Family Harmony, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships

How to Sell Your Husband (or Wife)

How to Sell Your Husband

If you’re married – and have been for longer than a minute or so – then in your tougher moments, the title of this post might pique your interest: How to Sell Your Husband (or Wife).  It’s just tongue-in-cheek, of course – a hyperbolic title like those of the comedies ‘How to Murder Your Wife’ and ‘Throw Momma from the Train’.

Frustrations in a relationship are inevitable, unless one of you is overdue for sainthood (Hint: you’re not).  And in the tougher moments, those frustrations can bubble up a little.

I don’t know about you, but when I get steamed up, I tend to vent at the mouth.

It’s easy to let those little niggley frustrations turn into little nit-picky comments.  And, as with anything that you practice at, eventually it becomes a habit: nitpicking becomes the norm; nagging becomes your default.  Letting things slide goes by the wayside, and you give voice to whatever isn’t perfect.

Sometimes that happens in this house.  Sometimes I get a little too ‘good’ at picking up on what’s not perfect about my hubby and a little too bad at noticing the good stuff.

So here I am, married to this kind, strong, loving, loyal guy – and instead of telling him all about the wonderful things I see in him, I end up pointing out the negative things I observe.  Remember, too, that what we notice when we’re mad tends to be coloured by our emotion – so those little things that ordinarily wouldn’t worry us suddenly become sources of rage.  I’m talking about the dry cough; the incessant leg-bouncing or pen drumming; the towel that just gets flung down every.single.time and never gets to dry properly (ugh!)

And what happens when you’ve got kids?  Well, you’ve got an audience for the whole thing.

What we don’t always realize is that how we talk about our spouse is how we’re ‘selling’ them to our kids.  We are marketing our spouse’s qualities through what we say about them as well as how we speak to them.

The shoe can be on the other foot, too – at times the way our spouse speaks to us or about us within earshot of our kids negatively influences our kids’ opinions of us, even unintentionally.

Sometimes I notice a creeping disrespect in my boys towards me.  I find them trotting along to their Daddy for verification of whatever I’ve said.  I see them taking longer to come when I call them.  I hear them arguing more when I ask them to do something.

Feeling ignored or disrespected is my particular catalyst to misery (I am thin-skinned, after all) – so when I see this behaviour I know that I need to tackle it right away.

When these challenges arose recently, I reflected, observed, and prayed.  And through this process it was clear that we have created the problem, West and I:  the root of our boys’ disrespect is in how we speak to (or about) one another and in how we choose to respond.  We need to focus on ‘marketing’ each other’s best points so that our kids develop a healthy sense of respect (and, if it’s not too much to hope for, admiration) for both of us.

This isn’t a concern unique to us, either – many families struggle because their kids have developed attitudes of disrespect and ambivalence towards one or both of their parents; and, if not nipped quickly in the bud, those attitudes take root and grow.

So, how should you sell your husband (or wife) to your kids to avoid selling him (her) short?

Guard your words.  You need to be careful not to dismiss or belittle the things your spouse has to say.  Avoid dismissing or belittling him (her) as a person, too.

Master your thoughts.  The little negative opinions you hold can shape your behaviour; being aware of the ways in which you fail to cherish your spouse can help you to care better for him (her).

Demonstrate love.  When you’re overtly demonstrative, you help reassure your kids that you love your spouse.  Not only will they thrive in the security of seeing your love in action – your spouse will, too.

Avoid criticising.  Bite your tongue.  Seriously – Bambi’s little friend Thumper had it right: “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothin’ at all!”

Lavish praise.  If you can think of one good thing about your spouse, he (or she) should hear about it.  So should your kids.  Chances are you can think of quite a few things you appreciate about your mate.  Praise him (her) truthfully, regularly, and abundantly.

Communicate intentionally.  This one’s tough for some.  But failing to communicate sends the message that your spouse isn’t worth your consideration or attention.  So take the time and trouble to let him (her) know what you’re up to.  Apologize if you’re running late.  Share your thoughts and feelings on general topics as well as those closer to your heart.

The last thing any parent wants – in fact, the last thing anyone wants – is to be dismissed and disrespected.  Belonging and significance matter greatly – show your spouse that they’re an integral and important part of your family; and be deliberate in how you work to curtail disrespectful attitudes in your kids.

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Remember: If the way we speak to/about our spouse is like marketing them to the rest of the world, we have to be intentional about how we’re ‘selling’ their image.  Their reputation depends on it.

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Food for Thought

How do you sell your spouse to your kids?  If you asked your children what you think of Mum or Dad, what would they say?

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Thanks for reading!

-Trix

June 2015 Shared on the Wise Woman Linkup

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Marriage, Relationships, Uncategorized

Miss Understood

Misunderstood

I can trace my origins back to a simple misunderstanding.

My parents (to be) met at a party.  It was the twenty-first birthday of a mutual friend (or friend-of-a-friend), and a young man – who would eventually become my father – asked a young lady to dance.  As they moved around the dance floor, they attempted conversation, but the music was loud – and so it was that my mother (the young lady), keeping herself at a modest distance from her dance partner, mistook what he was saying for a querulous demand to know why she was holding herself so primly apart from him.

What she heard was, “Don’t you trust yourself?”

To which she replied (in her usual witty and forthright manner),  “Of course I trust myself – it’s YOU I don’t trust!”

The young man blinked in confusion, and it took him some time – maybe until the end of the song (when the music quieted) – to regain the gumption to clarify himself:

“Actually, what I asked you was, ‘Did you make this dress yourself?’.”

Some time later, that same young couple became engaged.  My Dad had proposed without a ring, as he wanted them to choose one together, and so my Mum was waiting to be adorned with that special symbol of their commitment.  Christmas was coming, and with it the perfect opportunity for him to give  her the bling.

Unfortunately, nobody had read Dad the Memo.  Instead of a diamond, he gave her:

  • An umbrella, and;
  • A very nice pen

Fortunately, my Mum is the forgiving sort.  In due course, they designed a ring together and he bestowed it on her and all was well.  They’ve now been married for four and a half decades, and there have been plenty of funny misunderstandings (and opportunities for forgiveness), in the intervening years.

My folks do share some important similarities to one another.  Both are kind, both have great senses of humour (although they’ll laugh – and joke – about very different things), both are genuinely caring and compassionate, both are generous to a fault, and both share a faith in God and a determination to live out that faith in their everyday lives.

But in other ways, my parents are quite different.  For one thing, my Mum is a word person.  She’s a great writer and communicator, and she is very wise about matters of the heart and soul.  My Dad, while not exactly the opposite of that, is much more of a mathematician and scientist – brilliant when it comes to numbers, but not always as astute when it comes to the nuances of social behaviour (and, my Mum would argue, codes of dress).  Mum loves the idea of a relaxing holiday – going somewhere familiar, and having some down-time together; Dad, on the other hand, prefers his vacations to involve lots of activity and he enjoys discovering new places more than returning to old haunts.  But in spite of their differences, my parents have managed to make their marriage a strong and harmonious one. They have been through lean times and times of plenty.  They have loved and supported one another through job transfers and international moves, the raising of children, the loss of parents… the list goes on and on.  They have lived their lives together.

Now their children are married, too.  My sister and I have both married men who are, in ways, quite different from ourselves.  I, a logophile like my mother, am married to an engineer like my father.  I am chatty; he is a man of few words (more on that in my next post).  I’m big on emotion and can usually interpret the emotions of others (this is a necessary aid for my less-emotionally-aware hubby).  He has all the answers when it comes to matters of science, or at least he knows where to find them.

A. asked me a question the other day – something about oxygen in space – and I didn’t have a clue what the answer was.  I told him, “That’s the kind of question you can ask Daddy – he knows all about that kind of stuff.  But if you have any questions about words or feelings, I’m your girl.”  A. was very appreciative of this: he replied, “Uh, yeah.”   So perhaps he’s leaning more towards Westley’s communication style.

The thing is, we’re different.  We think differently, we process things differently, we express love differently.  Because of these differences, it can be easy to misunderstand one another.  And where there’s misunderstanding, there is opportunity for offense and hurt.  But there is also opportunity for forgiveness.  And if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching my parents in their relationship, and from hearing the story of how they met, it is that – as long as you have forgiveness and a sense of humour – sometimes great things can grow from little misunderstandings.

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Family Harmony, Parenting

Lost In The Shuffle

Boys' gifts

Getting the three schoolboys out the door in the mornings is a frantic operation.

“Where’s your lunch?”

“Did you sign my planner?”

“Find your shoes”

“Is it the weekend?”

“What do you think?”

“Is there a note in my lunchbox?”

“Yes.  Shoes, please.”

“I don’t have something for show-and-tell!”

“Why aren’t you wearing shoes?”

“Are we late?”

“Shoes!”

“I did a double-knot…”

“Who didn’t grab their lunch?”

“Is my note in it?”

“Where’s my kiss?”

And if my Mum’s around, you can add a whole lot of grand proclamations about the weather (“It’s going to be -1 after lunch!”) and queries about the appropriateness of everyone’s clothing for the prophesied forecast – as if somehow we might have mistaken the sunshine outside for a leap into summer straight from mid-winter – making for even more clamour and debate.

There’s so much hurly-burly hustle during the send-off that by the time they’re out the door and D. and I have waved them off with a flurry of blown kisses and ‘love’ signs I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to find one of them still standing there just inside the door, having missed the ride/walk to school.  Sometimes, when I pass the big boys’ bedroom and see a lump under the sheets, I wonder if maybe someone got missed in the shuffle.

Every family I know with four or more kids has a story about losing one or another child during an outing – well, not us; but it’s early days yet for us as a family of six and I know that our time will come.  My goddaughter (the youngest of four) was once left behind on a soccer field when the children were being ferried home separately by their parents. Other friends have recounted their stories of that panicked moment when they’ve been away from home and they’ve suddenly looked down and realized that one of their kids wasn’t with them. It has become something of a legend in West’s family how, at age three, he (the third of four children) ventured on a solo journey from home to fetch his older sister from a friend’s house several blocks (and a number of street-crossings) away; my mother-in-law, apparently, only realized he was missing when she received a phone call from the friend’s Mum asking how he had got there.

That’s one of the challenges of having a big family, in fact – it can be easy for someone to get missed in the shuffle.  Sometimes it’s just because things are just crazy with so many people talking and negotiating and sharing and arguing at once – I know that at times like this our youngest (being a pre-verbal small person) can feel rather neglected.  Our C. (a kindergartener) has cause to feel left out, too – mostly when the bigger boys have older-kid stuff on the go, like music practices, homework, or playing games that are too sophisticated for a little brother.  B. can be super-sensitive, and he feels ignored whenever the focus is on anyone other than himself (that’s a whole other topic – watch this space), so his brothers’ birthdays and other celebrations aren’t easy for him.  And A. can sometimes be so acquiescent to his brothers’ demands that he doesn’t really get a say or have a chance to figure out what it is that he really wants in any given situation; so he can get a bit lost in the shuffle, as well.

So we try to give them one-on-one time.  We try to have family meetings where we each say something nice about all the other people.  We try to find little ways of acknowledging the boys (and each other), and having them acknowledge one another.

It’s always a challenge to give our children a reason to feel special and prevent them from feeling that they might be forgotten on the periphery.  This past Christmas, we found a pretty cool way of doing just that.  Instead of adding to the pile of gifts under the tree (we have such a generous family) and wrapping things up for each boy to give to his brothers, we encouraged them to find an activity they could share one-on-one – something that their brother (rather than themselves) would especially like to do.  In other words, they gave each other ‘presence,’ not presents.  We’re hoping that this will help create common experiences and memories, too, that will bind them to one another when sibling rivalry threatens the harmony of our household (as it does from time to time).

We can all sometimes feel a bit lost in the shuffle – our plans, our hopes, our dreams, can be waylaid in the busyness of life – so it helps if the people we love do what it takes to make sure that we don’t stay on the periphery for long.

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