Thursday, October 31, 2013

Step Twenty-Seven: Learn How to Fight Fairly

This is probably one of the only "secret tricks" to relationships- and you can apply it to more than just your marriage.

Fighting is okay. In fact, fighting is good.

Weird, right?

Fighting is essentially a confrontation of ideas- you believe one way and your opponent believes the other. There's no inherent problem with a difference of opinion. Often times it can strengthen your convictions or open your eyes to other opinions and work on making you a little more humble.

The difference is your technique and presentation. If you come out screaming abuse and obscenities (or comparisons and resentment), I can guarantee your husband is not going to react well. Maybe he gets defensive, maybe he clams up, maybe he walks away from you and maybe he screams back in your face. None of these reactions address the problem and nothing got resolved.

Instead, approach fights with honesty and feelings. Ew, right? Who wants to bombard their husbands with "You make me feel..."? Well, you shouldn't.

Don't project. It should never be "YOU make me feel", rather you should keep it to "I feel because..."
For example: I feel hurt when...(give example)
There's a subtle difference there.

Brevity is important. I'm going to pull out a generalization here (and you're welcome to cite all of the exceptions you know) but I have yet to encounter a romantic interest who wanted to sit down and discuss all the possibilities and tangents and comparisons of an argument. I could always give them (and usually wanted to because I'm wordy like that), but then their eyes started to glaze over and I could tell I lost them. Keep it simple until he wants more detail.

Go to bed angry. I know that adage has been touted repeatedly- dusted off and pulled out at weddings and receptions and the like- but this is dependent entirely on how the two of you deal with issues. Personally, I think a lot of things can be solved after a good night's sleep- I see better in the morning and I've had some time to let it all sink in. By the time I wake up I often realize what a colossal jerk I've been and we can resolve our argument much more efficiently. If that's not your style, then by all means take the time to solve the issue before you hit the hay. Just keep in mind that life has a nasty way of breaking habits and just when you've perfected your system something will come up which makes your method unattainable.

Ultimately, realize that fighting in a relationship isn't about being mean or inflicting hurt. If those are your goals, I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're doing something wrong.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Step Twenty-Five: Some Things to Not Do. No Matter How Tempting

My intent with this series wasn't really to get your husband to do what you want, but ya'll are smart readers and you knew that. It also wasn't to tell you what to do or what not to do in your relationship. Because that way leads many many many choices and decisions and values and personal commitments.

But there are some things that just shouldn't be done in a loving, trusting relationship. In my opinion.

We talked about one of them- don't lie to each other. I'm not talking "there's no more pie" or "I'd love to watch a Sylvester Stallone movie with you" type of lying- I mean allowing assumptions to creep in, or avoiding that conversations about how your feelings have changed. It's all about respect, people, and of all relationships in your life, you should respect your spouse.

Domestic violence. Big topic, amirite? In all seriousness, it's never okay to hit your spouse in malice or anger. We hear a lot of stories about husband-on-wife disputes, but it's important to understand that media and our society often have a skewed view on events and there are more reverse cases than you'd think. That's not to say that violence of either sort is more or less destructive, just that awareness is important. If you're so mad at your husband that you need to resort to physically lashing out, then it's time to take a good hard look at your coping mechanisms.

Lastly, be careful of your out-of-marriage relationships. Notice how this one isn't a hard and fast rule? You need to make your own decisions on this one. It can be very tempting for some relationships to unravel when the focus is not there anymore. We also live in a day and age where comfort or confession can be viewed as consent. As a partner you have an obligation to either keep yourself out of those situations or stay honest with your spouse. That choice is entirely your own.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feeling Cleansed

I'm doing something this week that I've always wanted to do.

Doesn't that feel good? Getting something off of your life list? Like paying off student loans or road-tripping to Vegas...

I'm doing a juice cleanse.
Beer bottle in the back not included.
 I often saw other girls (always girls) in college doing the Master Cleanse (water. maple syrup. cayenne pepper. lemons. laxatives.) and I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Since then the cleanse fad has only gotten bigger with more and more types appearing out of the blue like crazy whack-a-moles. We even had a juicery open up down the street- that would be an entire store devoted to cold-pressed juicing. Sure, their drinks were tasty, but they were also 7$ a bottle. No, thanks.

This cleanse is apparently Gwyneth Paltrow approved. It's her Organic Avenue Diet, but- AND THIS IS A PRETTY BIG BUT- I did not buy organic, ya'll. Nope. I bought Costco and I bought Trader Joe's and I don't think I'll ever do this again. Apparently I'm drinking spinach and celery and parsley and Romaine lettuce for 7 days.
So why? Why am I subjecting myself to this?

To challenge myself- mind over matter.
I'm curious to see if it works the way they say it does: clearer skin? energy?
I finally found a juicing-buddy with a coworker. Mr. E plans to stay within his chewable diet, chomping away on everything non-leafy in our fridge.

I don't think this will lose any weight for me.
I don't think this will "clean" my gut- of all the biota who are SUPPOSED to live there...
I don't think this is a long-term diet, but at least this one contains food. Plusalso I may splurge a little and eat some sort of meat/protein dinner instead of more veggies because I really don't like broccoli/cauliflower/zucchini.

So we'll see how this goes! I'm excited.

But maybe I'll just chalk that down to stage fright.

I bet tomorrow I'll feel like crap.

Step Twenty-Four: Are You Focused?

This is just your daily reminder to stay present with your husband. Be aware, be involved, be supportive. It's easy to take that man for granted because he signed his life away to be with you forever, through thick and thin, sickness and health. So yeah, he shares that home with you, but are you aware of what he's doing for you or are you continually pointing out all he's not doing?

It's really easy for me to get caught up in my day- work, planning dinner, taking the dog for a walk- I'm already mapping my day by the time I get up to get the most out of my time (otherwise I'll sit like a bump on a log). Mr. E and I are passing like ships in the night- his Sound team was let go from the feature so he's home, and I'm gone early, home late. It's not unusual for me to leave him a list of things to do around the house: deposit a check, make a return to Target, etc.

But sometimes I forget to say these things with love. I forget that Mr. E will do anything for me but he can't do everything. I don't always remember that he operates in a different way than I do and that my list-making and order-giving can seem condescending, even when I don't mean it that way.

It's times like these that I have to re-focus on my husband. In keeping our communication open and honest, I'm better able to understand how he's feeling  (not so great being job-less, thanks) and what I can do as a wife to support him.

When I focus on my husband, I'm focusing on our relationship and that's always a good thing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Step Twenty-Three: Love Languages

If you haven't heard of, checked, quizzed yourself or read about the 5 Love Languages- go look!

Essentially the idea is that love is expressed in five different categories: Gift Giving, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Quality Time. If you need a clarification (or to find what your strengths are) feel free to visit the website.

I'll wait.

Have your top two? Me too. I "speak" in Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch- which doesn't surprise me at all because Mr. E and I aren't generally too far from each other spatially when we're together. I'm pretty big in the "talking" category, too. I just want my relationships to know exactly what it is that makes me happy: it helps them by acknowledging what they do and ensuring they'll do it again, propagating a cycle of generosity and encouragement.

I quizzed Mr. E too, partly out of curisoity but also because if I'm "talking" to him using the wrong "language" then we aren't communicating very effectively. It wasn't much of a surprise his highest scoring language was Physical Touch, but his secondary language (Quality Time) made me think.

Sometimes we reassess our day-to-day when we make big changes- it's a little way of keeping us connected and attuned with one another. Mr. E has often requested more time together and I always assumed it was because he's a little bit stingy with gas money or his down time and he didn't want to travel anywhere. And maybe that's part of it. But once I knew that "speaks" in Quality Time, I realized that this penchant for staying at home and hanging together made a little more sense. This was a way he was telling me he loved me.

These certainly aren't hard and fast rules and there are always exceptions, but by understanding the preferences we have for expressing our feelings, it was a lot easier for Mr. E and I to communicate. And communication is a good thing...you know?



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mr. E on Balancing Work and Home

A typical work hour in the film business is 12 hours. That means 12 hours of work, not counting breaks or travel time. And that’s assuming your production is staying productive throughout the day, which doesn’t always happen. Let’s just say that everyone is very familiar with the concept of Overtime. I’ve been on sets that worked for 16 hours and I’ve even heard of shows that went up to a 24 hour work day. It’s very rare to get that high, but it does happen.

Now, this means that on a normal work day, depending on where we are shooting, I could leave the house at 6am and not get home until 8 or 9pm.  Everybody in this business is a little bit crazy, because we all know that this is normal and expected.

These working hours are a huge reason why so many people in the industry are not married, or have been married far too many times. So it’s important that I remain focused and put my family before my business.

Text messaging saves marriages. I’m not saying that you need to have constant text conversations with your spouse, but for me it’s a fast way to tell Mrs. E that I’m thinking of her. I send her little tidbits throughout the day, and by doing so, we are able to have some personal interaction. It’s obviously not as good as being together in person, but when I’m away from home more hours of the day than I am there, I need to do what I can.

Thankfully, Mrs. E and I have taken the time to understand as much as we could about the business before we started. Since we communicate so openly, there aren’t as many snags or pitfalls when the industry makes yet another drastic change. But as long as we keep in contact with one another, being apart isn’t quite so hard.

One of the keys to a good marriage is to give more than is expected. When the two of you are selfless it only serves to strengthen your relationship as a couple.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Step Twenty-Two: Stop Trying

How do you get your husband to do what you want? Stop trying.

Really.

Don't try at all.

If you've pleaded and cajoled and threatened and ignored to no avail, maybe it's time to sit back and let him take the reins.

When there's absolutely nothing my husband wants to do (and he's very vocal about when this happens) I stop asking.

I do what I want and/or need to do and I avoid asking for his help. Yes, this may be a tad passive-aggressive, but I don't do it in a "look-what-I'm-doing-you-jerk" kind of way. I see it more as taking his hints that what I'm asking is too much. Frankly, what is there that I can't do on my own anyways? Not a whole lot.

So the next time your husband drags his feet or ignores your repeated attempts at including him in the decision-making process, do it without him. At least this way when he tries to complain later you can always tell him you tried.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Step Twenty-One: Short and Sweet

I don't usually do this...but today I'm calling in a free pass.

Mr. E doesn't do well with long meaningful discussions about why a freshly-made bed absolutely rocks my socks at the end of the day.

So I keep it short.

Hun. Please put your shoes away. I love you.

Simple, concise and to the point.

We could talk for days about feelings and emotions and history and baggage, but the easiest way to get Mr. E to do something is to lay it out in its bare bones.

No ruffles. No ribbons. I do keep it polite, though. Most of the time.

I've heard it's a guy thing. I've heard that guys just don't like talking a whole lot. That they don't do well with big words or explanations. That's okay. Before my first cup of coffee or glass of wine, I don't do well with them either.

But sometimes I think we all need it short and simple. Sometimes I just need you to get to the point of what you're saying so I can do it already. And get back to what I want to do, amirite?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Step Twenty: Ask, Don't Tell

Before you can ask nicely, or to choose between options, you first need to ASK.

Mr. E doesn't like to be told or hinted or passive-aggressively left to-do lists. Doing these things removes him from the conversation- like he's not a part of the decision making process. This leaves ME as the decision maker and all of a sudden we're not treating each other as equals or partners. Instead we're ordering and pulling authority that neither of us has, raising expectations neither of us can reach.

In short we have building volcanoes. All it takes is a pair of shoes left in the wrong place (the computer desk) at the wrong time (when I'm sitting down to write).

To circumvent the out pour of molten stress and misplaced aggression- we encourage each other in meaningful dialogue. Asking my husband to do the dishes (instead of telling him they need to be done) establishes a clear-cut task that will make me happy. No guess work. No extra steps. It includes him in the maze that can be my brain and gives him the option to let me know if this is a) enough or b) too much.

By asking I validate that his goals and tasks for the day are important, too, so no one is feeling diminished or taken for granted. It only gets better from there.

Step Nineteen: Politeness Isn't Just for Strangers

I know that I can often fall into a rut: my day is long and busy and there's only so many decisions I can make at work before I'm tapped out. When I get home, it's all I can do to fall into the couch and eat a spoonful of peanut butter. At this point I may not be in the best of moods.

It's here that I need to be most careful! My husband is, in a lot of ways, like a coworker- he deserves my respect and attention despite the fact that some days he may drive me batty. It's important to our relationship that I don't take advantage of the fact that he's stuck with me until the end of our days and then some. Just like I may have to put on a polite face for people in the office, I sometimes have to pull it out for my hubs.

Mr. E and I are pretty comfortable around each other, but that doesn't give us any leeway to stop treating each other like civil human beings. I think it's important to keep politeness- not to be confused with a polite distance- in the marriage. One of the reasons we adopted our Ripley was because we would come home and flop on the couch- no rhyme or reason to our nights or weekends and we weren't particularly motivated to do anything. Getting a dog changed that for the better- all of a sudden there's someone else whose needs need to be seen to: she has to go out, she has to be fed, she has to be exercised. Thank goodness we pushed ourselves out of comfortable stability (and a permanent seat-print on the cushion)- we're now better motivated to get things done than we were before.

The same idea applies to treating your spouse politely- despite how long you've known each other, despite the inside jokes and behind-closed-doors shenanigans, you still have to deal with each other every single day. Try to keep those "please"s and "thank you"s around.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Step Eighteen: Be Honest (?)

We've already talked about being honest with your husband- how omitting things, avoiding blame and outright lying to your spouse can lead to resentment and trust issues. And what's a relationship without trust? Not a whole lot.

So you know it's important to be honest with your husband, but an important step in the process is to be honest with yourself.

Chances are you know exactly what you can handle, but do you know how much your husband can handle? Do you know his breaking point? His comfort zone? These things aren't just nice to know- they're useful tools in gauging your husband's ability to juggle life's curveballs.

Keep it real, readers! Expectations are well and good but understand that your standards and his standards may differ. Communicate with each other, but above all, have realistic expectations. I would love to have my home sparkling and spotless when I come home each day, but that's not a very realistic request of my husband- just as he knows it's not realistic for me to make dinner everyday. When we commit to honest dialogue, we encourage a relationship that's built on more than just assumptions, but trust and respect.

Step Seventeen: Timing is Everything

You know that feeling when everything seems to be on your plate at once? When you can't possibly add one more thing to your to-do list because you might keel over from exhaustion (and possible inappropriate coffee dispensing)? Imagine someone asked you to for that one more thing- chances are you're a little predisposed to say no, even if it's perfectly reasonable.

It's all about the timing.

This is a skill that most people learn at home first. There was always a good time and a bad time to ask my parents for something: immediately as they walked in the door? Not so much. After they found out I did extra chores and started dinner? Lookin' better.

The same is true for my husband. If I ask him to...write a guest post for my blog...after a 12-hour day on set, before he's eaten and right in the middle of an argument with our handyman, the best I can get is an irritated "Uh-huh" that never really gets done. But if I time my question so that he's in a better mood or frame of mind, then the odds that he'll do what I ask are already in my favor.

I just happen to stack the odds pretty often, too, with things like this.

Mr. E on How Cooking is Good for Your Relationship

All men should know how to cook. Even if all you know is blue box mac n cheese, it’s a start. Your woman’s favorite kind of meal is one that she didn’t have to cook. Trust me on that.

I have a really hard time cooking a full course meal, because I am dreadful at multitasking, ESPECIALLY in the kitchen. I can’t stir the sauce while I’m worrying about whether or not the chicken is cooked all the way through. So most of the time Mrs. E and I share the load, I cook the meat and she cooks the sides. But sometimes I like to do all of it. Those are Mrs. E’s favorite dinners because she didn’t have to do anything.

It’s been a bit harder over the past few months for me to cook for a couple of reasons. One is that at our new apartment we don’t haveroom for a bbq, which means that I have to cook in the kitchen, which means I am completely out of my element. Two is that when I am working I usually don’t even get home til after 9 pm and who wants to eat dinner that late? Nobody that’s who.

So here’s my Mr. E Guarantee: Cook for your wife/girlfriend and she will be happy. And a happy wife makes it easier to be a happy husband. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Groupies for the Blue Men


I know that fall has hit the rest of you, but I'm still sort of holding on to summer. Sure, night is coming a little faster and pumpkin-spiced anything has become a marketing epidemic, but it's still pretty warm here in the valley!  As sort of a last hurrah to the season we never seem to get enough of, Mr. E and I trekked to an LA tradition: the Hollywood Bowl.
We went to see the Blue Man Group play a special Bowl-only performance with (something) orchestra. What a fun date! We sat in nosebleed seats and waved off second-hand pot smoke from the bushes and enjoyed the antics of those crazy blue PVC performers.
Some shows at the Bowl are open early for show-goers to bring food and picnic. As we traveled the four escalators to our seats we watched ragtag groups unpacking kabobs, ribs, chow mein, sandwiches and bottles upon bottles of wine. In honor of the occasion (and the venue!) we made a summer pizza: dates, bacon, goat cheese and nectarines.
Yeah, sometimes I like to get a little crazy.

The original recipe called for figs and bacon and goat cheese, but you make do with what you have, amirite? The crust was brushed with balsamic vinegar, topped with stuff then drizzled with honey and baked til melt-y. I will enjoy you, LA, even if I have to stuff myself with bacon to do it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Step Sixteen: Communicate Your Desires

This one seems sort of self-explanatory, right?

Except when can you find the time in your day to feed yourself, commute to work, blog, do the laundry and all the other myriad of daily, weekly and monthly tasks life has assigned you, much less communicate with your husband. 

Juggling life isn't always easy. But there was one thing that changed my outlook on how I deal with all that: you make time for what's important to you. Instead of saying "I would love to, but I'm so busy right now" try saying instead "I don't want to make time for that". 

Sounds a little different, doesn't it? 

That's really what it comes down to- there are cut and dried priorities in your life (going to work, paying bills, etc) and then there are things that are a little more loose (sleeping 8 hours a night, walking the dog, etc). 

Mr. E and I are in that awesome up-swing of marriage where the other person is top priority. The shoe will drop someday and we may forget all of our tips and tricks for staying happy with one another, but right now we focus on each other: supporting, enabling, comforting, communicating. 

We're far from perfect at this (good GRIEF would you just finish dishes one of these days!) but maintaining communication is paramount to getting what we want. After all, Mr. E doesn't always know what I want if I don't tell him.

Today I squoze squeezed fit in the Five Minute Friday word: Laundry. We're taking ours this weekend to my parents and avoiding that $11.50 charge.
Five Minute Friday

Step Fifteen: Change What You're Asking For

You may think that with all of my posts that Mr. E and I communicate extremely well. For the most part that's true...we've been together for five and a half years, so I think we've definitely hit that stage where we understand a lot of the motivations behind each others actions.

But I wasn't born with telepathy. And neither was Mr. E.

This can lead us to some pretty thorny arguments! In general, when I'm doing a task (dishes, errands, making dinner) my thought process is two or three steps ahead of what's at hand. I multitask a lot, so I'm usually thinking something like..."1/2 tsp of salt...1/2 tsp of salt...I need to change my mailing address for my Old Navy credit card...Old Navy has shoes on sale right now...Ripley ate a pair of my shoes last week...Ripley needs to go out...I'll do it and take the trash out at the same time...I found our TV desk by the trash...I need to dust the TV"
Funny Somewhat Topical Ecard: When I can't sleep, I try counting sheep, but my ADD kicks in. One sheep, two sheep, cow, pig, Old MacDonald had a farm. Hey Macarena!
I'm learning that this is not the way that Mr. E works. Frankly, I'm learning that this isn't the way a lot of people work! So while I'm reciting a to-do list to myself, committing it to memory and actively thinking about each project simultaneously, I might be talking at the same time about a completely different subject.

Mr. E, on the other hand, needs one task to be finished before he can be told the next one- he likes to focus on one thing at a time, to be present and thorough about each individual task. My brother is the same way; so much so that I wish I could go back in time and implement that lesson earlier. Sorry, Colin.

I'm still learning how to communicate with my husband (and other people in my life who think this way), but I'm already making pretty good use of the information. When we get frustrated with one another because I'm six steps ahead and he can't catch up, I remind myself to stop. Slow down. To change what I'm asking of Mr. E.

There's no right or wrong way between the two of us, but there are certainly better and worse ways we communicate. I have to take it upon myself to change how I'm asking for something to be done, rather than assume that everyone's on the same page. I like to think that my example is useful for Mr. E when he can't seem to communicate with me, either.

I hope.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Step Fourteen: Make Him Choose

If you were looking for helpful hints and tips to get your husband to do what you want, you may have been disappointed. As I've said before, my husband doesn't "do what I want" because I'm in charge or bossy or dominating (at least I don't think!). I work hard to serve my husband: to understand him so we can better communicate and build a strong relationship that will last longer than we do.

But I do have one trick up my sleeve.

Whenever we have tasks that neither of us relish doing, I always give him the first choice.

"Hun, would you like to do the dishes? Or make dinner?"

"Do you want to help me make the bed? Or do you want to take the trash out?"

"Do you want to vacuum or clean out the car?"

I like to think that when I take charge to get something done, I turn right around and relinquish control of the situation to put us both on an even playing field. That way it doesn't feel like I'm ordering him around: this is OUR space, not mine, and I'm just as responsible for maintaining it as he is. But by giving him the choice between tasks, he feels more in control- like he's able to choose the option that he thinks least sucks.

Spoiler: sometimes both choices suck.

But he has a completely different attitude about what he's doing when he got to choose.

I'm not ashamed of the fact that I ruthlessly applied this tactic from a parenting magazine, but in the end what matters is the fact that BOTH chores are done with minimal blame or accusations- just the way I like it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Step Thirteen: Bribery

Ladies (and any gents out there)...

I am not above bribing my husband.

Frankly, I'm not above bribing anyone, but that's a whole other post, amirite?

It may not be the most ethical or rewarding of relationship tools, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have.

I bribe my husband with a multitude of things I know he likes:

  •      a whole day to sit at home and not go anywhere
  •      going to see a movie in theaters (we're movie buffs, what can I say?)
  •      food. Really awesome, usually home-cooked, food


Sometimes your husband just doesn't want to do something that you've set your heart on. In these cases, I call a compromise: I'll do this for you if you do this for me. This is sort of a last ditch effort for Mr. E to focus on what's at hand- usually it's something mundane like cleaning the house or making a run to Goodwill. But if I promise him something he wants at the end (we won't have to move for the rest of the day or I'll make pizza), I can get that last burst of concentration and willpower- just enough to get us through.

This is especially helpful because my husband sometimes has anxiety. Every once in a while, for no darn good reason, he just feels in the dumps and there's not a whole lot I can do or say to snap him out of it. I think I'm learning it's not even really a "snap out of it" kind of thing. But what I can  do for him is offer a reward at the end of whatever I need. Having a tangible goal in mind keeps Mr. E focused on what I want (let's jog one more block) for us to get through it and on with our day.

Instead of this being a great sacrifice on my part, I'll let you in on a little secret: I like making my husband happy. Service for my spouse makes me happy, too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Step Twelve: To Get You've Got to Give

This is kind of a two-sided suggestion.

First of all, giving feels really good.

No, not necessarily that kind of good, guys. I'm talking the kind of good that comes from volunteering or doing something self-less because it feels good to give to others. I love making other people's day, be it a card in the mail or an extra soda from the machine at work. I'm always on the lookout for that little something extra to let people know that they are important to me. So why not use this on my husband?

Sure, I can show him a little love but what I'm really trying to do is associate myself with the act of giving so when he sees me it's a quick association with receiving something he likes. There's a lot of hardship that can go on in a relationship, but when I go out of my way to pick up a Slim Jim at the gas station or buy a movie I know he wants, I'm keeping our bond on an even keel. There's not always time for long conversations about how things are, but a pair of socks (one of his favorite gifts, I'll have you know) can have much the same meaning: I'm thinking about you even when I'm buying a work uniform.

How does this help him do what you want? I don't know about you, but there's always a little friendly competition going on in our house. We're not necessarily trying to outdo one another, but hardly a day goes by when we can't help ourselves from matching each other's gestures. For example: while he's busy doing something at home, sometimes I'll turn to him, meet his eyes and tell him just how happy I am that we got married. Snapping him out of his task and stating how much he means to me can be a pretty powerful mood changer for him. Of course, he can't let that go unmatched- and he often turns the tables on me a few hours later.

It's sort of like leading by association. Mr. E sometimes needs a little reminder that I could use a pick-me-up, but instead of pouting or whining or "I wish you would..."-ing (yeah, I just made that a verb) I encourage him in a way that's stress-free for the both of us.

Step Eleven: Don't Set Him Up to Fail

In my experience, husbands are fragile things. They rely a lot on wives to work- much in the same way that wives rely on husbands, too. Men and women may be independent entities, but the identity of a "husband" is highly dependent on a "wife".
You know those couples you see that finish each other's sentences? Or always seem to know what the other is thinking? They operate like a well-oiled machine, many hands moving and working at once to complete whatever task they've focused on. I'll let you in on a little secret: this wasn't born overnight. 
That, my friends, was a labor of love. A towering building set on a foundation of communication and honesty.Yup, we've talked about those things before- they're just so important. These are the tools you need to encourage your relationship (and your husband) to succeed.

Don't feel like the two of you are on the same page? Take a minute to sit down and pin point exactly what's bothering you. Assuming the two of you take the exact same steps to solve a problem is just like setting your husband up to fail: your expectations don't match. And that's not a bad thing. 
We're pretty busy creatures of habit- used to doing things a certain way so often that we can do it blindfolded. So there's the expectation that because it's so easy for us (the asker) it must be easy for them (the doer). Whoops. When he comes home with the wrong brand of milk or washed your dry-clean-only coat on accident, maybe not all of the blame is his. 
When Mr. E and I were first married (heck, with only two years under our belt, we STILL are), it drove me crazy that he didn't know what type of milk we buy. Or where the extra plastic bags were. I had been buying and organizing these things, respectively, so often I could do it blindfolded. But he hadn't. Assuming that my easy tasks were also going to be easy for him was like sending him unarmed and unprotected into battle. That battle just happened to be set at the grocery store.
Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that intense. In essence, I was setting my husband up to fail because I hadn't provided him with the necessary tools to complete his task. (This applies to far more than just husbands, too!) Mr. E isn't quite so reticent when I ask him to do things because I make sure that he understands the task at hand before he's expected to do it. With a little bit of preparation (we buy Alta Dena whole milk) Mr. E completes these tasks with his eyes covered, too. 
He's even been known to take it upon himself and runs to the store during a break at work in order to grab a carton because he knows we're out. Love that man.

Mr. E on Service

You might even find that you like it.

Over the past few years I have learned that often times doing something that makes my wife happy ends up making me happier. Last week I talked about making the bed. Well it turns out that by making the bed every day, I have become dependent on a made bed. I can’t get a good night’s sleep if the sheets haven’t been pulled and straightened and the pillows are neat.

Now, this isn't the best example, but I think you get the idea. Since the beginning of our marriage, Mrs. E always talked about getting a dog. I had a dog once… let’s just say we didn’t get along. I was never a dog person. I think it runs in my family because my Mom used to tell us that she was allergic, but really she just didn’t want one. I didn’t want one. I didn’t want the responsibility and I didn’t want the headache.

Mrs. E always tried to convince me by saying things like, “you’ll love a dog, you just don’t know it” or “it’ll help you with your anxiety.” Instead, I used excuses like “the landlord said no pets,” or “I don’t like dogs,” but eventually the idea grew on me. I was acting tougher than I am, because in reality I’m a big softy for animals.

So we went to the pound and adopted Ripley (named after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien, believe it or not). I wanted to make Mrs. E happy, but I honestly think I love that little ball of fuzz more than anyone else ever could.

Sometimes life’s greatest joys come from serving others. I’m telling you, make your spouse happy and the feeling will reciprocate.

Mrs. E was right, I haven’t felt lonely once since this little creature came into our lives.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Step Ten: Avoiding Comparison

I am far more guilty of this than anyone has the right to be. We are constantly surrounded with relationships of all types: media, celebrities, movies, TV, music, family, friends, friends of friends...It's easier than ever to snoop your nose into someone's "private life" through social media. The problem is you're not seeing the whole story. For all the people who are over-sharers and tell every bit to their lives, there are also those who only share the good parts. Or only share the bad. So what you end up "seeing" is a rather one-sided and heavily audience-influenced view of what's going on in that relationship.

Since every relationship is different, there is no "one way" that relationships work. Even this series may not work for everyone. You're only doing yourself a disservice to nitpick and compare how different your relationship is from someone else's. We all have different skeletons in our closet so there's no way to determine what's working or not working. For every blog you read that gushes about the sweet date nights their husband takes them on, maybe they're not disclosing the awful fights their having about money or their nightly battles about the in-laws.
I hear from my girlfriends all.the.time about comparing their situation to someone else's. Guys want to be like him and girls want to be like her and instead of being true to themselves and the things that they want they butt heads because neither is the person they wanted to be. If you're projecting onto your spouse that you wish they were different, or that you're relationship were different, then you're sending the message that your partner is inadequate. And where's the fun in that?
Comparison can quickly boil down to resentment. Which leads to hate which leads to anger which leads to suff- oh, you get the idea. Neither partner in the relationship deserves to be compared to anyone else. It's a disservice to them and a disservice to the commitment you made to each other. 
I've found that the best remedy for comparing relationships is two-fold: communicate with one another and double-date. If your needs or goals have changed (or if you suspect his have) and you find yourself idly wishing for something else- talk to your partner about it! Address the situation and explain how you feel. Don't harbor bad feelings because they can often seep out at unexpected times and create a bigger mess than you intended. 
That double-date? I wasn't kidding. Try hanging out with another couple to see how they work in person. Often times there's a lot of hidden communication and/or tension that you don't see in scripted photos or those perfect Christmas card blurbs. 
You married your significant other because they were themselves. Maybe it was because they made you laugh, or they saved you from your darkest days, or their fingers tickling baby toes makes your heart go aflutter. Whatever it is, you chose them. Specifically. Instead of all the other people in this world. Don't undermine that by comparing them to something (or someone) they aren't.

This. This is Good.

It's been two weeks and I think that makes it official: I'm working and I love it.

After the run-around with the interviews and the employment agency and the phone calls, I finally started my position as a Product Surveillance Coordinator with the Cardiac Rhythm Management Department of St. Jude Medical.

Essentially I analyze and assign priority to complaints from the field about St. Jude's medical devices- namely their pacemakers and associated accessories. Sound interesting? Because it is! When a customer (or a sales rep) calls in a complaint, there are all these forms they have to complete for it to go through our system. As a Coordinator, it's my job to make sure the paperwork is filled out thoroughly and correctly, and then to assign a complaint code- something as simple as "Error Code Displayed" to "Loss of Sensing/Pacing" or even "Device Caused Death".

Every customer explains things differently- or sometimes not at all- so it's essential to follow up and keep all of the information clear and understandable on all of the many forms and databases we use to communicate between ourselves and the FDA.
I'm loving the organization to it- like a many armed machine, each arm with its own purpose but everyone coming together, united in a single goal. Everyone has a place and a job to do, but we all depend on each other to get the job done and presented in a way that positively reflects our company's values.

Give me a few months here and I'm sure that I can tell you all about how awful the system is and how frustrating my coworkers are, but right now I'm in the post-job-search honeymoon phase.

Plus we have a cafeteria that serves kick-ass breakfasts and lunches every day. The downside is that I'm exhausted when I get home so the house is only tidy and not clean and we're down to our very last fresh vegetable in the fridge...That bell pepper is being put on just about EVERYTHING.

Mr. E's job front is looking up, too! After finishing Wish I Was Here, he was rewarded with a much needed week-long vacation. Apparently that's the system in the industry: work hard (12+ hours every day) for a few weeks to a few months and once the project is done you schedule a short break for yourself to take care of things (dentist, doctor's appointments, vacation) and jump back in to the next one!

This project is a pilot TV show called Love, Death & Bowling and Mr. E will be working Sound instead of Production. Although Sound isn't necessarily where he wants to end up, Mr. E has a lot of experience with the sound equipment, as well as mixing and adding sound post-filming, so it's all about making contacts and networking right now. We have a busy holiday season ahead of us!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Step Nine: Leading by Example and Pulling Your Own Weight

I expect a lot from my husband- not necessarily because it's my husband or even because he's a man, but because he's my partner. I work hard and I need someone who's going to work hard beside me. The best way to encourage Mr. E is to show him what I want. 
Now, this is much different from doing the things I wished he would do and grumbling about it. I'm not talking about holding a grudge against your husband and shouldering the work yourself. I mean leading him in service by showing him how you want it done. 
I've found that a big roadblock in a couple's relationship- whether living together or apart- is communication. That's a whole other blog post, but the essentials are the same: you can't expect your significant other to inherently know what it is that you're expecting, no matter how many times you've done it in front of them or with them or to them or whichever way. If you want something done specifically, take the time to show him. 
This idea applies to a lot of relationships- as evidenced by my mother. When we were old enough to clean the bathroom on our own she didn't just hand us a sponge and tell us to go at it, no matter how many times we had peeked at her scrubbing the tub. She wiped the mirror and rinsed the sink right there along with us so we had tangible evidence of what we were doing and why. From then on we had no excuses for an inferior scrub-job since she had shown us exactly how to do it.
The same is true for your husband! Leading the charge against the ever-piling dishes, or the leaning-tower-of-laundry shows him what's important to you- that you're not just asking him to do a chore because you're angry or bitter that he's doing something else. When your husband feels like the both of you are participating in a project (whether it's cleaning house or looking at finances) he's more likely to enjoy it because no one wants to do those things alone.
Pulling your weight in all manner of things "together" encourages communication and fosters strong relationships. It's kind of a guilt trip all on its own (without the nagging) because it shows him (not tells him) your work ethic and the standards you hold yourself to. Ideally, if you're keepin' it honest, he'll know it's expected of him too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Step Eight: Be Frank (But Mostly Yourself)

If there is one thing that I sincerely dislike, it's being lied to. I don't care what the situation is, or all the good intentions behind it, lying is not okay. You could go into how difficult trust is to maintain, or the foundation that lying builds (both dangerous and slippery), but ultimately lying is about respect. 
You should respect your spouse.
For me this means that Mr. E knows my motivations behind my desires. I tell him all the nitty gritty details of why I want something done and for the most part his eyes glaze over but at least he knows I would never withhold something from him. That's the price he's willing to pay.
I find that when I'm talking with my girlfriends they're often more upfront and blunt with me about their feelings in their relationships than they are with their significant other. In my opinion, if you're serious about your relationship then there is no reason to beat around the bush with how you're feeling. Isn't the point of being an adult finding the things that work for you? Letting go of the things that don't?  Granted that's super simplified, but if you can't understand how you work, how can you expect your husband to do it for you?
I think the best example of this is primetime television. Maybe you're not a big fan, but a lot of weeknight shows reel in their viewers by creating situations and characters you can relate to: generation gaps, experiences we're all familiar with, and relationships we've been a part of. For example: the best relationship quirk is when Lucy lies to Ricky- to protect or help or manipulate him- but eventually all the lies clear and Lucy (and the audience) realizes that Ricky never needed to be lied to in the first place. We all learn that the deception was unneeded and created more drama than was initially there.
Your husband is Ricky (for now). He wants to know you and love you- every single part of you. So give him the same treatment you expect for yourself.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Step Seven: Show Him Some Love

Much in the same way that I need to foster a positive environment in order to encourage my husband to do things with me, part of that environment is giving Mr. E tangible reminders. Not only is this a sweet gesture, but it lets Mr. E know that he's important to me, that he's remembered throughout my day and that he's still (always) my main man.
I know that when this is done for me it certainly boosts my ego and encourages me a little further to help out in the things he needs.

There's a lot of exepctation in our society that wives are needy and husbands need to step up their game to assauge their wives, but I think this is sort of unfair. Mr. E needs to be shown on a regular basis that I'm thinking of him- partly because that's his personality, but also because hubbies have needs too!

Buy his favorite snack at the store, just 'cuz.
Leave him a love note: on the mirror, on the TV, on the bedside table- or all three!
Give him a hand massage.
Pull out his favorite movie to watch.
Make his favorite meal.

People are more likely to listen and follow what you need when you show them that they're appreciated before you ever have need of them. Mr. E knows that I give him affection more often than just when I need something from him, so he doesn't feel cornered or distrustful when those little gestures occur. Instead we've built a system of encouragement for one another through word and deed that shows that we listen and understand each other. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Step Six: Choose Your Battles

As you may have read before, I am wholly imperfect, striving for normalcy in a world that fakes and cushions it's way to the top. I get angry easily. I have trouble accepting blame. And still my husband jumps out of bed in the morning to make the bed when I'm gone. Well...maybe he doesn't jump. And maybe it doesn't get made until five minutes before I'm home, but details, people. 

Sometimes getting your husband (or anyone, for that matter) to listen to you can be quite the battle. After all, he's imperfect too! You have to fight to be heard over the din of the first-person-shooter or the conference call or the kids. Sometimes you're fighting exhaustion or a bad day or a financial set back- and then for hubs to be reminded to do something one more time- it can be overwhelming! Just as wives have a lot on their plate (being mothers, daughters, sisters, coworkers, bosses, friends, etc) so do husbands! I know an awful lot of women who belittle what their husbands do as "less" than what they themselves do- something I see as an unfair assumption no matter how the cards stack up.

Choosing which requests or expectations are and aren't met is a critical step in marriage. We all had our starry-eyed expectations of marriage (wait, just me?) but once his and hers towels are on the rack, the movie collection tallied and the honeymoon knick-knacks start gathering dust, reality rears it's ugly head and can easily wreck all of your pretty marital dreams if you're not careful. 
You expected to cook dinner together every night? Now he just got four night shifts and 3 night classes. 
You're so frazzled from the commute to work and back it's all you can do to scarf down a PB and J sandwich. 
You thought weekends would be spent cuddling in each other's arms in newly wedded bliss? Eye appointments, birthday parties, famliy reunions and shopping trips are crammed on top of cleaning the house, trying to make the last show of your sister's play and fighting over what movie to watch.

I like to plan almost everything: happiness is crossing off my to-do list. Mr. E is a little more by the seat of his pants. Between us we get an awful lot done personally and together for the house or our relationship, but I think the majority of that is because I choose my battles carefully. Instead of loading Mr. E up on lists and steps and rules (something I would thrive on), I have to choose the things that are important to me when asking him to do something. 

I would love to come home to dishes done, bed made, laundry put away and all of his freaking shoes in the bedroom for once. On a coffee-induced binge this would be a fulfilling morning. But that's not how Mr. E works and I respect that we have different approaches to things. I know that Mr. E would get nothing done in the face of an overwhelming mound of "to-do's", so instead we communicate our priorities.

Personally, that's having the bed made (I KNOW, Mom!). I don't like sleeping in messy sheets and I love the way it looks when I drag myself through the door and kick off my shoes to find a flat, clean bed just asking to be laid down on. Having a clean counter is an added bonus, but that bed makes it for me. That bed symbolizes Mr. E crossing something off his to-do list. It symbolizes his desire to please, that he wants to make me happy in all the little ways too. It's gone as far as Mr. E realizing that he, too, has always craved a tidy bed before sleeping. 

I think this was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn in interacting with someone else- not everyone operates the same way you do. Because we may have different methods to our madness, it's easy to see something done differently is wrong, but this isn't always the case. Just because Mr. E has papers all over his desk doesn't mean he doesn't know where everything is- we're getting to the same end but with different routes.
My battle shouldn't be getting my husband to do things my way- it's choosing what's really important to me. Do I want the house clean when I come home? Sure, but that's sort of an unattainable goal, even for myself. So I'll settle for a made bed and dinner out to thaw instead of high expectations and then we'll both be pleased with the results.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Step Five: Accept Blame

This goes against every single lesson I learned in childhood. With three siblings it was much easier to play the blame game- so much so that mom always said her fifth child was "Not Me". Avoiding trouble and responsibility was like second nature- if I could get out of it, I would. If I could prove someone else might have done it, I would. But durn if that's not how marriage works.

Owning up is something I would like to go out of my way to avoid. Personally it's deeply shaming that I did something wrong and got caught for it- left the headlights on and killed the car battery? Forgot to hang Mr. E's T-shirts so they wouldn't shrink? Missed a bill deadline? Things like this happen all of the time but they also suck. I take pride in the things I do, be it chores or errands or craft projects, so to mess up or fail at something I'm working on is kind of a blow to my ego. But while my first instinct is to get annoyed and my second is to blame something else, I'm practicing my latent acceptance skills.

Just like any other skill, you have to exercise this one; allowing yourself to be at fault and accepting the responsibilities for it. 

How does this get my husband to do what I want? Because I'm setting the example for him that I expect responsibility and fairness in our relationship. That I don't get a "Get out of Jail free card" just because I was the one who made the mistake. That house rules and agreements are to be abided by equally and fairly. By making myself vulnerable and still accepting my load, I'm creating an environment of shared work and mutual respect.

I'm also refraining from blaming him. Being blamed for something you didn't do is a surefire way to feel like you're thrown against the wall, a tactic that is not only unfair but deeply threatening to someone who is supposed to be your equal. My husband has the right- as I do- to feel accepted and be treated fairly in our home. If I am able to swallow my pride and squash those nasty blaming habits of my childhood, I am better able to encourage and welcome an atmosphere of retreat. Or happiness and rainbows, whichever he prefers.

I think it's important to bow your head and swallow your pride every once in a while. You can't both be right all of the time and marriage is not a power struggle. I don't want to battle my husband to find fault in the Who Didn't Take Out the Trash scenario because my husband deserves a deeper respect than that. After all, that's part of the reason I chose to marry him.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mr. E on How He Does What He Wants

If there is one thing I have learned about marriage is that it is much easier to be happy if you make your wife happy first. Here’s one way I do it.

Now, when it comes to bread winning, Mrs. E and I have sort of a tag team (but she has a little more endurance than I do so she spends the most time in the ring). That leaves a lot of household work for me to do, and I’m really not very good at that stuff. But when work in the film business is slow, I spend lots of time at home, so I need to pick up the slack.

On a given day, I rarely get all the things done around that house that I should. There are a LOT of dishes in the sink and maybe I don’t get all of them clean… or any of them. The floors are getting dirty, but we aren't having company over until the end of the week, so why clean them now if I’m going to have to do them again in a few days? It can wait, right? And the garage… that’s just too much organizing to do in one day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting on the couch in my pajamas watching the soaps all day… I don’t wear pajamas and I prefer video games, but that’s neither here nor there. I don’t want you to think that I’m lazy and that I don’t get anything done, I just want to let you know that sometimes there are days that you are more productive than others.

This is why I make the bed. Every day. Without fail. This is the constant that I give to my wife. So when she comes home from work and the house is messy, there’s no room to wash her hands in the sink, and the dog hasn’t been on a walk, I still have something up my sleeve. She will come into the bedroom to change and see that her place of relaxation is neat and waiting for her.

I make the bed so that when she ends her day and slips into the tightly made sheets, she will know that her husband thought of her while she was away.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Step Four: Hold Your Horses. And Your Temper. But Not That Knife.

Most husbands people avoid fights. They'll sometimes fight for you but for the most part they don't like to fight with you. 

This has been my hardest lesson in marriage so far because, ladies and gentlemen, I have a short-temper. I get annoyed by the smallest things- people won't get out of the way for me to disembark from the train, sewing teeny tiny even straight lines, even flies that are way too skilled at avoiding the fly swatter can piss me off. For the most part my anger fiercely burns for about two hours; the average play time of a feature length movie, or the time it takes for a pie to be made. 

In that time Mr. E can walk in unknowingly...or sometimes he's the cause of it because hey we're human, and it's all I can do not to lump him in with all of the other no-good-very-bad-awful things that are happening to ME. Because in my life the world revolves around me and my wants and desires and when things don't fall into place the best I can do is lash out. 

Except I can't. Because I'm not five. Or even fifteen.

My marriage is a partnership- we're equal and equivalent and all the other ways to say THE SAME. As in neither of us is more important than the other. None of our wants or hopes or goals is more important or less important because the other person has them and we don't. That's not to say that we have the same goals, but just because they're different or our methods clash doesn't mean that the other person is WRONG. Because nobody likes being told that they're wrong. Nobody likes being yelled at or having the door slammed in their face or listening to that self-important "I told you so" voice from their spouse.

One of my favorite things about my husband is how much he has taught me about patience and forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Our story is one of opposites: we fought more before we got married than we ever have after that knot was tied (literally; we did a hand-fasting ceremony). We would bicker all of the time, but I didn't mind because
a) I kind of like to fight 
and 
b) I am independent and assertive, hear me ROAR! 
and 
c) we rarely did it in person so I wasn't very inconvenienced.

But fighting face to face is extremely inconviencing. You have to face that person over and over again as you slam through the house pointedly trying to avoid the other person. All of a sudden we were playing musical rooms, each of us huffing and puffing to get our own way in 800 square feet. Nobody is winning here. Frankly, at this point, neither of us even like the game anymore.

So tactics had to change. Being at odds about one thing usually led to us being at odds about everything so Long Nights On-Set Without Checking-In turns into Never Being Able To Fold the Towels Correctly or Don't Leave the Nice Knives in the Sink. This is not conducive to getting your husband to do what you want. In fact, this isn't getting you anywhere.

I am breaking my habits and trying again (and again) to be more like my husband: reserving judgement until the situation has been explained. Keeping my cool. Trying to understand his point of view. When I reach out like this and let him know that not only am I trying to reign in my gut-reaction, but also trying to see his way of things, Mr. E is way more accommodating- partially because he has a sympathetic heart and he knows how hard that can be for me, but also because by treating him like my partner even at my most out-of-control moments he is reminded that I have crazy love and respect for him. Seriously.

To get your husband to do what you want (and enjoy doing it) you need to treat him as your equal. Sometimes that means physically swallowing the rage and bile that threatens to spew forth when you've told him for the umpteenth time to put his shoes away. So remember to  put a cork in it- he'll be more likely to help you out or listen to your side of the story if you show him self-control.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Write #fiveminutefriday

Write. For five minutes straight. One-word prompt, five minutes, no editing. I'm linking up over at Lisa-Jo Baker (aka The Gypsy Mama) where we read, write and encourage.
Five Minute Friday

I write in fits and starts these days. Time seems to be slipping away from me when before I was drowning in it. It seems like it's feast or famine over here.

This is supposed to be the start of it all. This is the beginning of our real lives, our adult lives, our lives that don't revolve around school or splitting our focus on things that are more or less mandatory but holding us back from what we want to do.

And then the realization hits: I'm holding me back from what I want to do.

I want to be an employee not a temp. I want to help on movie sets and craft all of my Christmas presents for my friends and remember to take the dog for her walk everyday. I want to lose weight and I want to sleep in and I want to write like my life depends on it. I want to have kids.

But you can only pick two of these things (maybe three) and I'm taking the bits of me that are falling to pieces and sowing them in fields far and wide to see what grows. I'm working on my job like my sanity depends on it (because I think it does) and that leaves a tiny sliver of space, a crack, an opening for my words and my thoughts and my voice to thrive.

I'm writing.

Step Three: Indulge Him

This sort of seems counter-intuitive, but to get your husband to do what you want, let him do what he wants.
I think I get the most flack for this part of my relationship with Mr. E, but it's what works for us and might work for you, too! There are a lot of things about my husband that I don't quite understand (football. leveling up characters in Mass Effect 3. his affinity for drying knives) but I roll with it all because it's important to him. I'm sure I have plenty of quirks that he scratches his head at (fabric types. which pan is best for stir-fry. why he can't use my Wii remote).
The trick is that by including him in the conversation and validating his interests as just as important as my own, he's much more approachable about other subjects because he knows that his opinion is valued. 
Interpretation is important. I'm not "allowing" or "letting" my husband do anything. That implies a level of control and pants-wearing that we don't subscribe to. 
We strive to keep our lives as balanced as possible: there are things we do together but there are also things we like to do alone- even if we're in the same room as each other. There are plenty of projects or activities we would rather do as a couple, like watching a show together, or running errands, but just as often we are content to sit in the same room while he plays a game online with his brother and I sew. 
It's all a matter of perspective. Since I have my own projects that I prefer to do alone, I'm not constantly nagging Mr. E to do something with me. That way, when I need his help or would prefer his company, he doesn't feel obligated to make me happy.
By agreeing to encourage and support his hobbies, I'm ensuring support for mine as well- fair's only fair, right? I figure as long as we talk about why we want it, how we can benefit from it or why it would make us happy, then we're not side-lined with any passive-aggressive feelings.
Right? RIGHT? Maybe I haven't been married long enough. ;)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Step Two: Fostering a Positive Envrionment

This is such a simple, easy thing to do that has SUCH a big impact. Like anyone else, husbands LOVE to hear that they are loved. You wouldn't expect plants to thrive with no water, a body sustained without food or a blogger to function without coffee or tea. The same is true for your husband! Long after those puppy-love feelings have been extinguished, after the honeymoon is over and the weight of living together has really set in, what's left over is the environment the two of you have founded. Is it based on positive affirmations or degrading one another? Do you encourage each other's interests with love and support or are you biting and sarcastic? Are you loving and self-sacrificing for his needs as well as your own? If life at home is consistently negative, or unsupportive (for either or you) then how can you reasonably expect your husband to WANT to do anything for you? Why should your husband put forth the effort willingly and eagerly if he is unsure of the reaction he'll receive? Mr. E and I work hard to make sure that the home we've created is positive. It's a place of rest, a haven to return to and not worry about judgement or ridicule. Positivity comes in all shapes and sizes- Mr. E and I are incredibly vocal about our feelings for one another. One of my favorite things about him is that he would sing nonsense songs to me- with silly lyrics about how I'm "awesome" or "so beautiful". Sometimes I'll turn up the radio and dance really silly with him; that always makes him laugh. When we're out we stop by stores we know the other would want to stop in- whether or not we're really interested. Because we give to each other 110%, we reap the love and affection everyday, all the time.
Believe it or not, we actually use this angle when training our dog, Ripley. It's positive reinforcement- praising the things our pup does right and re-directing the things she does wrong helps her understand the rules of the house. Maybe it's a bit crass to compare dog-training and spouse-conditioning, but the idea is similar. 
I know that I am much more motivated to do something for my husband when I am recognized and appreciated for it- even something as small as grabbing a glass of water for him before going to bed. 

When your husband feels comfortable and welcome at home he's more likely to listen to the things you ask him to do.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Step One: Choosing the Right Partner

Day one of How To Make Your Husband Do What You Want (HTMYHDWYW or WYW for short)
Let's just start with the basics. 
Square One. First Step.
You cannot change your husband. 

I'll say it again because I don't think people realize this like they think they do. 
You CANNOT change your husband. 
 Only he can do that. If he wants. 

The long and the short of it is: you get what you marry. So choose wisely.

So what's a woman to do when she's looking for her husband to want to clean the dishes? Or to run errands in his free time? Or cook dinner without being asked?
Unless these things happened before marriage I can almost guarantee they won't happen after marriage barring a drastic change on someone's part.

Let's just call an apple an apple and collectively realize that marriage is not a magic threshold which you step over and become a completely different person. Things are not drastically different between the two of you. 

I think we've built up this nigh unattainable expectation of what men (and women) should automatically do after the ring slips on the finger. Once the vows are exchanged women waltz off to maintain the household and men spend their days providing and supporting- monetarily or otherwise. Or maybe that was just me. 

No matter how many times you cajole or plead or guilt, your man will not magically start fulfilling your expectations of the perfect man just because the wedding is over. We don't even have to call out men specifically here- wives are just as guilty of this as husbands.
To get him to do what you want you first need to ask yourself- is this the right man? Does he have the same marital and relationship goals as I do? Will he comfort and strengthen me? Will he protect and support me in my decisions? You won't be able to rationalize a change of heart with a husband who has no intention of changing.

Despite our rockin' relationship, Mr. E and I were adamant about pre-marital counseling. We were young and came from very different backgrounds, so we wanted to be serious about the commitment we were going to make. Plus, having a third party mediate some of our more intense conversations was incredibly helpful. Granted, the results weren't that eye-opening since we're honest with each other. After three years we had settled into a communicative dialogue, but it was an important step for us to commit to being on the same page regardless of how "in love" we felt. We were both kind of bogged down with this nebulous idea that marriage solved problems, brought us closer together and would be all around awesome. And this was kind of true. We sort of focused on the same things, enjoyed similar tastes and had goals and priorities that meshed rather than clashed. What we learned was how to communicate effectively and understand what the expectations were for ourselves and for each other. 

Marriage isn't a solution for a relationship that is not entered into mutually. You can't assume bad habits are erased, that apathy will be discarded for enthusiasm or that feelings will change once you're hitched. 

Because we talked about our expectations neither of us was really hit with any surprises after marriage: Mr. E sits on the couch and plays video games online with his brother while I'm stirring stir-fry and wiping counters. I chose a partner with the mostly full knowledge that his habits and interests weren't going to change after August 2011, and Mr. E did the same. I still hold deep grudges and want a clean bathroom, but Mr. E wasn't side-lined with a passive aggressive Lysol-Nazi come Marriage Day One.

The best advice I ever received was two-fold. 
First, that you choose who you fall in love with. In fact, you make that choice everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. Ultimately the only person keeping you in a marriage is yourself- your beliefs, your convictions, your choice to continue (or not) loving your husband. 

The second, is that you should always give 110% to your partner. If you're focused on each other the rest will fall into place. So instead of fighting against the nature of your husband, frustrating yourself and your partner, understand that you get what you have always had. Marriage doesn't change his personality.