But I’m Not a Housewife!

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Marriage Monday: Do I Spend Too Much Time With My Husband?

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First of all, don’t laugh at this picture! I’ve been meaning to start writing a marriage column on Mondays for weeks now and I was dying to have a sort of logo for it. Not wanting to worry about copyright laws, I decided to use a picture of my husband and me, and this was the only one I could find on short notice. It was the first photo ever taken of the two of us, when we were dating. It was also the onset of us spending all of our time together.

On with the post. Some people, such as Darla Shine in her book Happy Housewives, suggest that it is unhealthy to spend all your time with your husband. I suppose some couples would go insane if they didn’t have their “guy time” and “girl time” respectively. But that type of genderization of activities is something my husband and I don’t really buy into. Well, to a certain extent. Yes I do enjoy sewing and knitting and watching “Chick flicks” (that even I roll my eyes at but still want to watch) but my husband doesn’t really do much that requires that he hang out with “the guys” without their spouses. He doesn’t hunt, fish, camp, mountain climb, watch or play sports, or even really get into video games, (and he doesn’t need to be out at bars trying to feel like a single guy and flirting with other women). Besides, on the occasions he does do any of those things, he would rather have me there too! 

The only time we really go out is with our favorite local couple. We either have dinner and play cards at their house or we actually go to a bar where we compete in a weekly pub quiz. (We often place in the top three, sometimes even get first place. Yes, I guess we’re dorks.) The husband in that couple watches March Madness, but he doesn’t do it with my husband, he does it at home with his wife, who is probably making jewelry in the same room. Meanwhile we are at our own house watching DVDs we’ve rented from the library, such as Globe Trekker and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Sometimes I’m knitting and he’s reading the Sunday or Wednesay New York Times. We make dinner together. We eat together. We used to go to the gym together, but I’ve stopped going. See? We do have some “girl things” and “guy things” that we enjoy, but we can usually be together while doing them.

Then there are weekends. The particular day that I conceived of this post, we had spent the entire day exploring Denver together. We had brunch somewhere, roamed some old book and antique stores for hours, got some amazing deals on work-pants at Goodwill (seriously), ate ate a fun bar, while looking at some of the books we bought, went to a movie, and went home to do lie on the couch together. It was right after this lovely day that I read the segment in Darla Shine’s book about being closer with your girlfriends than your husband. Now, she didn’t write it without a lot of thought:

I’ve been sitting here thinking for a few minutes about how I should write this step. I think it’s a very important step, and I want to make sure you don’t take it the wrong way…so, here it goes…

Your husband should not be your best friend. He’s your husband, and obviously you should have a very deep bond with him, but you absolutely must have another outlet in your life. You’ll never be a happy housewife if you wrap your identity entirely around your husband and children. 

(And somewhere in the book she says the only thing she really needs her husband for is sex and that’s about it. When I find it I’ll edit it into this post.)

I know my regular readers must think I really have it out for Darla, and I don’t! It’s just that I’m a very critical thinker and I don’t like over simplified generalizations that are not thought through. 

Some of what she said above is true, we should maintain and nurture our female friendships, especially when we become mothers, but what if your husband is your best friend? What if you really do enjoy doing everything together? My sister recently told me that on Saturdays the whole family likes to go grocery shopping together. She, her husband and all four kids. And they really enjoy it, gasp! Now, I do believe that if you spend 24 hours a day with anybody, you’re going to get fed up with them for a bit, but the truth is, I can stand my husband a lot longer than I can stand most other people, and he has said the same thing about me. 

Now, a couple of weeks ago, I did have a girl’s night. One of the girls’ husband and daughter were away for the night, so we stayed up late and had a kitchen dance party. We played disco and hip hop and danced like crazy (while drinking a few cocktails) and we marveled about how this was more fun that we ever had as single women out at bars. But, the truth is, we often have dance parties when our husbands are around, after we get fed up with playing cards. Sometimes we can get them to join us in the kitchen, being silly and dancing, other times they are in the living room playing Wii

I know this type of life isn’t for everyone, and if you bicker a lot with your husband, you may need some time apart. (But, I think all that bickering is a separate issue.) And, if you are spending that time with your girlfriends trashing your husband, you are doing your relationship more harm than good.

Okay, I have tons more to say about this subject. but I’ll leave it here for now. 

Tell me, do I spend too much time with my spouse? Do you?

10 Tips for a “Smart Marriage”

Image via TImes.com PhotosImage of Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward via Time.com Photos

Marriage came suddenly and surprisingly into my life. My parents were separated and divorced shortly after I was born and I was always  very skeptical about the institution despite seeing many successful marriages in my friends’ families.

I never, ever dreamt about my ideal wedding! 

Then I met my husband and tied the knot! And, you know what? I love being married! It is an amazing and rewarding experience. I think part of what makes it so great is that I inherently knew that marriages are hard work and avoided developing misconceptions or undue expectations about what it should be like. 

I always pity people who have bad relationships and I truly wonder why some people get together. I have many pet peeves about the way other couples treat each other. I watch my friends get caught up in the fireworks of love and get sad when it fizzles. 

I feel that I have a very healthy marriage and I often wish there was some way I could teach others how to have a happy and perfect partnership. And by perfect, I mean perfectly imperfect. I think people set themselves up for failure when they assume that their marriage won’t have its ups and its downs!

Because these things have been on my mind so much lately, I’ve decided to reprint an article about helpful marriage tips:

Ten Tips for having a Smart Marriage@ from the Smart Marriages Conferences: 

1. Marriage matters. Married people & their kids do better on all measures of health, wealth, happiness, & success. And, married folks report having more & better sex than single or divorced people. 

2. It’s not the differences but how we handle them that separate successful marriages from the failures. Disagreeing doesn’t predict divorce. Stonewalling, avoidance, contempt, criticism, and the silent treatment predict divorce. Learn how to disagree in ways that help you fall more in love. 

3. All happily married couples have approximately ten irreconcilable differences – ten issues they will never resolve. If we switch partners, we just get ten new issues that are likely to be even more annoying and complicated. Sadly, if there are children from an earlier marriage or relationship, disagreements about them go to the top of the list. What’s important is to discuss our own set of issues just as we would discuss how to manage living with a chronic bad back or trick knee. We wish they weren’t there, but what’s important is to keep talking about how to manage them and still do the marriage “dance”. 

4. Love is not an absolute (a yes or no situation) and it’s not limited substance. It’s a feeling and feelings ebb and flow depending on how we treat each other. We can learn new ways to interact and the feelings “of being in love” can come flowing back, often stronger than before.

5. Marital satisfaction often dips with the birth of a baby. That’s normal. Marital satisfaction is at its lowest when there are kids in the house between 11 and 16. That’s normal. We need to know what to expect, appreciate our parenting partner – and hang in. It makes good sense to stay married for the sake of the kids – and for our own sake. Even with the challenges, it’s a lot easier to be a parenting team than to be a single, divorced, or remarried parent. Plus there is a silver lining: satisfaction goes back up with the empty nest. The final stage of marriage – with a job well done – is the real honeymoon period. 

6. Sex ebbs and flows. It comes and goes. That’s normal. Plan for & make time for more “flows”. 

7. Creating good marital sex is not about putting the sizzle BACK INTO your sex life. Early marital sex is sex between strangers – we don’t yet know our partner or ourselves. The most passionate sex is intimate sex based on knowing our partner and letting them know us. One of the most important tasks of marriage is to develop a satisfying marital sex style. It’s not about going BACK; it’s about going FORWARD, together.

8. Repair attempts are crucial and are highly predictive of marital happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic, but the willingness to make up after an argument, is central to every happy marriage.

9. Learn to welcome, embrace and integrate change
 – to discuss and update your wishes, hopes & dreams – on a regular basis. We often “interview” each other before marriage and then think “that’s it.” The marriage vow is a promise to stay married, not to stay the same. (Thank goodness!) Keep up-to-date with changes in your partner. Don’t fear changes, celebrate them! 

10. Try several different marriage education courses.
 Become informed consumers – rate the courses, discuss what you liked best – which ideas were most helpful. Decide which courses to recommend to your kids, friends and family – which to give as wedding, anniversary and new baby gifts. The courses don’t tell you what kind of marriage to have. That’s up to you. They give you the tools – the hammers, screwdrivers, and levels – so you can build the kind of marriage that suits you, one which can help you to negotiate, and renegotiate, your own values, meaning, and goals.
Find a class at www.smartmarriages.com Strengthen your own marriage and/or learn how to become a Marriage Educator and teach the courses in your community.

Diane Sollee, founder director, www.SmartMarriages.com®
Copyright® CMFCE