My husband and I have been together for over six years now.
For over six years I have been dating or married to a man with three kids and an ex-wife.
For over six years I have been trying to navigate my way through blended family life.
For over six years I've been doing the best I can with what I have... and man it's been a ride!
Last week I wrote a blog post titled "for many stepmoms, there is no honeymoon phase" and guys, I cannot stress how true that was for us!
Despite being madly in love with my man and his three (pretty stand up) kids, that first year came with A LOT of growing pains.
And the second, and the third, and a lot of the fourth.
I have to say though, for a while now, things have been good. LIKE REALLY REALLY GOOD.
I love my husband now more than I did when we first got married. In fact, I think I love him more now than I did last month.
We seem to have nestled into this nice little routine with a foundation of understanding. The understanding being that we will not always be on the same page, but we will always be on the same team.
We've also implemented 3 communication strategies that have literally changed the way we do everything (Well most of the time... no one's perfect right?!)
Yes we still have the same issues that we used to have.
- Slight differences in expectations about rules in the house
- More than slight differences in expectations about chores and screen time.
- Inevitable challenges that come with co-parenting and having kids from a previous marriage
- Two very strong personalities and a preference for things to go our own way...
But the way we navigate our way through these stressors has completely transformed. As a result, so has our relationship.
They've been so game changing for our relationship, that I've decided to spill the beans and share them with you!
Even if you think they sound a little corny, I challenge you to give them a try!! You can thank me later!
1. USE THIS DISCLAIMER: "I don't need you to agree with why I am feeling this way right now, I just need you to respect that this is how I am experiencing things..."
I use this disclaimer before I have a conversation with my husband that I KNOW he is going to disagree with. It helps set the tone of the conversation, and gets everyone in an empathic place. It also prepares him for the fact that he is probably not going to like what I am about to say!
It's so important to remember that we all see the world from a different lens and experience the VERY same situations in VERY different ways!!
2. "I'M SORRY IF YOU'VE HAD A BAD DAY, BUT IT'S NOT FAIR FOR YOU TO TAKE IT OUT ON US... "
Look, let's be honest, when we're stressed or overwhelmed, we often take it out on the people who are closest to us. They are safe and unfortunately (and fortunately) get to see all sides of us.
Straight up, both my husband and I can be snappy or easily frustrated when we're stressed. Previously, when he had a bad day at work, if I had a bad review on the blog or we were dealing with stress in the co-parenting department, the negativity and stress would trickle it's way into our night. Ultimately affecting the vibe of our entire household!
It wasn't fair for anyone!
Now when we see each other in a crappy mood for what appears to be no reason at all, we straight up ask if there is something that happened that day that has affected our mood. We call each other out.
I always say "the way people treat you is more about them than it is about you" but the flip side is also true.
The way you treat someone is more about YOU and what you're going through in your own life.
HEADS UP: This is one of those "it's not what you say it's how you say it" situations. Be kind, empathetic and understanding - and follow the conversation by asking if there is anything that you can do to do support them through the stress, even if it's just giving them some space!
3. TACKLE LIFE AS A TEAM
We have adopted a "us against the world" attitude. When issues come up, we don't let them come in between us, we decide how we are going to tackle them together.
This one is kind of hard to explain but basically we've made the commitment not to allow outside issues to drive a wedge between us, even if we have different opinions on how they should be addressed.
There are situations that come up in our co-parenting agreement that my husband and I have VERY different opinions on.
There were periods of time when these differences would drive a wedge between us. It really only made matters worse because not only were we dealing with the original issue, we didn't feel like we had our person by our side.
Whether it be a work issue, or a stepfamily stressor or disagreements about the kids we've flat out said that we refused to allow outside stressors to creep into our relationship and affect our marriage.
I realize that this one sounds a little fluffy but honestly, simply making this commitment changes your mindset when those outside curve balls come your way!
Guys, one of the major lessons that I've learned about marriage (other than sometimes it's really freaking hard) is that you HAVE to be intentional about it. You have to water your grass, if you will.
You have to be committed to growing together. You have to be committed to doing better. (I realize saying "grow together" sounds corny but it really is the only way to put it)
It's so important to reflect back on every argument or disagreement that you've had and ask yourself, "how can we do that better?" next time. How can I be a better wife? How can I be a better husband?
Fights and arguments are inevitable. I truly believe that they are part of marriage! The key is how you do it!
Straight up, I don't believe that there will ever be a time when my husband and I don't fight. Like I said, we have a lot of different opinions and two very strong personalities... but just like everything else in life, it's something that I'm committed to doing well!