Each stage of life looks different and brings unique challenges to every couple. My hope is that you will be inspired by the stories of the women in this series. I hope that their experiences will help you find more ways to make your marriage relationship a priority throughout every stage of your own life.
With school and work and life, I haven't had time to interview any wives for this series in the past few months liked I'd planned. I didn't want to miss this month's post, like I missed last month's, so I decided to feature myself instead. I hope you won't think that's weird and I look forward to featuring a new wife each month for the rest of this year! I have some great interviews lined up and can't wait to share each story with you.
What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?
Earlier this year, I shared a post that has become one of my favorite and one of the most popular here on the blog. Why You NEED to Make Your Spouse a Priority Every Day shares what prioritizing marriage means to me. "Prioritizing your marriage means that you find ways to connect with your spouse on a daily basis. That you schedule time on a regular basis to spend time together just the two of you. That you do little things to show your spouse that you're thinking about them (think love languages). That you set goals to make your marriage better, take time to think about your spouse often and consider them when making big decisions."
Last week, I shared the details of the surprise weekend getaway that Joe planned to celebrate my graduation. This surprise was huge to me, not because of the grandness of the gesture compared to a surprise party at home for a few hours or a gift of some kind, but because we were celebrating just the two of us, and using that time to reconnect and make each other a priority. Being done with school means a lot for us because school, tuition payments, classes and late night homework sessions have always been a part of our relationship and those deadlines have often had to take precedence over quality time with each other. So the fact that the post graduation celebration was a weekend away to focus on each other was perfect!
We love our weekends away, but there are simple ways that you can make your marriage a priority every day. This post, How to Spend Intentional Time with Your Spouse Despite Your Busy Schedule shares a few of my favorite, simple ways to prioritize each other. I love the idea of finding some hobbies that you share. Some of mine and Joe's include taking long walks around the nature reserve near our home, barbecuing, working on house projects, and going out to eat (or getting takeout after the baby's asleep).
How have the different stages you've experienced in life affected how you prioritize your relationship with each other?
There are the obvious stages of life like newlyweds, parenthood, empty nesters, etc. but within those big stages are lots of little ones and they are dependent on the things that life brings our way. I feel like college was a major stage of our marriage but so was Joe working retail, becoming puppy parents, purchasing/renovating our home, becoming parents, etc. We've had to and still are making time for our marriage on a regular basis. Like I mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago, when one stage ends, another begins and brings with it new things that take time away from your marriage. Sometimes I've just expected time to appear, like when Joe started working a normal 9-5 job and when I graduated. When you get a raise, you have to adjust your budget accordingly and tell that extra money where to go, otherwise it won't make a difference. When you get extra time, it's the same way, you have to schedule that time in order to make it benefit your marriage relationship.
This most recent shift in our stage of life has made me realize more than ever that we have to make that time for each other a top priority when we are planning our week. Our family meetings have helped us do that. We make date night a priority and we spend time together every night, even if it's cuddling while we watch Netflix and one or both of us finishes a project that's due. I make it a point to think about Joe throughout my day and try to find some way to let him know that I'm thinking about him. Whether I text him, call him, pick something up that he needs, or do something for him at home.
Another thing that I think is key to any stage of life is to be selfless. Sometimes it's hard to think about things from the other person's perspective or put their needs above your own, especially if your current situation is stressful or you schedule is packed full. During this past semester, I was often gone four or five nights a week doing things for my internship or attending class. Joe would pick Bensen up from grandma's after work, feed him dinner, play with him, bathe him and put him to bed. Nights when I was home at bedtime, I would try to take over as much as possible. Some nights, Joe still took care of all of the parenting duties because I had a lot of things to get done and that extra hour of time would get me to bed a bit earlier so that I could be a happy/healthier wife and mother. Now that I'm done with school and don't have those deadlines, I've taken on the majority of the night time parenting duties because I know that Joe has things he needs to get done and projects that he's been putting off so that I could get my stuff finished and graduate. Some nights I'm exhausted and would love to have Joe take care of bedtime duties while I start on my own projects or relax for an extra hour. But then I remember that he has things that he needs to get done and when I was in his same boat, he was selfless and took on a lot so that I could get my stuff done so I can be selfless and do the same for him.
There's a lot of give and take in marriage. Sometimes it may feel like you're doing a lot of giving while you're partner is doing a lot of taking and vice versa. The important thing is that it balances out in the end and that both of you realize that you can do all the taking all of the time. Each stage of life is different, each stage will have different demands on each of you. Be aware of your spouse and think about them, not just your own needs, throughout every stage you go through.
What are some rituals/traditions that you have with your spouse?
I love rituals and traditions and I think they're a great way to prioritize your marriage! One tradition that Joe and I have always had is our late night walks. This is something that we did when we first started dating, after I'd finished with my homework assignments for the night. We'd take a three mile trek around town and end up on the swings at a local park, talking until my toes were frozen. We continued those walks into our marriage, spending an hour wandering and talking after Joe got home from work each night. We'd always be out around 10pm, when it was quiet and cool. Shifting into parenthood required a shift in that tradition since taking our baby out that late isn't really an option. Now we take family walks earlier in the evening, but I'm sure as our kids get older and can be left on their own, we'll go back to our late night walking hours.
One of my favorite traditions is one that we started a year or two into our marriage. We don't take a lot of vacations, and when we do, it's usually with one of our families. After planning a weekend away, just the two of us, I think for our two year anniversary, we realized that we needed more weekend getaways in our lives. Getting away from our normal routine and the responsibilities of life was so good for our marriage! We've made it a priority to get away for at least one night around our anniversary, in between our birthdays (they're two weeks apart) and sometimes for Valentine's Day. We've even been able to have nights or weekends away three times since Bensen was born. I'm not sure how that will change with our new little one on the way, but I know that we'll still continue to make that time away a priority, even if it's only once a year until our kids get older.
We have other little traditions, like opening our Christmas gifts to each other at midnight (or earlier) on Christmas Eve and enjoying a late night snack together before bed every night. There are other things that we love to do that I hope to make more of a ritual, now that I don't have so much on my plate.
How have the obstacles and challenges that you've faced as a couple made you a stronger team?
There are a few things that pop into my head when I think of obstacles or challenging things that we've gone through together. Our first move as a couple when we had three weeks to move and one of those weeks was spent on vacation with my family and then we moved the day after we got home was a challenge, just because it was stressful and rushed and I didn't feel like I'd had much time to prepare. Purchasing and renovating our home was stressful as well because it was a lot sooner than we'd planned, moving day was earlier than we'd planned and we lived in construction for the first three months and I was pregnant for two of those. My schooling has been a challenge on our finances and our schedules. I think the last two years, after I started my bachelor program were the most challenging, because of other things that were going on in life at the same time, and the class schedule options and demands of the program. Bigger challenges have been suffering a miscarriage, job changes, becoming parents and other personal things that we've never really shared.
Every person is going to come upon obstacles and challenges in their life. The benefit of experiencing them with a spouse is that you have someone to lean on and someone to help you through. They always say that "...shared sorrow is half sorrow" and I believe that is true. The rough parts of life have the ability to make or break you and consequently make or break your marriage. Knowing that Joe and I have chosen to do life together, no matter what comes our way, makes it easier to make it through the challenges. We're not constantly wondering, "how are we going to make it through this and still be a couple in the end?" We only wonder, "how are we going to get through this?" and then we tackle the problem together and although it might not be easy, it's easier than it ever would have been if we'd tackled it individually. And not all challenges are negative ones! Parenting has been an extremely positive challenge and one that has strengthened our marriage in so many ways. It's not always easy, but it has always been worth it.
Tell me about something that you hope to be able to do together in the future?
Oh, so many things! One of our biggest things we want to do is create a home where we can entertain and enjoy our family. We're working on that in our current home, making our yard and living areas better suited to having people over and just enjoying time together with our little family. We also have dreams of building a home, although, after renovating this one, we aren't so eager. We want to building something that is a refuge for us, our kids and our future grandkids. It would be a place where we would all love to be and look forward to coming home to. When I think about the future, all of my daydreams center around that space that we'll create, both in our current home and the one that we dream of building.
There are a few other things that we'd love to do but that we haven't talked about in as much detail as we have our home. Owning property in the woods or the mountains somewhere and creating a place where we can escape the world has been a recent thing that Joe talks about often. Joe would really love to own some investment properties, duplexes are what he looks at currently. I'd love to travel and see different areas of the world together, but first, we need to make it to Mexico!