How Many Voices are in Our Marriage?

When was the last time you stopped to consider how many voices are in your marriage and in your own head. I have a passion for reading and learning but sometimes my head gets crowded with voices and thoughts that don’t belong there. This was strongly pointed out to me last night as I was reading before bed.

It was a book that had been gifted to me, The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. This book had come from a friend whose sister thought this book useful enough to keep as reference guide. Always interested in learning new things, I dived in and was intrigued by the idea of praying over individual aspects of my husband’s life. This was something I had considered doing. My interest turned to irritation when I read Chapter 4: His sexuality. While comfortable with the idea of serving one another in our relationship, I was struck by a stereotypical image of servitude from another era. Or worse, a medieval concept of women as property. I have no doubt that this was not what the author intended. It was the idea that I should put on lip gloss, do my hair and put on something pretty before bed that got to me. The implication in these pages was that if I don’t dress to impress my husband, he will be tempted elsewhere and that it would be my own fault. I find this highly insulting to both of us.

It is not only in Christian literature that I find these types of comments. How many relationship books, magazine articles and television shows have fed us this same information? I have seen it countless times. The difference this time was that I was aware of it. My poor husband was too as I felt the need to point it out to him. Interestingly, this didn’t register for him, but when I mentioned the book also talked about “his finances” he got angry and pointed out that they were “our” finances. It seems we each have our own triggers. Each aware of different messages society is trying to “teach” us.

What I learned most from this encounter is not how I should treat my husband but how I should be aware of the number of voices in my marriage. By my count there should be three – my husband’s, God’s and mine. Too often there are others who would like to add their opinions: countless relationship “experts,” magazine columnists, news commentators, and well-meaning friends and family members. I am not saying that we should never ask for help and support, we SHOULD! I am suggesting that we first consider the agenda of the source and the point-of-view of the speaker. A 2013 Pew Research study suggests, “The divorce of a friend or close relative dramatically increases [75%] the chances that you too will divorce.” Sociologists use the term “social contagion” to describe the phenomenon.

The good news is that a strong support system can strengthen marriages. By spending time with other couples or part of a healthy couple, be encouraged and strengthened in our marriage. We can choose to deliberately look for positive voices to add to our inner monologue rather than accepting everything we hear or read as truth that should be internalized. The women friends in my life encourage me and my relationship. I have also found websites and Facebook feeds, such as Happy Wives Club” that inspire me to think positively of my spouse on those days I need a little help remember why I like him. Whether consciously or not, the people and ideas we spend time with influence our thinking. Being aware of what these voices are saying to us can help us decide what path we want to follow. The not-so-subtle messages I read last night reminded me to think carefully about what advice I follow. I hope this post will do the same for someone else.

picture by Amy Nielson Photography

Eating Well on Vacation

One of the most common questions for those trying to make healthier choices is β€œwhat do I eat on vacation?” The two basic answers are to either take food with you or just relax while on your trip. I did a little of both on a recent trip.

My husband and I celebrated out 10th anniversary with a second honeymoon – 4 nights in Victoria B.C without the kids. As nothing like this has happened since the birth of our firstborn 7 years ago I was not going to ruin it by obsessively worrying over every meal. Instead I strove for a balance of healthy meals and indulgent treats.

We were able to find a hotel with a full kitchen and hit the nearest grocery store our first day. We purchased sausages and fresh vegetables for dinner that night. The next day we enjoyed a healthy sack lunch followed by fantastic tiramisu and rose gelatos at Buchart Gardens. These were interesting flavors and definitely not something we would find at home. We also enjoyed trying poutine (my husband was determined to taste this common Canadian dish) and a nice dinner at The Tapa Bar, where we chose roasted vegetable plates.

Like most things in life the key to finding joy is in finding balance. We mixed fresh cooked vegetables, in our hotel and restaurants, with tantalizing (or at least regionally unique) foods that enhanced our experience in Victoria. Like the other senses, taste is a way to experience our surroundings and I am glad that I did not allow anxiety over food choices to diminish that. I savored our trip using as many senses as I could, enjoying the smells of spring blooms and salt air and the feel of the sun and wind on my face at the beach. Vacations are to be savored in every sense possible. They are a time of rejuvenation and I am grateful to have shared so much with my husband during this time.