Home thoughts deliberate wife-hood (revisited)

deliberate wife-hood (revisited)

by Shawni

Yesterday as I was setting the table to celebrate Valentine’s Day, decorating up everyone’s plates all fancy, I decided to make a point of making Dave’s plate extra over-the-top. Oh it was just a little things, piling more hearts on his plate and a few more love noted, but I wanted it to at least symbolize that he’s the apple of my eye.

Oh man alive I sure adore these kids of mine, but I want them, and Dave, to know that he comes first.

Sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes I let the riff-raff of life put him on the back burner. I thought this was just easy to get out of balance when I had toddlers hugging to my legs but guess what? It’s tough when kids are older too. There is so much to think about and so much to be there for. But I so want my thoughts and actions to reflect that he is my #1. Which reminded me of this question from this post long ago. So I figured it was worth a re-post.

I did preface that post by chronicling a fight we had recently had, just so readers wouldn’t think we have it all hunky-dorey over here, which I won’t rehash here, but my point: marriage is always work. But pretty beautiful and rewarding work.

So here you go:

While you’re in Q&A mode, can I ask a question? I give so much effort to being a deliberate mother. I have found so many great resources (like your blog!!!) and I think I have picked up some helpful skills. However, I think my marriage has suffered at the expense of my motherhood. I think I use up all my patience during the day on my kids and I’m fresh out by the time my husband gets home. I need someone to give me “wife skills” as clearly as I can find resources with “mom skills”. Any concrete tips you can pass along? Especially for those of us with little kids. Thanks!

I thought that question was the best observation.

Something I have thought about over and over again, but haven’t really expressed.  

I think it is so interesting that you can go to the library (or the Internet) and find myriads of books about parenting.  There are blogs filled with child-rearing techniques, Pinterest boards spilling out with job chart ideas and home-schooling helps.  There are so many wonderful resources!  

Yet there is very little about “wife-hood” or “being a great spouse” out there.

Sure there are some things, and maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but it seems that most things I’ve come across are more focused on how to pick up pieces after a your marriage is in trouble rather than staying on the offense, building and “growing” a great marriage.

Why is that?  It made me wonder why I don’t write more on here about wife-hood.  Is it because marriage is too personal and so different from couple to couple that there aren’t as many mainstream ideas?  Is it because Dave and I are good at fighting and I’m certainly not a marriage expert?  Is it because I don’t want to air out the stuff that’s not-so-great?  I don’t know, but I would love to concentrate more on this along with parenting things here on the blog.  

Because really, Dave is my # 1 (I wrote about that back HERE).  I know it, but sometimes I sure don’t show it.  And I know often-times I forget to let him know it.  I let life get in the way, I figure my kids are more needy and concentrate on them, I figure he can handle being on the back burner a little better than the kids can.

But that is just plain wrong.  He needs to be my first priority.

He needs to know it, and my kids do too.

I remember very vividly the day I realized my Dad loved my Mom more than he loved me.  I wrote all about it in this post back HERE (q&a about my boys), but to sum it up, I don’t remember if it was something he said or something he did, but it hit me like a ton of bricks: to him, she came first.

At first I was shocked.

I had always thought I was his favorite (he had a way of making us all feel that way).  And I’ll be honest, part of me was pretty devastated.  But gradually that devastation led to the most wonderful security.  I knew my parents would always love each other.  And there’s something about that that means a whole lot to a kid.

So, how do we put our husbands first?

I’ve thought about this a bunch over the years (and wrote a list of concrete ways HERE), especially lately.  Mostly because I have three close friends who are in some deep depths of struggling in their marriages and it makes my heart ache.  And it seems like I hear of more troubled marriages all the time. 

And it makes me want to scream out to all those young couples out there…and older ones too…myself included…”put him first!”  Make it happen.  Don’t let the disconnection get to the point where you don’t think you can go back to fix things…they’re so broken the pieces are strewn out of grasp.  It can happen so gradually, so slowly, that you don’t even know it’s happening.  And then BAM!, you are in marriage counseling trying to figure out what went wrong, and you realize a lot went wrong, and you could have fixed some major parts of it if you had put that guy as your number one more often.

I know there are so many reasons that marriages break down.  I know both partners need to invest and it can be so difficult when one just doesn’t seem to care.  I know things can get muddled up in all kinds of ways.  But I also know that we have power to make a difference as well.  We have power to nurture more and reach out of our way to renew, rekindle, to give unconditional love.

Maybe that means sitting down and watching the World Series with him even when you have kids crawling all over you, noses to wipe, homework to sign, dishes to be done.

Maybe it means putting away your technology that is so mesmerizing and looking into his face, listening more fully to what happened during his day.

Maybe it means finding one thing you specifically appreciate about that guy and letting him know every night before you go to sleep.

It could be little things like slipping a little note into his drawer telling him how much you love him or sending a random text through the day.

And also forgiving and forgetting…not holding grudges and bringing up things that should have been erased and replaced with better things.

I was listening to an “On Being” podcast the other day about “mindfulness.” It was fascinating…at least the part I listened to (I need to finish it because I only just got started while cooking dinner before things got crazy).  But one of the things that hit me was a recommendation to go home to the person you live with and notice (be “mindful”) of five new {hopefully good} things about them.  Put them in the forefront of your mind and look for things that may have melded into the background after all those years of living together.  And even just that “mindfulness” alone will bring you to love and be endeared to a person more.

Anyway, this is a lot of rambling for a Monday morning, but I’ve had these thoughts swirling around in my mind for a while and ready or not, I’m sending them out to cyberspace.

I’d like to start talking about this more on here because I have a lot of different things I’d love to bring up.  I hope readers out there do too.  I know there are many single women out there who read this blog as well as married ones.  No matter where we are in life, we’ve all learned and observed a thing or two about different marriages, and I’d love to hear the thoughts that come from all kinds of life experiences.

Bottom line is that good marriages don’t just happen.  They take attention.  They take being deliberate.  Sure, being a good marriage partner may come more naturally for some than for others, but I don’t believe it’s something that can be put on autopilot no matter how compatible the two halves are.  So what are we going to do about that?

I’d love to hear what others do, or what others have observed in other marriages, to put that spouse of theirs in that #1 spot (readers mentioned some great things in the comments of this post back HERE…I’m sure there are so many more!).

And I’d like to issue us all a challenge to make wife-hood more deliberate today.  (Is “wife-hood” even a thing?  If not, let’s make it one 🙂  Whether we make a constant effort or whether we have forgotten the importance of that all-important relationship, let’s go do something to show those spouses of ours they matter.  A lot. 

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36 comments

Laura February 15, 2021 - 9:50 am

This is great! Thanks for sharing 😊

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Lissa February 15, 2021 - 10:15 am

Here’s a question: What categories of things do you fight about? Our kids are grown, but when they were home our most frequent fight was about them! Who was too permissive (he was!), goals/values we wanted for them etc. He grew up quite poor and was so lenient about buying them things which was frustrating. I often told him that I sometimes to be the one that could spoil a little, but that meant that he’d have to be more strict at times. Those differences never really changed, but the kids grew up fine :). The other difficult topic was about various family relations and how willing we were to be involved. I think dealing with our own “issues” made those topics easier. In our 40s we signed up for a marriage workshop at church and it was great fun! Lot of breakout sessions with just your partner and then just men together and women together and then we would come back to the table as a group. Over and over and over we women would say
“seriously??? Men think/feel that way??” It was very encouraging because people were so very honest about their marriages and it helps you feel less alone.

One topic I’d love to see a post on: How do you and Dave handle financial help with the young marrieds. It seems like a strong belief among Mormons (that I’ve read via blogs) is to develop a strong work ethic as you are growing up and to earn the things you want. As Mormon kids seem to marry earlier than young adults in general, do parents help the young couple out? My parents married their senior year of college and they were financially independent from that time forward (of course my GF would occasionally drop off a bag with a few steaks and treats into the back of their car). Thanks

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 5:41 pm

Oh we fought about those things and still do! It’s so tricky to figure out how to parent young kids when they’re home, as well as adult kids when they’ve moved away. We have lots of different views on those things, but those differences make for some good discussions (some that are spurred by huffiness of the frustrations of different approaches).

Good question about the financial help. We are still trying to figure that out, to be honest. Our kids know they are pretty much on their own after they get married. I think the struggle is part of the growth, and we don’t want to take that away. But there are a few things we help with. I don’t think there’s one right answer about financial help because everyone is coming from such different vantage points so it gets tricky! I think the important thing is communication. And being aware of coddling which I think is a pandemic in so many ways.

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Lissa February 17, 2021 - 6:13 am

Thanks for your response Shawni. I love how you keep looking for ways to grow and keep relationships fresh. My husband is happy that I now give him an enthusiastic greeting when he gets home from work …. You help many of us to keep things on the radar instead of just languishing in the gray.

I completely agree about not taking away the struggle. Parental rescuing takes away the pride and confidence from working it out together. Our big extravagance was walking up to the Pizza Hut on a Friday night for a medium pizza, a shared soda and 2 games of PacMan each. We found a chair on the curb and bought some fabric and my husband sutured on a new cover. We always knew that there was a parental net out there (which differentiates one from true poverty), but having to figure it all out together creates the fun and togetherness of being married. I’ve enjoyed watching Elle and Abby make so much out of decorating and wardrobes with all their creativity.

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Steveni February 19, 2021 - 3:44 pm

Shawni, I would be so curious to hear how you see coddling playing out…both around you and also what examples you’ve seen around the world! My husband and I are planning to start a family soon and that is one thing that I do not want t mess up. Thanks so much!

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Liz February 15, 2021 - 11:41 am

There is a website called wifesavers.org that is run by a woman named Ramona Zabriskie. This is copied from her site, ” Many women find that their marriages aren’t turning out the way they hoped, leading to feelings of disappointment, disconnection, and discouragement. That’s where Ramona comes in. She is a wife of 40 years, the celebrated marriage mentor and global educator who is changing women’s lives in over seventy countries. By unlocking the mysteries of modern marriage, Ramona Zabriskie helps women view themselves and their relationships in an empowering, new light. She has won the hearts of thousands of women, young and old, as a personal mentor, multi-award winning author, and as the founder of Wife for Life University. Now, through her transformative WifeSavers program, you too can benefit from her encouragement, empathy, and practical wisdom, and finally create the life and love you married for.” She has a service you can pay for but also a blog and podcast. I am not a subscriber but have listened to many podcasts. She is excellent and really makes you think. She is a great advocate for marriage. Just thought I would pass this on. Check it out.

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 5:48 pm

Wow that sure sounds great I’ll have to check it out.
For some reason it reminds me of a book I read last year called The Empowered Wife. I wrote about it in this post back here: https://71toes.com/2019/09/five-thoughts-on-a-friday/

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L. A. February 15, 2021 - 12:31 pm

I am on my second marriage. I thought my first marriage was a dream….we had the picture perfect family. But I was completely blindsided after 13 years, when I found out my husband at the time had been living a double life, and no longer wanted to be married or have anything to do with our sweet little family. I thought I’d never marry again. But years later, after I had decided I was fine being single the rest of my life, I was blessed to meet a very honorable man. One thing I have noticed with this second marriage is that neither one of us ever get upset over the small, petty stuff. It just doesn’t matter. We don’t take each other for granted. We express our gratitude to each other every day. We help one another daily. We work together at home (dishes, yard work, cooking, etc.) and try to lighten each others load. There is no selfishness in our relationship. We put each other first. And for that I am so grateful.

I loved what you said about when you learned your Dad loved your Mom more than you– and how at first you were shocked, but then it eventually led to a feeling of security for you. I think that’s important for parents to understand. Because I sometimes worry about that too- One thing I shared with my step son is that LOVE is the one thing you can continually give and it never diminishes, but rather multiplies.

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 5:50 pm

Yes that is so true about love. It only multiplies when you continually give it. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? I’m so glad you have found so much happiness in your second marriage. I love that you don’t take each other for granted. That is such a wonderful foundation you have built.

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Kristin February 15, 2021 - 5:29 pm

Kristin Andrus has an Instagram account and she talked about this yesterday. Giving 100% to your relationship and not putting expectations on what you will get or how they should react in return. She make the point that in some abusive, manipulative relationships this doesn’t work, but in healthy relationships you need to go 100% and not put expectations on what you want, (unless you express them to him/her). In healthy relationships you will find the other will begin to follow suit and also be looking for ways they can make your life better.

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 5:54 pm

I just checked that out, it’s so good! Thanks for sharing.

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Sherri February 15, 2021 - 10:22 pm

This post is so timely for me. My husband and I had a great and much needed discussion the other night. We feel “back on track” and have practical plans in place to keep things that way. We are both taking the Emotional Resilience course offered by the Church and it has been a huge help! A lot of “between the lines” inspiration has come from the Spirit that we just weren’t expecting but that has been such a blessing. I highly recommend it! Thank you for bringing up such an important topic.

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 5:55 pm

I love this, Sherri! I’m doing that emotional resilience class as well for Relief Society, it’s so good!

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Christine February 16, 2021 - 3:23 am

This is an important topic. I just found a wonderful and amazing podcast called ‘What Makes Love Last,’ with Brene Brown (Sociologist and Author) and John & Julie Gottman (Marriage Researchers and Clinicians). I’ve been using a lot of the Gottmans’ research for a class I teach, so I was intrigued. I’m glad I listened. This is very valuable and practical information–especially about conflict resolution– that can apply to any marriage. Here’s the link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6nNnUm8dhdHm4DD6QwzqSo?fbclid=IwAR2rIZrN3U2qcTSNiDvd88M0tpf-RsgWbJji-m8aWba2wIAO9OaMP5rFhwI

I’ve also really enjoyed your parents’ book ‘The 8 Myths of Marriaging.’

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 5:57 pm

Oh I’m excited to listen to that podcast! Thanks for the recommendation. And yes, I’m a little biased but I do think my parents have the marriage thing figured out!
xoxo

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Sarah February 16, 2021 - 6:26 am

My husband and I watched a Facebook live event Dr. Chapman (author of the 5 Love Languages) last night and that man is so full of married life wisdom. We are blessed to have him as a pastor at our church but we still take every chance we can get to listen to him especially when he speaks about the topic of marriage. We just recently got married (second marriage for both of us) and we want to start off strong and keep going strong so I love that you want to have more posts about “wifehood”! I don’t think you can ever have too many reminders or learn too much about how to be the best wife and how to keep your marriage growing in the right direction. Like Dr. Chapman said last night, “Marriages are either growing stronger or getting weaker, they never just stand still.”

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 5:58 pm

Oh I love that quote, Sarah. And how lucky that Dr> Chapman is your pastor! I would love to listen to a Facebook live event. Is that still available?

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Tricia February 16, 2021 - 8:19 am

This is something my husband and I talk about A LOT! We take note of when we do not feel connected to each other and express those feelings and try to reconnect. It takes work. But something we have done is learn each other’s love language. I know his love language is and he knows mine. It helps us connect with each other. Really, it’s all about connection!

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 6:00 pm

I so agree! If you don’t have connection, you can’t feel the love. And that connection does take work, and thought, and sometimes sacrifice, right? But it’s such a beautiful thing. I think that “love language” thinking is so important! Thank you for sharing, Tricia!
xoxo

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Priscilla February 16, 2021 - 3:06 pm

“It seems that most things I’ve come across are more focused on how to pick up pieces after a your marriage is in trouble rather than staying on the offense, building and “growing” a great marriage.” This is SO true! I’m a fairly newlywed (4 years) and when we first got married, I wanted to find resources about keeping my awesome marriage awesome. I looked and most resources were about saving a bad marriage, which was so discouraging that I stopped looking. I found two IG accounts that sorta worked and I still follow them, but I wish there were more ideas for maintaining a great marriage. Thanks for making an attempt!

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Shawni February 16, 2021 - 6:00 pm

I’d love to hear about the two IG accounts. That one mentioned above looks really good! It really is such an important topic!

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SarahN February 16, 2021 - 3:27 pm

I noticed some commentors mention second marriages – is your spouse still number one, especially when you have kids from the first marriage? Definitely something I’m working through

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Bennett Delaney February 16, 2021 - 7:03 pm

I am curious … and I know this is going to sound aggro, but I swear I don’t mean it that way, I am genuinely asking … are you framing these questions as “wife-hood” because you assume that most people reading this blog are women (as are you) and exist within a marriage as wives? Or do you think that the expectation should be the same for both parties in a marriage, and could this really be about “spouse-hood”?

I am a woman, unmarried and statistically unlikely ever to be at this point, but of course I am the product of a marriage and I see examples of it all around me — both good ones and bad ones. I would like to think that the responsibility for what you’re talking about lies equally with both parties in a marriage, no mater the gender.

For example: “Maybe that means sitting down and watching the World Series with him even when you have kids crawling all over you, noses to wipe, homework to sign, dishes to be done.” … OR maybe he turns off the TV and does the dishes while you finish helping with the homework.

Thoughts?

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Shawni February 17, 2021 - 3:44 pm

Great question, yes definitely for “spouse-hood,” but geared to women because most readers are women here. It takes both parties in a marriage to make it work. But I think that sometimes it’s easy to wait until our significant other does the humbling or the cleaning or the a, b, or c, when really, it’s got to start with us: Whoever you are, husband or wife. I love some advice from my parents to think this thought about your spouse and his/her interests/loves/desires: “if it’s important to you, it’s important to me.” And make it important to you. Whether it’s no clutter on the kitchen counter or getting kids to work or managing finances or healthy eating or a new job interest, if it’s important to your spouse, make it important to you. Listen. Be there. Seek to understand.

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Shawni February 17, 2021 - 3:44 pm

(I hope that makes sense.)

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Janine Rust February 16, 2021 - 10:32 pm

Shawni, I am so grateful for you dedication and example. It has blessed my life for many years now and I feel honored to have you as a friend. I needed to read this. It has sparked some ideas in me that I want to try in my marriage. I definitely need to make more of an effort in this area. Thank you for inspiring me! ❤️

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Shawni February 17, 2021 - 3:46 pm

Oh Janine, I’m so grateful for you and your friendship. Thank you for this kind note, sending love right back to you!
xoxox

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Jenny also February 17, 2021 - 1:01 am

I really don’t get this “I found out my dad loves my mom
More than me” thing. I don’t think love needs to be, or should be, measured or ranked like that. Love for spouse and children are so different! why compare? I experience love as boundless and infinite and immeasurable.

Also, I don’t believe there’s one “formula” that works for everyone.

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Shawni February 17, 2021 - 3:47 pm

I guess everyone sees it differently. For me, having parents that put each other as a first priority before everything else made me feel so secure as their daughter.

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Mom February 17, 2021 - 2:18 am

This is great stuff! Such an important conversation!

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Shawni February 17, 2021 - 3:47 pm

So grateful for your example of this, always, mom.
xoxo

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Jan February 17, 2021 - 9:49 am

My husband and I had a great marriage, but it was intentional and it was work. We both had the mind set of, “What can I do today to make his/her day easier?” and trust me, sometimes it took all my energy to be the one to fold the towels because he had more of a physically demanding day, even when I just wanted to relax after work. But it was that mind frame that kept us connected, because we both worked it, and we both felt it. He passed away, and the one thing I never regret is how we treated one another.

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Shawni February 17, 2021 - 3:50 pm

I love this, Jan. I’m so sorry that you lost your husband. I’m so inspired by your words that you will never regret how you treated each other. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
xoxo

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Kanien February 19, 2021 - 2:13 pm

I second the Brene Brown podcast with the John and Julie Gottman. Following the Gottman Institute on social media is also very helpful in giving little reminders about how to strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Their research is so incredible and I feel like they give you the tools to show you how to strengthen your relationship and to stop doing the things that hinder your relationship. Their new book 8 dates also helps you rekindle the curiosity you have in your partner, especially if you have been married a long time. Their website has a lot of information on how to be a good spouse, it is a great place to start for good info. https://www.gottman.com/

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Marc March 6, 2021 - 3:22 pm

Wonderful book called “Conscious Loving” by the Hendricksons. Two great points, that really stood out, were to express detailed appreciation daily. Not simple. (like “thanks for taking out the garbage.”) But detailed. For example ‘I so appreciate how you always stop what you are doing and really listen to what I am sharing. I feel like what I am sharing matters.” Or “I’ve noticed every time you come home I feel a warmth right here in my Solar Plexus just seeing your smiling face!” Or “I sure appreciate how you treat my family with consideration every time you are around them.” Or “You always the first to jump in to help when ever there is someone in need. I sure do love and appreciate your giving heart.” Or “I really appreciate what you have shown me about having “healthy boundaries” with others. I can’t save the world but I sure can do what I can when it makes sense.” And “Every day I can feel your love for me. Even when I’m having a rough day. Your pointing out the positive makes a difference.”

At the start it can feel weird and a tad awkward. But over time it becomes a part of daily interaction. And…it is tough to want to argue with or criticize your spouse when you keep looking for what they are doing RIGHT every day. (instead of defaulting to the lazy way of criticizing) It truly takes “Conscious Loving” to do this regularly. The energy is bright and positive when this happens daily.

Another concept was “Upper Limits” Basically we humans tend to sabotage good moments and feelings because they make us feel so uncomfortable. I started noticing this really happens in relationships of any kind. Especially marriage. Here you are having a wonderful day driving some where together. There is laughter and good energy between you all day. All of the sudden the driver BLOWS up about some perceived “other driver injustice” that did something wrong. Good energy? GONE.

Or a wonderful good energy day happening with your spouse. Birds are singing. The Sun is shining. You feel this wonderful love between you. Ahhhh….THIS is what marriage is about! Cue negative joke or commentary from one spouse about the other spouses perceived flaw or past comment or choice of clothing from last night or earlier in the day. Good energy? GONE! (There was even a song written about this: “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”)

It takes Conscious Loving to stop oneself from disrupting those wonderful good feelings because we have been conditioned, in so many ways, that good feelings are “weird” and “uncomfortable”. So we unconsciously stop or interrupt them! If you don’t believe this. Pay attention to marriages and relationships around you. It’s an eye opener how often people sabotage good energy/feelings. For us. It took time to learn to allow “good energy” and “good feelings” to just BE and absorbed and ENJOYED. By doing so that good energy FLOWS into the relationship. It’s a safe haven. For ideas expressed. For loving energy to FLOW. What a difference these two simple concepts have made!

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Shawni March 7, 2021 - 4:56 pm

Love these thoughts, Marc, thank you for sharing. There’s nothing like getting some detailed appreciation, and also, it’s such a good thing to pay attention enough to be able to give it.
xoxo

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