Today marks 14 years of marriage for Erin and I. As I sit here listening to Erin crack up over a brand new episode of Duck Dynasty, I figured it was a good time to jot some things down. I mean, just look at that picture? Two twenty-two year olds standing before God and a room of their friends, promising to love each other, no matter what. Continue reading “14 Years of Marital…”
“I am a loving husband and involved father, who places my family above all other relationships in my life.”
So goes one of the key “statement of truth” affirmations I have written on a post it and hung in my bath room mirror. One of at least three that I read each and every day, have now memorized, and am finding out that there are sorts of situations in life where reminding of me of that statement makes a decision much more black and white.
This week in my coaching experience I am exploring my family life development. As I walked through the initial survey, I found more positive things than I presumed I might. I’ve heard over and over and over again that “time” is perhaps the best thing thing you can offer your family, and it seems to be one of the things I have tremendous opportunities to offer my family, either because of “must do” types of things each day (i.e. feed the baby) or “can do” things, such as the rather flexible schedule I have that allows me to work at home a couple days a week and cut out an hour and a half of commuting time each day. What I found myself asking, though, was something along the lines of, “even though I have all these opportunities, am I taking advantage of them to their fullest?” As I explored that, I believe what I’m finding is what I’ve found in many other areas of my life… I have great opportunities, but for the most part, I spuratically take advantage of those opportunities. I don’t have too many established habits, although there are some, and even though they may “seem” small, I think they are probably much greater than I’d allow myself to think. Things like:
- I have gone for 11 years of marriage without a TV in my bedroom. It has provided the opportunity for numerous conversations that could otherwise have been zoned out or cut short by the evening news or weather. While not an end-all solution in itself, I can’t deny the impact this decision, and stick with it, have had.
- I eat dinner with my family every day of the year. Well, not every day. But probably at least 300 – 325 meals a year. Whether it’s gathered around the kitchen table, cramped into the car in a parking lot wolfing down sandwiches, or a special night at the park, spending this time together matters. I don’t think it matters if there is a specified agenda to discuss or a rule that we can or can’t have the TV on… again, it’s the time that matters. What I wonder, though, is how this will “stick” or become more of an effort or forced occasion as our kids grow up. I don’t exactly want a Leave it to Beaver existance, but at the same time, I want my kids and wife to know what is important to me, and to know why. And I suppose that means I should make sure I know that as well.
- I go to bed at the same time as my wife. This one’s caused some headaches… literally. I love opportunities to get my sleep in and start my day before the first hint of dawn, and my wife makes a great night owl. I enjoy the night life too, but there are those days when you know your morning will suffer if you stay up late, and that the only reason your staying up late on that particular day is because of something you’re really not personally invested in. I’ve given my wife a hard time on it, almost forced her to go to bed without me sometimes when she (or I) is sick or something, but again, for the most part, this is an unwritten rule in our home. And I should probably quit fighting it and recognize it for what it is: a blessing. I know many families that don’t even have the opportunity for this type of shared life with their spouse because of work or other obligations. I also know families who consider it quite normal to fall asleep in the chair and wake up in the middle of the night, TV muted, and spouse in the opposite corner of the house, in bed, alone.
- My family has gone on several adventures together. Whether it’s a week long trip to Disney or our first roadtrip with the second child, we’ve done a lot together. There are some freedoms we haven’t achieved or made happen yet, such as a two week vacation or one completely free of the business email check or cell phone… but in all honesty, I think we do a lot together. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but as I look into the future, I don’t want to sell ourselves short. Besides vacations, we’ve ventured into horse ownership and mini-farm / garden adventures together, for example.
- My wife and are committed to our marriage, and we’ve seen that commitment tested. Trials will come. So will tests. Whether they are by outside forces pressing in or personal failures and weaknesses raising their ugly head, all these pictures of a nice little world, including the white picket fence around the front yard, will be put to the test. We’ve been down this road. We’ve seen how close a family can come to falling apart, and the critical decisions at critical moments when it really is do or die, make or break.
All those good things considered… Where are we? Where do we want to go? Having dinner together, going to bed together, or not watching TV in the bedroom are good and dandy, but WHY? What is the bigger story they’re part of? What do I want to accomnplish with my family?
The “Where are we” question is a good one to start with. I think we have a lot of good habits, but we’ve probably got our share of bad ones as well. For myself, things like body language, looks, and sarcasm that I give without consideration to how it will come across can become a big blow to those I love most. The same could be true with plain worn-out-edness from work at the end of the day, and coming home to a wife who is also worn our from her more-than-full-time job of being a mother. As I look into the future, I see how coming up with specific things that I, and we, want to accomplish as a family will help us find the push through those hard times, as well as the motivation for the bigger things in life.
So what are some categories of goals I’d like to accomplish with and through my family? Here are a few, based on what I’ve considered recently, as well as a brief look back through my ever-increasing dream inventory:
- Reach out to kids without a stable home environment through love and hope.
- Develop an intentional use of time together each day so that all recognize it’s value.
- Take a two week vacation to a place far, far away.
- Develop methods to better “leave work at work”, both during the week and on vacation.
- Plan our future together – short and long term – money, time, goals, etc.
- Be a couple known for listening, understanding, and even giving counsel to other couples and/or teens.
- Spend more planned time one-on-one with my wife.
- See my children come to know (and be known by), love (and be loved by), and serve their Creator.
- Develop regular one-on-one activities with my children.
- Encourage my children to find and pursue their dreams, even at an early age.
- Encourage and help my wife find/rediscover and pursue her dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
- Understand my own need for personal discovery, and recognize that each of us will have to make some journeys on our own.
I believe the next step I’ll be doing here later on this week is coming up with some actual goals and steps to pursue and achieve some of these areas I’d like to see us accomplish as a family. So I’ll probably be coming back to this shortly. But for now, that’s us, where we are, and some of the places I’d love to see us go.
This was originally written in September of 2010, but I’m bubbling it back to the top as it’s still sooo important to me.
Well, that was an expedition! Took my two kids into town today for some work at our church as we prep for a week of VBS with some tweens followed by lunch and a shopping trip. How my wife does things like this on a daily basis, I hope to never know (although being able to understand and appreciate it would be nice). “Crazy” comes nowhere near an accurate description, even though the kids were, I think, on pretty good behavior. There’s just so MUCH to be watching out for. MaKenna more than anything. She either has to be lugged around the store in my arms (which gets heavy), walking around on her own (with things she thinks I need to buy calling her name), or parked in the cart asking when she can be released to one of the other two spots.
I wouldn’t trade this day for anything, though. I came home to a house not all that different than when I left, except for the smell of cooked cabbage (which is not something I am tremendously fond of). The thing is, though, that smell meant that my wife had had about 5-6 hours of time on her own to do something she hopefully enjoyed without the “routine” of crazy that is our family (self included, I suppose).
It’s almost been 14 years of marriage here at the Cromer household, with over half of that invested in the lives of our kids and others who have temporarily lived in our home. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
On a side but related note – it breaks my heart to no end to see fathers throw this away. To toss their family to the curb because they’ve fallen out of love or can’t take it anymore. To run off for a new adventure and leave those who thought they were just getting started alone and bewildered, wondering where they stand. Those left behind can certainly move on, but you really never “get over” that type of thing, do you? You can get through it and become a much better person, but to be honest, you still kinda sorta get your hopes up (for what, I don’t know), only to have the realities of character and changed priorities smack you against the rocks again.
Such is crazy. Such is life. One of my statements of truth hanging on my bathroom mirrors states that I will be (and that I am becoming) a man quick to apologize and even quicker to forgive. A man who will find the best in people and assume that those who say they love me truly do, regardless of those blips that make you cringe.
Anyways… yeah, THAT was a rabbit trail. On ANOTHER, more exciting, side note, I’ve discovered that my daughter likes to call me her father. Not “just” her daddy (which rocks, of course), but somewhere, she picked up this “Father” word. Probably from Father’s day, and it will probably be gone before I know it, but I’ll bask in it while she can. She also says things like “You saved my life!” These, along with her fondness for snuggling up in my recliner, are just a few of the reasons I simply love having a daughter at this stage of life. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
I’m reading Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Here are some quotes and thoughts I’m gleaning.
“Wives are made to love. Want to love. And expect to love. Many husbands fail to deliver. … there’s another part…. Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect. Many wives fail to deliver. … Without love from him, she reacts without respect. Without respect from her, he reacts without love. Around and around it goes … the crazy cycle.”
They could offend each other quite easily, but they didn’t have the right tools to turn off their flame throwers.
When a husband feels disrespect, he has a tendancy to react in ways that feel unloving to her wife. When a wife feels unloved, she has a tendancey to react in ways that feel disprectful to her husband. Perhaps this is why the Bible gives us these specific directions.
A way to defuse those disrepectful moments: “That felt disrespectful; did I just come across as unloving?” This gets my feelings on the table. It doesn’t say they’re justified or correct, but displays honesty. It also takes the burden off of HER by assuming it wasn’t intentional and may have been caused by something I in fact initiated.
“Look for her cry and respond with love.”
“Women confront to connect.”
For a woman, face-to-face time is heart-to-heart time. How I spend the first few moments in the morning or when I arrive home sets the tone and reminds her how I feel about her.
The book is built upon the theory that the “primary emotional needs” for men and women, respectively are that men need respect and women need love, like they need air to breathe. Dr. Eggerichs uses simple examples to illustrate real life situations in relationships and then often connects those situations to the verse in Ephesians and other passages in the Bible. The book is organized into three main sections.
The Crazy Cycle first illustrates that “Without love, she reacts without respect and without respect, he reacts without love”. Misunderstandings in communication is expressed using simple metaphors to illustrate that men often use blue sunglasses and women often use pink sunglasses during communication. Practical strategies are then discussed to stop the Crazy Cycle from spinning, including the use of scientific findings by John Gottman.
The Energizing Cycle next outlines strategies for improving a relationship by showing that “his love motivates her respect and her respect motivates his love”, using two acronyms C-O-U-P-L-E (Closeness, Openness, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyalty, and Esteem) and C-H-A-I-R-S (Conquest, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship, and Sexuality).
The Rewarded Cycle lastly is demonstrated by example using Scripture that “His love blesses regardless of her respect and her respect blesses regardless of his love”. Connecting obedience to Christ in the correlation to a greater outcome in the relationship is suggested. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_%26_Respect)
I got a lot out of “the energizing cycle.” Some thoughts…
- The devil will do anything to get two people to have sex before marriage (false intimacy) and anything he can do keep them from having sex after they are married.
- “Your presence invigorates me.” Simply having my wife “at my shoulder” brings energy.
I love this analogy by John Piper and figured I’d better get it recorded here so I don’t lose it (again).
The Compost Pile – John Piper
So what about the compost pile? Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent.
These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.
But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.
Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved.
Full text here: