Tag Archives: Marriage

Questioning Words

My brain is full of words.

Two to four essays plus 2-4 lengthy papers a week.

Discussions with peers.

Writing, writing, writing.

But where to find the time?  And the energy?  If I weren’t so close to finishing this quarter (3.5 weeks), I’d consider calling it quits.  With the tables turned and Ben supporting me through grad school – in a nontraditional manner as he works full-time and I am both a graduate student and stay-at-home mom – it’s amazing how many words remain unsaid between us.  As I teeter from complete breakdowns to feeling on top of everything.

Mostly, the word is why.  Why did I decide to pursue a graduate degree now?  With two kids, 3 and 2, and another on the way (making it 3, 2, newborn)?

I suppose it’s my crazy feminist-like belief that a woman should not neglect her dreams any more than a man should.  I also believed that all that support I provided my husband through his years of undergraduate education and that partial year of medical school (when, despite his being near the top of his class, he realized he did not want to pursue medicine) would provide a foundation from which he could support me.

Naturally, I thought I’d have more time during the day.  I forgot about the havoc two toddlers can cause in an hour and how exhausting pregnancy is, even in the second trimester.  Nap time work? Heh. Waking up early? If I want to risk feeling out of control from exhaustion for the next week.  Staying up late? Without the distractions of my husband, sure. The line between too much and too little is thin and those comforting words I’ve told myself since starting – you can do this, it will be difficult but worth it – aren’t so comforting in the middle of it all.

And all those words spoken between us?  Of me explaining that I need his help and him saying that he will give it?  Are easier said than done.

Writing.

Talking.

Words.  So many words. Too many words.

What I want now is answers and time. Things that words can’t give and that I can’t seem to find.

*****

My gals at Momalom are hosting Five for Five.  Check it out!  And, they are combining forces with the lovely Heather for her Just Write series.  Pure awesomeness.

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It Takes Two

I have a wonderful marriage.  But, there are moments when it isn’t so wonderful. Like when we are caught up in adversity and can’t remember why exactly we wanted to do this whole kid and school and living poor business.

During those not-so-wonderful moments,  we discover what really keeps our marriage together.  Commitment.  (And love.  Lots of love.) We honor those sacred covenants that we made in the temple on our wedding day.    Well, it’s more than honor, we believe in those covenants.  We believe that if we are completely faithful to each other, we can break the bonds of death and find Eternity.

Life is hard.  Everyone can agree on that.  In our lives right now, Ben is working two jobs, 70 hours a week, 7 days straight.  He doesn’t have any breaks.  And I don’t have any breaks.  Last night, when picking Ben up from work, I was extremely frazzled.   Ben asked about my state and I told him that I was tired from solo parenting for the past 3 days.  Because that’s what happens when he works both jobs, as he is gone from 7 am until 11 pm.

Yet, we are making it work.  Even when I am so tired and Ben is so tired and the kids are cranky and we have bills piling up and our car breaks down and, oh you get the idea, we have learned to lean on each other for support.  As I mentioned, our interactions aren’t always pleasant.  Thankfully, we believe in repentance and forgiveness. We’ve learned to let little things go and focus on the important things: How blessed we are to even have jobs, to have our beautiful children, and to have each other.

Sometimes I question the Big Plan.  Is it really necessary for Ben to be working so much when we will be entering medical school next year?  I mean, come on! I want a break!

I realize, though, that these trials are teaching us so much more than we think–and I won’t always learn everything while in the middle of them.  It is my responsibility to stay faithful, and to keep my commitments.

We can and will make it through these difficult times.

Hey, with this guy on my side, I can do anything.

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Gottman, Conflict Styles, And Why I am Not Worried About My Marriage Revisited

While Ben and I are renewing our love for each other,  I am re-posting a few posts.  This was originally posted at Mormon Mommy Blogs and a post I really loved writing.  Enjoy!

Before I went to school, I was sure I could point out which marriages would succeed or fail. I would casually observe the marriages around me and secretly guess how long each couple would last. Not a very positive game, but I was surrounded by divorce and keen on avoiding it in my own marriage. After I married, these observations turned into an obsession. I was sure that marriages in which the couples argued a lot were doomed, but those that avoided conflict were even worse off. Surely the best marriages were ones in which arguing was rare but problems were not ignored. An even balance.

When my sister married, I watched her interactions between she and her husband closely. They seemed intent on avoiding any conflict. Rather than argue, they would shrug their shoulders and insist that time would solve their problems. They preferred to emphasize their similarities rather than discuss differences. I gave them a few years. At most.

A friend of mine, on the other hand, had the dream marriage. She and her husband would ignore the little things that bothered them and calmly discuss those issues that needed discussing. In these discussions, each partner would validate the speaker’s point, showing understanding of how he or she might feel. That was how I wanted my marriage to be.

That was not how it happened. My husband and I are passionate. We argue frequently. We are not afraid to share our individual viewpoints and will often alternate between heated discussions and ridiculous laughter. We do not avoid conflict; rather, we choose to meet each difference head on. In my eyes, we were going nowhere fast.

That was until I took a marriage class a few months after our marriage. The professor introduced different conflict styles in marriage which patterned those above: avoidant, my sister’s marriage; validating, my friend’s marriage; and volatile, my marriage. He asked us which marriage we thought would most likely succeed. The majority of the class answered validating. To our surprise, he informed us that, actually, all three marriages were found to be equally successful.

As it turns out, John Gottman (1), a renowned marriage scholar, has extensively researched conflict styles in marriage. His findings have indicated that marriage conflict style does not predict marriage stability as much as the ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions. Whether you have a high volume of negatives and positives (volatile), a medium volume of these (validating), or a low amount (avoidant) did not matter; it was whether the positives outweighed the negative, with a ratio of 5 (positives) to 1 (negatives) as the most successful average.

Since that class, and many others, I have stopped obsessing over whether a marriage will succeed or fail. Instead, I have noted the positives in each marriage and prayed for their success. I also realized that my marriage actually has the potential to reach Eternity. I guess our intense arguments riddled with silly banter is a good thing after all.

How about you? What is your conflict style?

1. For more information you can read John Gottman’s article, “The Roles of Conflict Engagement, Escalation, and Avoidance in Marital Interaction : A Longitudinal View of Five Types of Couples,” in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

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Random Tidbits

When we were first married,  I insisted Ben always grocery shop with me.  We hate grocery shopping,  but it’s one of those necessary evils.  Anyway,  he used to commiserate with a fellow friend whose wife also never grocery shopped without him.  They always had the best jokes (not).

Well.  Once I finished school,  it was absurd that I wait for Ben to shop; thus,  I learned to go without him.

Fast forward to now.  Because of my new pelvic rest mandate from the doctor,  I can no longer shop on my own.  Being the awesome wife that I am,  I made sure to point this out to my husband.

Now the joke is on him.

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I have a confession to make:  I’m still nursing Andrew.  Once I found out I was pregnant,  I decided to fully wean him.  He was taking formula twice a day, but once I made this decision the more he has resisted.  I started panicking once I was put on Progersterone supplements because of of the side effects is decreased milk supply.   Miraculously,  my milk supply has increased with this supplement.  I don’t know if it’s because God knew Andrew would need that time with me to ease the transition or if its because my body reacts in bizarre ways to medicine; whatever the reason,  I’m glad.

Will I nurse the entire pregnancy?  I don’t know.  I guess I’ll figure out what is best for both of us.

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With my last two pregnancies,  I remember experiencing the pregnancy brain phenomena,  but I forgot just how bad it gets.  Lately,  I will start an intelligent sentence and immediately forget a) what I was going to say b) the word(s) I was going to use or c) a combination of both.  Basically,  I come off like a bumbling idiot who stays at home with her kids.  Well,  for those who perceive me that way,  I do have a degree.  So there.

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Andrew and Emily have been alternating with different sicknesses the past few weeks.  Needless to say, our sleep has been less than beneficial.  However,  we can’t entirely blame the kids.  Ben has been sleeping less because he is worried about his medical school applications and I have been sleeping poorly because of all my pregnancy worries.

But I’ll stick with blaming the kids.  It’s so much easier that way.

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I’ve was reading this history about the war between the states.  It was really interesting learning more about Grant and Sherman; unfortunately, the writing became so confusing that I had to put it down.  Between that and all the recent disappointments with fiction,  I have started reading my husband’s Biology and Physiology textbooks.  I know,  call me a nerd,  but it is really entertaining!

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A Simple Walk

Five for Ten is still going strong!  Click on over to see what all the fuss is about.  The theme for today and tomorrow is “memory.”

When we started dating, I didn’t think it would last. I was too young, too immature.  You made me believe that we could be something more, something eternal.

After 6 months, we started talking marriage.  With butterflies in my stomach, I allowed the fantasy to ignite.  You held me entranced by the promise of forever, a future that I once thought impossible.

One Sunday, we took a walk.  We went down a street with familiar houses.  There was a particular one for sale, we stopped to grab the flier.  Within minutes we talked about what could be.  A house.  A family.  You.  Me.

I suggested an alternative–you quit the job you hate, go back to school, and we become starving college students just trying to get by.  You wistfully smile and allow yourself to think about that for a minute until reality hits.  You feel trapped by a job.

You gave me a ring with a question.  I answered, without hesitation, “Yes!”

The dream was within reach.

Months later we decided to break up.  You felt the need to embrace a higher calling for two years.  You wanted to give back to God what he gave to you.  You embarked on a mission.  Those two years would transform us–our relationship–into a force so powerful that we only wait 27 days from when you return to get married.

For two years we bickered.  We broke each other’s hearts multiple times.  We learned to have faith and to trust.  In God.  In ourselves.  In us.

A culmination of 4 years together and we finally had our forever.  A covenant in a temple is said, our reflection in mirrors is looked at, and tears of joy are shed.

Almost 3 years into marriage and we remember that walk.  We are indeed poor students.  But we aren’t starving.  We are full.  With life.  With children.  With each other.

You are pursuing your career of choice, I am living mine.

A simple memory, a fleeting fantasy, that is still unfolding.

Eternity.

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To Travel Or Not to Travel

“When I was looking at possible career choices, my wife told me she did not want me to pursue an occupation in sales.  Her father had been a salesperson and had experienced severe stress over his finances for the majority of her life.  With her desire in mind, I was careful in choosing my major. How do you feel about directing your spouse’s career path?”  the Professor asked.

I thought about my experience with Ben’s career choice.

Ben and I were both in school when we married.  He was just starting and I was almost half way finished.  Because of this unique arrangement, my opinion on Ben’s career choice was highly valued.  I had only one  stipulation: he could not choose a career in which he would travel excessively.

It might seem mean or unfair that I was so forceful in my opinion, yet I know how I become when Ben leaves town.  A day or two before his departure, I become moody and unreachable.  I lash out at him for little things.  I am surly and unapproachable.  When he does leave,  it gets worse.  Arguments abound and jealousy ensues.  Our usually agreeable relationship turns into a cesspool of negativity.  Not exactly breeding grounds for a healthy marriage.  So, to ensure that our marriage stay intact, I knew the remedy: a career that would not require traveling.

With this in mind, Ben originally decided to pursue a doctorate in Psychology.  Sure this required a lot of school, but I knew this job would not require too much travel.

A semester into his undergrad, he felt dissatisfied with psychology.  He was unsure what other course to take, so he continued in his chosen path.  That next semester, though, he began looking into other things.  When he started looking into becoming a pilot, I became weary.  He asked my opinion on it and I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because, it would require that you be gone frequently.  You know my feelings on that.  You also know how I become when you do leave.”

The reminder was enough to help him look elsewhere.

(You might be curious how I will hold up while he is in medical school.  It is different.  Maybe in a future post I will explain why.)

In answer to my professor’s question, I feel a career choice is a joint decision. Choosing employment that may leave one or both spouses feeling overwhelmed is not a good idea.  In the end, employment is something the whole family will work at together.

How would you have responded to the question?

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Smiling the Arguments Away (Maybe Not Away…)

Yesterday Ben and I got into an argument.  Right as things started getting heated, I felt the urge.  I tried to bite it back, not wanting Ben to feel patronized, but it came:  my goofy grin.

Naturally, it ticked Ben off.  He went to the kitchen to cool off while I went to our bedroom to get rid of that dang smile.  Within a few minutes we were sitting on the couch having a more civil discussion.  Later that evening, we giggled over the whole event.

I am happy to admit that I am not the only one who does this.  Ben also smiles when things get tense.  When I see him smile, I start to smile and then we both end up in fits of laughter on the couch.

Really, the worst time to smile is right in the middle of an argument, right? I don’t think so.  That is, I don’t think Gottman thinks so.

Disclaimer: If you didn’t know this already, I am a big fan of Gottman.  When I think about marriage relationships, his research is generally at the forefront of my mind.  He is like my shoulder angel (in marriage, that is).

In his research, Gottman was able to quantify his observations and turn them into a mathematical model.  One of the fascinating results he found was the magical 5 to 1 ratio.   Happily married couples generally have five positive interactions to one negative interaction.  When a couple consistently dips below that magical number (meaning more negative than positive interactions) they are in danger.

Keeping this in mind reminds me that Ben and I have a built-in safety monitor in our relationship.  Neither of us enjoys conflict–especially with each other; thus, when our arguments are getting out of hand, we turn to our safety net: humor.

Ben’s responsibilities plus my responsibilities are very overwhelming.  What keeps our relationship strong is our ability to laugh.  This doesn’t mean we don’t tackle the tough issues, it means that we can approach those issues without either of us becoming too defensive.  At least most of the time.

I think next time, though, I will try to hold my goofy grin in until after the serious part is over.

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