My husband and I met when I was back in high school. He was the college stud who played drums in the band for my youth group. What a dream! We dated for 4 years and got married. We had many tough times in the early years of our relationship that made us stronger as a couple. We had a good long while just the two of us before we decided to start having kids. I am very thankful for that time we shared as just a married couple.
We struggled to get pregnant and it look it’s toll on me and our relationship, but we were strong and made it through. Then we got great news, I was pregnant. We were so happy and then a few short weeks later we got other news …surprise, it’s twins!! Needless to say, we were shocked and a little worried, but none-the-less excited. We decided that I would leave my teaching job and stay home with them. When they were born it was a rough couple of months, but the trouble for us as a couple didn’t really start until we got to the disciplining stage of parenting. Being a stay at home mom, I was in charge most of the time. I was making most of the decisions about what was best for our children mainly due to proximity. It was fine when they were babies and only needed care but when we started directing their hearts and minds it got more difficult. This is where we butted heads the most. Thankfully we were equipped to work out our issues and resolve them before things got really bad. I hope to share some tips with you that may help if you are in a similar situation.
Love vs Respect
Men and women are different in the core of their emotional needs and it’s very important to understand and appreciate these differences. Men long to be respected and women long to be loved. You may be thinking, “Well, women need respect too and men need love too,” and that is true, but it is not their most important needs. Our troubles arose when I inadvertently disrespected my husband. I would butt in and “correct” his parenting in front of the kids. For so long most of the decisions were left up to me that as our parenting needs were shifting I forgot to shift along with them. When he felt disrespected he started to draw back and didn’t show as much love toward me. He started pulling away from me, which in turn made me feel unloved, and therefore less likely to show him respect. The cycle continued in a downward spiral.
I could feel that things weren’t quite right but couldn’t put my finger on it until one afternoon at the park, I was feeling particularly unloved when my husband was being distant and I finally said, “We need to talk about this!” We talked and finally got to the bottom of the issue. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Open and honest communication is so vital to any relationship.
There were a couple times in our past when we had trouble communicating and had sought out some counseling from our church leaders. It helped us and we learned some valuable communication skills. I also taught a Family Relations class back when I was teaching and it had taught me some very important conflict resolution skills. So luckily before it got too bad we were able to express ourselves and work through our issues. But if you don’t know these skills it can be difficult. Seeking help from a professional that you trust can be a good idea.
Think of your relationship as a car. If you run routine maintenance it will drive better and last longer. If you saw the “check engine” light on your car, wouldn’t you take it in to get looked at? Or would you drive it until it broke down on you? If you bring it in after it’s broken down, there is a good chance that there is too much damage and the car is totaled.
When we think of counselling as a last resort before divorce, oftentimes it’s too late. Check-ups along the way to correct problems before they get too bad is the way to go. Here is another analogy: Think of your relationship as a garden. If you see a weed pop it is manageable to dig it up and get rid of it. But when you let the weeds go they overrun the garden and then it seems impossible to get them all out. Point being, take care of your marriage and fix problems as they arise instead of waiting until it seems impossible to fix them all. Do what you can to protect and maintain your relationship along the way.
Skills to Communicate Better
Here are 5 practical skills you can use to help you communicate better and work as a team in your parenting and in your relationships.
1. Use I-statements
When addressing issues with your spouse, use “I” statements instead of “You” statements. “You” statements, such as, “You never listen,” or “You always do that,” are harsh and cause the other person to become defensive and stop listening to you or fight back. Instead, use less offensive “I” statements. Here is the formula: I feel ____ when you ____ because _____ . For example: “I feel angry when you correct me in front of the kids because it makes look weak.”
2. The 9:00 pm rule
Never discuss important or hot button issues after 9 pm. We are usually crankiest when we are tired and discussions can quickly turn into full out brawls if we are not careful. Mention that there is something you would like to discuss with your spouse and carve out some time in the next day or so to talk it over in the light of day.
3. Power of Positive Thinking
Focusing on the positive personality traits of your spouse can do wonders for your feelings and attitudes towards them. When we dwell on the negative we become bitter and cynical. But when we focus on the things we like about our spouse or the things they do well it helps our attitudes. For my husband, typically the traits that I love about him, the flip side of those exact traits or the things that drive me nuts. For example, I love that he works hard, has wonderful quality of work, is self motivated and is detail oriented. But earlier in our marriage he was a bit of a workaholic and he can be critical at times. These are two sides to the same character trait. So by focusing on the positives and taking the good in with the bad we can grow in our love for each other. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking!
4. Understand and Appreciate Your Differences
Similarly, understand where your spouse differs from you and embrace those differences. Find compromises and appreciate when they have a strength that you lack. This really helps build a team atmosphere in your home. Why are the two of you such a great team? What makes you perfect for each other? Focus on those things and work on the areas where you butt heads to come up with workable solutions. It is your job to fulfill your spouse’s needs. Find out what they are and do a good job of meeting them. If you focus on that, more likely than not, they will start doing the same thing for you. Bitterness and resentment can be a vicious downward cycle but love and forgiveness can also be a wonderful upward cycle. The more you give the more you get.
5. Parenting as a Team
When it comes to parenting, make sure you are on the same page about how you want to raise your kids. All of us have unspoken expectations about what we want our families to be or look like and most likely they are not the same as your spouse’s. So it is so important to discuss your expectations and come up with compromises where you differ and plans where you align. Discuss what rules you should have and how you are going to enforce them. Make a united front of saying, “Whatever mom says, I say”, or, “Whatever dad says, I say.” Tell your kids that you are a team and let them see it.
Remember that your kids exist because of the love you and your spouse share, and when they leave home it will just be the two of you again. Never lose sight of each other or your marriage. Take good care of it and maintain it. Love each other well and your kids will better off for it.
Courtney Hill is a wife and mother of twins. She has her Master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences and taught high school FCS for 4 years before deciding to stay home. She grew up in a smaller Missouri town and learned to cook mostly from her mom, who learned from her grandmother. She is a Midwest girl through and through and her style of cooking is simple and country kitchen approved. She’ll take you back to the basics of cooking, where real ingredients and plenty of love are in every dish. So pour on some more gravy and keep it country kitchen approved! Visit her blog, Country Kitchen Approved, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For articles by Courtney on Twiniversity, click here.
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