Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Other Man

Today's extra special guest blogger is Samantha from Every Shade In Between. Sam's husband and my husband have been best buddies since they were children, so when Philip married Samantha a few years back, it's like I had a built in friend-- and I am truly thankful for this sweet friendship. Samantha's also a boy mom who recently traded corporate life in Chicago for mom life in the burbs. Today she talks about the importance of taking care of the other man -- the husband! 

About two weeks after the birth of our son, Ethan, I remember having a little breakdown over how much my relationship with my husband, Philip, had quickly changed. We were just approaching our fifth wedding anniversary and had gotten quite accustomed to life with just the two of us. We both knew that having a baby would change our dynamic, but I suppose we hadn't realized quite how much. Philip reassured me that there would be time for the two of us again soon and that the first few weeks with a new baby are naturally going to be hectic (to say the least!). As we have settled into a new routine and become used to our family of three, I have found that we have to work a little bit harder to keep our connection strong. When you have a new baby, naturally they are often going to take center stage. But we also believe that God comes first, then our marriage, then our children. We want our child/future children to see that mommy and daddy have a healthy, loving relationship. One day, those children will grow up and leave and it will just be the two of us again.

Here are a few things that we've done that have helped to strengthen and grow our marriage:
  1. Make Time Together - and savor that time together. This seems pretty obvious, but it's much easier said than done. We had a baby who screamed every night from 5pm until 10 or even 11pm for the first 8 weeks. There was no alone time. After two months of that, we felt very disconnected from each other. Getting out for a date wasn't much of an option as we don't have family that lives close and I didn't feel comfortable leaving our baby with a stranger just yet. However, we did make sure that anytime family came to visit we got out for a break, even if it meant going to Starbucks for 30 minutes. Now that we have our evenings free, we try to make every Friday night our own "date night." Even though we often don't leave the house, it's a chance for us to unwind. We order take out or cook a meal together and rent a movie. Pretty simple, but it gives us a few hours to reconnect and relax. I've found that our time together doesn't have to be fancy or expensive - we really just need it to be the two of us doing something we enjoy.
  2. Communicate. Another seemingly obvious one, but we struggled with this when we first had Ethan. We learned that we needed to be very clear with our expectations for who does what with the baby, the house, etc. I would feel upset with Philip over something that he had no idea was bothering me and vice versa. I learned that if I was feeling overwhelmed, I just needed to tell him! We also make time to pray together and we both feel that helps bring intimacy into the relationship. 
  3. Let Him Find His Own Groove. At first, I found that I tended to push Philip out of the way because I had more experience with babies. I'm home with Ethan all day and it's easy to just handle things myself. But doing that was leading to some resentment on my part and I felt he wasn't always helping enough... but I wasn't giving him the chance!! I'm really working on letting Philip have time just with Ethan to figure things out on his own. He won't do things exactly like me, and that's okay. If Ethan goes down for a nap 10 minutes later than my schedule typically plans for, it will be okay! By letting Philip take care of Ethan more often, he feels more confident in his parenting skills and I get a little break. I also think that by allowing Philip to take charge sometimes, it helps build respect for each other. If I take over all the time, it communicates that I think he may not be competent. Leaving him alone with the baby shows respect for his ability to manage and also acknowledges the importance of his influence in our child's life. He'll be more quick to jump in and help if he understands what is involved in caring for our little one and I feel more supported and respected as a result.
I know we will continue to face challenges together as life moves through its seasons. After all,our children need us. Their needs are loud and urgent and ever-present, and it's easy to let them take center stage and put our spouse's needs (and our own) on a shelf for later... My prayer is that if we remember to work together in keeping our relationship a priority, keep the lines open (to each other AND to God), and trust my husband to parent along with me, we'll grow closer as our family grows bigger. I believe that when we honor each other and hold marriage in high esteem that God will bless us.

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