I know, I know, I know… I said I would post part two days and days ago, but I just didn’t. This particular topic has been a struggle for me because there are just SO MANY things that we are doing differently this time that choosing the top five things has been tough. Very tough.
A few days ago I went to dinner with one of my best friends who just recently got engaged. We had a beautiful backdrop at the Boylan Bridge Brewpub and we talked about some serious stuff.
She has two kids and is also marrying a (wonderful) man with two kids… and she wanted to pick my brain about how we are “making it work.” They will also be a party of six in just a few short months.
I told her that I was actually writing a blog about five things that we are doing differently this time around and she burst into laughter and said, “Just FIVE??? I feel like we are doing EVERYTHING differently!” And that is so true. Often in new relationships we find ourselves wanting to do everything exactly the opposite considering we have always been told that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. But sometimes not EVERYTHING needs to be different if the people involved are different.
In my blog the other day I talked about the first two things that I feel like I am doing differently this time around… Communication & Releasing Control. Here are the next three:
3) Having Date Night – We are working really hard to focus on nurturing our relationship. The kids know this because we hug nonstop. Yep, nonstop. We even slow-danced at Highway 55 last weekend at the lake while waiting on our dinner order. Joe’s kids were with us and they were red-faced and laughing. As part of nurturing our relationship, we are making sure to schedule weekly date nights. That has been an easy task this summer because we have had a lot of time without kids. We try to do it when we have no kids, because my son in particular has stressed that he doesn’t want us doing date night when we have them. As I have said, he is the one with the most resistance to change and he is not used to me ever getting a sitter when the kids are with me. Even while Joe and I were dating, we would always do our date nights every other weekend when my kids were with their dad.
We even have started doing “in-home date nights” while the kids are with us. When we were at the beach for a week last month with all of the kids, we told them one night that we were having date night and they were not allowed to come upstairs until 10pm. That gave us a couple of hours to snuggle on the couch and spend time together. They stayed downstairs watching tv and playing Xbox. We had a nice time and at exactly 10pm all four kids were standing at the end of the couch together (the mental picture is awesome and I wish I had it to show you) saying, “Did you have a nice date night? Because it’s OVER now…” And they jumped onto the large sectional sofa with us to settle in and watch tv.
They may laugh at us, but I am thankful that our children can see what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. Before my divorce, that was one of the hardest things for me to swallow. I knew that our relationship was dysfunctional, but all I could think about was that my children would grow up thinking that was NORMAL… and I was NOT okay with that. Now they see how important our relationship is to us. They don’t see us living separate lives in the same home. They see how much we enjoy being together. Our relationship is the glue to our family.
Now that we have our own “studio apartment” essentially, we can have date night any night we want to turn the skeleton key in the door. We have Joe’s sectional sofa in our bedroom now, so we have our own living area along with our bed. We have joked that if we had an electric skillet to cook bacon and a dorm-room refrigerator then we would never have to even leave our room… hmm.
4) Keeping the Faith – Our faith is such an important part of our relationship. By making our individual relationships with God the priority, we are better equipped to handle the challenges and struggles that we will surely face while blending families. Marriage is the firmest foundation there is but it is not ALL about happiness… it’s about encouraging your spouse and steering him/her in the right path to have a strong relationship with Christ. This is especially true if you have to have day-to-day dealings with a difficult ex. We have to continue to keep the focus on Christ-centered thinking and not allow outsiders to affect our relationship. We encourage one another to have an other-centered attitude even when dealing with people who are completely self-centered and toxic.
This is very important to me because I have never been in a relationship where it was clear that Christ comes first. I am so thankful to have someone like Joe, who is such a strong spiritual leader in our home. We work hard to model our Christ-like love and commitment at home in front of our children so they see His witness through us, then they can KNOW that divorce is not even an option for us. That gives our kids stability in an otherwise unstable time.
And even if we are not treated well by others, which is common after a divorce, we must always show a heart of compassion. At every meal we pray for the food we will receive, we pray for family members who are sick, and we pray for the part of the family that is not with us on that day… we even make a special point if the kids are going back to the other half of their family that we pray they will have a good time and be safe while away. We demonstrate kindness toward their other parent because we cannot show the kids Christ’s love if we cannot even show an ounce of kindness toward someone who is that important to them.
5) Affirming One Another – Both Joe and I have taken Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages test and not surprisingly, we are both very high on “Words of Affirmation” and “Physical Touch.” What that means is that we both show and receive love by hugging each other and telling each other how much we mean to one another.
Joe does SO MUCH. As I have said over and over, I am not sure how I made it through the day without him in my life. Even as I am sitting here writing this afternoon, he is marinating salmon and doing tons of laundry. In the past, that stuff would just not get done… or my writing would just not get done. When there is only one of you, you just can’t do everything! It is great to have someone say, “Why don’t you let me go get him from practice so you can help her with her homework.” Because of this, I tell him EVERY SINGLE DAY just how thankful I am for him. No matter how small the deed, I try to look him in the eyes and thank him for what he has done.
And he does the same thing… we work hard to say thank you to each other because we are so appreciative for WHAT WE HAVE. We make sure that we never whine about what we DON’T have. It’s very important for me that he feels my unconditional love for him because I know that he has never experienced that kind of love. So I make sure that he knows that while I appreciate all that he does, I do NOT expect it. And I am SO THANKFUL.
So those are the five things that we are doing differently this time around: Communicating, Releasing Control, Having Date Night, Keeping the Faith, and Affirming One Another. While there are plenty of other things we are trying to do differently, those are what I consider to be my top five. I know that as our relationship progresses out of the “honeymoon stage” (which personally, I am not sure at this point could EVER happen) that other things will arise and we will continue to have challenges regarding our ex-spouses, but the strength in our relationship due to the work we put INTO IT will make all the difference.