You Zig – I’ll Zag

So often in a marriage, there is some reason or another that your man or woman exasperates you. Maybe it is too much familiarity, or perhaps you are taking your bad day at work out on your spouse without even realizing it. Whatever the reason I used to find myself getting embroiled up to my elbows in the fight. Dish it out and I’ll not only take it but shovel it right back. Throw me your angry superlatives and I will throw them at you with a vengeance.

Somehow staying angry at my husband and letting the wounds fester never seemed as much fun as making up quickly and getting on with life. That being said, we are over thirty years into the marriage and some of the same stupid disagreements still linger. It’s just our different personalities and temperments clashing (see 7/30/18 blog on Preparation).

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Solution? You Zig and I’ll Zag. You go one way and I will go the other. When we cannot handle the same strong discussion or our moods are not in alignment with true marital happiness, I will step out and run some errands, or he will go off on a bike ride. Just the physical distance of being apart for a while dissipates the anger enough that we can both come back with a new perspective. Often times we see that what we were arguing about was ridiculous, to begin with.

Have you ever had an argument about the dishes in the sink? Be thankful there was enough food in the house to dirty up those dishes. Are we out of laundry detergent again? Be thankful that you have enough other outfits to last you the week. Did you forget to bring the mail in from the box at the end of that long driveway? For goodness sake, go take a walk and get it!

Not all arguments are this trite, but honestly, most of them are. Step back and think about how angry you really are that she forgot your favorite flavor of ice cream or that you don’t understand why he still leaves the wet towels on the bathroom floor.

I can always tolerate those idiosyncrasies better when I think of the alternative; not having him around. Try understanding his or her side, and if you cannot, then revel in the fact that you have someone who puts up with your eccentricities and foibles as well.

 

Investing in the relationship

Recently our financial firm called us when they noticed that my husband had hit the big six-zero.  They wanted to talk to us about our investments and perhaps make some changes as we get closer to retirement. From time to time, we do shift around our funds and hope that investing and reinvesting will bring us greater returns when we need it.

It really got me to thinking about how we must on occasion reallocate the “funds” that we are investing into our relationship too if we want to have excellent returns.  What does it mean to be “invested” in your relationship? It means time, love, adoration, being a helpmate, honoring and respecting the other person. It means putting yourself second.

You are not invested when you treat your partner as just a friend with benefits. You go about your life as if you are the only one that matters. You are not invested when you bicker about doing more than your share or complaining that there just isn’t the reciprocity there used to be.

If I just struck a nerve, suck it up, cupcake. Now is the time to step up, show up, be there, go the extra mile and stop complaining. Investing in the relationship doesn’t have to be complicated. Small gestures go a long way.

Imagine her surprise when you remember to bring her favorite flavor of ice cream back from the grocery store on your way home from work. Imagine his delight when you stayed on hold for seventeen minutes waiting for your turn in the queue to talk to the refrigerator repairman so that he didn’t have to listen to seventeen minutes of Muzak and that annoying voice saying “We are experiencing high call volume. Please continue to hold”.

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Just as financial investments go in and out like a tide, our marital bliss flows high and low too. It doesn’t matter if your partner is silly, moody, crazy, angry, funny, easily agitated, or far from perfect. Deep down in the recesses of your brain, you know your love is powerful and that you have the capacity to share and invest again and again. Lead by example and see what your ultimate return will be.

Preparation – 2 Great Books for Couples

Matthew 19:6 -“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Being prepared for marriage is wise. Before you married, were you required to see your pastor, father or rabbi? Did you do any sort of premarital counseling? The pastor that performed our simple, backyard wedding spoke to us one time before the ceremony. I think it may have lasted 5 to 8 minutes. That simply was not enough time to get to know us as a couple, and I remember getting no homework whatsoever. I naively assumed that if the pastor had given us the go ahead, then we would be just fine.

Now that we have survived countless fights, episodes of screaming, sulking, ignoring each other, withholding sex, writing nasty notes, talking behind each other’s backs and more, I wished that the pastor would have at least offered a few nuggets of advice, or maybe even a few relationship books to read before we journeyed off into the unknown. We were not prepared for the ugliness that can come when two very different people are put into the same space…all the time…forever.

The beginning of our marriage was amazing. We were young, in shape, good looking and had very few bills. Our days were spent working out together and our nights were spent eating out or enjoying the company of other young couples.  Eventually, we ended up in what I refer to as “middle marriage”. In this phase, we seemed to fight about everything. It seemed as if we were totally divergent personalities speaking different languages. Enter my two favorite books. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Personality Plus  by Florence Littauer. These two should be required reading for anyone in a relationship. My summary will only scratch the surface of the direction these books can take a relationship.  In The Five Love Languages, Gary proposes that there are five distinct ways in which we show love. We gravitate primarily towards one or two of those “languages” while our mate seldom “speaks” the same language. The languages include words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch.

As you can imagine, if my favorite language is quality time then all I really need from my husband is to know that he wants to spend time with me. That could include sitting in the backyard on a summer day, hanging out with me while I weed in the garden or any other mundane activity done together. But, if his love language is acts of service, he feels that spending his time chilling in the backyard could be used more wisely. He feels loved when I have a good dinner for him when he gets home from work, when the checkbook is balanced or the house in order. Except for having a good meal, I could care less if there are magazines and shoes all over the living room. Can you see where I was knocking myself out chasing him all around the house to just spend time with him and he couldn’t understand why I was chasing him all over the house instead of doing the two or three loads of laundry on the washer or cleaning out all of those gross little hairs in the bathroom drain? If I learn to speak his language and he learns to speak mine, we both win.

 

In the second book, Personality Plus by Florence Littauer, be prepared for a fun personality assessment that helps you realize your own nature as well as being able to identify other people’s disposition. Her four temperaments are right from a man she was inspired from (Tim LaHaye) who wrote about the four temperaments originated by Hippocrates. Her interpretation of sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic and choleric are strikingly accurate ways to describe our make up.

My husband and I took the test in Chapter Two of the book and saw that we shared one trait while differed in our second strongest. His primary spirit was that of a melancholy: a person who sees the glass as half empty, wants to know the facts and figures, likes to be alone, very organized, doesn’t like chaos, to name a few characteristics. I, on the other hand vacillate between choleric and sanguine. The choleric likes to be in charge, can steamroll over people’s feelings, wants to get the job done yesterday, while the sanguine traits include not always following through, wanting to be the life of the party, often loud and the sanguine may not take him or herself too seriously.

This is where my personality loves dragging my husband all over town to do errands because I think it is fun and I am spending my time with him. But, in his perception, he just wants to be left alone to go for a run and do some deep thinking. He is annoyed that I found three people to chat with in line at the grocery store and added two impromptu errands since we were out and about anyway. My sanguine and quality time personality does not mesh with his melancholy, acts of service character.

Solution? I go and get our errands done alone while he goes for his run. The boring errands showed him my act of service toward him,  and because he was able to complete his run, he now has some quality time left for me. Perhaps this example is a little bit trite, but honestly, understanding your partner is not that difficult. Often times we just choose to make it so. As we always have at least two choices in life, let’s choose to work on ways to love, appreciate and understand the one we are committed to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Yet I Run – Endurance Marriage

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I ran my first 50-yard dash at a race in my elementary school. I only placed third, but I was hooked. By the age of 12, I was running 10K races and ran my first marathon at the tender age of 13. The funny story is that they had planned to take the finish line down at 5 hours but my mom knew I was on my last mile and she begged the race director to keep the finish line up for me. Finish time 5 hours and 12 minutes. Ahh!

For some odd reason, despite being ridiculously slow, I loved the distance. I adored long bike rides and endurance swimming as well.  Perhaps my penchant for endurance activities led me to this crazy idea that marriage is also an endurance activity.

Most marriages profess in their vows to love each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, bla bla bla. Why then do so many relationships run out of steam at the first sign of a bi-polar diagnosis (in sickness), or they quit the relationship when the finances run sour (for poorer), or any other myriad of reasons that “it just wasn’t working out”?

If I had quit running when I got my first blister, first set of shin splints, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs or chondromalacia, I would have never experienced the richness of being a runner.  The injuries and disappointments are part of the sport.

I have gotten caught running in a hail storm, and yet I ran. I ran when it was so cold that the air pocket on my Nike running shoes broke. I once arrived at a race with no running shoes. I borrowed an extra pair from someone and ran 26.2 miles in shoes too big for me. Oh, the blisters I had that day! And yet I ran. Many times I trained my butt off only to fall short of a goal in a particular race and yet I ran.  While running with my father I got bitten by a dog. The dog chose my inner thigh and bit me four days before a qualifying race. You know what I did? I ran in the race. In my twenties, I qualified for the Boston Marathon but my heel spurs were in full pain mode when we arrived in Boston. What did I do? I taped my feet and I ran.

What was the point of those short stories? My hope is to bring home that marriage is an endurance activity. Yours may suffer from addiction, infidelity, a loss of a job, a loss of a child or any number of things that can feel like there is simply no hope. Maybe you are married to an unbeliever who does not share your faith. Perhaps you just have no idea what you were thinking when you said “I do” and now you can’t fathom staying with him one more minute. Did you get married young because all of your friends were doing it? Was the biological clock on the baby machine ticking? Did you got married to get away from your parents? Perhaps you assumed all of her weird habits would disappear after the vows or you expected him to do things differently once you showed him the right way to do it. Will this second (or third) marriage be the charm?

Let’s face it. We all had different reasons for saying “I do” so where do we go to avoid saying “I don’t”? Your marriage will get “blisters” from time to time. I truly hope that you will understand that the tough times are part of the richness of being in a relationship. Look past the difficulties long enough to avidly find a way to view your partner in a new light. Allow yourself the opportunity to “run” into her arms again. You won’t be sorry like someone who dropped out of the race. You will be victorious and proud to have crossed the finish line with the knowledge that you ran your best race ever. #GoTheDistance #strongerthanbroken #staceygreene

 

The Little Things We Do For Our Love

Do you remember when you and your spouse were dating and getting serious? Perhaps you felt comfortable enough to lay some ground rules about the association. Early in my marriage, my husband was my bike trainer. He was getting me ready to compete in the Hawaii Ironman, which included a 112-mile bike ride, sandwiched in between a 2.4-mile ocean swim and a 26.2-mile marathon. I vividly remember him telling me that no matter how much he loved me, he was not going to work on my bicycle. I had better be comfortable doing my own basic repairs. That was the rule. He had his own several racing bikes to maintain.

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A few years into our marriage, I had become quite adept at changing flat tires, and only the very basic adjustments to the machine. I was riding many miles each week and there were times where as soon as I clipped into the racing pedals, I became one with the machine. On one particular ride, I felt like the bike was simply faster, The chain felt like it was brand new and I seemed to be gliding, almost flying. Upon returning home, I bragged about how effortless the ride was and that something just felt different. Well, the love of my life, who warned me he would never work on my bikes said that he saw my worn chain and had replaced it. Oh, that sweetheart!

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I make good coffee. My husband makes great coffee. Our coffee maker sits on the counter of our kitchen where we both have equal access to it. I am a grown woman. I know how to use this simple machine, however, because I like my husband’s special flair for the right amount of coffee to water ratio I always ask if he will make me coffee. He does. He always makes me feel appreciated by doing this when I am standing just as close to that coffee maker as he is.

So what little things do you do for your partner that you either do not enjoy doing or feel you shouldn’t have to do? Here are a few of the things that I do, just because I like to show I care.

  • Take the recycle stuff to the recycle station before the can in the garage starts to overflow.
  • Keep him company when he has mundane errands to run.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Clean the cat litter box.

Do you know what he does for me on a consistent basis? He cleans the bathrooms! Yes, I have married an angel from clean bathroom heaven.

When he does jobs that I usually do and I do jobs that he usually does, we feel loved. Now, here is the caveat. If you are doing these things to score brownie points or show how sacrificial you are, you will get no reward. These acts of kindness will not always be noticed by your spouse. You should be doing them because you want to. If you have an ulterior motive, you will be disappointed.

I would love to hear your story about the things you do just because you want to lighten the load of the love of your life.

Fitting In

There were times when I was a young girl and all the way through my teenage years where I often wondered where I fit in. I was what they called in the 70’s a “tom-boy” while my brother was what horrible people called a “fairy”. We used to joke around a bit that God got our sexes mixed up. I should have been a boy, and he a girl.

Thankfully I had my awesome, brilliant, amazing, loving father step in and tell us that God does not make junk. If we are made in His image than we had better understand that He has a plan for all of us. Psalms 100:3 “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

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My brother was born with a physical disability that required surgery on his legs to correct. it was years before he was able to learn things like riding a bike and forget about learning how to ski or ice-skate. More ankle surgeries were just not worth the risk. My brother busied himself with art in all forms. He gravitated toward writing, painting, sculpting, sewing, drawing, baking, and so on.

Thankfully I was born in an era where Doctors were slow to address ADD or ADHD. They just told my parents that I was hyperactive and that I would outgrow it. I say “thankfully” because I have a sneaking suspicion that if born today, I would be on medication for life. Having an ADD/ADHD personality has served me well as a “tom-boy”. I loved competing in everything from bike races, to figure skating competitions, in-line races, triathlons, open water swims, fitness transformation contests, marathons, cross-country running and even a kayak race.

I guess God really did have a plan. We all fit in somewhere in this world of tom-boys, fairies, geeks, musicians, athletes, artists, nerds, geniuses and idiots.

Let this one sink in a bit: Romans 8:28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” So go out an find a purpose or a plan and don’t worry if it fits in with the stereotypical roles you feel you must pursue. Enjoy your talents and abilities.

It’s Been A While

We all go through ebbs and flows of motivation, don’t we? There are times when we can keep several plates spinning and thrive on the busyness of life, and there are other times when we need to be laser focused.

I just went through a time where laser focus was needed to finish writing my second book. This one is near and dear to my heart, as I wanted to honor the passing of six special people in my life. Yet, I had no idea how therapeutic this writing would be, and I was shocked that after all of these years I could still have such fresh grief.

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The writing and research I did for the book really put into perspective that grief is an ongoing event. It is not something we do and check it off of our “to-do” list. Grief can come and go or can be a haunting, lingering affair. It can take place in the form of a moist eye when you look at an old photograph or convulsive spasms of crying at the slightest recollection.

It has been forty-three years since the passing of my Grandfather, yet I bawl every time our church service chooses the How Great Thou Art hymn to close with. It has been fifteen years since the passing of my Father, and you can guarantee that I will have to excuse myself at the Christmas Eve Service if they dare sing Lo’How a Rose E’er Blooming. Keeping these special memories of their favorite hymns alive is a way I honor them.

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I would love to hear your ways of dealing with grief. Is it to journal? Perhaps you spend time at the graveyard or look through old photo albums.  Maybe you wear the jewelry of the person you miss. These are all common. The point I hope to make is that we should never let our grief consume us, but never let those precious memories fade either.

Your feelings are just as valid when they are fresh as when they are dulled by the passing of time. Understanding that death is a part of life has helped me heal in ways that I hope to share in Letters to  the Dead Men – Unexpected Revelations

 

#LettersToTheDeadMen

 

 

New Book Coming!

FullSizeR (2)Great news! 1/3rd of the way to my goal of funds needed for publishing my new book “Letters to the Dead Men – Unexpected Revelations”. Only 11 days to go on my Kickstarter Campaign! Please consider backing this new grief-themed project and share this request with others. https://t.co/U29v4utwFQ #LettersToTheDeadMen #Grief   When you back and follow, make sure to see the updates on my Youtube channel under Author Stacey Greene. Thanks.

Folded Shirts and the Garden Hoe – Letting small things go

You’ve been married for a while. Me too! You think you know that person so well. Same here. Well, even though you have tried for years to “fix” her or show him how to do it the “right” way. we as couples still have our differences. It’s frustrating to see that I still want things dome my way and Jimmy still wants things done his way.

These differences in how the yard work gets done, how the bills are paid and how the laundry gets folded can really grate on one’s nerves. Have you tried delegating the jobs so that you are in charge of what you enjoy doing the most? I know, I know, no one enjoys housework. Or do they? I will admit that there are a few things I actually enjoy doing. I love to mow the lawn. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to sit on the tractor and get some sun. I was a figure skater as a child and also like pretending that I am driving the Zamboni for the Olympic rink. I truly love folding the laundry too. There is a fresh smell to it and it makes me feel a sense of serenity knowing I have these wonderful, clean clothes to wear.

Jimmy seems to like to organize the garage, for he does it several times a year. He also cleans the bathrooms. I gladly let him “enjoy” those activities and love the fact that when I am about to garden, I know my tools are all in a row in the gardening section of the clean garage.

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There have been times where I have had to clean a bathroom or straighten up the garage. I know I will have to hear about how I neglected to scrape the mud off of the shovel and hoe or how I did not get the area around the back of the toilet clean. Let it go. Say a simple “OK, next time.” and move on. There are times when Jimmy sees the laundry and folds it himself. He folds shirts in a way that leaves a crease down the center of the shirt. Having worked retail for years, I like the fold where the sleeves are tucked underneath and the entire front of the shirt is exposed, sans creases. Do I take a grown ass man and teach him how to fold? Let it go. Hang the darned shirt on a hanger for a day and the crease will dissipate. Be thankful he is such a help around the house.

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The differences in the small things are so trivial, and when we pick on our mates for these things, it can be a real buzz kill. It can even lead to insecurity in other areas like the bedroom, and that is one area where I personally want to feel confident, loved and appreciated.

Let the small things go so that the big things will matter most.

How Much Autonomy Should There Be In Your Marriage?

Autonomy. Independence. Self-reliance. All good stuff, right? So many couples I have spoken with and interviewed seem to be living separate lives under the same roof. Having a few friends your mate does not care for is fine, and so is the occasional night out with your buddies, but once a couple becomes more like roommates with benefits, the marriage may be heading down a slippery slope or is already in trouble.

In our early marriage, I thought that we were so evolved because we could be these super independent people. We had a lot in common and spent time together but we also had our own lives. I was a new Christian and had not fully understood what Mark meant in Mark 10:7-8 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one.”

My husband had his work friends while I had a slew of mommy friends whose children were in the same gymnastics, skating and ballet classes as our children. My husband and I were both still working out to stay in shape, but even the athletic events we attended, were different. He would go off to a road bike race and I would compete in a running race.

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In hindsight, I wonder if all of this autonomy had created an environment more tempting for my husband to cheat on me. As I thought it through, a couple of things made sense. I was there for him physically as we made love often, but I was working several part-time jobs and was not there for him emotionally. I was all about doing my thing without regard to what hours I needed to work. I will never get that time I spent away from him back, and I will live with the scar that he did, in fact, stray for a time when he felt that we were together, yet lonely.

Before I discovered his indiscretion, I never questioned the time he spent with his guy friends from work. I can’t believe at that time that I did not even really miss him. Perhaps I was too tired from the grind of balancing home, work and child-rearing.

This is why I write this warning to all of you out there that are allowing your relationship as a couple to turn into more of a couple of ships that occasionally bump in the night.

Go and enjoy lunch with the girlfriends. Don’t stress when your husband wants to hang with the guys one night. But, make sure you are also both putting forth the effort to find mutual friends and being reciprocal in the way that your relationship is treated and treasured. God loves a happy marriage and I know you do too!

Proverbs 5:18-19 “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer, may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.”