Nine years ago, I decided to be a part of something greater then myself. I learned that I can laugh at myself, be honest with myself, and continue to learn and grow in this life because of your love and support of me and our relationship. I am a better human being because of what we are together and I am so very thankful for you every single day. I love you Ashley Logsdon. Happy Anniversary!
This is what I read on Facebook this morning after my husband left the house. Nine years with this man. Nine married years and fourteen years since I first laid eyes on him my freshman year of college. When I first met him, I was a fickle nineteen-year-old ready to party all the way through college. I didn’t take him seriously. But he drew me in – there was something about him. He was authentic. He was humble. He was sweet and caring. And had just enough bad boy to give him the edge I chased after.
Now I look back on our life and I am so, so grateful. We’re the lucky ones. I have seen relationships become stagnant, bitter, or crumble apart. I’ve seen relationships so tense you feel like a landmine may explode at any given moment. And while I won’t say we haven’t had our fair share of arguments, our marriage has been easy, and it’s been so, so fun.
So now I want to share with you what, to us, are the top six non-negotiables for a happy relationship:
It’s amazing to me how often people play mind games with each other, testing each other and ultimately setting the other up for failure. They get mad about something little, like the way he always lays his clothes next the the laundry basket, or the way she doesn’t get the silent cue that it’s time to leave a social setting. They sock it away and let it fester. It builds up and becomes magnified, and now she only sees his messes and not how he helps, and he only sees her complete lack of time management in everything instead of the lasting relationships she’s fostering. What starts as something small, if not addressed, can easily become an open wound or thorn that keeps jabbing and poking, spreading frustration and resentment into a relationship.
We sometimes are overly honest. Seriously babe, sometimes a “that song sounded lovely in that tune” may be nicer than “ouch.” However, I know that no matter the size of the issue, it will be laid out in the open and we will address it. We can’t ignore it…because of one of our other non-negotiables below – #5.
Be open and honest with your feelings – how the other makes you feel and what it sounds like to you. Don’t use absolutes (you always act that way) or point blame (instead of “you were such a jerk” say “when you did _______ it made me feel like ________). Communicate what you like, what you love, and what you desire in your relationship.
Sad that this even has to be stated, but sometimes you are on your worst behavior around the ones you love the most. Respect is critical in our house – between PapaGray and me, and with our kids – not only do they have to respect us, we give them the same amount of respect. One of the lines in our Family Creed is “The uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.” Each of us are powerful and gifted – and while we may have differing viewpoints, it’s imperative that we show respect for the other.
We used to joke about how I would bite back at PapaGray and he would say “you belittled me in public.” It was this sort of teasing thing but had an element of truth behind it. Me always having to have the last word was sometimes at the expense of him. Now that resonates in our ears – are we lifting each other up? When we are in public (or private, for that matter), do the words we use cut each other down or call each other out in a negative way? If so, then I’ll quote another one of PapaGray’s lines that hit me to the core during a fight in our dating years: “What’s your goal?”
Ask yourself what your goal is. When you bite back or cut down, is your goal to prove a point? To unleash the anger inside of you? To build up the relationship and strengthen it? Make sure the words you chose to use show respect for your partner not only in words but in how it hits to their heart.
As a parent, this really, really hits home. I have the utmost respect and compassion for single parents – I can’t imagine. There are so many times where one of us will be at our wit’s end and about to lose it with all three kids demanding our attention. And that’s when, instead of the other parent getting angry at your bad parenting skills, we read each other’s cues – we tag-team to be better parents, and better people. When we’re stressed and at our max, that’s when we need each other even more, not when we need a lecture on how we need to correct our attitude. We do check each other, but in the heat of the moment when one of us is not at our finest moment as a parent or a person in general, that’s when the other picks up the slack. We run in and grab a kid, or make a joke, or practice cuss therapy (seriously, grab your honey, go out of kids’ earshot and let’er rip. Feels good sometimes.) We draw a bath and light some candles and pour the other an extra tall glass of wine. We remind each other that we’re not in this world. We are best friends, soulmates, and we have each other’s backs.
“Growability” is PapaGray’s new word. I like it – it fits. Essentially, don’t just admit when you’re wrong…grow from it. Another link in the Family Creed is “We believe in the power of forgiveness to heal, and in love to carry us through.” It may sound trite, but there are two parts to humility – admitting when you are wrong, and admitting when you are hurt. Don’t be a brick wall. Don’t deny the negative feelings any more than you do the positive. But humble yourself to learn something. Be vulnerable. It’s amazing what it does for opening up the lines of communication and trust in a relationship.
I remember a moment in our marriage a few years back where we were having an argument about something. He was interested in going to a shooting range and I have a hatred of guns. However, I love him and saw a Groupon for it. I shot a snide email over with the link; my distaste pretty apparent. Instead of firing back with something, PapaGray called me out on it:
Me: I do NOT like this, and I do NOT agree that it is a good thing to do. However, if you are going to push it, I don’t want to pay $100 when we could pay $50. [insert groupon for $50 class at a gunshooting range].
PG: I would like to you start being a bit more intentional about your criticism of things. This is not a healthy way for you to express your distaste for this process nor is it one that promotes open dialog between us. I would rather you approach something like this, or anything else in our lives, with a bit less confrontation and a bit more respect and tact. To send me an email like this at 6:11 with me sitting 20 feet away from you is a bit frustrating to me and turns me off from wanting to have any reasonable debate around how valid, or poignant your point is on this issue. You have put me on the defensive and that is not way to express your opinion to me or anyone else for that matter.
I love you, and I know you are stressed out right now, but this is a wonderful opportunity for you to check your personality style and see how you can become a better communicator with others rather then irrationally reacting to anything that pushes your buttons.Respectfully,Papa Gray
I want to thank you for loving me enough to challenge me to be a better person. You are right. I almost said something this morning, and just sent it instead. Basically I know it’s something you want and I want nothing more than to give you everything you want in life (seriously) but I hate it – so my punk way of handing it is to pass something off to you that would be helpful but be bitchy about it. I’m sorry. We can talk about this at some point later on. I am stressed right now, and my mood is HORRIBLE. I’m trying, trying, trying. Today is like a freakin terrible horrible no good very bad day, and it’s not. It’s a beautiful day with my sweet girls, a perfect little home, and the best husband I could ever, ever, ever, EVER ask for. I need a major attitude change – my mood is going haywire right now – from being furious to on the verge of tears today – so sorry. Keep me in check. Keep challenging me, and don’t let me be the bitch I can be. I don’t like myself then, either. I love you more than I can ever express.
Warning. This will be oversharing. As you know already, I’m a tad blunt. Friends, you most likely know this about us. Family, sorry, but yep, you’ll now know more than you care to.
We have sex a lot. I’m not sure what the average is for most old married couples, but this year we took our typical every other day and upped the anty to a 365 day challenge. Yes, sex 365 times this year. Notice I didn’t say days. Some days we are extra frisky and others we need a little more sleep (reminder, three children, one being a new babe last September). Short of me going in and counting the quarters in a jar, I’d say we’re pretty on target.
So, other than the fact that it feels good, why all the sex? We all know that most ladies are not quite as horny as the menfolk, and I’m no exception. PapaGray, on the other hand, happens to be even more horny than normal. I don’t believe in doing this because “wives should submit to their husbands”. But I do have sex even when I’m not in the mood. At this point even PapaGray could claim being oversexed.
We do it because physical intimacy opens the door for emotional intimacy. You can’t build up hatred and frustration and make love to that person every night. You can’t build up a brick wall and not break that down when you are literally, physically naked in front of them. You can’t, day after day, act indifferent while you physically are at your most vulnerable every night. We don’t allow it to be routine. It has become a habit. Our nightly ritual; our sleeping pill. We look at things like yoga, meditation and exercise to keep us physically and emotionally fit – sex keeps our marriage fit. I say that…sex alone doesn’t do it – it’s sex combined with open communication, honesty, respect, humility, and (ha) teamwork.
If all else is going to hell in a handbasket, and life hands you a ton of lemons, sometimes you just need to say “fuck it” (pardon my language but there is where the cuss therapy comes in handy) and toss in some humor. Have a good laugh. Be silly. Be goofy. Flirt, tease, and tickle each other. Act like a kid and chase each other around. One night recently the kids were shocked to sneak out of their beds and find us out jumping on the trampoline, laughing and trying to see who could bounce higher. It was a stressful day and we just needed to be silly. They actually ended up jumping with us, and while we didn’t win any awards for consistent discipline that night, we created a really special family memory full of cuddling and giggling and genuinely loving on each other.
I have a tendency to take life way too seriously. If I could narrow down one key thing PapaGray does for me on a regular basis, it’s that he makes me laugh. He reminds me that life can be fun – to take in the moment and just enjoy it. And if it gets to heavy, let go and simply laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine in so many situations.
So PapaGray, here’s to you. Here is to you and me making all of these non-negotiable in our marriage. Here is to you teaching me to laugh, to let go, to love and to allow myself to fully be loved, naked and vulnerable in all my glory. You connect to my soul, you challenge my thinking, you speak to my heart and you serve me selflessly. I am a better woman, mother and friend because of you. I look at our life and repeatedly say how I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I look at you, our chaotic life that is wonderfully ours, and I thank God we are on this ride together. I love you beyond infinity. YLB