Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Rejoice in the Wife of Your Youth"

"Foreshadowing."  Walking downtown on our wedding day as an older couple approaches.
My little trip down memory lane to our first date made me think of the thrill of our new relationship and the butterflies from our first kiss.  Seven years later, we are no doubt more in love with each other than ever.  The depth of our love for one another and the intimacy that we feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually far surpasses the love we felt the day we professed our wedding vows.  

However, both Philip and I will readily admit that the passion that came so easily in the beginning of our romance needs more coaxing (and even plotting!) these days.  Philip has a hectic schedule as a pediatric resident.  His hectic schedule translates into long hours on my end as a stay-at-home mom.  Our limited time together coupled with the physical and emotional demands of raising young children, our limited finances, and our culture's demand that our children be our top priority could be a recipe for disaster.  

I'd be lying if I said that residency has been a breeze and that I love every moment of it.  However, this testing time has been the source of many blessings in our marriage.  I wrote in a previous post that our limited time together actually taught us to move through problems faster, get to "I'm sorry," and spend more time together.  

In learning how to be more effective communicators, we are also learning more about each other's love languages (how each of us wants to receive love).  Not surprisingly, most people show love toward others the way they want to receive love.  Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, has a website dedicated to teaching about the Love Languages.  The 5 Love Language are:
  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch
Philip and I took the online assessment to find out what our love languages are.  Here are our results:

Philip is on the left, I am on the right
According to the 5 Love Languages site, most people usually fall in love with people who have completely different love languages.  Not so with me and Philip!  Despite independently taking the assessment, we scored almost identically.  After discussing our results, it was obvious that we value words of affirmation most, then quality time, and physical touch third.  Acts of service scored fairly high for me, a little lower for Philip, and receiving gifts was the lowest score for both of us.  Basically, it looks like we prefer to be loved in all of the ways except for receiving gifts!  

We talked about how each of us shows and receives these different love languages.  We are both happy with how one another is using words of affirmation and quality time to express love.  Together, we decided that we both need to do a better job of using the love language of physical touch.  The 5 Love Languages site sums up Physical Touch like this:
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
To sum up our discussion on physical touch, I asked Philip to use physical touch more often, especially in non-romantic ways.  Philip asked me to use physical touch more often, especially in romantic ways.   

I am reading Kimberly Hahn's Chosen and Cherished: Biblical Wisdom for Your Marriage.  She has tremendous insight into building intimacy and trust between the spouses.  A few of the chapters in her book are giving me insight into why Philip and I are feeling so differently about physical touch.  She has this to say about the challenges for young families:
One of the difficulties moms with small children face is that, by the end of the day, they have been touched and touched.  A woman may feel that she really does not want any more physical affection that day.  Yet her spouse has not been touched all day.  She needs to be responsive to him, especially if touch is his primary love language.  
YES!  Although we both value physical touch, by day's end, Philip and I need very different things physically.  He comes home, anxious for a big kiss and conversation.  He hasn't had a hug or a kiss since he left that morning.  I, on the other hand, have been touched all day.  Feeding, changing, and loving little ones is a very physical job.  By day's end, I am thrilled to see Philip, but a big make-out session is usually the last thing on my mind.  I wish I could say that my first impulse is to land a big wet one on him when he walks in the door.  Unfortunately, I got into the habit of brushing off his affection and asking him to help corral the kids while I get dinner on the table.  If I've spent the last thirty minutes prepping dinner with one toddler at my feet and another asking a question every ten seconds, it's not enticing to have a touchy husband lingering while I'm stirring something on the stove.  All I want physically is a peck on the cheek and to hear the words, "C'mon, kids.  Let's get out of Mom's way and play in the family room."  

Philip, sweet husband that he is, usually conceded to this being his homecoming and made the most of it.  After our conversation about love languages, I realized that I'm not doing a good enough job of initiating romantic physical touch, especially for his homecoming each day.  Kimberly Hahn beautifully calls us to imitate Christ serving His bride, the Church, by serving our husbands.
This is the call to follow Christ to serve rather than to be served.  It means affirming your spouse, even when you feel unappreciated.  It means asking him what you can do for him, expressing the love languages of gift giving or acts of service, even though you are tired from serving your children all day.
After talking with some other mothers with young children, I learned I am not the only one who struggles to make my husband's daily homecoming a beautiful experience.  One of my friends said that her grandmother gave her some advice that has stuck with her.  She said to give your husband a 90-second kiss everyday when he comes home.  This sounds simple enough, but, really, when was the last time you greeted your husband with a 90-second kiss?  Go ahead.  Set a timer.  Even if you don't feel "into it" when you start the kiss, surely by the 10 or 15 second mark you'll remember that you two "still have it."  Philip tells me to keep taking that friend's advice!

Kimberly Hahn's mother went to a lot of effort to make her husband's daily homecoming special.
My mom prepared for my dad to come home from work.  About fifteen minutes before he arrived, she put on fresh makeup and perfume, changed her outfit if it was dirty, and brushed her teeth.  She was ready to greet him.
I know that this is tough when you are making dinner and caring for little ones.  However, welcoming your husband home sets the tone for dinner and the evening.
Little by little, I am trying to adopt this practice.  When Philip calls from the hospital to say that he's on his way home, I announce to the kids, "Daddy's coming home!  Let's get ready!"  I brush my teeth, freshen up my makeup, and change my clothes if they're dirty from the day.  We tidy up the family room if it needs it.  If I have the time and remember, I light a candle or pour each of us a glass of wine.

To ensure I have this time to get ready before Philip gets home, I'm doing a few things:
  • Give the kids only 1 small snack a day after their afternoon nap around 4:00 p.m.
    • With 1 small snack at 4:00 p.m., my kids are still hungry for dinner, but they're not soooooo starving that they're cranky for dinner and can't wait for Philip to get home 
  • Save the kids' tv time for dinner making time
    • This way, they'll want to watch their show at this time and won't be tempted to wander into the kitchen or need me
  • Work smart, not hard.  Don't make this already stressful time more stressful by making dinner preparation take longer!  
    • Do the meal prep work the night before or during naptime
    • Crockpot recipes make dinnertime nearly stress-free
    • Oven recipes are great because you can wash dishes as dinner bakes
    • Freezer friendly meals are your friend!  Double your recipes so that you can freeze the extra one and any leftovers.
Philip didn't know I was doing all of these behind the scenes things, but he loves his new homecomings.  They're not always a Norman Rockwell picture, but I am happy to say that the extra effort is helping to set the tone for our evenings.  When I have the house, the kids, myself, and dinner taken care of enough to give Philip a warm welcome home, it makes for a much happier evening.  The 90-second kiss doesn't hurt, either!

The kids love it, too.  2-year-old Janie absolutely adores "getting ready" for Daddy to walk in the door.  She watches me reapply my makeup and always has to get her own fresh chapstick.  15-month-old Walt follows us from room to room and shrieks when Monty barks to tell us that Philip's car is pulling in.  When we hear the garage door open, the kids run to the gate at the top of the stairs to greet Philip.  After Philip and the kids have their moment, Philip and I can have our big welcome home hug and kiss.  

It sounds so simple, and it is, but dropping everything to prepare for this moment and give Philip a real welcome home kiss shows him that I still value physical touch and that he is my vocation.  The kids relish witnessing the love between us, too.  As we're smooching, Janie always says, "Awwwwww, Mommy and Daddy love each other!"  She usually ends up between us, squeezing me and Philip together to get in on the love fest.

Not surprisingly, Philip loves the change.  He'd much rather have a wife excited to greet him than the old me who would brush off his attempts at affection at the stove and point him toward the kids.  When I try to serve Philip's real need for physical touch when he walks in the door, he in turn is more willing to serve my genuine need for space and a little silence as I finish making the meal.  Kimberly Hahn wrote about a mother's need for silence at the end of the day:
Even though many women tend to talk more than men, if your children have talked to you from morning till night, you may crave some silence.
My children were great conversationalists from early on, saying wonderful and cute things.  By day's end I had listened a lot.  Scott (her husband) would ask, "Do you want to listen to a tape?  Or do you want me to put on some music?  Do you want to talk?"
My response was, "No, I just want to sit on the sofa for about fifteen minutes and be quiet, with no one touching me and no one talking to me."  After I drank in the silence, I would find Scott in his study and enjoy our conversation.  If the need for  listening was urgent, however, I relinquished my "right" to do things the way I wanted and instead focused on serving my beloved. 
After Philip changes, he takes the kids with him downstairs or they play in the family room so that I can have a little breathing room.  I crave silence by day's end, and Philip knows this.  Giving me a little space to cook and work in silence while he plays with the kids helps me to recharge and to be a better conversationalist over dinner.

We think everyone else wants to be loved exactly how we do.  Learning that Philip and I don't have the same needs at the end of the day and finding out how we can best love each other is changing the tone of our evenings together.  Little by little, these small changes are helping to bring back the spark that came so easily in the beginning of our romance.  Philip and I are still twenty-somethings, but these little things are helping me to be the wife of Philip's youth from Proverbs 5. 

"Let your fountain be blessed, / and rejoice in the wife of your youth, / a lovely deer, a graceful doe.  /  Let her affection fill you at all times with delight, / be infatuated always with her love" (Proverbs 5: 18-19).  

Philip, seeing me for the first time on our wedding day as I walked down the aisle

7 comments:

  1. Seriously, my husband couldn't care less if I greeted him at the door. I told him about the 90 second kiss thing and he wrinkled his nose. We've only been married for 2 years and sometimes I feel like we're falling apart. We don't have any kids and never will because I can't conceive. I try to talk to him about stuff like this but nothing ever changes. Usually I deal with everything relatively well, but blog posts like this make me realize what I'm missing. And yes, we're both faithful Catholics who adhere to all Church teaching.

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  2. Dear Anonymous, I am so sorry to hear that you are suffering. Be assured of my prayers for you and your husband. Please do not get the impression that my marriage is perfect. It was precisely the stress and negatives that brought us to choosing to make these changes that you read about. Blessed Pope John Paul II reminds us, "Marriage is an ACT OF THE WILL that signifies a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family--a domestic church." Marriage isn't always easy, and it is precisely when things are at their worst that we have to CHOOSE to keep loving--even when our spouse doesn't necessarily deserve it. In my case, I'd say it's usually Philip who chooses to do the loving when I don't deserve it! I don't know if you have a spiritual director or regular confessor, but perhaps you should make an appointment to discuss your concerns with him. If your husband is willing to get outside help with you together, all the better! There are fantastic retreats for married couples called Retrouvaille. Their mission is to help marriages going through tough times to heal and renew their sacramental love. It's a solid, Catholic resource for struggling couples. Here's their site: http://www.retrouvaille.org/ Also, there's a fantastic book by a Catholic couple who went through affairs and other difficulties before finding healing. Their book is called "Marriage 911: How God Saved Our Marriage (And Can Save Yours, Too)" Here's the information about the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Marriage-911-Saved-Save-Yours/dp/0867169796 If you're looking for some simple, practical advice to continue to improve your marriage daily, I recommend reading Dr. Ray Guarendi's book "Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards" (http://www.amazon.com/Marriage-911-Saved-Save-Yours/dp/0867169796). Dr. Ray and his wife weren't able to have their own children biologically, and they have found tremendous joy in their TEN adopted children! I don't know the details of your fertility problems (and it's none of my business), but in the off chance that you haven't met with a doctor trained in NaProTechnology, please visit http://www.naprotechnology.com/ to learn more, and find an NFP-only OBGYN at onemoresoul.com. Doctors trained using NaProTechnology and the Creighton Model started by Dr. Thomas Hilgers with the Pope Paul VI Institute may be able to help. (http://www.popepaulvi.com/) Pray daily for the sacramental graces to live out your vocation in marriage. Make use of the sacraments to keep the channels of grace open to you and your husband. Pray together. Pray for your husband. Pray for his conversion of heart. Pray for passion! Pray that you will be humble enough to make any changes you may need to make. Through your quiet and gentle, loving spirit, you may be surprised how God can soften his heart. Choose to love, even if you're met with resistance. Offer up small sacrifices for your husband, and follow the examples of Sts. Rita and Monica. May the Holy Family guide and protect your marriage and send you both healing. In Christ, Catherine

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  3. Thank you so much for this, Catherine. I'm sorry I wrote such a negative comment on this beautiful post, but I just felt like I was going to burst and it all just came pouring out. Thank you for all of your advice. We've tried the Creighton method and my OBGYN was trained by Dr. Hilgers. She told me that we'll never conceive, because I started going into menopause at 17 years old. Thank you for your prayers!

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  4. Catherine: Thank you for posting such sage advice. It's a blessing to hear from a young couple who have discovered that a good marriage doesn't just "happen". Take it from an old married woman who just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary, you are off to a great start. My husband and I didn't discover books like "Five Love Languages" until we were in our 40's! Now, my wedding gifts always include this book, along with Florence Littauer's "Personality Plus", occasionally a Theology of the Body-centered book and usually a pamphlet on how to say the rosary. God bless you and your young family. (I'm adding your blog to my list of favorites and if you get a chance visit www.waycatholic.com)

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  5. Anonymous, no need to apologize! It's much better to seek help than suffer alone. Again, the fertility stuff is none of my business, and it *may* truly be the case that you may never be able to conceive, but if this is something that you're still having questions/concerns about, perhaps it would be worth sending your charts to the Pope Paul VI Institute and getting a second opinion for treatment options. If a biological child is not in your future, I pray that you will find peace, strength, healing, and trust in God's plan for your marriage--whatever that may be. I'm sure that sounds trite coming from a mother of two, but I hope my prayers are uplifting. Continue to seek out counsel through those resources I mentioned, and you'll be in my prayers.

    Jamie, thank you for your sweet words! It's a blessing that writing, something I enjoy so much, is somehow inspiring to others. All glory be to God!

    beckyt, thank you for your kind post as well. I love how you and your husband give those awesome books as wedding gifts. I just might steal that idea... :) I'll be sure to check out your blog as well! Thanks for sharing the link!

    In Christ,
    Catherine

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