Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My Relationship Smarts

For seven short months, I was a rock star.

Then my fun and passions were dashed by my anxious, controlling husband…or so the story goes.

While each of us must have outlets for relaxation and fun to balance hard work, our choice of outlet should always take into consideration the needs of our families. I am only speaking, of course, to those parents and spouses who believe in raising successful children and maintaining a close and loving relationship — simultaneously. If you have already given up on that ideal: never mind.

If you don’t have children yet and already do a lot of stuff apart from your spouse, listen up.

Okay, if anyone is still reading this, I have a few short and sassy rules to prioritize family and still “have a life.”

•If your spouse is uncomfortable with something you are doing, pay attention!
Don’t discount a spouse’s anxiety or discomfort because you think it’s ridiculous or controlling or not what you believe. If you’re in this for the long haul, take time to discuss the issue and work toward compromise. Maybe hunting or ice fishing for five weekends in a row is not conducive to a happy married life. Your spouse shouldn’t have to “just deal with it.” It’s disrespectful.

•Choose activities and levels of commitment that your spouse can agree to with enthusiasm.
If your husband is uncomfortable with you singing with a rock band in a bar until 2 a.m., maybe you need to find another activity. If scrapbooking won’t be the same as rocking out, your new outlet could be kickboxing. Get creative.

•Do stuff together.
I can’t tell you how important it is to maintain a close relationship with your spouse when you have children. That means spending time together in a fun or romantic setting. Learn the cha cha. Go sledding. Try sushi. Nudge each other out of comfort zones to try new things just like you would if you were dating. Have fun as a couple and with the kids.

•View differences as strengths to build a strong family.
If you live in the moment and your spouse is a planner, appreciate the ways that each strength supports team family. While you teach your children about spontaneity and gratitude for today, your spouse can teach them about setting goals and managing their time.

•Deal with small problems and “what-ifs” before they get bigger — or happen.
Whether you bounced a check, dented the car or have concerns about lack of time or affection from your spouse, communicate those concerns as soon as possible and work on them together. Honesty and openness can be difficult, but is a highly valued emotional need for men and women. If you need to bring in a mediator, do it now for your children’s sake.

•Model a strong partnership to your children.
If you yell, throw things or withdraw from your partner in a conflict, your children will learn to do the same. Think about what a strong and loving partnership should look like. Do your children see this? If not, what can you each do differently to be on the same page with conflict resolution, discipline and decision-making? Build a united front at home to face the many challenges you and your children face in the world.

The sacrifice of leaving the party early or cutting your hunting season short is small compared to the benefits of having someone to come home to who can get you through the tough and good times and still love you with morning breath and prickly armpits. Great marriages demand respect, communication and loving attention.

Go team family! (Oh, and sweetie, can you pick up some razors on your way home?)