Housewife MacGyver: Keeping a Marriage Strong with Tera's Tidbits

Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Tera, one my best friends and favorite people in the whole world. I have to include the whole world part because she is currently living in Germany! She shares her European adventures with her four kids at her blog, Tidbits from Tera. Tera and her family are the friends whose wisdom and example (and fun!) stick with you long after your daily interactions with them are past. I am so grateful to have Tera as my friend and here today as my guest!

September ten years ago, the world watched with horror as this happened:

At the same time, I was preparing for the arrival of friends and family to join me for this event:

Erick and I were married two days after 9/11. Some siblings didn't make it because all commercial flights had been cancelled. My father, who was performing the marriage, made it only because we postponed the ceremony by eight hours. That gave him enough time to finish his 18-hour drive straight from where his flight had been grounded. I found myself clamoring to make everything work: adjusting the wedding breakfast to be before the ceremony instead of after; finding something to wear to the breakfast since I would no longer be wearing my wedding dress; contacting the photographer and praying that she would be available for a last-minute change... You get the idea. 

The worry and change and stress were intense. But somehow the day turned out perfectly in the end. Despite the chaos in the world and even in my own life, I was married that day to a wonderful man. We were blessed by and surrounded by wonderful family and friends. Erick and I found a way to be together, and it was perfectly romantic.

Little did I know that my wedding experience was foreshadowing what my life would be like in the years to come. Did we experience another 9/11 tragedy? Definitely not. But Erick and I faced other challenges in our years together. To name a few... We moved eight times in ten years due to career changes and job placement. Erick lost his job one week after our second child was born and had no prospects for another job in the region. Erick joined the military and departed for a year of mandatory training while I attended school full-time and cared for our three children.

Through each challenge, we have been able to adjust and rearrange our situation to make it work. And though we have experienced these challenges and many more, somehow Erick and I continue to find ways to grow closer. 

Here are a few things we do to strengthen our marriage:

Words can hurt
Something Erick and I decided to do even before we were married was to watch what we say to others about each other. I am quick to praise Erick to my friends and family. I find his strengths and share them happily. Is my husband perfect? Nope. Am I perfect? Even less so. But I do not criticize him to others. I don't share negative things about him with others. I even watch what I post on the internet. How easy is it these days to post a cutting comment on facebook during a moment of frustration?

This commitment to one another has protected our relationship. We know that we can confide in one another, and we know that our confidences will be kept. It has also helped us to consistently look for the good in each other. And after days and weeks and now years of looking for the good in my husband, it is easy to find. And constantly finding good within him makes me love him all the more.

Agree to disagree
During our first year of marriage, I was very difficult to get along with. I know Erick would never say so, but it was a tough year for him. I was overbearing and emotional. The reason? I believed that my way of doing things was always the best. The problem? Erick didn't believe that my way of doing things was always the best. Of course it was best most of the time... but not always. (ha ha)

For example, we had heated discussions about Sabbath day observance. I was very opinionated about what we should and should not do on Sunday. The problem? Football. Erick loves football. It is a true passion of his. He played in high school and in college. He has followed college and professional football most of his life. When his team plays on Sunday, he wants to watch it. I struggled with this. I felt like watching football on Sunday was a far cry from "keeping the Sabbath Day holy." Whenever he turned on the TV to watch a game or even check the score, I felt anger and bitterness toward him. (See? I told you I was difficult.)

During one of our discussions regarding this issue, Erick read me the eleventh Article of Faith, which states, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Erick taught me that this does not only refer to people outside of our own faith, but people who share our faith. We know the commandments. We have the counsel from our prophet. Now it is up to us to obey those commandments in the way that we see fit. His counsel has stayed with me.

Which of us was at greater fault? The one who turned on a television or the one who cast judgement and had anger in her heart? I realized that my anger was the cause of contention, not the football game. I love Erick very much. He is a good, honest, and kind man. He doesn't drink, smoke, cuss, or abuse. He serves others. He is tender and loving. He is an amazing, supportive husband and father. He does so much good. Why should I dwell on such an insignificant difference of opinion?

There have been other (fairly minor) things in life that we don't agree on. We are aware of our differing viewpoints, and we respect each other's opinions. But instead of judging one another, we strive be loving and tolerant. We have learned to agree to disagree. And I believe we are both better for it.

Tell me what you need
This one is kind of strange. It may not work for everyone, but it definitely works for us.

Long before I met Erick, I noticed that men (in general) were not always as observant as women wanted them to be. I had heard married friends and family say things like, "he should have known...," or "he didn't even notice..." when they were speaking about their husbands. These women would get outright angry, and their husbands would have no idea what they had done wrong.

When I met Erick, I decided to try an experiment of sorts. I told him exactly what I thought he should know or notice, and I told him what I wanted him to do about it. Does that make any sense at all? Probably not. Let me give you an example:

I call Erick on the phone before he gets home from work.
Erick: Hello?
Tera: Hi Erick. Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I got my hair cut today.
E: Okay.
T: When you get home, will you be sure to notice it and tell me how much you like it?
E: Sure. Thanks for the heads up.
T: You're welcome. Now don't forget. 
E: I won't. Love you.

Believe it or not, my experiment worked. Both Erick and I love it, and we have continued to tell each other our needs and expectations throughout our marriage. Here's another one:

Another phone call
Erick: Hello?
Tera: Hey it's me.
E: How's your day?
T: Actually, it's been terrible. That's why I'm calling you. I am extremely emotional for some reason. I'm tired and I feel overworked and unappreciated. 
E: I'm sorry.
T: Thanks Erick. When you get home, would you try to be extra nice? I need a little extra love.
E: Of course. I love you babe. I'll be home as soon as I can.

Like I said, this may not work for everyone, but it has definitely saved us from the stress and  frustration that many couples feel. Believe it or not, the love or praise that he gives me is just as sweet as if he thought of it himself. I get exactly what I need, and he doesn't have to wonder how I'm going to react to him when he gets home. 

"Continue to date your spouse even after you are married." I'm sure you've heard it a million times. Erick and I have interpreted this one a little differently because of our varied situations in life. 

There were many times in our marriage when we could not afford to go out on a date. We couldn't even afford a babysitter. So we stayed in. Our focus was finding alone time together. We made it a point to put the kids to bed and spend quality one-on-one time together. Some nights we would just talk over a bowl of ice cream. My favorite date night was eating dinner picnic style in the middle of the family room floor and then watching a movie together. Easy. Free.

There was a time when Erick was striving to start his own landscaping business. He worked long grueling hours. He was gone before the kids and I woke up in the morning and came home long after we had gone to bed. There was little time for us to be alone together. I believe that this time could have damaged our relationship had we not desperately worked to demonstrate our love for one another.

Instead of spending a lot of time together, we looked for ways to serve each other. I would make him a special lunch and take it to him at his job site. I would make sure to have the house clean and stress free and have a good meal waiting for him when he got home. It was in the fridge and had to be reheated, but it was ready on a plate for him. Occasionally, Erick found the energy to do the dishes that I had left in the sink at the end of an exhausting day. These little things seemed huge at the time. I loved him more during this time than I ever had before.

Today it's even harder to find time alone together. Erick is deployed for the year to Afghanistan. He is in a dangerous and primitive area that has sporadic and slow internet. I think dating now is more important than ever. But how? It's all about setting aside time for each other. This may sound crazy, but we cyber date. Through email, we share ideas and hopes and experiences. We discuss the children and make plans. We compliment each other and challenge each other.  Despite our physical distance, he his right with me emotionally.

I know that Erick and I still have many challenges ahead, but I'm sure that with a positive outlook and good communication, we will continue to grow closer every year.

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.


Bridget said...

Oh, how I love Tera! What great advice, thanks for the post!

Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

I really love this post, Tera. What fantastic advice. I completely agree with not criticizing each other to others... so important. And I LOVE what you said about telling each other your needs. I'm going to try this! Thank you!

*Katie* said...

I love Tera! She is such an example, and always has been. I respect her so much, and I adore this post! This was inspired :)

Heather said...

Oh Tera what great advice!!! I agree with Katie! You have been and always will be such a wonderful example to me!

Heather said...

Oh Tera :) You are and always have been an example of how I would like to be. You strive to be positive and happy, and it shows in all you do and say. The rest of us owe our freedom to your loving husband and the incredible sacrifices he is making, and to your family as well. Thank you for showing the rest of us how to be brave even when life doesn't go quite like you imagined it would. Love you Tera

Jocelyn Christensen said...

I totally do that with my husband...I say "right now I need to hear xyz come out of your mouth" Do that and then I'll shut up and be satisfied. I find that you really do have to tell them exactly what you want!

Nick and Keira said...

Amazing, profound, and probably inspired just for me. You rock. :) Thanks so much for posting that.

Unknown said...

That was a beautiful post--really well thought through.

Unknown said...

Oh, my, goodness! Tell them what you need! Why did that never occur to me before?? Thank you!

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