Today is the halfway point of the 31 Days of Writing challenge that I have committed to and I am so excited to have made it this far. If you are interested in starting from the beginning of my series on “Transitioning Well Through Everyday Life” please click here.
I am excited to make it this far, not because I thought I’d fail, but because it’s a BIG deal to go from no longer journaling, or keeping up with my blog, to writing every day. Then add to that the fact that I am in the middle of the biggest move I have ever made and I wrote my first 10 days from our kitchen counter instead of at my comfortable desk. And one of those days I was surrounded by men moving our stuff in as a group of women unpacked said stuff. I don’t say this to complain – my point is the timing is rarely perfect when we are in a transition and most of us could use a little encouragement along the way.
One way you all have encouraged me through this writing challenge is giving me material to write about. I recently received a private FB message from a friend who asked for advice, or tips, on specifically how to encourage her husband. What she and I have in common is that our husbands are retiring from the Marine Corps or already have been retired for a while. This is a hard one as when both of you are under the same stress, but respond to it differently, challenges can arise.
Here was my immediate response to her message as I hate leaving people hanging:
“Hi Friend!! Thank you for reading the posts that God is directing me to write. Two thoughts I have right off the top of my head in regards to encouraging your spouse - 1) to remember that we each transition differently and 2) as the female spouse I think we have to bite our tongue and not take everything personally. The hubs and I hit a "speed bump" last week and I was so ticked that unkind things came out of my mouth. The good news is that we talked it out, after we both calmed down, and we shared each of our "side" of the issue and decided on a solution and it has been incorporated into our daily lives right now!!! I hope this will help for now!!”
Now, two days later, I still think its great advice. However, I want to be more specific here – I have also asked for a ton of prayer from my closest friends as I was prepared for there being a conflict or two between the hubs and I. I am by no means an expert here, but over 21 years of marriage has taught me many things. One is that all moves are stressful no matter how much planning you put into it. Another thing I have learned is that I have control of NOT helping a conflict escalate. In the grand scheme of things do I need to prove that I am right or foster the most important relationship in my life, second to God of course? I read this advice once and it has served me well. Usually during a transition like a move most of the decisions you may be “discussing” are not huge. One example is that my hubs is ready to hang everything up on the walls and I am not. We both have the same goal in mind, get the wall hangings up and off the floor, but my process is different. So, in this case I yield where I can and then I ask him kindly if we can stop hanging anything else for a while. I bring this up because these are opportunities to encourage our spouse by not adding fuel to the fire. Men approach any challenge head on and somewhat like a bulldog – tenacious as all get out and willing to deal with the consequences later. We ladies, on the other hand, like to take our time as our vision for a specific project comes together. I think for our military men specifically, they are used to doing whatever it takes to accomplish the mission and that is a perfectly great way to approach other men and man-like challenges like fixing gear that will be used on the battlefield. However, this same approach doesn't sit well with us when hanging priceless pieces of memories in our retirement home. Bottom line: Choose your battles wisely and learn to gently bite your tongue.
Another thing I have learned is that our men are processing their transitions through the way they approach the projects that come with their transition – in this case a retirement from military service. So when they get mad at the new lawnmower, or TV, or not being able to find the hammer they aren’t stomping around mad at you – they are processing some of the “interesting” feelings they are experiencing as they face a whole new world of not putting on a uniform Monday-Friday, if not deployed. This is when not personalizing everything they do comes in handy. In this case I usually take a deep breath and go to another room to help me NOT say anything I will regret later. Notice that I have made the word NOT bold and all caps twice now?
We need to remember that our men were created by our AWESOME God to provide for us and so their focus is on that goal which is neither warm nor fuzzy – it’s very practical and doesn't leave a lot of room for sweet chats and taking time to hang a family heirloom. So I have learned to ignore some of the stomping; be ready to stop whatever I am doing to help him with his project; and pray for him. Transitions are a process and they take time and they are not always pretty.
One last piece of advice goes back to my Day 13 post on“WeavingFun Into Your Transition”. Make sure you and your spouse still go out on dates and enjoy life – life doesn’t stop so we can transition. And, as the female spouse, we are usually the one who has to gently suggest this and make it happen. Again, men are task oriented and they will keep going from task to task unless they are distracted by an offer for a great steak or an opportunity to check out the local baseball team – or their choice of sporting event. My hubs loves to golf so I make sure that he does that during our transitions. This helps as he is “blowing off some stress” on the greens, instead of at home, and I can stay home and process my touchy-feely projects without him bulldozing through them!
(The hubs is the one in the bright green golf shirt and knickers!)
I’d love to hear how you encourage your spouse during a transition. And join me tomorrow as I share how we can encourage other people in our lives while they are in a transition.