to his convictions. And then ask him to forgive you and let you prove to him that you are ready to accept him exactly as he is.

Step three: Make it a point every day to see his better side. What are the qualities that he has that you can admire. Find them. Focus on only them. If something comes up that makes you cringe, turn away from it. Do not criticize. Focus on the positive.

This is the beginning of a major change for your marriage. The moment you begin to focus on his better side, you will see an evolution beginning to occur. You will see hope.

Next week we’ll talk about the next key.

Feel free to comment below with his reaction to Step 2. Some will be shocked and relieved that the years of his agonizing self-doubt are over. Some will be pleased. Some will react with sarcasm because your relationship has been so rocky for so long that they won’t trust what you’re saying. No matter how he reacts, just listen. Don’t criticize. Don’t argue. Just listen. Agree. If he says he doesn’t believe you, agree. Tell him you can see why he might think that because you’ve never respected him in the past but you’re ready to change and you want his permission to try.

Tell him you’re reading about how to change, and you’re going to give it everything you have.

And I’ll see you here tomorrow.

PS. Please note that problems with alcoholism, drug addiction, and abuse are specifically excluded from any of the above. Those issues should never be blindly accepted and all require professional assistance for all parties involved. Please do not hesitate to seek assistance in any matter that jeopardizes the safety of you or your children.

February 1

Why It’s Good to be a Traditional Wife in a Nontraditional Role

Obviously not all women in the 50’s were stay-at-home moms.   Many worked outside of the home out of necessity. Some because they enjoyed it (with or without the consent of their husbands).  And others worked outside the home because their children were grown and they wanted to stay busy.   It is in that last category that I find myself.   I am now a traditional wife in a nontraditional role.   Two actually.

Found here: http://images.google.com/hosted/life
Photo Credit: Life Magazine

I have this blog, of course, which is really just a pleasant hobby.  But I also have my art.   That, too, began as a hobby but has taken on a life of its own.  I now get paid to paint and it definitely changes the dynamic at home a bit.   Although I work at home mostly, and consider myself a stay-at-home wife, I am technically a working woman.  I do own and run a business (of sorts).  And I do have my own ideas about how to do that.   So how has that effected my “traditional roles” theory of living at home?  And can one really be both a so called “stay-at-home wife” and a working woman?

Well.  Yes.  And No.  It’s very difficult to swing both.  It’s a constant juggling act.  There is the day-to-day responsibilities of both worlds that conflict at times.   But more importantly, there is an emotional and mental change that occurs when a woman begins to pay attention to something outside of her home sphere.  There is a feeling of contribution and belonging that creeps in.  I’ve seen this in the past in volunteer situations as well.   The feeling of connection to the outside world can lead to a certain degree of pulling away from the home front.  Responsibilities at home begin to take a back seat to responsibilities of the new profession or obsession.   Is that good? or bad?

I’m not sure.  I’m not sure it even needs to be labeled.

Recently a reader criticized me for maintaining this blog while I am supposed to be a stay-at-home mom and wife.  It boggled my brain.  Why does being a wife and mom who makes her home her first job and priority have to mean also being brainless and without interest in the world outside of her windows?  Does my blog take my attention away from my home and family?   Does my art?

No.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.

What I have found is that when I am maintaining this blog, I am on high alert to the things that are most important:   being respectful to my spouse and attentive to my children.   My children are grown, but they still need my presence.  As I go through my day-to-day busyness, it is this blog that often keeps me grounded.  Why do I know this?  Because I let it sit unattended for a few months and life began to become chaotic.  It is when I take time to myself to journal privately or publicly via this blog that I settle my thoughts and am then able to fall comfortably back into the roles that I choose to make priority.  Taking time to think and write calms the chaos long enough for me to remember who I want to be.

I have also found that when I paint I take care of the parts of me that seldom get attention, but desperately need it.   As moms and wives we tend to forget who we were before we had those titles.  We forget to be the girl our husbands fell in love with.   We forget about self-care.

That’s the buzz word these days, right?  Self-care?   It’s everywhere you look.  Movie stars are talking about it.  Books are being written about it.  Blogs are blogging.  Memes are being created.   And yet amazingly, as self-proclaimed stay-at-home moms, we are still attacked when we do something that is entirely devoted to caring for ourselves.  Those who choose to live differently enjoy spinning the table on us.

Don’t let them do that to you.

Ladies, it is perfectly okay and healthy to pay attention to people and things outside of your windows.  It is good for your children to see you work with others through volunteerism, hobbies, or side jobs.  It is okay to take care of you while you take care of your family.

What you choose to make a priority in your life and what you choose to pursue as secondary interests are your business.  You can do both.   You can.  As long as you realize these two things:

(1) By choosing to do both, you are choosing to do neither one as thoroughly or as perfectly as you could do if you focused just on that one thing.

Yes.  It’s true.  When I paint, my attention is not on scrubbing floors that could be scrubbed.  And when I blog, I’m not whipping up a plate of brownies that my family would enjoy.   It’s true.  In those ways my family is getting a little less from me.  But, …

(2) By choosing to do both, you are choosing to give your family, the world, and yourself a more perfectly happy you.   And ultimately a happier you means a more mindful, present, and giving mom and wife.  It means a happier husband. It means more peaceful children.

Just remember to stop each day and prioritize.  Remember who and what’s most important and attend to those things first.  That includes you.   Make sure you are on that short list, and don’t you dare let anybully (anybody) tell you otherwise.

September 28

The Truth Behind the Fighting

During my time confined to the couch I’ve done lots of reading.  Currently I am reading The Autobiography of Mark Twain–highly recommended if you enjoy historical reading.  Just his descriptions of old-fashioned food, homes, and living alone make it worthwhile to me.  So many things I am going to try.  But that’s not the topic of this discussion today.   It is something he said in the book about why men like to fight that got me to thinking, and I’ve concluded that I have been had.  Duped!  Tricked!

I’ve talked before about how men go out into the world every day prepared to fight a battle.  They have to fight for everything–position, pay, pride, just to name a few. Those poor souls!  The agony of it all!    Until today I felt badly about that, but as it turns out they don’t feel badly about that at all.  They thrive on it.  Be it physical, mental, or professional, men like a good fight.

I did a little internet research.  Blogs mostly, because I wanted to hear it from the horses mouth.   In this article, the blogger comes right out and says that men fight (physically) because it feels good.  Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.30.43 AMA testosterone thing, apparently.  And then there’s this one:  The Joy of Punching .  Yeah.  You read that right.  The joy.   Of punching.  This pic to the left is from that blogger.  (go check it out)  The message is the same. Blog after blog.  There is pride in the punch–be it physical or mental.

I’ll admit that I’m more mystified by men than I’ve ever been before.  I hate violence.  I’ve hidden more people on Facebook solely because of their propensity to share stories of violence and gore than for any other reason.  I hate it.  Hate it.

But I have a confession to make.  I think as much as I am repelled by it, I’m attracted to it–the manly bravado kind, not the torture of kids and animals kind.   I think to some degree all women are.  It’s part of our make up.  We want to be with a man that we know can protect us, and the only way to know that is to see his displays of manly-manness.   For some men that comes out in a very physical way.   For others it is in business success.  And still others it is in his academic achievement.  The truth is that those displays are very necessary.  Men are likely genetically predisposed to such behavior simply because we, as women,  look for the man who is king of the mountain (so that we can live like queens.)  They are programmed to enjoy the battles.  We are programmed to be attracted to the victors.

My first inkling to my personal role in this actually happened a few years back when there was an incident involving a threat to our young grandson and my overly protective Mr. C.   He found himself in a very physical altercation that resulted in a bloodied face for the other guy and Mr. C with swollen knuckles.  During the incident (while hanging off of his back like a cape flapping in the wind, trying to peel him off of the bad guy) I was horrified at the brutality of it all.  And . . . strangely aroused.  I spent weeks feeling ashamed of that, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it–how his muscles rippled and the shear force behind his fight.  It was quite frankly thrilling.

Now that I understand this is all how it’s meant to be, I think I can let it go.  I can allow myself to simply accept that things are simply as nature intended them to be.  Mr. C is a caveman, and I am his cave woman.  We are still just beings living in a modern day world while at the mercy of our primal urges.

So what does this mean for you?  It means that perhaps it’s time you learn about his favorite sport or venture where competitiveness is involved. For some it’s sports.  For others stock trading.  Still others hunting, or playing chess, or gardening.  Whatever it is, find it.  Learn about it.  Take an interest and try to understand it.  Maybe watch a game or two with him.  Professional sports are popular with men because it’s equally true that if they can’t be fighting themselves, the next best thing is to watch a good fight.  (They get almost as much of a testosterone and adrenaline surge by watching as by playing!)    Your job is to learn to watch him, share the experience, and appreciate what is happening in his body–the tension and the hormonal surges, and then feed it.  Encourage it.  Why? Because it makes him feel good.   It releases tension.  It’s good for him.  And it makes him feel more manly.

Your reward?  If you are paying attention, you will feel your own female attraction rise in response.  And then you will share greater closeness.  Try it.  You just might like it!  Let me know how you make out.

July 27

Answers and Solutions for Depressed Housewives

Depressed housewives. Bored housewife. Lonely housewife. Page_1
These are some of the top search matches for women who find my page and the things I am asked about most often. They are also the reason so many women feel helpless and hopeless when faced with the back-to-work or stay-at-home decision. For most, neither option presents as palatable, but it need not be this way. There are answers and solutions for depressed housewives, and for most of us, the solutions are closer than we think.

“Do you ever just feel like there is no point?” one reader recently asked.

“How do you deal with the monotony?” another wanted to know.”I can’t stand it.”

“I just feel like I’m treading water and not going anywhere.”

“I know I should be happy. I’m lucky to be able to stay home with the kids. Not everybody can do that. But I’m not happy. I can barely get off the couch these days. It all just feels so pointless.”

These feelings of dissatisfaction and hopelessness are rampant today, and that’s not surprising when you look at the societal atmosphere that we are living in. The glorification has been misplaced and now goes to those who have achieved much success and accumulated great amounts of money and on those who have managed to capture youthfulness (by any means necessary.) But would it surprise you to learn that the emotional challenges facing you, dear depressed housewife, are exactly the same as those facing most highly successful Hollywood movie stars? You don’t believe me? Take a moment right now and try to think of one person who you know who isn’t unhappy in some way. Go ahead. Think about it.

Right. None. At the very core, you and they are the same.  We are all the same.

The only difference is that for most housewives, the answers and solutions are more readily available. That is, once you understand the real issue at the heart of the matter, which is that we, as a modern society, are lead to believe that we ought to be always happy. We are told that we have a right to be happy and that we should not settle for less than being deliriously happy.  We are taught that if we are not happy then there must be something wrong with our circumstance or with our mind.  Medication is typically prescribed.  But it’s a quick fix that seldom fixes anything.  Why?

Because nobody teaches us where to find true happiness, and certainly nobody mentions that in order to find it, you must first endure suffering. We all must. Suffering is part of life–everyone’s life. Nobody mentions that. And why would they? It goes against the grain. It clashes with the constant barrage of inspirational messages we are inundated with daily. It’s not popular. And, sadly, most believe it’s not true. But it is.

Instead we need to start teaching and learning that into every life there will be unpleasantries and suffering, but it is through this very suffering that we are here to learn meaning and find true, deep satisfaction within our lives.

Do not fret. I am not here to tell you that you must endure many more years of unhappiness. The suffering that you must endure needs only to last as long as it takes you to change your mind about how you think about the challenges at hand. And that is what we are going to do today.

Let’s begin with a little historical review. Think back to what you know of pre-historic times. Imagine life back then. The Middle Ages? What do your recall about that timeframe? And how about more recently. Let’s say the early 1900s? What was life like? What was happening in the world? What was daily life like for each of these stages in history? Now let me ask you this. Think about the life of a pauper. And now of a prince. A Hollywood actress? A corporate executive? Your dentist? What do all these things have in common? I can tell you without hesitation that no matter what time frame, no matter what era, and no matter what station in life, everyone experiences difficulties and sadness. Everyone. Some will have difficulties and sadness to a larger degree than others, but everyone suffers.

I can also say with absolute confidence that it will not matter whether you are a stay-at-home mom or the president of a large corporation. You will not escape your feelings of unhappiness. So stop feeling guilty about being unhappy. It’s pointless.

Life, however, is not pointless. Realizing this truth–that we are all subject to boredom, tedium, sadness and unhappiness, is the first step toward climbing out of the abyss of misery.   Once you realize that some pain is going to occur, you may proceed to the next step, which is figuring out if our pain is avoidable or unavoidable.

If avoidable the answer is simple. Remove all sources of suffering that are indeed avoidable.  For example, you don’t rip candy out of a child’s hand just to hear them scream. You don’t spoil a child and then have to bear their tantrums.  And you don’t stick your hand in boiling water.  Only masochists do things to purposely create suffering in their lives just to experience the pain.  Most of us are not masochists.

If you are experiencing discomfort that you do not see as avoidable, after all someone must clean the house and cook day after day, someone must care for the babies, then you must take the next step, which is to begin to look into that suffering to find purpose.

Let me ask you this.  If you were to project your life forward to your deathbed and imagine that you had never married and had children and were now looking back on your life, what do you think you would see?   Perhaps you had a wonderful career.  Perhaps you traveled the world.   But did your life have meaning?  Did you matter to the world?  Did you matter to anyone in particular at all?  Who is with you beside your deathbed?  For most, this picture creates a feeling of loneliness and separation.

Now go back to that same deathbed and look back on your existing family.  What about then?  When you look back at your family, did your life have meaning and purpose?  Did you matter?  Are they there with you?  Are you surrounded by your children and their children?  Do they adore you?

It is easy to see the meaningfulness of a life when looked at as a whole.  It is very difficult to see the contribution that our day-to-day cooking and cleaning and diaper changing has because we are only seeing those things as individual pieces of the whole.  We experience them as individual moments.  They are perceived as difficulties in your day, but I want to remind you that we do not find meaning in things that are easy.  We find meaning to life in those things that challenge us and in those things for which we make sacrifices.

So how can you turn your experiences around into ones that are meaningful and satisfying?   By changing the goals associated with them.  You know, for example, that you are going to clean house to some degree every day for the rest of your life.  You can look upon those daily tasks as monotonous drudgery, or you can think about them as a cumulative achievement: A goal of keeping your environment sanitary for your family throughout their lives.  It’s bigger than just washing that dish.  It’s about the big picture.

Did you know that according to Dr. Joel Fuhrman and many other leading authorities, the food you feed your toddler can have an effect on his health thirty years from now?  You control your family’s future by your planning and preparing of healthy meals.  You and you alone can direct that.  Your child has no say in the matter.  This is a huge responsibility that only you can bear.  You can look at it as fixing dinner, or you can see it as building strong and healthy bodies for life.

You can look at the daily challenges of dealing with crying toddlers, rebellious pre-schoolers, independence-seeking teens and at times irresponsible young adults as painful, boring, tedious experiences as a mother.  Or you can look at the big picture and remind yourself that you are teaching these young ones how to be responsible citizens for a lifetime.  Your efforts more than any other person’s are going to have the biggest impact on how they live out their entire lives.  You are molding their character every day.  You, Mom, are their greatest teacher.

You can sit on the couch and watch t.v. all day feeling sorry for yourself or you can declare yourself the matriarch of your family in charge of the care and feeding of all of your descendants and living ancestors.  You alone bear that purpose.  And guess what?  You are in the unique position that you and only you CAN bear that purpose.  Nobody else can be you.  Nobody else can be your child’s mom. Nobody else can have such a profound effect on him.

And likewise, nobody else is your husband’s helpmeet.   Did you know that in Genesis 2:20 the word used to describe Eve as Adam’s helper is the Hebrew word ezer.  Traditionally people have taken that word to mean Adam’s wife and mother to his babies.  But what you may not realize is that the word ezer is used 21 times throughout the Old Testament.  Only twice is it used to describe a woman.  The other times it is used to describe military assistance, but mostly it is used to describe God’s assistance to Israel–God as Israel’s helper.  God as ezer is described as a shield and as a defense, watching over his people.  So what can we draw from that?  God didn’t put you here just to be your husband’s housewife.  He put you here to be his partner in the battlefield of life.  You watch his back.  He watches yours.  You are important to him.  You are his shield and sometimes his sword.  You are a team.  You have things you can be doing to live up to that role.  What are they?  Find out and do them.

Your life has great meaning.  You are not useless.   You are not purposeless.

Victor E. Frankl said “… a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to be happy … “

The truth is that you can not be coerced into being happy.   You can’t be forced to be happy.  You can not be commanded to be happy.  In fact, you can’t even seek happiness because the very act of making happiness the goal of any endeavor makes it much harder to achieve.  (Think about an event you look forward to because it’s going to be “so much fun!” and then it’s not as amazing as you expected.  Now compare that to an event you expected to dread but ended up having a wonderful time.)  Pleasure has to occur spontaneously for it to be truly pleasurable.

You must change your mindset from one of seeking the end of boredom and of one constantly seeking elusive happiness to one where you are seeking to fulfill your purpose.  Only then can pleasure spontaneously occur.

Isn’t it true that you can not enjoy eating your home made cake until you have gathered the ingredients, mixed them, and baked them.  Only then can you eat cake.   But the true enjoyment comes from the process of preparing it and then sharing it  with those you love.

Dear Lady, life is short. Let us eat cake!

July 18

Why He Doesn’t Want You to be a Stay-at-home Mom

So you’ve recently been reading about all the benefits that can come to your home, your kids, and your marriage when you become a stay-at-home mom and you’ve decided you’re ready to go for it.   You’re ready to leave your 40+ hour a week job and come home to try your hand at being Suzy Homemaker.  Your excited to announce your findings to your husband.  Surely he will agree?  Finally you get up the nerve.  You do it; you tell him, and BAM! He shoots you down.   What happened?  Why doesn’t he see what you see?  Read on, dear homemaker hopeful.   Let’s talk about why he doesn’t want you to be a stay-at-home mom, and some ideas on how you can begin to work together to realize your dream.

If you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve found yourself in a similar position to what I just described.  You’re disappointed.  You’re probably a little bit angry.   To say that your thinking is a bit clouded with dismay would be an understatement.   So I’m going to ask you to open your mind for a few minutes and do something that is the direct opposite of what I normally suggest that my lady readers do. Today I want you to put on your manly hat.  Put the apron down.   Pull on some big boy shoes and try to imagine all I’m about to say from a man’s perspective.  It’s the only way you are going to figure out how to work with the guy you’ve got.  You ready?

Unless your guy is over the age of 65, there’s a very good chance he was raised in an era of growing freedoms for women.   He’s been influenced by literally thousands (tens of thousands?) of women pounding the message into his head that women are equal to men.  Women can hold their own without men.   Women can work and earn as much as, or more than men.   There’s nothing a man can do that a woman can’t do better.

He’s heard it in a million different ways.   He’s seen it happen in real life.   He knows no other truth.

Oh, he may laugh at some attempts made by certain women to do as men do.  He may jump on the manly-man bandwagon of poking fun at women and repeating dumb blonde jokes, but there’s no way on earth he would ever, never ever ever be caught suggesting that his wife is lesser than he.   If he is being honest, he’ll admit he’s a bit afraid of you.  And why shouldn’t he be?  The deck is stacked against him.  Any attempt to guide you is met with descriptions of control and abuse.  Claims of sexism.   Berating from every direction.   Even the laws are now set against him to the point that the very act of holding your arms in place to defend against your physical attack upon him could result in HIS arrest.   Yes.  He has every reason to fear you.

It’s important to first understand that core truth.  What we believe in the center of our bones to be true is going to influence every other thought we have on a particular subject.   And for most modern day men, women’s equality is at the root of their beliefs.  Somewhat.

They have been beaten down with the message, but from what I’ve personally seen, they’ve not yet been completely brainwashed.  They’ve not abandoned their primal urges and instincts just yet.  What they say on the outside is typically to appease the masses.  They don’t necessarily buy into the equality message completely.  So what else is going on?  Why the resistance to honoring the traditional gender roles that his inner fibers know to be truth?  For this answer, you really have to think like a man.

In one of my earliest posts I talked about the daily life of men.   I was shocked to learn about what it was like to be a man today.

I had to look into his world where i was shocked to discover that he walked into a literal battle ground every day. In his world there is a constant battle of one man over the other to try to stay on top or risk their jobs and everything else in their lives. He had to fight at work just to maintain his position so that he could care for us–so that he could keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. That was also incredibly admirable (and humbling.) My husband was not careless or inept. He was a warrior. And I’d failed to see it.

After that revelation I began really watching our male population.  How they look at each other.  How they compare themselves to each other.  All. The. Time.   Every day each man holds up a virtual yard stick and compares his life to all other men around him and asks himself how he’s doing.   And like it or not, your income has become part of his identity.  And he does not, under any circumstance, want to part with your income.

That, my dear, is his biggest worry.  Money.  And keeping up with Mr. Jones.

It’s the biggest and baddest of his worries and the one that strikes terror in his heart the second you suggest leaving your job or dropping your hours to part time.  But it’s not his only worry.   Once he’s had time to think about the idea of you becoming a full time housewife, there are many other concerns that rush in to cloud his brain.

  • If you leave your job, he is solely responsible for providing for how many people? Is he up to that task?  Is he ready for that much personal responsibility?  What if he gets sick?  Or injured?
  • How would he even manage it all?  Did he ever see any other guy pull it off? (Does he have a role model?)
  • What will happen to his beautiful wife?  Will she let herself go?  Will she put on sweat pants or pajamas and never brush her hair again?  He’s seen that happen.  Oh god.  Not the money and his beautiful bride too!
  • What if he doesn’t want to be married to a mom?  What if he wants to be married to his sassy and smart wife? What will happen to his sex life?  Will that be gone too?  No money, no beautiful wife, AND no sex?
  • For crying out loud.  He wants a partner.  Not a dependent. This really makes him angry.  He didn’t marry you to become your father figure.
  • Oh God.  If divorce happens, he won’t stand a chance at getting custody . . .not with the kids being so attached to her after she’s been home with them full time.  Will he be cast out?  Would she turn them against him?
  • Why on earth does she want this anyway?  What good could come out of it? Where is the value in her staying home?  Sure, the house is messy and they eat a ton of take out.   Granted the kids are overweight and unruly and could stand for more home cooked meals and supervision, but is the trade off worth it?  Does she really think she can make that big of a difference?  Why can’t we just hire a housekeeper instead?  Has she lost her mind?
  • Is she just being lazy?  Why should I have to take on all the responsibility and she gets to stay home and watch t.v.?

Those are just some of the thoughts that might jump into his head.   Starting to see where he’s coming from now?   He isn’t seeing pictures of domestic bliss.  He sees images of disaster.  He sees his whole life crumbling to pieces.  Look at his face.  Is it white?

That’s fear.

Real, genuine fear.

Your husband thinks you’ve lost your mind and you’re about to drag him down with you.

OK.  So now you get it.  You know what you are working with.   Now you are equipped to prepare and present your case, but I must forewarn you.  Don’t do it yet.  If you want to stand a chance of ever achieving your dream because you know in your heart that things will not only be okay, they will be better than ever, hold off.   Allow him time to recover from the initial shock and take these steps instead.

  1. Explain to him that you understand his fears.  You can even reiterate the list I just presented to you.   Tell him that you are just thinking about it and that of course you’d never jump and do it without his full agreement.   (Let him breathe and relax.)
  2. Then take a giant step backwards and realize that you’ve got to undo years of your own brainwashing of him.   Up until now you’ve been a completely different woman than you are now suggesting you’d like to be.   You want to pull the carpet out from beneath him, and that’s not fair.   You’ve got to first undo some damage.  You’ve got to first begin to treat him like the man you are suggesting he be–even while you are still working outside the home.   You’ve got to show him that you see him as a leader and trust him to lead.  You’ve got to show him that he can lead.  He is capable.    You’ve got to admit that you have been doing it wrong.   I suggest you start by reading this post, and see if you can commit to that one small change.  That is the basis of your new life.  If you can’t do this one small thing suggested in that post, the rest is futile.  Start there.  Then come back here.
  3. Once you’ve done that, it will take some time but not as long as you might think to begin to see changes in him thereafter.   At first he will not trust you.  He will fear he is being set  up.   He might even come out and question you directly about your motivation.  His entire life of training from the equality movement will leave him questioning your current motives.  But give it time.  When he sees that you aren’t backing away, he will slowly begin to test your resolve.   And when he sees that you will honor what you’ve now said, he’ll start to feel like a real man again (or for the first time.)  Only then can you truly begin to transition to the life you desire.
  4. Next step.  Read this post about transitioning to a one-paycheck home. And then the following 2 posts that go with it.   I guarantee you will not agree with it at first, but there is a logic behind it.   He has to see, feel, and believe that it’s possible to live on one income or on one full time and one part time income, and taking these simple steps will be the only way he can do that.  You can’t tell him. He has to see it to really truly believe it.  You have to make him feel a level of comfort that he will be able to keep up with Mr. Jones.
  5. Then, start sharing your ideas about ways you could be frugal without him feeling deprived.  During the next few weeks, trickle in ideas about how your home and family life can improve and not be injured (don’t inundate him with big serious talks as soon as he walks through the door from work).  Talk about how you can improve your own health, have time to take better care of yourself (and commit to doing so for real!) and slowly address each of his other concerns.
  6. Lastly, you will need to explain to him how your vision is not one of a father/daughter type of relationship.   Paint a picture that he can see in his mind’s eye of a relationship of husband and wife who are bonded for life.  He as leader.  Her as helper.   Her as equal contributor but on a new level.  Show him how you want to use your brain and your skills to create a beautiful life that is a bit slower so that you can both enjoy more.   If you have a grandmother that you adore, or he does, explain that you want to be regarded like that by your grandchildren some day–as a matriarch.  Not as a distant memory of a woman they barely knew.  Tell him how important that is to you–to be a great mother to his children and matriarch to your family.Plan to spend a year or so transitioning.  The important thing is to get on the same page, create a plan that you can both agree on, and design a life that you can both feel good about.

Most importantly don’t lose faith.  In fact, as you complete each step in the transition, remind yourself how you are building a solid foundation for the rest of your life.  Good construction takes time and planning.  It can’t be rushed.  You have a blue print, now all you need to do is follow it.   Good luck.

And don’t forget to join us on Facebook!  We’re here to support you along your journey!

July 1

The Marriage Agreement

marriage2The marriage agreement–the most important piece of paper in your marriage.  It’s more important than the license for your nuptials.  It’s more important than the vows that you wrote and then later spoke.   Ideally it should come first, but it’s never too late to write one, and for some it could be the thing that turns a not-so-wonderful marriage into a life-long bond between soulmates.  If you find yourself in a conflicted marriage, you jus
t need to agree that you want to work on it and begin by laying this new framework.

 

It is a well-known fact that a good marriage can be the single most fulfilling factor in a person’s life.  It is also well known that a miserable marriage can be the highest source of stress.   The purpose of a written marriage agreement is to work out many of the sources of potential conflict long before they can ever occur.  The idea is to put the two of you on the same page, to build a blueprint for your marriage that you can both agree on and put your heart and soul into.   When you both know exactly what to expect and learn that you can rely on the other to follow through with your plan, your bond will grow and strengthen.   There will be nothing (and no one) that can come between you.

When Mr. C and I first wrote our first marriage agreement many years ago, it was a short, 2-page list of nothing more than rules for living.  We agreed to who was going to do what within the walls of our home, who was going to handle the finances, and a few other key points.  The entire agreement took less than a half hour to write.   It later evolved to something much more, but it often took an incident of conflict of some sort (and there were many!) to cause us to go back and add a new clause to our agreement.

Our goal with this blog post is to help you work through a fairly comprehensive agreement that will address most of the major life issues that a marriage could encounter.   We say most as it is impossible to predict everything that could happen within a marriage and a life along the way.  Because this is a blog and not a book, we will give general overviews and then in future posts we will break down individual clauses more completely.  You’ll have plenty to get a working agreement completed now, however.

Page_1Also, the agreement you write will be thorough and well thought out, but it will not be permanent.  Life happens.  Things change, and for that reason, your agreement will continue to morph and grow within your relationship.   It is a good idea to come back here every year or two, on your anniversary perhaps, and review, add, subtract, or rewrite any clause of your agreement that has evolved and requires tweaking.   You should also make any necessary changes each time there is a major life event such as residence change, major career change, birth of a child, sickness, injury, or even the taking in of an aging parent.  In other words, any time there is a change in your lives that affects or could have an effect on your relationship, you should review and adjust where needed.

Included within this blog is a copy of sample marital agreement sections.   Each section covers a different topic including:  Religion, Head of Household, Residence, Household Responsibilities, Employment, Finances, Children, Pets, Health & Fitness, Sex, In-laws, Friendships, Maintaining your Marriage, Disagreements, Hobbies, and Hopes & Dreams.  We’ll be breaking down each section for you and pointing out some obvious and some not-so-obvious things to think about and discuss.

As you move along through the series, you’ll note that every topic has been laid out for you with questions, discussion points and guideposts for how to work out a plan of action that suits your relationship.   Take your time with each one.   There should be no rush when working out your plan for living.   The time you take now will save you heartache, time, and expense later.  Plan to give each section the time it deserves and resist the urge to rush your partner or be rushed by your partner to complete any segment.   Complete each section then write the corresponding segment of your marital agreement.

Also, take note of which segments strike a nerve for either of you.   You may expose something now that is a major issue that you hadn’t know existed.  Better to deal with things like that in advance. Take extra time with those and be absolutely certain that you’ve worked out all of the potential issues.

Some of you reading this are not yet married.  Others are newlyweds and still others have been married for many years.  Likewise, while the majority of those reading here are in a traditional relationship, others may be in a progressive partnership, or something different. This agreement is for everyone.

marriage1How your agreement will unfold depends largely on where you are within your relationship.   You may feel that some segments may not apply to you.   I suggest that you still at least skim each segment, just in case.  Each has been assembled by seeking the advice of many different couples who have been together for 25, 50 or even 60 years or more. Some of the advice contained within these pages is priceless and good to have, even if you are beyond the point of needing it for your personal use.  It might be good to have to pass on to your own children.   You may pick up a tidbit or two.  (We did.)  Certainly, if you get to the end of a segment and you still believe it does not apply, then feel free to leave that segment out of your marriage agreement.  Everything is negotiable, and the content of your agreement is private between the two of you, so make it entirely your own.

When in doubt about a particular topic, however, don’t leave it out.  It is better to discuss something that may come up, and have a plan in place for how to handle it in the future than to leave it out and open up a possibility for confusion and conflict if it should occur.

It is our hope that for the vast majority of couples reading this, you will finish your agreement with a sense of clarity and vision unlike you’ve experienced before.  You will have a true life plan for moving forward with your soulmate.  There will be no doubts.   You will be on the same page, with shared hopes, goals, and visions.

For a small number of others the process of writing this agreement may expose major conflicts that can not be resolved alone.  You may need to seek outside assistance to work through those issues.  We believe, that while that is a sad truth, it is better for all to know these things now rather than at a later date when it might be too late.  Take what you have learned, seek the help you need, and then build from there.  Your marriage will be all the better for it, and when you have worked out the kinks, you will be like steel that has been forged under intense heat–unbreakable.

As always, if you need further clarification or support, you can always contact us right here in the comments or on our Facebook Page or by email at the50shousewife@gmail.com

If you are ready to begin, I suggest grabbing a notebook because you will be writing  down lots of notes, questions, and discussion points to review with your spouse.

Let’s begin with a question.  If you could envision your marriage as absolutely perfect, what would that look like to you? (Your spouse should be thinking about the same thing.)  When I ask young women who are about to be married this question I am often met with blank stares.   What I’ve learned from many young girls growing up in this era is that they do not put a lot of thought into being a wife. They put a great deal of time, effort, energy, money and thought into the idea of being a BRIDE, but very little into what it will mean to be a wife after the wedding.  But once that glorious fairy tail wedding day is over, real life begins.   (Incidentally, if you are not yet married, this project you are embarking on could be the most important thing you ever do.   Do not wait until you have given your vows.  Do it now!)

So what would a perfect marriage look like to you?   Write it down.

Can you have that marriage you envisioned?  Probably not.  And it’s important to first realize that your expectations of your spouse might be unrealistic.  No person out there is able to fulfill 100% of our needs, but we believe that with proper care and attention you can have something very close to your ideal.  But you can’t have it if you don’t know what it is or if you are afraid to verbalize to your spouse what it is.   You have to do this first.  And you have to share your ideas, without fear of criticism.

To be sure that these fantasy marriages are discussed without argument, first agree that they are “ultimate fantasies” and nothing more.   Agree that you each may have very different ideas of what is a perfect marriage, and that it’s important to know how far apart you are so that you can plan the best compromises.   Agree that you can laugh together about your differences.   This plan alone will set the tone to one of fun and adventure rather than dread at starting an argument.

Once you’ve had this discussion you may have learned some surprising things about your spouse.  For me, that’s when I learned that in my heart I didn’t want to be a hugely successful career woman.  I wanted more than anything to be a wife and a mom.  I wanted to stay home and cook and clean and take care of my family.  I also learned that my husband wanted and craved being the ultimate leader of our home.  For us, we figured out that we had wasted years of our lives together living in a manner that neither of us wanted.  Thanks to that discussion we were able to fix that.

You could also find out that you have even greater differences than you thought.   Does that mean you are doomed?  Absolutely not.  It just means that this agreement is even more critical to achieving deep satisfaction for each of you.

After you’ve had the discussion about your perfect marriage, you will take what you know and begin writing your agreement.  Don’t worry.  You do not need to know details yet.  Each section will be written after discussion, so just start right in.  The first sections are very basic, just like any contract.  Here’s a sample of an opening paragraph section:

          ********SAMPLE of a SIMPLE*******

            GENERAL MARRIAGE AGREEMENT

 

This agreement (“Agreement”) establishes the guidelines and parameters to be adhered to for the marriage  (“Marriage”) between the following parties (“Married Parties”):

 

Spouse 1:  (Insert Name) Spouse 2:  (Insert Name)

 

and is undersigned and set forth this {date} of {month}, {year}, and shall be updated annually upon the anniversary date of the marriage or at each time that a life milestone (such as a new job, illness, injury, birth of a child, or caring for an aging parent) occurs for either of the Married Parties.

The undersigned parties hereby agree to the following provisions as conditions of the Marriage:

 

See? That wasn’t so hard, now was it.   But now we get into the nitty gritty.   When deciding what should be the first Paragraphs of our agreement, Mr. C and I had to ask ourselves what is the most important things to lay the foundation.    For many who live under the guidance of a certain religious affiliation, your religious choices literally govern your life, so that’s where we began.

Now before any person can establish the basic rules of living their own life, they must first look at their core belief system.   Here are some questions to answer:  What do you believe to be true?   Do you believe in a greater power?  Do you belong to a spirit or church community, and if so, what doctrine does it follow?  What spiritual practices need to be followed?  What life events are required? Or forbidden?  All of these things form the basis of how we look at life and establish rules for living.  Do your beliefs match your spouse’s?

When you combine two living beings with each their own core belief systems, things can get a little tricky.  Especially if those belief systems are vastly different.  So naturally this is the most logical place to begin any agreement for your marriage, because if you can not agree on this major issue, then all of the little things are pointless.  There will always be conflict.  You can agree to have separate religious practices. That’s fine, but you have to agree on some of the finer points on how those practices will enter your married and family life.

It is a simple matter if both parties to the agreement share the same religious choices.  If you are both Catholic, for example, then Paragraph 1 of your agreement is already half written.  But you aren’t finished there.    You must also agree on the details of your spiritual practice.     When will you worship?  Will you strictly follow church doctrine?   Will you consult with the Priest for marriage counseling prior to marriage? During your marriage?  Or never?  Or will you loosely follow the Church, perhaps only attending on major holidays?  How much will you donate weekly?  Or will you not?

How are you going to establish the foundation of your life together?    Will you raise your children under that religion?  Will they attend religious schools?  Are there certain things that one or both of you need to do to get “right” with your religious affiliation before you can move forward?

And what if you don’t agree?   How do you agree to handle that?   Which religious holidays will you acknowledge and celebrate?  How much of a spiritual flare will you life and home include?  What is tolerable to each?   And what will you teach your children?

This is the absolute foundation of your marriage.  Work it out.  Completely.  Then, write it down.  Here’s that sample including Section One.

           ********SAMPLE of a SIMPLE*******

           GENERAL MARRIAGE AGREEMENT

 

This agreement (“Agreement”) establishes the guidelines and parameters to be adhered to for the marriage  (“Marriage”) between the following parties (“Married Parties”):

Spouse 1:  (Insert Name)Spouse 2:  (Insert Name)
and is undersigned and set forth this {date} of {month}, {year}, and shall be updated annually upon the anniversary date of the marriage or at each time that a life milestone (such as a new job, illness, injury, birth of a child, or caring for an aging parent) occurs for either of the Married Parties.

The undersigned parties hereby agree to the following provisions as conditions of the Marriage:

SECTION 1–Religion (if applicable)

1.1 The Married parties shall live under the doctrine of the __(Christian?)___________ Religion and shall follow the guidelines for marriage outlined in the  ______(bible?)_____________.
1.2  It is further agreed that any children born to the Married Parties shall be raised under the customs and doctrines of the ________________ Religion.
1.3  The following religious holidays shall be celebrated in the home:_____________ __________ ____________________ ______________________ __________________________
1.4  The following religious symbols are welcome to be displayed in the home: __ ___(A crucifix over in the master bedroom)_____________ ____________________
1.5  _______________________ will attend regular bible studies (or women’s meetings or men’s meetings, or whatever your example might include.)

Your Section One may be much longer or much shorter depending on what you have agreed to.  Don’t fret.  It’s your agreement.  Don’t compare it to this very general sample.   My agreement with Mr. C was very different than this one as we have differing spiritual views.  Whatever the two of you agree to is okay.  Just make sure you agree.

Section Two, for us, was really quite easy since we’d already discussed the overall view of our perfect marriage.   Here’s the sample:

SECTION 2–Head of Household

2.1 The Married Parties agree that _________________ shall be designated as Head of Household (“HOH”) and ____________________ shall be the Supporting Spouse (“SS”).  The HOH shall be responsible for making all final decisions for the care, support, and maintenance of all family members.   The HOH has final say but shall consult with SS on all matters and shall consider all thoughts and opinions of SS before making any and all final decisions.   Further, all decisions shall be made in the best interest of the entire family, even when at the detriment or discomfort of the HOH or SS.

For you, this may require lengthy discussion.   You may be thinking that it doesn’t require any discussion and that there will be no “Head Of Household” and that you will share this responsibility equally, but that won’t work.   Oh, it might most of the time.  Mr. C and I discuss absolutely everything.   Almost always we agree on a course of action, but there have been those times when we simply could not agree.   It happens.  You will experience them too.  So what then?   Will you let the conflict linger?  Resentment grow?   Or will you have a clause in place such as the one above?

Here’s the interesting thing.   Mr. C has final say, but in all the years that he has had to make the final decision on a matter do you know how many times he chosen his way?  One.   When given such a huge responsibility as being ultimately responsible for the well-being of one’s entire family, one tends to take this role very seriously.   In almost every other case, after much thought and deliberation, Mr. C went with my thoughts on the matter because he thought that ultimately my ideas were less risky for his family.  He didn’t like it, but it was the right thing to do, he decided.

So don’t fret.   Just decide who will have that responsibility–that burden, really.  And write it down.   And then be prepared to live by it.  (It’s very challenging at the time, but it can be done. I promise.  Have faith in your HOH!)

Section 3 was the easiest of all for us.  Here it is:

SECTION 3-Residence

3.1 The Married Parties agree that they shall reside ______________ (Insert address if known or City/State or general region if address is unknown)_______  until such time that HOH and SS deem a change of residence necessary.   This location meets the criteria of:   ____ bedrooms, ________miles from employment and ___________  (for example…fill in your own criteria) and does not exceed the family’s housing budget of $________________.

3.2  It is hereby agreed by the Married Parties that at no time and under no circumstance shall either party permit any boarders to move into the family home, with the sole exception of temporary stays of not more than ______ days of sick or injured parents or grandparents.  It is further agreed that even in the case of parents or grandparents, if the medical needs of the patient exceed the ability to maintain peace and calm within the home (as determined at the discretion of the HOH), then alternative care locations shall be utilized.

For some of you this may require discussion.   Has one moved far from home and feel an intense need to move back?  Close to grandma and grandpa maybe?   Are you currently exceeding your housing budget and need to find a cheaper place?  Is employment difficult to come by and a move to a different area necessary?  Work it all out.  Write it down.

I included the boarders comment in there straight out of our agreement.  Just trust me on this one.   You DO need to discuss it ahead of time.   Family, friends, foster kids, homeless people… they will all present in your lifetime needing a place to go.  You may feel compelled to help, and what you think will be a weekend sleepover can turn into a 5-year stay that could wreak havoc in your marriage and your life.   Having a clause in place resolves the issue before it begins.

If you are nervous about this one, do a little research and include a note in the clause about places where you could refer those requesting to stay at your home.  Have names, addresses, phone numbers and web sites listed for ready reference.  Sometimes just knowing that there are places takes the strain out of saying “no” when asked.

Discuss.  Agree.  Write it down.

And this brings us to Section 4.  The first of the really meaty sections.   Household responsibilities.   🙂  Here’s the sample:

SECTION 4–Household Responsibilities

4.1  The following guidelines establish the basic division of household responsibilities assuming all conditions of the Married Parties are stable and have not changed due to increased employment workload, illness, injury, birth of a child, or other mitigating factor,  in which case this Section 4 should be reevaluated and adjusted to meet the new abilities of the Married Parties.
4.2 The following shall be the responsibility of _______________:   general cleaning of the interior of the home including day-to-day tidying of all areas of the house, deeper cleaning of the kitchen, deep cleaning of the bathrooms, all laundry duties (including putting clean clothing in dresser drawers and closets as needed), changing of bed linens, dusting, vacuuming, and floor washing.  ________ also assumes all responsibility for planning, shopping for, and cooking the food for the family as outlined in Section 9.

4.3  The following shall be the responsibility of ______________:  All general maintenance, repair, and care of the working mechanisms of the home including all motorized and non-motorized components both interior and exterior. All exterior care and maintenance of the landscaping and grounds.   Removal of the trash from all receptacles inside and outside of the home.   General cleaning and  tidying of ______’s own messes, such as, but not limited to,  wiping of spills and splatters, placing dirtied dishes in the sink or dishwasher,  and placing discarded laundry into the proper receptacle.

4.4 General decorating and atmosphere of the home shall be the primary responsibility of _______________ with consideration given to __________________’s tastes and desires.  All decorating efforts shall remain within the budget for decorating established previously.  Any expense outside of the established budget shall be approved by HOH prior to proceeding.   All work requiring the use of outside contractors shall be handled by and overseen by the HOH.

Again, yours may look very different.  You may want to get more detailed and include a level of acceptable cleanliness.  You may want to be more generalized, but I don’t recommend it.

Be sure to include the notation that things will need to be re-evaluated whenever there is a major life change, times of illness, times of injury, before and after a vacation, holidays, celebrations…use common sense.   Any time that the playing field is not level, the other spouse should be expected to step up and lend a hand.

If you have been married a long time, and you think you don’t need to do this, do it anyway. You might be surprised at what comes up in the discussions.   I, for example, love mowing the lawn and sometimes would like to do it.  I find it relaxing.  The sound of the mower shuts the world out for a little while.  I can ride around and pretend that nobody can get to me.  This works out very well for Mr. C, too, as he has allergies to grass pollen.  So, for us, this clause is open.  It is his responsibility, but I reserve the right to get it done for him any time I can.

And it is especially important for newlyweds to come to a basic agreement of these items simply to remove the grudge factor that can set in when neither is sure what is expected and assumptions are made.   (This is one of the biggest first-year challenges!)

Another area of needed discussion is family finances.

SECTION 5–Finances

5.1 The Married Parties agree to maintain combined checking and savings accounts at the following institutions:  ______________________________________________________________________

5.2 The Married Parties agree to live within the budget attached hereto as Exhibit A

5.3 The Married Parties agree to deposit _____% (Or fill in a dollar amount) into a joint savings account weekly.  This account shall be reserved for the purpose of ______________________________ only.
5.4 The Married Parties agree to deposit ______ into the Employer-matched 401K Account at ________’s place of employment each week.

5.5 The Married Parties agree that any and all unexpected tips, winnings, or bonuses shall be applied toward the paying down of accrued debt until such time as there are no remaining consumer credit card balances.

Create a budget.  Yes you have to have one.   You don’t have to live by it exactly all the time, but it’s important for both parties to have an understanding of what is coming in vs what is going out.   Just this knowledge alone can resolve conflict.  It can also encourage cooperation to tackle any issues.    Create it and attach it to your agreement.

Mr. C and i have a clause that says that he handles all the banking and bill paying.  I am welcome to look in on these items any time i want, but I generally don’t.  He has always done a better job at these things than I ever did in the past.  I seldom know exactly what we have or don’t have.  But I don’t worry about it.  I tell him my financial needs for groceries or other items and he sees to it that I get it covered.  You may not be comfortable with that type of arrangement.  Or you might find it freeing, like I did.     Worrying about bills used to keep me awake at night.  Now I sleep quite well, and so does Mr. C.

On the other hand, it is my responsibility to make sure that we have adequate insurances in place.  He pays for them. I just obtain yearly quotes and compare premiums because he doesn’t have the time or the patience to do that chore.  Again, that’s a difference clause in our agreement.   You make yours match your personalities and talents.  There is no right or wrong.

Moving on to Section 6–Employment

SECTION 6–Employment

6.1  _______________ shall continue to be employed in the field of _____________ and shall be the primary income earner for the family.
6.2  ________________ agrees to remain employed as _______________ until such time as the Married Parties decide to have children. at which time he/she will become a stay-at-home mother/father until the last child reaches the age of attending kindergarten.
6.3 At no time during the marriage shall ___________________ seek employment as (insert forbidden or unacceptable employment rolls).  And at no time during the marriage shall _________________ seek or hold employment as ______________________________.

6.4  It is agreed by the Married Parties that all offers of employment shall be discussed by the the Married Parties before any decision to take or reject employment shall occur.

6.5  It is agreed by the Married Parties that a reevaluation of household and childcare responsibilities will occur with each change of employment, or occurrence of illness or injury by either Married Party, with adjustments being made to best suit each Party’s abilities.

6.6  It is agreed by the Married Parties that a reevaluation of the household and childcare responsibilities will occur with the addition of each new child into the family.

6.7 It is agreed that since ___________’s income is not primary, then ____________ will be the parent who shall stay home with sick or injured children when they can not attend school.

 

What?? What do you mean forbidden employment???  Exactly that.   When I first married Mr. C I was surprised to hear him tell me that I would never work as a waitress or bartender as long as I was married to him.  (No, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those professions.  Yes, he has very personal reasons for his feelings.  I might not find them rational, but his experiences are his experiences and I just need to understand and honor his feelings.)  And as it turned out, there are things I never wanted him to do–bouncer at a gentlemen’s club, for example.  🙂   So those things (and more) made it into our agreement.  You may not have that clause.  You might.  Discuss it.

What about business travel?  Late hours?  Working very closely with the opposite sex?  Do those things come into play?  Might they?  Include them.

You may also have a spouse who is still in college (University).  Blend that into this section.  Also discuss student loans and such.  I have a friend who entered a marriage and her husband was floored to learn that she was going to have almost $80,000 in student loan debt.  He really should have known that ahead of time, to be fair. Talk about beginning on a sour note!  So include it and anything else you can think of regarding employment.

Next up: Those lovely little ones.

SECTION 7–Children

7.1 It is agreed by the Married Parties that both parties wish to bring ___#_____  children into the marriage.

7.2 It is further agreed that the Married Parties would like to wait until ______________________ to begin adding children to the family.

7.3 The following criteria for raising and disciplining children are agreed upon: _____________________________________ ______________________________ _______________ ___________________________ ______________________________ ____ ___________________________________________________

7.4  The following family traditions shall be shared and celebrated with the children: ______________ _____ ____ ______________________ _____________ ____ _______ ___________________________________

7.5  It is agreed by the Married Parties that the children shall be taught to speak the following languages within the family home: ___________________________________________________________________

7.6  If we can’t conceive, the plan is: ________________________________________________________
7.7  If we have an unexpected pregnancy, the plan is: __________________________________________

Kids.  Aren’t the cute?   Yeah.  And when they enter the marriage every single thing changes.   I can’t begin to calculate the number of marriages thrown into total upheaval by those cute little buggers.  And it’s not necessary to experience much of that turmoil.  You just have to agree on a bunch of things ahead of time.  If you have a plan, much is taken care of, and trust me, you’re going to be exhausted enough.  Having decisions made ahead of time will be a great help.

This section of your agreement can and should be very, very extensive.   If you do not yet have children there is a huge number of things to discuss, not the least of which is discipline.   I highly suggest that you talk about discipline in stages of child development.  Obviously you will do things very differently with a toddler than you will a teen.   The best way I can think of to do this is to discuss both of your upbringing.  How did your parents parent?  What worked?  What didn’t?  How did it make you feel?  Do you want to make your children feel like that?   Talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Also do some research on effective parenting techniques that maybe you never knew about.  Decide what sounds right for your family.

Then start to piece together how you both think raising your children should proceed.   Ages 0-2, 3-5, 6-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, 19 and beyond.  Will these guidelines change? Probably.  You will learn things as you move along, but at least if you have an agreement on the most important points (spanking?, time out?) ahead of time, an area of great conflict will be eliminated.

Besides discipline, include agreements on things like holidays (where will you spend them? and which will you child celebrate?), gift-giving (will there be a reasonable spending limit?), interaction with grandparents (well intentioned in-laws can cause conflict), television and video games (yes or no?), sports, who will teach the teens to drive?  Who are acceptable care givers?   Will you make it a rule to eat together at the table as a family every night?  What other family rituals are important to you?

And the harder things, like what is the plan if you learn that your baby in womb has health issues?   What is the plan if a child becomes seriously ill?  What if you are struggling as a family?  Will you agree to counseling?  Where?

Last tid bit on this topic for today (We’ll discuss this section much more completely in a later post) is the 20-minute rule.    I talked about this in a prior post.   Include it here.  Not just for dad when he gets home.  Also for mom when she arrives home from work, running errands, or anywhere else.   Having a peaceful transition to home time with children is extremely important.  Don’t forget it in your agreement.

This next section is much easier.

SECTION 8-Pets

8.1 It is agreed by the Married Parties that due to _________________’s allergies, there will be no pets with fur or feathers permitted into the family home.   Fish and reptiles are permitted.

Some think no home is complete without a dog.   Some want to have a whole farm.  Some are allergic.  And others are terrified.  What’s your story?  Agree on it.  I will forward you, however, that children will throw a monkey wrench into this one with the adorable pleadings.   Be prepared.

On to 9

SECTION 9–Health & Fitness

9.1 _________________ acknowledges responsibility for planning and preparing meals for the family that are healthy and wholesome (as understood by current medical findings.)
9.2 All parties agree to complete regular physical check ups every 2 years (or yearly), and _______________ agrees to be primarily responsible for scheduling and taking the children to doctor’s appointments per the recommended schedule for each child.
9.3 It is agreed that all children shall receive all recommended immunizations.
9.4  It is agreed that all family members shall endeavor to obtain at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
9.5 It is agreed that sweets, treats, and restaurant take-out foods shall not consumed more often than once every ___ days.
9.6 It is agreed by both spouses that maintaining a healthy weight is important for health reasons but also for intimacy reasons.   Both parties agree to work to maintain their current level of fitness, or better.

This is just some of the types of clauses that could be included in this section.  There are so many differing views on health and fitness these days that I don’t dare share too many more viewpoints because it’ll just be confusing to those trying to write this section for themselves.   Talk together about your views and come up with a plan, but do be sure to include the stuff about the kids.

Next up! Sex.  Yes.  It’s in there.

SECTION 10–Sex

10.1  Both spouses agree that sexual relations are important to maintaining a feeling of closeness between them; therefore, the following guidelines surrounding the sexual relationship between the parties are established:
a.  Sex shall never be withheld as a form of punishment
b.  Both partners shall be free to express fantasies without fear of criticism.
c.  It is agreed that the frequency of relations shall be at least once every ___ days. (Or hours if you are newlyweds. 😛 )
d. ___________________________________
e. ____________________________________

Obviously I’m not going to get too detailed here.   Needless to say, whatever your “thing” is, put it in here if it’s important to you.

And then there’s this:

SECTION 11–In-laws

11.1 Both parties agree that parents and siblings can have the potential to cause conflict in any marriage, therefore the following guidelines are agreed to by the parties:

a.  during any conflict, neither party shall speak about the conflict to anyone except their spouse.
b.  Visitation during holidays shall be equally divided between our home, _____’s parents, and _______ aunt Matilda’s.   Meaning that one year we will stay home for Christmas, the next we will spend it at _____’s mother’s house and the following will be spent at ______’s Aunt Matilda’s.
c.  There will be no lending of or borrowing of money to or from siblings.
d.  It is agreed that due to suspected substance abuse issues, the children will never be left alone in the care of _____________________.
e.  To prevent excesses and jealousies, the grandparents shall be limited to giving __#___ gifts to each child for birthdays or Christmas, and shall not exceed ____$$s.

Again, this is just a sampling.  You all know your in-laws.  Discuss this and agree. Include anything important to both of you.

Section 12–Friendships:

SECTION 12– Friendships

12.1 It is agreed by both parties that close friendships of the opposite sex can be threatening to any marriage so, therefore, time spent with friends of the opposite sex will always be while accompanied by at least one other party.
12.2  It is agreed that having friends outside of the marriage is important to the emotional health of both parties, so nurturing of these relationships is important.   ____________ shall endeavor to remain on his/her softball league.  ___________ shall continue to attend book club.  And each spouse shall be granted at least one 4-hour excursion out with friends every _______ days (whenever possible).
12.3 To foster an environment of trust, all email accounts, social networking accounts, phone and text accounts shall be accessible to both spouses at any time.
12.4  No loaning or borrowing of money with friends shall be permitted.
12.5  Complaining about or bashing spouses to friends during times of conflict is not permitted.

Depending on your ages, the friendship section may or may not be a touchy subject.   Couples who have been together for a long time generally share a friendship base, so it’s less of an issue.  Newlyweds will need to spend more time here.    Everyone, however, needs to address at least some of the issues surrounding friends, so don’t leave it out.

13!

SECTION 13–Maintenance of the Married Relationship

13.1 Both parties agree that it is important to remember why they fell in love in the first place, so it is agreed that a weekly (monthly?) date night (day?) shall be  custom.
13.2 It is agreed that at least once every other year there shall be a kid-free vacation of at least 3 days but preferably closer to 5-7 days long.
13.3 Each party shall make it a point to acknowledge and show appreciation for the ways that the other contributes to the family at least weekly.

What’s important to you?  How can you agree to keep the home fires burning?  You have to make an effort and including that here is a nice reminder.

The opposite end of the spectrum:

SECTION 14–DISAGREEMENTS
14.1 Both parties agree that sometimes they will disagree or argue. The following guidelines are agreed to by all parties:
a.  Fighting in front of others or in public shall never be permitted.
b.  Calling or bringing conflict to places of employment shall not be permitted.
c.  Name calling is never okay.
d.  _____________ admits that taking a ten-minute break works best for him/her before discussing heated issues, so both parties agree to this procedure.
e.  Physical violence of any manner is not tolerated.
f.  What happens between us, stays between us and is not shared with family or friends.  (Outside counseling is okay.)
g.

What’s your buttons?  What’s your spouses?  Agree not to push them.  Agree to a way to resolve conflicts.   Agree to *never* bring up the word “divorce” unless papers are ready to be filed.  Too many people throw that word around as if it’s nothing.  It’s hurtful to say it, and it creates distrust and suspicion in a marriage even after the conflict is resoled.  So don’t go there.  Agree to fight fair.   What else?  Include it.

and the last two sections:

SECTION 15–HOBBIES AND LEISURE ACTIVITIES

15.1  ___________ enjoys golf and is encouraged to continue to play, not more than 2 Saturday mornings per month.
15.2 __________ loves scrap-booking and is encouraged to continue but agrees not to spend more than __________$ per month on this hobby.
15.3  Facebook can be addicting.   Both parties agree to limit time on social networking sites to _________ minutes (hours?) each day.
15.4   When one spouse is speaking, the other agrees to stop looking at the computer, phone, or t.v. immediately and turn to look at the face of that spouse to fully listen.
15.5  No t.v. shall ever be permitted into the master bedroom.
15.6 Alcohol use shall be limited to: ____________________________________
15.7 Street drug use shall never be permitted.
15.8 ______________________________________________________

This section can include absolutely anything considered a leisure activity.  A special notation about alcoholism and/or drug addiction should be included if that is something that runs in your families.  You are, to a degree, a product of your surroundings while being raised.  It is best to be prepared.  What interventions and/or treatments would be sought out?

And lastly:

SECTION 16–HOPES, DREAMS, & BUCKET LISTS

16.1 ____________ has always dreamed of _____________________.  Both parties agree to work toward achieving that dream.
16.2 ________________ would love to visit Africa to go on safari.   Both parties agree to save toward this dream vacation.
16. 3 _________ would love to publish a book.   Both parties agree to collect the resources and make the time to make that happen.

This part is fun, and you’ll learn a lot about your spouse.  It’s exciting to try to help someone’s dreams come true.  It’s even more exciting to watch it happen to the person you love more than life.    Share your dreams!

Okay.  That’s the basic outline.   There should also be an area that describes the consequences to failing to fulfill the agreement.   Talk about that.  For some things it’s small.  For others it quite marriage-threatening.   Be on the same page for outcomes to decisions you might make along the way.

As you can see by the time you work your way through this (and for some that could take a month or more!), you will know your spouse better than you ever have.  You will also have come to a mutual understanding for many of the biggest issues facing any marriage.   Can you see how you’d be stronger for it?  Can you see how being on the same page would make you feel closer?  and more confident?

As I mentioned, we’ll be talking more about different sections of this agreement in some future posts.  Watch for them.   Send in your requests for where you’d like to see more written.   We love hearing from you!

 

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June 27

How to Build a Father, Step by Step (Part 3)

If this is the first time you are joining us for our How to Build a Father series, please be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 first, so you can catch up!  We’ve been talking about Fatherhood and its challenges and how we, as wives, can help build up the best fathers that we can.   Today I am answering questions from readers.  We received a few really important questions, so let’s start right in.  Let me remind you that these are only my opinions, and I am very old-fashioned.  For anything that you consider a serious issue within your home, you should always seek professional assistance.  Ok…here goes.

Question:  How she I repair the damage I’ve done by venting to my children about their father behind his back?

Answer:  I think that this answer starts with a question.  How old are your children?   If they are still very young, simply stop doing that immediately.  Begin at once to stand as a united front and never belittle your husband again.   Time will repair any damage you may have done.

If they are older, tweens or teens, you will need to do more damage control.    I would start with making it a point to say things like “Your father is right when he says _______________.”  Or “Your father made a great point when he told you that ________________.”   Try to get at least one of these every day or every other day.  Ideally say these things both in front of their father and when he isn’t around.   This will begin to lay the new groundwork for rebuilding dad’s image.

The next thing I would do would come into play at the next opportunity where you would have normally done some of that behind the scenes venting.   Except this time I would say something like this:  “You know in the past I have questioned your father’s actions, but I was wrong to do that.  He was doing the right thing all along, and I know that now.  I agree with him on this issue too, so I’m sorry but (fill in the blank here with a reiteration of whatever dad said.  If it’s a consequence, repeat it.  If it’s a loss of privilege, repeat it.)”   You may need to remind yourself that your number one roll right now is as wife and mom.  You are not here to be your child’s best friend.  You are setting a life example.  Do it well.

Lastly, make it very clear to your children that you and their dad are a united front and neither of you will allow anyone to try to play one against the other.  ALL decisions are discussed between the two of you from now on.  Period.  Then move on.

Question:  What if I vehemently disagree with my husband’s decision and actions with our child on a certain issue?

Answer:  First, a disclaimer.   Are his actions abusive?  If so, seek immediate professional help. Never stand for that.  Ever.

If his actions are not abusive, I must then ask if you have previously discussed your parenting styles and come to an agreement on what will be the agreed upon methods and mannerisms for raising your children (forms of discipline included).  If you have not, please stay tuned beginning next week for our Marriage Agreement series.   I’ll be going over exactly how to come to an agreement on this and many other issues!  Once you have worked out all the details this should never really be an issue again and that will take care of your problem.

If you have already had these discussions and you find yourself in a place where your husband is staying within the agreed upon guidelines and it’s just that you disagree with his conclusions and decisions about a particular issue, there are two possibilities.  First, if this is a new issue and you have not had an opportunity to discuss the happenings with him, request that you have a little talk before he issues any consequences with your child.   When the child is well out of earshot, present your view calmly.  Explain your thinking, then put it back in his hands to make a decision.  You must be prepared to live with whatever he decides, however.

If the punishment has already been doled out or this is a recurring or older issue, this is where you have to step up in your wife role.   Bite your tongue.  Turn the other way.   Go for a walk.  Do anything you have to, but under absolutely no circumstance do you allow your child to catch wind that you disagree with dad.  If your husband knows your thoughts on this matter and is going against them anyway, the man must believe what he is doing is the best for his family.  Why would he invite that kind of grief upon himself otherwise?  So you must stand by him and present a united front!! No matter what.  Even if it’s hard.

But remember, this too shall pass.  It always does.

and lastly–Question:  What if we can’t agree on what forms of discipline to use for raising our children?   He believes in spanking, and I don’t.  I want to use time out and loss of privileges.  He thinks that’s not enough.  We just can’t agree.

Answer:  I think a deeper conversation is needed here.   Why do each of you feel the way you feel?  What is your background experience that brought you to feel that way?   Take turns talking and really listening to each other.  Discuss your childhood experiences.  Discuss your experiences with your parents, siblings, and other authority figures.   Discuss how you feel about other people’s parenting skills and methods.   Get to the bottom of why you each feel how you feel.  Then perhaps you can find a common ground.

Did he witness a disastrous result with a child who was only given time outs?  Is he afraid that his children will end up like that?  Did you witness corporal punishment or abuse and you are afraid that a “pat in a diapered backside” is or will escalate to abuse?  Where are the feelings originating from?   Is there a level of each that you can agree upon?  Is there a compromise?   Is there a “hard limit” that you can each agree to?

In our Marriage Agreement, I have agreed that ultimately if my husband and I can’t agree on any issue, he has final say.   So, for me, that would be the final answer to this problem.  If we had all these discussions and we still couldn’t agree, it would be whatever he says.   Ideally that isn’t the best answer.  I would  talk and talk and talk some more to find a compromise that we could both live with, and I suggest you do the same.

That wraps up the questions from our readers.  Of course, you are always welcome to send any questions over any time you’d like.  We will do our best to answer each and every one.

 

June 15

How to Build a Father, Step-by-Step (Part Two)

How to Build a Father, Part two.  In Part One of this series, we talked a little bit about men and fatherhood and some of the problems we see effecting today’s dads.  Today I want to get into a bit more of the history of why and when things began to go awry within our homes and communities so that we can create a plan that will put things back into their proper place and give every home a strong foundation for parenting.  As with any plan for the future, we first must understand where we’ve been.  So let’s begin.

If we were to go back 100 years to the 1920s, we’d find a picture of fatherhood that is very different from what we see today.   Being a father in that timeframe meant, primarily, for him to financially provide for his family and offer disciplinary back up, but very little more.   This was not because fathers didn’t care to have much more to do with their children.  It had more to do with extreme work hours and having little time or energy to do any more than offer those types of support.  Being the provider was his role within the home, and he knew it and understood it well.   He did it well.  But to do anything within the home was considered beneath him.  That was women’s work.

Thankfully there were positive changes.  In the 1920’s there was an effort to establish the early labor unions in the United States.  This helped to create more favorable working conditions, and as a result by the late 1930s there was a greater push for fathers to take a more active role in parenting the children.   And things seemed to be going well until WWII hit.

In the years after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, many things happened.   First, the vast majority of men of fighting age in each community were drafted into the military to fight the war. americagoestowar5-405x248 Most spent years away overseas.  (Many never returned.  Over 180,000 children were left without fathers after that war.)

Out of necessity during the war, several changes happened with the women who were left behind.  First, they found themselves responsible for providing all of the day-to-day needs of their families.  Many had never seen the banking, much less been responsible for bill-paying.   But it didn’t stop there.   There were few plumbers or repairmen remaining on the home front.  Women began to figure out for themselves how to repair their homes and fend for themselves, all while acting as single parents–some to upwards of 6, 8, or even 10 children at the time!tumblr_inline_nelloiwN3R1smmqgg

Also, for the first time in history, women were encouraged to find employment outside the home.  They were needed in the factories to produce ammunition and other war effort required items as well as to keep the economy moving.   Factory owners did not want to have to halt production for the duration of the war, so they turned to women.

Working in the factories or in any position that supported the war became a symbol of her Patriotism.   The government even provided free daycare centers so that moms could go to work each day, and for many of these women, they found great satisfaction in their work.  It was a delight to bring the children to a safe place to play all day while they went on their way to learn new skills and work in factories.  They prided themselves on providing their children with all of the needs that the children’s father used to provide.

Prior to the war there was already a push for female equality.  Everything that happened during that war pushed those efforts even further ahead.   For some women, that was exactly what they longed for, but for many of us, we now know of that war as the beginning of the end of life as we long for it.

After the war ended and the soldiers began to return to their homes, the glow of return soon faded into a gloomy reality.   In his book Of War and Men, Ralph LaRossa quotes from one woman’s letter to her soon-to-be-returning husband:

“Sweetie, I want to make sure I make myself clear about how I’ve changed.  I want you to know now that you are not married to a girl that’s interested solely in a home–I shall definitely work all my life–I get emotional satisfaction out of working; and I don’t doubt that many a night you will cook the supper while I’m at a meeting.  Also dearest–I shall never wash and iron–there are laundries for that!  Do you think you’ll be able to bear living with me?”

The men began to realize that while they were away, they had essentially become dispensable.    Many of the young children didn’t know their now-returning fathers at all and were terrified of them.   The majority of men felt that the children were now spoiled and undisciplined, yet when they attempted to step in, the wives would stand between father and child.   It was only natural that the wives all over the nation who were very accustomed to acting in the role of mom and dad resisted dad’s attempts to re-enter as disciplinarian and leader.   Divorce rates doubled.   Men no longer knew where they fit in at all.

Magazine articles, new articles, and even comic strips from the late 40’s and early 1950’s often depicted men as incompetent.  Note that that is the exact opposite of how men were depicted in the early 40’s when they were away at war.  At that time those same men who were fighting the enemy to protect their families were considered heroes.  Apparently, those days were forgotten.

Some believe men’s roles as leaders within the family unit never quite recovered from the blow of WWII.  I would have to agree.  And things only got worse as we entered into the 60’s and 70’s when feminism really began to rear its ugly head.

Yes.  Some positive things came out of the feminist movement.  Yes.  Some things were long overdue.   Overall, however, I believe that for every positive movement for women in the workplace, there was a negative movement for women at home.  No.  Let me correct that.  There was a negative movement for everyone at home.

Look at young men today.   Years ago a 20-something year old man would have been working, marrying, focusing on providing for his family.   Today it is rare to find a 20-something-year-old male who isn’t focused on playing video games.  And why not?  He doesn’t need to find a wife.  There are plenty of scantily-clad young women strutting around who don’t ever wish to marry, but who will gladly take those young men to their beds for a night or two.

And young women who are interested in marrying are absolutely in love with the idea of planning a wedding, but they have little idea of what being married is really about!  Traditional relationships are not taught anymore.   The ones who would be teaching these concepts to their daughters are the ones who were brought up in the middle of the feminist movement.   They were taught the exact opposite.   Therefore, the traditional marriage is essentially dead.

And who’s to blame?  Women are.  Those who were content in their domesticity and would never have wished to leave it didn’t speak up when the feminist movement was in full-roar.   They were struck by the bystander effect, I think.    And now we live in an age where it is difficult for a young woman who wants to be a stay-at-home mom to find support and encouragement.  In fact, it’s almost financially impossible to be a stay-at-home mother at all.  This would never have happened if those who pushed domestic life away had been equally opposed by those who wished to maintain it.

So.  That’s where we stand.   That’s the bad news.   But there is good news.  It’s not too late.  We can do something about it–if not in our communities, then in our homes.   We can decide how to live within our own four walls.  But to do so, there is first some healing needed.

If you are coming from a conflicted marriage, I encourage to you go back and read the articles in the Love & Marriage section before proceeding.    As you can see, we have been taught to mistreat the very men we proclaim to love.   Until we undo the damage, he is going to be suspicious and likely non-cooperative.  But you can undo the damage.

If your marriage is stable and you are both on the same page for where you want to take you parenting, the next step is actually achieved within your Marriage Agreement contract, within the section on Parenting.  (An entire post on how to create a comprehensive marriage agreement is coming in the first weeks of July.  Please stay tuned!  Your marriage will thank you for it!)

It is incredibly important to have a long discussion with your spouse to discuss all aspects of parenting your children.  (Yes he will groan at the thought, but that’s because you likely haven’t allowed him to parent before.  Why would he think you will now?   You must explain that you are trying to change and you need his help.)  I will outline all of the intricate details of preparing that agreement in a few weeks, but for now you can begin by having a talk about what being a mother means to you, what you see his fatherhood meaning to you and then by listening to his views of those same things.   Start by openly and calmly discussing your individual roles.   Who is responsible for what?  Agree upon it.  Write it down.

Next talk about how each of you was raised.  What types of discipline were used?  It’s important to know this frame of reference for each of you.  What do you think worked?  What didn’t?  Which do you want to utilize for your own children?   Agree on it now. Because the next step is going to be the toughest.

Once you agree on roles.  Once you agree on the path on which you want to raise your children.  Once you agree on forms of acceptable discipline, you must then get out of his way.   Allow him the same respect you wish from him.   Prepare to bite the inside of your cheeks until they bleed.  And then watch as a miracle happens.

Over the weeks and years to come, watch him blossom as a father.   I have witnessed that when a man is free to discipline, he also becomes free to become tender and loving.  When he knows he is a role-model, he will step it up in all aspects of his living.  When he interacts with your child, it is on a new level.   He will bond unlike ever before.

When he sees that he has a definable role within your home and that you are prepared to give him the respect and space that he needs to fill that role, he will step up.  But if you have demeaned him or interfered with his fathering in the past, it will take time for him to believe you.  You will have to stick to your guns, bite those cheeks, walk away silently when you can’t bear it.  You have to trust him.

Disclaimer:  This does not in any way mean that you are to stand by while abuse in any form occurs.  That is an entirely different story and should be addressed immediately.  Never stand for abuse.  Ever.  But if you see him chastising your child for something the child did that was against your agreed upon parameters, and he is using an agreed upon form of discipline, you must clamp your lips shut and step back.  Let him work it out.   Difficult?  oh yes.  Almost impossible sometimes.  Almost.  But not impossible.   If you want it, you can do it.

The last thing I’m going to talk about here in Part 2 is a unique clause that I think ought to be in every Marriage Agreement, regardless of whether there are children in your home or not, but is especially important if there are.    Every afternoon men by the millions pour into the local bar rooms and taverns to have a beer or two (or more) before they can get themselves to head home.    If you ask them why, they will tell you that home is not a pleasant place.  They walk in to a badgering wife, unruly kids, and chaos, so it’s easier to not go home.   Please consider including in your agreements the following clause:   A buffer zone.

Help with dad’s transition from work to home by granting him 20 minutes of peace when he walks in the door.  Let him come in.  Settle in with a drink.  Relax.  Read.  Shower.  Whatever helps him unwind and make the transition.  Give him an agreed upon amount of time to prepare himself mentally to go from the war zone of his workplace to the peace zone of his home.  And then take it one step further.   Do not attack him with bad news about you day or how the kids have been behaving.  Wait until he asks about your day (which he will when he is mentally prepared to help you through what you have to report.)  Make coming home a pleasant experience for him, and then ask for the same courtesy when you arrive home from running errands and such.

In fact, why not turn this idea into this year’s first Father’s Day gift.   1950s-Pop-reading-paper-wm-LCreate some kind of certificate granting him 20 Minutes of Peace and Quiet every day for the next year.  The kids can help create it.  You can even get them on board with the idea if they are old enough to understand the concept.  Then when he walks in you can remind the kids that it’s time for dad’s 20 minutes of Peace!! Shhhhhh…

Later this week:  part 3 in the series.   We’ll wrap up with answering questions submitted by readers, more father’s day ideas, some vintage photos and celebration ideas, and more!