3 Tips To Help Your Marriage Survive That Little Green-eyed Monster (a.k.a. your newborn)

Three tips to help your marriage survive a newborn.

By:  Nancy Clark

Celeste here.  Nancy has two qualities that made her perfect to write this guest post: she’s married and she just had a baby.  🙂  Also, she makes me laugh literally every time I’m around her and she’s my neighbor who feels obligated to say yes to me. She and her husband are so great together. We love them so.  Here’s Nancy.

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Obviously the little green-eyed monster I’m talking about isn’t jealousy, but your newborn. So maybe yours is actually a little blue-eyed or brown-eyed one, mine is still in the “can’t really tell what color her eyes are anyway” stage. All kidding aside, the newborn stage is a magical time when you get to welcome this new little person into your family. This new little totally helpless person that requires around the clock attention, but can’t verbalize any of their needs, so you’re left to your own devices trying to figure out what they want in your bleary-eyed state of constant exhaustion. Just magical.

Six weeks ago I had my third baby. It’s always quite apparent to me that my relationship with my husband suffers some neglect during those first weeks when the postpartum hormones are raging and all I can think about is the feeding and pooping schedule of our new little bundle.

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So, here are a couple tips that I think can help you focus on your spouse during this very special, but sometimes very trying time in your marriage. All of these tips are things I am hoping to get right on the next kid because a peaceful friction-free transition during the newborn phase still eludes me. On to the list!

**** I just want to preface all of these by saying that I think the wife deserves a free pass for at least the first few days (or weeks). Especially if the delivery was a stressful one. Oh wait, having a child emerge from your body in any way, shape, or form can be slightly traumatic, so a little time to let all those new emotions settle that becoming a mother elicits is a good idea.****


1. Be overly appreciative for even the little things your spouse does for you.

I know when I have a newborn I turn into a crazy person that is always asking the people around me if they’ve washed their hands and are up to date on their vaccinations. It’s funny how having a baby can suddenly make everyone look like a walking petri dish full of contagious disease or is that just me? Anyways, I know that the little things like my husband telling me he made sure to boil the bottles or put cream on the baby’s bum help to put my new mommy mind at ease. I need to make sure I verbally acknowledge these things, so he knows I appreciate him and that his mindful deeds of service aren’t going unnoticed. A heartfelt thank you when he steps up to be Mr. Mom for our other kids, while I pump away for the baby, can sure go a long way.

2. Connect physically somehow with your spouse everyday.

The sleep deprivation alone that a newborn can cause can take its toll on a marriage. Then on top of that a doctor telling you not to have sex with your spouse for six weeks is basically a recipe for disaster or at least a grumpy husband. My personal advice during this time would be to make out a lot. Make out like teenagers in the backseat of a Chevy, at a drive in, parked at lookout point, on prom night, you get the idea. So maybe you’re not quite feeling up to “doing the deed” yet, but connecting with your husband physically whether that’s holding hands, a back rub, or just holding each other for a few moments while your newborn wails over the monitor can help you both remember that you’re a team and really the most important relationship in the house.

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3.  Try, try, try not to criticize and don’t make everything about the baby.

Babies are adorable and demanding and taking care of one is a full-time job that each mother has her own special way of doing. So go easy on your husband as he learns all the differences between binkies and boppys and bumbos and bugaboos. A new baby brings with it a use for a whole new set of skills and vocab, so be patient with your spouse and try to bite your tongue if he doesn’t put the diaper on or swaddle the baby exactly as you would and just be grateful he wants to help. When you have a new baby it’s sometimes hard to believe that not everyone is as interested in talking about the tiniest details of you baby’s day (bowel movements, spit ups, etc.) as you are. There have been times in the past few weeks when my husband was trying to talk to me about his fellowship applications and I couldn’t register anything he was saying because I was too preoccupied with thinking about when the next feeding was or if the constant-lack-of-sleep headache between my eyes would ever go away. I try to make a conscious effort now to ask him about his day and to talk about things relating to us and not just the baby’s latest poop blowout.

The time passes quickly, so soak up that new baby scent and nibble that peach fuzz head. Just don’t forget about your spouse and showing them your love and building your relationship because that is what will get you through all the many enjoyable, but sometimes challenging phases that lie ahead.

Perspective

How keeping a forever perspective helps our marriage.
By: Camille Zirker

Celeste here! I’m very happy to introduce this guest post from my friend Camille. She was one of the first people I thought of when considering who might have some great relationship advice to share and she does not disappoint! Camille and her husband are a wonderful couple and I think Camille’s attitude about her relationship is a big reason why their marriage is what it is. Enjoy!

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One day last spring I was driving and I heard a song come on the radio that I instantly fell in love with.  “All of Me” by John Legend.  I downloaded it right when I got home.

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you“
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you,

I love it.  Isn’t it amazing that we all have such imperfections? I found someone to overlook those in me, just as I have for him.

Over the past year I have thought a lot about marriage.  Maybe it was because I had a brother-in-law get married as well as a brother contemplating it.  Maybe it’s because I am coming up on 12 wonderful years of marriage and can’t figure out where the time has gone.  I am so blessed.  I really feel like I have an amazing marriage!  Not that there aren’t those little ups and downs but I feel like those come and go and I continue to love my husband more than ever!  I know that having an eternal perspective is what keeps us going.

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I was recently reading a talk by a leader of our church and I really love what he had to say about marriage.  He gave 5 principles to build strong satisfying marriages.  (Marriage: Watch and Learn by Elder L. Whitney Clayton)
1.     In the happiest marriages both the husband and wife consider their relationship to be a pearl
beyond price, a treasure of infinite worth.

2.    Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of happy eternal marriages.   Their mutual quest is
to be obedient and good.

  • He said  “They do not consider the commandments to be a buffet from which they can pick and choose only the most appealing offerings.”
  • “Strengthening faith means strengthening marriage.”  For us a big part of that is monthly trips to the Nauvoo Temple.  When we sacrifice and make this a priority we are blessed.  It is rare that we attend the temple together.  We often switch off watching the kids and spend the day near the temple, yet our marriage is strengthened and our family is blessed.
  • Service has always been a big part of our marriage.  I was lucky enough to marry a man who would give his right arm to help others.  This has taught me a lot!  I have whined and complained more than my share, yet I have grown, learned and been blessed.  I have learned to love to serve and find ways to bless others as well.

3.    Repentance and humility build happy marriages.  Spouses who regularly conduct honest
self-examinations and promptly take needed steps to repent and improve experience a healing
balm in their marriages.  Experiencing the mighty change of heart causes us to treat others,
especially our spouses with meekness.

4.    Terrific marriages are completely respectful, transparent, and loyal.  Marriages are based on
cooperation not negotiation.  Their dinner hour and the family time that follows become the center
of their day and the object of their best efforts.

  • Family time really is the best.  Whether its laying on the tramp to read together, going out on a hike, or just dancing to music around the house, we LOVE it!

5.      Successful couples love each other with complete devotion.

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Elder Bruce C Hafen reminded us that “contract companions each give 50 percent;  covenant companions each give 100 percent.”  My husband and I made an agreement/covenant that we don’t intend to break in this life or the next.  “The sealing of a man and a woman in temple marriage creates an eternal relationship between them and their children that can last beyond death.” -Lorenzo Snow

Having a “forever” perspective helps our marriage.  Sometimes the short term may be hard and aggravating, but with this perspective, a few dishes or a small disagreement doesn’t seem so big.  It becomes a “So What!?” situation.

I know that if you don’t feel like you have a great marriage, you can.  We have had many struggles during our marriage.  Financial struggles, the stresses of school, health concerns for a child, living in 12 different homes in 12 years, work stress, and that’s only the beginning.  There have been a lot.  We all have those trials.  We can use them to make us stronger and to grow closer to our spouse.  We all have imperfections.  It is our choice to change them into “perfect imperfections.”  Having a forever perspective helps us to keep our journey through life a smooth one.

THE CASE FOR KIDS

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Last year sometime I got together with a bunch of gals from my hometown.  Most of us hadn’t seen each other in years.  Some were married, some not.  Some had kids, some not.  As the night progressed, the ladies with kids tended to congregate together to discuss the gamut of kid topics (public tantrum stories, sleep training, power struggles, etc etc).  I joined right in, chiming in with my kids’ antics.  After a while one of the married with no kids ladies said, “Sheesh, I don’t think I ever want kids.”  The comment was made in jest and no one thought anything of it, but for some reason it stuck with me. 

All too often we moms get together (online, in person, whatever) and the conversation naturally tends to flow toward things that drive us crazy about our kids (I’m the worst perpetrator).  Sometimes I think this is absolutely necessary to keep your sanity as a mom.  It can be unbelievably helpful to vent with other moms and hear that there are others out there whose kid won’t eat anything that’s not the color white, whose baby is not the only one not sleeping through the night.  It makes you feel less lonely and less of a failure.  However, there are often others hearing these conversations and like my friend thinking, “That whole parenthood thing does not sound like much fun.  Why do people do that?”

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One more story before I answer that question:  I recently had my third child and boy howdy has he been a hard one.  Crying?  Big fan.  Sleeping more than two hours at a time?  Not such a fan.  He’s now four months old and things have calmed down quite a bit, but for a while there, it was all I could do to talk about anything other than my colicky situation.  A good friend of mine who has two kids often got the brunt of these venting sessions and one day said, “You know.  We’ve been talking about whether or not we want a third and honestly your situation is making me lean toward no.”

This made me feel terrible.  Truly.  All too often I told her about the crying, the lack of sleep, the constant juggling of the needs of my other two kids.  But what I didn’t tell her was how my heart melts every time I go to pick my little guy up from his nap and he gives me the biggest smile.  Or how my oldest daughter has this special knack for making him belly laugh and the times the three of us can’t stop laughing together are often the best moments of my day.  Or how every time Rich comes home and I see his face light up to see his son and make him smile, my own heart expands.  Or how when my two year old wakes up in the morning and asks “where’s wittle buddy?  Tan I hold him?” it makes it all worth it.

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I’ve since told my friend these things and she said, “Oh, I know!  I’m a mom.”  Of course- she has a million of these little moments stacked up for herself.  But not everyone does.  They can imagine I’m sure (everyone’s seen Life is Beautiful right?)  But I just want to make a case for kids for those on the fence about this whole kid thing (and also to publicly appease my conscience for those I’ve unwittingly turned against having kids or more kids (which I probably do every time we go to the mall where tantrums are frequent and fervent).

Kids are worth it.  Spouses are worth it.

Both take a lot of work, but are definitely worth it.  They are worth it because they bring the deepest, most satisfying kind of happiness this world can provide- the kind that comes from forgetting yourself and giving yourself completely to somebody else.  It happens when you get married.  It happens when you have kids.

A husband and kids have let more happiness into my life in the aggregate absolutely.  But it’s not just day-to-day drudgery for some abstract sense of overall happiness (as you would maybe think hearing of how hard a mom’s day is).  Day-to-day can be hard, absolutely, but there are a million little moments of pure bliss sent straight from heaven where your heart just wants to explode, that it’s worth it in the day-to-day also. 

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This morning I came back from a run in a bit of a pouty mood since I had woken up early with Lennon and didn’t get to go back to sleep.  I was wondering how I was going to make it through the day being so tired and then I noticed my girls playing this game they had just made up called “ding ding” where one of them bangs a comb back and forth against the posts of our chair and the other one claps and dances on one of the couch cushions they had pulled off onto the floor, then they switch.  Watching them wiggle their little bodies and giggle with each other made me laugh in spite of myself.  They lifted my spirits out of self-pity. 

Yesterday, I went to get Ivy up from her nap, but she was still so grumpy I was thinking she maybe needed to go back to sleep for a little bit, so I took her out of her crib and cuddled with her on Ellia’s bed.  She immediately curled up into me and fell back asleep.  Watching her little face asleep in my arms- it felt like magic. 

When my two youngest were napping, I read a book with Ellia.  She was wearing a dress and I loved the feel of her soft bare legs, making her seem younger than she is.  At one point in a silly moment of the book she turned and gave me her sweet Ellia smile and I loved her so much in that moment.

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Like I said I noticed more of these moments than normal because I was looking for them, but they still happen enough to make all the bodily secretions, frustrating power struggles and exhaustion more than worth it.  My heart is 4 times bigger since making room for Rich, Ellia, Ivy and Lennon.  I have less time to think about my own problems since I need to work out theirs.  Selflessness and service bring true happiness.

Maybe reading these things will help someone.  But if not, it helped me to write them down to remember to make a case for my own kids 🙂

Rich’s Thoughts on Companionship Inventory

You may think by the title, that this post is written by Rich.  You would be wrong 🙂  Me (Celeste) again.  Don’t worry, you’ll hear from him soon enough.

A few things you may not know about Rich:  he has superman calf muscles (seriously, they’re out of control), we’ve yet to find a limit to the amount of eggnog Rich can drink in a day (we can’t be dishing out all our grocery bill on eggnog, so the limit has yet to have a quantifiable test), and he used to be a dear abby-ist of sorts.  For a number of years he was a writer and then editor for the BYU 100 hour board, where people can write in questions and writers have 100 hours to answer them.

The reason I bring this up is because there were a number of relationship-type questions posed on The Board (as you might imagine from a populace largely in their late teens/early twenties), and over and over again Rich’s answers would include a suggestion to do some type of regular inventory.  (See our last post on Improving Your Marriage Through Companionship Inventory)

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Ask me anything. I am all-knowing.
Here are a few examples:

In answer to a girl who didn’t like talking about her feelings
:

  • “……one thing I’ve learned about relationships is that while it is good and right to be open and honest about feelings and frustrations, it is also very easy to read too much into things and take things too personal. For example, sometimes when we were dating, my wife would be having a bad day and then something I would do or say (or NOT do or say) would get on her nerves a lot. I would realize she was being weird toward me and I would force a conversation and we would duke it out. Only later we both realized that, while what I did or said (or DIDN’T do or say) probably was something that had been worth mentioning, we talked about it in a very bad moment. Sometimes things are important and worth talking about, even if you worry they will kill a romantic spark (which, by the way, they won’t in the long run if it’s a decent spark). But other times, it’s worth being selective about when to hash those things out. If there is something on your mind but you don’t want to talk about it at a moment when tension is high or feelings might be hurt, maybe try this: tell your significant other that you appreciate his concern, but it’s probably just a weird day or a weird mood and if it’s still an issue/on your mind, you’ll talk to him about it at a certain time and place…….[I’ve] said this so many times in Board answers it’s not even funny: set aside a specific, weekly time have a relationship inventory. Tell good things you appreciate about things the other person did. Then bring up anything that’s still on your mind. Even if there’s no big problems, still do this weekly. It’s been the best thing we’ve done in our relationship and we still do it.”

In answer to a gal with an overly-affectionate fiance:

  • “This is a thing my wife and I started back when we were dating. We both had questions or concerns that we wanted to see how the other one felt and wanted a scheduled time to bring them up. If you know you have a time every week (like Sunday night) when you’ll be talking about any concerns, then you don’t have to have a special, “let’s talk” conversation, which are intimidating and awkward and things don’t sit forever and fester until they explode. I’m not saying my wife and I are perfect at this; some weeks we forget and sometimes we need to talk about things right after they happen. But all in all it’s a great system.”

And in answer to someone who just wanted to hear more about our inventory system:

  • “I think the reasons why this is a good system are fairly self explanatory but here are a few of the biggest ones. First, it provides a scheduled time where you know you’ll be able to bring up concerns or problems. One of the things that became clear after having a long-term relationship is that it’s very easy to take things personally and to blow them out of proportion. This way if one of us does something to hurt the other person’s feelings, during the week, we don’t discuss it right then when feelings might be close to the surface. And then, if it turns out it’s not even important enough to remember on Sunday, then maybe it wasn’t worth bringing up at all. That safety valve also keeps things from festering and building until they explode. Second, it gives you a chance to actively think about your relationship. Before we got married, there was some list we got from someone, perhaps from a member of a bishopric, with an enormous list of questions of things that should be discussed before marriage. It was an enormous list and while we made some headway into it, I could not tell you now what was on the list, much less what our answers were. While I think before marriage is an important time to find out things about your potential spouse, their priorities and feelings, for some reason people think that after being married the deal is done, the decision made and now you just live your lives in the same house. Obviously this isn’t the case and you are always finding out new things about your spouse. And, honestly, I don’t understand (or care) that guys typically don’t like talking about feelings or relationships. Marriage is the most important relationship you have and your feelings about it influence how you approach it. Getting in the habit and developing the ability to rationally discuss your feelings and areas where you can personally improve isn’t easy, but it is critical for becoming a good spouse and parent. Third, the idea of having regularly scheduled time to work out problems is, I’m sure, not unique. But being honest, straightforward and sincere with complements, observations and feelings, not to mention doing your best to have the Spirit present, makes companionship inventory more than airing a list of grievances or complaints.”

So, you see, different problems, same solution.  Rich and Celeste are in agreement- try it out!

Do any of you have a similar system?  How do you guys talk about hard things together?

Improving Your Marriage With Weekly Companionship Inventory

Ok, are you guys ready for this?  I’m about to hit you with the very best marital advice we have.  The big guns.  Just wanted to make sure you’re ready and aware- this is the best we’ve got to offer.  All downhill from here….

Here goes.  Have companionship inventory every week. 

Allow me to explain:

Just prior to when Rich and I started dating I was serving a mission for the LDS church in Slovenia.  You’re familiar with LDS missionaries I assume?  You know- go by twos, wear the tags, SUPER excited to say hi to you?

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Those guys.  That was me.  Well, actually, this was me:

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In any case, on a mission you’re assigned to a “companion” for six weeks at a time.  You’re required to be within sight and sound of each other at all times.  You can imagine there are occasional conflicts, contention, general animosity and desires to sucker punch each other that arise.  So the church came up with a thing called companionship inventory for companionships to do once a week as a peaceful way to evaluate and discuss how things are going.

It’s a great, great thing and it turns out it works awesome for marriages also.  Here’s how Preach My Gospel (our missionary manual) describes it:

  • Conduct companionship inventory: At the end of your weekly planning session, share with your companion appropriate goals, and ask for his or her help to accomplish them. Discuss the strength of your relationship with your companion. Discuss any challenges that may be keeping your companionship from working in unity or from being obedient. Resolve conflicts. Share with your companion what you think his or her strengths are. Ask for suggestions on how you can improve. If needed, set goals that will improve your relationship. Conclude with prayer.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. Start with a prayer.  I think this is so effective to invite a spirit of peace right off the bat.  Providing a safe place to discuss conflict is the best part about inventory and prayer is so effective in setting the stage for that.  If you’re not pray-ers, maybe you could start with a little meditation or by reading something uplifting together.  Just find a way to set a reverent tone.
  2. Compliment each other.  We start out by expressing gratitude for little things we appreciated throughout the week.  For example, this week, I said thanks for watching the kids so I could go running.  Thanks for having that great chat with me Friday night.  Thanks for staying up and cleaning the kitchen, etc, etc.  This is a great exercise to remember all the little things your spouse does for you that you may forget about otherwise.
  3. Discuss problems.  Even though inventory is a specific time to mention things that you think the other person needs to work on, it’s still important to phrase things in a kind and sensitive way. Use “I statements.” For example, saying, “I feel like I’m the only one cleaning up the house lately” is much less accusatory and confrontational than “You NEVER clean the house.” Remember, the aim of discussing problems is to communicate things you’re feeling that the other party may not be aware of and to come up with solutions that work for BOTH of you.  The aim is not just to whine or rag on your spouse.  Try to limit the problems you bring up to one or two.  MAYBE three, but more than that is just too much for one week. (this was learned by experience)
  4. Make plans to do better.  Compromise.  Do the best you can to come up with plans that make you both at least kind of happy.  If a compromise cannot be met, sit on it for another week and re-assess at next week’s inventory.  Other than that, use this time to talk about goals for yourself and your marriage for the upcoming week.

So that’s it.  I can’t tell you how useful it is to have a SAFE place for both of you to talk about hard things.  We do ours every Sunday night.

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This is not generally where we conduct companionship inventory. It just turns out we don’t have many pictures of Rich and I discussing things on our bed. Strange.

Also, companionship inventory tends to prevent little, unnecessary fights because when something bothers me in the week, rather than blowing up and discussing it in the moment, I’ve learned to bite my tongue and save it for inventory.  And I’ve noticed that usually, by the time inventory rolls around, whatever it was that made me upset totally isn’t a big deal anymore.  Generally it was more a result of me being tired or hungry rather than a conflict that really needs resolving.  And if it is still on my mind, inventory is the perfect time to discuss it.

The other great part about inventory is that it gives you a designated, consistent time and place to discuss important things.  Everyone’s lives are so busy, often times things that are really important to assess regularly (ie parenting practices, intimacy, financial problems, your spouse’s happiness) go un-discussed for long periods of time.  It’s best to hit up these topics regularly so one spouse isn’t suffering needlessly while the other one has no idea.

So, that’s my take on inventory- two thumbs up.  Stay tuned for Rich’s take on it.