Marriage is hard. And I am far from a marriage expert or pro. However, I feel like there is something my husband and I have learned to do that has made our marriage strong, with such rare fighting that I can’t even remember the last time we were in an argument…and just a mutual bond that I think will help us survive the chaos of our lives and grow closer and closer as the years go on.
Parenting is a hard time on a marriage. After our first born, my husband and I pretty much had limited conversation or connection for months. He was getting no love or attention from me, and I felt miserable about myself, convincing myself he couldn’t love my flabby stomach, leaking breasts, and feeling completely lost and alone with the child that was attached to me 24/7. He needed more from me, and I needed more from him. I always say the first child is the hardest, because it is the biggest adjustment. Children 2, 3, and 4 have been a piece of cake, haha.
One of my biggest faults is lack of communication. This is something I am definitely much better at, but I have a long way to go. So instead of discussing with each other where we were struggling and what we needed from each other, we really just quit talking much at all. And though my communication has improved, along with my husband’s…I don’t think that is why our marriage has grown so strong over the years.
I think the one thing we both learned was that we can’t expect anyone else to fill our cup. First, to be the best spouse, friend, parent…you have to have your cup…your happiness and mindset…filled in order to pour over love into others. You can try to give give give, but if you cup is empty, you won’t be able to last long. So many people out there look to their spouse to fill their cup. If my spouse would help around the house, I would be less stressed and happier and our relationship would be better. If we would have more sex, we would have a better marriage (don’t we all need to do this more). If my kids would behave, I would be in a better mood. People look to their loved ones to give them the love and appreciation they need to feel happy, they look to their kids’ successes to bring them joy, they look to their boss or job to make them feel worthwhile. Yet I don’t think any of that works. Yes, we want to be loved, but we can’t expect that to be what fills our cups.
The only one that can truly fill your cup to allow you to improve your relationships and happiness are you and God. This is just my opinion and what I’ve learned from my Bible studies over the years. Working on your own mindset and allowing yourself to do some things you enjoy is not selfish…..it allows you to be reenergized and starts pouring into your own cup so you have more to give to others. Above all, turning to God and filling up your cup with His promises, His faith, prayer, and devotion will do so much more for your happiness. And imagine, as partners, if you both do this. You fill up your cup with God and working on your own happiness and mindset, then have that reserve to pour into each other.
There are going to be chaotic times in parenting when you struggle to keep up…when you barely have time for a kiss goodnight. When the sex is lacking. When the kids are acting up. When your focus is so far from each other you feel like you are co-living instead of married. What do you do in those times? Do you withdraw and start feeling angry at your spouse? Frustrated that they aren’t doing more for you? Or do you realize you are in this together, and work to fill your own cup. I find my husband and I have learned this art of filling our own cup, which makes it so much easier to get out of the marriage lulls and back into our teasing and cuddling. There will be lulls in marriage! It is a roller coaster, like anything in life. But when you base your happiness on God, find your strength and joy through him, the lulls don’t affect you as much, and you find you can easily pour that love back into each other sooner.
There are so many evenings now that I am away, so many times I feel guilty for not doing more for my husband, or staying up later to spend time with him. I feel bad I’m not a great communicator at times, and I know he deserves so much more love and attention than I always give him (oh these 4 kids drain it all out of us, but they are so worth it, haha.) He works so hard and does so much for me, then often my attention goes elsewhere…the kids, my business, housework….I can’t even cook for heaven’s sake! You would think he would show frustration and get mad. But instead, if I’m lying down at night with the kids, he gives me a knowing smile and kisses me good night…realizing I might fall asleep with them and that there might not be room for him in the bed (there were 3 kids in our bed last night). He doesn’t wait for me to fill up his cup. I don’t wait for him to fill up mine. But by having our cups filled by God, I think it makes us happier together, able to tolerate this chaotic time in our life better, and more likely to go that extra step for our relationship.
(Just as an addendum…after I wrote this, I sent a message to my husband telling him my blog was making me feel like a bad wife…knowing I don’t have enough sex, I sometimes fall asleep early, and don’t give him much attention…he let me in on a secret. He enjoys the quiet by himself on the couch sometimes when the kids and I are all in bed. Just like I need my quiet time in the morning or during my workouts, those quiet times with the TV to himself and no kids running around fills his cup. And here I was feeling guilty! Hehe)
So how are you filling your own cup?
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things to strengthen a marriage once you fill your own cup!
Laugh together. Think back to when you were dating! Give each other little pinches in the kitchen, tickle each other, tease each other. Show your kids what a fun relationship is like!
Send little text messages. This is something my husband is so great at. It’s amazing how good it can make you feel in the middle of a work day when you get a random “I love you” text from your spouse.
Do those extra things you know your spouse likes. I know my husband likes having his lunch packed. It’s a simple little thing. I don’t do it near as often as I did when we first got married, but I try sometimes to put out his lunch and make him a breakfast shake in the morning. I came home the other day from running a kid to practice, and he had a mocha made and waiting for me. It’s hard when we are trying to get through our to do list and managing all the kids’ needs and schedules, but those little things you can do for each other don’t take long.
Hold hands. It will feel weird if you haven’t done it since you were dating. But just try it.
Here’s one we started doing. Find a hobby you can do together. Get into a weekly competitive game (I remember many nights as a child wathcing my parents play Double Solitaire). Matt and I decided to pick a show to watch together. It is so hard to find time together, so I decided to get into zombies with my husband a long time ago (The Walking Dead would not have been my first choice, but I knew he loved it). I wanted to have a reason to do something together…even if it was just a weekly show we could connect on…and surprisingly I actually started liking it. Since then, we have started watching a show on Netflix (have you seen Stranger Things Yet?!)…and though it may only be a once a week thing..having that one thing to sit down together and do together is amazing.
Date night! Although with 4 kids, and child care costs…this is a rarity in our life!
Enjoy things apart from each other! I love shopping, traveling, spending Bachelor night with a friend. My husband likes going to friends for a couple beers, golfing (when he can find the time), and hunting. My husband and I try hard not to make each other feel guilty about needing to participate in our hobbies and fun time.
We don’t have a perfect marriage, but I absolutely love our relationship and this life we have built and continue to build together. I don’t know how I got so blessed to have him in my life, but I know it was God’s doing. Think of those little things you can do for each other (without expecting anything in return). But above all, find a way to fill your cup.