Communication, Connection, and Prioritizing – Where Is Your Spouse In Your Life?
In marriage…and in life…are you united or divided with your partner? Communication is a tricky little thing that can be fickle and precise. As I dive deep into “Laughter, Humble Pie & Lots of Sex” on my podcast, I want to tackle some issues that are coming up in the Mama Says Namaste FaceBook Group on the topic of marriage.
Communication – what exactly does it mean in your relationship, and how do you allow each person to have their voice?
The Uniqueness in Each of Us Strengthens All Of Us
Each of us has special gifts we bring to the table. You didn’t marry yourself; you married someone who most likely has some traits that are different than your own. Maybe he is the socialite who pulls you out of your shell and allowed you to meet new friends you cherish. Or she is the level-head that helps to put your lofty ideas in perspective with actionable steps to get there. She’s the calm to your storm. He’s the one that reminds you to play.
Those aspects of our personality that makes us different are our own unique strengths. When we expect someone to see all of life from our own perspective, it’s a recipe for complete failure. Our eyes our ours alone. Empathy is a powerful thing, but a working relationship isn’t just being able to feel someone else’s perspective. A working relationship allows both of you to have your own perspective, and the relationship grow stronger due to the common goal of connection and love.
You Work On Yours, I’ll Work On Mine
Sometimes a beautiful relationship can quickly turn to companionship even when love is at the forefront. Nathan really pushed me to blossom on my own – to remember my independence and the fact that I’m my own person and have my own voice. As I have found it and focused in on what I can offer to the world, I can easily get lost in doing my own thing that he’s not a part of. When Nathan was in banking, the same thing happened, as he had his own “world” at the bank, where he would come home frustrated but keep it to himself. It was all “banker talk” that would take too much effort to explain to me, so he just processed it alone.
In both of these situations, we had our own worlds. At that point, I was in the throes of early motherhood, and my babies didn’t just need me, I knew them in a way no one else did. I also had my father’s business with all it’s intricacies – an online world completely foreign to my husband. I had my turf – the kids and computers, and he had his – our finances and his work at the banks.
What if we drew clear lines in the sand? What if I let that be his deal, and he let me handle the kids? How about we throw in a few other individual things:
- favorite sports
- TV shows
- hanging with friends
I’ve seen this time and time again. Most couples don’t work together on a daily basis, so they have their work/home life separate, then they come home and husband plops in front of the TV for their sports/news and wife continues on with the kids and getting dinner ready. They eat a quick meal and everyone disperses again – maybe hubby goes to play poker with the guys and wife settles in for a few “Downton Abbey” shows.
In the morning, one goes off for an early run, the other gathers the children to take them to church, which they attend religiously. They both have their own opinions on religion, so the compromise is “he does his thing, I do mine” and the kids are tossed back and forth between two differing opinions.
One dividing thing after another. The process of learning who you are and discovering your own voice and purpose in life is a big undertaking. Add in someone else who thinks differently than you do, and it can be very difficult to navigate.
We Give Each Other Space
So what do you do? You love each other, so you give each other space. And in doing so, the canyon of separation grows a bit. And soon enough, you realize you have been living in this relationship side by side, but not together. You each have so many of your own routines that there isn’t much time to be together.
A companion is someone you enjoy being with. They are comfortable. They are steady. And they can live in your home amicably. But is that really an intimate relationship?
I believe there is more than just companionship in a healthy marriage/partnership. I’m not looking for a roommate. Roommates can be all of the above. They do their things, you do yours, and you can laugh over dinner and then carry on about your own lives. Each has space to create their own worlds without the other, and the common ground is mainly the living arrangement.
So How Can I Have An Intimate Relationship And Still Have My Own Voice?
There is a balance, for sure. It’s important to have your own interests and strengths. You don’t need to force your husband to join pilates with you or sit through an utterly boring golf game on TV just because your partner loves it. But where do you have your common ground? Where is your emotional meeting space (not just the physical home, but a meeting of the heart)?
When you watch a TV show/game/news, you commit a certain amount of time to focus just on that. I know many of us are guilty of leaving this time open-ended, and a whole evening can be spent staring at a screen.
When you go to an exercise class, you are intentionally making space to take care of that part of your life – you are focused on your health and recognize it takes a consistent effort on a regular basis to maintain.
Your spiritual life is private – even if you believe in the same religion (or spiritual understanding), it is still a very personal part of who you are, and your connection to a higher power is yours alone.
All of this is intentional time spent on something that is solely for you. Throw in some kids who are demanding and want all of you, and now you’re working in their needs and schedules around your own. Where does your spouse fit in?
Where Is Your Intention?
Last week, I talked about screen time. This was directly in relation to children, but how many of us adults are guilty of getting lost behind a screen? What is your intention?
Sometimes we need to chill out. We want to veg and not have to make decisions, be in charge, or coordinate one more thing. But it boils down to your priority list.
Your time will always fill up – so what are you allowing to take the most of your time?
Key word in the the sentence above – allowing. You see, we are completely in charge of our days. We may choose to spend it running errands for others, but ultimately we are still making a choice. Typically, as parents, there are two things that fall to the bottom of the priority list – ourselves and our spouses.
When we do get a chance to allow for some time to ourselves, time can quickly slip away as you soak in the tub, watch that show, read that book, or in any other way take some time to recover on your own.
Make Your Relationship A Priority
List out all the things that are important to you. This includes your personal interests just for fun as well as all of the responsibilities you have in your family. Notice I said responsibilities, not obligations. (I’ll need to save that soapbox for another post).
Then rank them. What is an absolute must – a non-negotiable in your day? Eating, sleeping and getting ready for the day may be on that list. The list of to-dos will always be there and take as much time as you allow it.
Prioritize the people in your life. What are you allowing to take precedence?
Some examples of ways to connect and allow for communication in your relationship:
- Create daily rituals between you and your spouse
- a text of appreciation in the middle of the work day
- nighttime talks with at least 30 minutes blocked off before any screens are allowed
- always kissing hello and goodbye
- an afternoon phone call
- every time you walk past one another, you must physically reach out and touch
- Remember that your spouse is first, kids are second. Kids will take as much as you give. They can exhaust your energy before you ever see your partner, and you’re too depleted to connect. So keep this as your mantra even in the middle of the day when you’re nursing one kiddo and the other is hanging on your leg.
- We show up for work because we see the result of getting paid. Yet how much do we invest in our most intimate relationship? It may not be monetary gain, but there was a reason you chose to go through this life with your spouse. Make sure you have that at the forefront.
- Why are you with them?
- What qualities do they have that you admire/love?
- How do they enrich your life?
- How can you add to theirs?
- What does your definition of love look like? How about your spouse’s definition?
- What is your common goal for what your family will look like?
Connecting with your spouse is critical, and sometimes, out of love for each other, we give so much space we forget about the power of synergy and connection of the heart. We love them enough to let them do their own thing, and we grow increasingly distant and in our own worlds.
Algae + Love = A Smelly Funk
Relationships that are stagnant start to stink. Just like water, if it sits still with no action, it starts to mold and mildew and grow algae. A relationship without consistent flow of intentional actions of love can also become stagnant. The fillers that separate and take up your time – they can be an invasive algae that takes over. You have to keep the flow going.
Love is a verb, not a one-and-done description. It’s something you do on a daily basis. How are you loving your family? How are you prioritizing your partner and ensuring you two are steering the ship of your family together?
We’ll keep digging into this – creating space to connect is the first step. Allow for time to look in each other’s eyes, touch, and share your perspectives on the day, on your relationship, and more.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll dig deeper on how to communicate (especially when handling disagreements), how to be a united front with children (and each have their own voice), and the importance of physical intimacy.
Share your thoughts below. What investments do you make in your relationship bank on a daily/weekly basis? Do you have time set aside for the two of you to really talk and connect?