December 19, 2012

Keeping Your Marriage Alive

Yesterday my oldest nephew was sealed to his sweetheart in the Bountiful Temple.  Two days from now marks thirteen years since my sweetheart and I were sealed in the Jordan River Temple.  So I’ve got marriage on the brain. 

Here is a quote from Gordon B. Hinckley that was given to us as newlyweds and that hung on our fridge for many years:

“It is one thing to talk about the importance and sanctity of marriage, and another thing entirely to create such a marriage, day in and day out.  Marriage can be fragile.  It requires nurture and time and very much effort.”

I have found this to be very true.  And I think it has become even more relevant for me since I have become a homeschooling mom. 

Homeschooling is hard.  I find it physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, and many other things in life have to give way.  Your relationship with your spouse could easily get put on the backburner.  After all, your spouse is a mature adult who can take care of themselves and the children’s needs are much more urgent, right? 

We really can’t fall into the trap of thinking that.  If we do, then when we run out of gas ourselves (which I seem to do frequently!) and we turn to our nearest support we will find a stale, dry marriage with little succor to offer. 

However, if we take a little time and invest in that relationship, it can give far more back to us than we put into it.  Plus, we will be modeling a successful, healthy marriage to our children and what can be a better homeschool lesson than that? 

At our final Stake President interview before our marriage, my husband and I were given some excellent advice.  President Pinegar told us that we were in the business of making each other happy.  If I focused on serving my husband and making him feel loved and meeting his needs instead of my own and he did the same thing, both our needs would be met and we would both be supremely happy.  Right then and there in President Pinegar’s office I loved the idea, but I must confess that fully implementing this concept is something I have had to learn over and over again these last thirteen years and I’m still figuring it out.  But when I do remember to get over my own selfishness and put my husband first amazing things happen and our entire family reaps the benefits.  It’s not so much that he treats me better in return (though that’s part of it), it’s that I love him more because I am serving him, and that makes me happy, and then I am nicer to the kids and the whole tone of the home changes. 

So I try to take a minute each day to think of my husband.  What is something I can do for him that would make him happy?  Because of the extra demands homeschooling puts on my life I may not always be able to have everything the way he likes it (I think he would prefer it if we didn’t eat cold cereal for dinner quite so often.)  But I can do something.  His main love language is quality time and that is a sacrifice for me since I don’t have a lot of extra time.  Plus, he usually works nights so we can’t often spend time together after the kids are in bed.  I often take a chunk of time in the afternoons for us to hang out and just talk.  And we go on dates whenever we can.  Sometimes I feel like there are so many homeschooling tasks that aren’t getting done when I choose to spend time with him, but afterwards I always see that it was good for both of us. 

Investing time and attention to the marriage might be especially difficult when you feel like you’re not getting the homeschooling support you need from your spouse.   I would submit that extra TLC in the marriage is even more important in this case.  Even if you’re irritated out of your mind that your spouse isn’t hoeing what you feel is their share of the very long and challenging row we homeschoolers have in front of us, in most cases the best thing you can do is to give whatever extra love and service you can to your spouse.  This can only be a blessing to your entire home. 

Another excellent piece of advice I’ve been given regarding this situation is to make sure you do not criticize your spouse’s attempts to be involved in your homeschool, even if they are doing it “wrong.”  Always praise every attempt they give to be involved, no matter how small.  I’ve found this to be really important.  Instead of “But honey, didn’t you read the directions?  That’s not how you give the spelling words” you ought to say, “Wow, honey, thanks so much for giving Johnny his spelling test.  That is such a big help to me today because I’m running behind and I really need to work on math with Jane.” 

In my case, I have realized that my husband’s involvement in our homeschool waxes and wanes depending on how stressed he is feeling about his job.  Since he has these other external pressures I don’t have, if he feels  criticized by me whenever he tries to help with our homeschool he backs way off and I am left floundering.  This was a huge revelation to me, and I have nothing but good to say about the results of this advice.

I realize I am going into deep water by bringing up marriage.  I realize there are a lot of special situations out there (including the absolutely extraordinary single homeschooling parents.)   But for most of us maintaining a healthy marriage is a very relevant part of the homeschooling dynamic.   Now that I've shared what's working for me, I'd like to hear from you.  What do you do to keep your marriage alive while homeschooling?

Sarah (Birrd) and her marvelous husband (Badger) love to play board games and go to Italian restaurants together.  On December 2nd they welcomed an extremely beautiful, wonderful baby boy into their growing flock.  You can read about life on their Oklahoma homestead at Tales From Toad Hall.

3 comments - Add a comment below -:

Tristan said...

Amen! We're expecting #8, the oldest is 11 and the youngest is 11 mos with many medical needs, with all the siblings in between. We've always homeschooled and there is a huge difference when my husband and I are consistent in strengthening our own relationship. We're not always good at it, but we are so much better than we were at first. For us it is finding little ways to connect, and special little things that become the rule.

Lately, for example, we've insisted that if Daddy is home for a meal he and mommy sit beside each other at the table. Ours is a huge round table that seats 10, with some chairs and four chairs with booster seats for little ones. Usually there are not two regular chairs beside each other. Now we make sure there is and kick out the big kids who try to take mom or dad's spot.

Another thing we're doing is watching a dvd series together a little bit at a time when he doesn't have to be in bed before the kids for work (he is in bed between 7pm and 9pm most days of the week for work). We're currently watching Lark Rise to Candleford. We may only get to see half an episode at a time, but neither of us move ahead watching it, it is ONLY for when we're together.

Dana ♥ said...

To me it's paying attention to those small and simple things that make a big difference. For example, just yesterday, I picked up a Christmas tin of those simple cookies that come out every year. My husband LOVES those because they bring him happy memories from his childhood. I placed the tin in his recliner and he found them there when he came home. When I walked into the living room and found him eating them, I said "Oh, you found your cookies! I know how much you love them!" He was smiling and happily swaying in his chair. My youngest said, "I'm gonna have a wife like that when I grow up." To which my husband replied "Only if you're lucky son." hahaha!!

There really is something to the scripture about small and simple things - It's one of my favorites!

Michelle said...

This post could not have been more properly timed for my life right now! My husband and I celebrate our 9th anniversary tomorrow and on top of all the normal struggles of marriage, we are homeschooling for the first time with our 5-year-old. Just last night we agreed to go out of our way to do something nice for one another every day until New Year's. The fun will be in watching, really being aware, for what the other person is doing. And I think gives a lot of insight into how your spouses perceives the challenges in your life.