Vida Brown

Vida Brown

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Play your Position

By: Davida Grant Brown 

 

If your marriage is anything like mine, you and your spouse have divvied the household and parenting responsibilities.  And on most days, this allocation works.  In fact, not only does it work, it keeps your household and marriage on track.  But on those every once in a while days, it doesn’t.  Despite your commitment to your assigned tasks, you don’t feel like doing it or perhaps even worse, you don’t think you should have to. You want your spouse to handle it for once.  FOR ONCE!  Recently, I had one of “those” days.

In our house, I am responsible for meal preparation and cooking, washing dishes, clearing the table, packing leftovers, making/packing the kids’ lunch, washing/folding the kids’ clothes, bathing the kids, reviewing homework for accuracy and completion, and reading bedtime stories.  On top of that, as a wife, I tend to my husband’s emotional and physical needs. And on top of that, I have coaching sessions in the evening, and/or have to finish up business-related commitments before I call it a night. Now, I don’t expect a lick of sympathy.  I enjoy being busy and willingly took on these responsibilities.  Admittedly, I often pat myself on the back, because I can generally handle these responsibilities with relative ease, except when I can’t. 

A few weeks ago, I nearly “lost” it.  I’d had an extremely difficult, labor-intensive day at the office.  I was running late to what I’ve affectionately dubbed “my second job”, so I was feeling a bit anxious.  When I walked in the house, I knew I only had about 90 minutes to get dinner ready, review homework, read to the kids and get them ready for bed.  There was no time to spare.  Then I saw it.  Dishes everywhere.  On the stove, the counter and the sink.  I hate, Hate, HATE dirty dishes and seeing them sent me over the edge.  The kids were immediately at my feet asking every question under the sun.  “What’s for dinner?” “Did you miss me today, mommy?” “Mommy, can we play together?” “Guess what the teacher said today?”  I tried to muster a smile.  Didn’t happen.  Dishes Were Everywhere.

I walked into the living room and who did I see sitting on the couch in his pajamas watching television with a bowl of nearly depleted ice cream (yes, another DISH) in his lap.  My wonderful husband. His first words were, “What’s for dinner, babe?”

I literally thought I was going to explode.  I didn’t say a word and went up the stairs to my room.  I locked the door, because I knew my little ducklings would be right behind me. Sure enough, 30-seconds later they were at my bedroom door banging away.  “Give me 5 minutes,” I finally uttered, knowing I needed at least 15, but 5 would have to do. I buried my head in my pillow and literally kicked and screamed for a minute.  A million thoughts about my husband and situation ran through my head. How dare he ask me for dinner. How long had he been sitting in front of that television?  Had he given any thought to what he could do to help me?  He needs to shoulder some of my responsibilities.  How could he leave all those dishes in the sink, knowing I’d have to wash them before dinner?  Why didn’t he warm up leftovers, since he knew I was running late?  How could he even utter, “What’s for dinner?”

I took several deep breaths to calm myself and then did an assessment of the situation.  I noted my feelings and took a minute to figure out why I was feeling so frustrated.  Today was just one of those days, but it was my “hectic” day, not his.  I looked at things from his perspective.  He too worked a full day.  He too had household responsibilities to care for, like sweeping/vacuuming the floor, feeding and walking the dog, and picking up the kids from school.  Did he do those things today?  He had.  Do I shoulder more of the household and parenting tasks?  I do, but that’s what I agreed to because of my skill set.  So, was it right for me to be upset with him because I’d had a rough day and didn’t feeeeeeeeel like doing my allocated responsibilities?

I put my pajamas on, gave myself a big hug, unlocked the door and got to work.  It was time to play my position in this marriage and family, because that’s what I agreed to do. And that’s what I did.

Be the Light in Your Marriage

 

  By: Davida Brown              

 

 

Happy New Year!!! It’s a brand new year. The possibilities are endless.  If you’re like me, a new year means new beginnings, a fresh start.  All the things you did not achieve last year are now front and center and you’re optimistic that this will be the year you’ll see them realized.

Moving my marriage forward is always on my list.  Every year, I vow to do better, to be a better spouse.  For me that means I need to be more supportive and more available to my husband. I need to be more patient, giving him the time and latitude to get things done instead of stepping in and taking care of it.  I need to listen more, be intimate more, spend more quality time.  I could go on and on.  And you know what, I embrace all of it.  See I know I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress individually and as one-half of my union.  There will ALWAYS be areas for improvement.  Understanding and embracing it with a willingness to take steps to be better will always translate into moving my marriage forward.

“Be the Light” was the message my pastor preached for New Year’s Eve service.  Matthew 5:13-16 compels Christians to not only be the salt of the earth, but to be the light of the world.  As my pastor explained the concept, he kept repeating the phrase, “darkness flees from light”.  This really resonated with me, as I never really thought of “light” in that way.  Yes, light breaks up the darkness.  Yes, light brings visibility where there is none. But this concept of light causing darkness to flee was mind-blowing to say the least.

I immediately applied this concept to my marriage.  Darkness became a metaphor for all the obstacles and issues that my husband and I face in our marriage.  Light became the cure.  I reasoned that if I could become the Light in my marriage, then those obstacles would be overcome, the issues resolved.  They would “flee” if you will. I vowed then and there that I would be in the Light in my marriage. As the Light I would be patient, causing the frustration my husband experiences from my impatience to flee. As the Light, I would listen instead of trying to finish my husband’s thoughts, causing my husband to feel heard and his opinion and thoughts valued. As the Light I would put anyway my laptop and electronic devices after dinner, filling up my husband’s love tank with quality time.  By choosing to become the Light in my marriage, I chose an intentional way for me to affect change in my marriage.  Yes, there are areas where my husband can improve, but this was not about him.  It was about me and what I could do for our marriage.  So, this year I will be the Light in my marriage.  Will you?

For Better or For Worse...

By:  Davida Brown 

Every marriage is cyclical.  There are times when all the stars are in alignment. You and your spouse are in total sync.  Everything you want for yourself and each other seems to happen with ease. The “for better” part of marriage is so very sweet. But at some point, the tide changes.  The sunny days of your marriage become a bit overcast.  And at some point, it will seem as if you’re in a downward spiral.  Nothing goes your way, you and your spouse are at each other’s throat, or life throws a huge monkey wrench into your life.  Yep, that’s the “for worse.”

Roughly 6-months ago, we learned that my husband has cancer.  Needless to say, we were in total shock.  My husband is the healthiest person I know.  How could he get cancer.  Well, he did and once we educated ourselves on his particular type of cancer, we understood that his healthy diet and lifestyle were irrelevant.  Armed with knowledge, a very attentive medical team, and the Great I Am, we began to fight the disease together.

The diagnosis, however, was just the beginning of our “for worse.”  His surgery and intense chemotherapy has sapped the life out of him.  The happy-go-lucky days we shared are no more.  It takes every bit of his energy to get out of bed each day and live life.  His decreased presence has impacted our marriage enormously.  Not only do we spend less time together -- his fatigue requires that he rest many hours each day -- but the many responsibilities my husband has are now borne by me.  And it’s been tough.  Rough. Frustrating. Exhausting.

But my husband and I are people of great faith.  We know that nothing happens without God allowing it to happen.  So there is a reason for this season we are in.  There’s a reason for the “for worse” we’re experiencing.  So rather than having a pity party (truthfully, I already had it), we choose to live every day to the fullest as best we can; to praise and honor God in the midst of our storm; to put our trust in God that things will work out, according to His will; to continue blessing and ministering to other couples.

We don’t know what’s going to happen.  We pray his treatments work and that he’ll soon be cancer-free.  Whatever the outcome, we’re in it together.  I have his back and will be there for him through it all.  It’s what I signed up for.  It’s part of what loving my spouse means.  It’s embracing the “for worse” and not letting it control or defeat me or us.

If you too are in a rough period, understand that it’s just for a season.  God will never allow you to be burdened with more than you can handle.  Trust Him completely, for He will not fail you. Wake up each day with an attitude of moving forward.  Remember, “for better” is right around the corner.

Sometimes, He Really Is Thinking About Nothing

By:  Davida Brown 

 

A Nothing Box? Are you serious? That can’t be real, right?  Wives, for many of our husbands it is.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were headed to one of the marriage retreats we attend annually.  At one point during the drive, my husband began starring out of the window.  After about 15 minutes of silence, I asked him what he was thinking about.  He responded, “absolutely nothing.” 

Now full disclosure here, I didn’t believe him.  How could he possibly stare out of the window for 15 minutes and think about nothing.  Impossible.  I didn’t push though.  Clearly something was on his mind and he wasn’t ready to share.  I actually started to get a bit ticked because we were on our way to a marriage retreat, so this was the perfect opportunity for him to share and communicate with me.  I mean that’s what we as coaches often share with our clients.  Communicate.  Communicate.  Communicate. I knew something was on his mind and the fact that he didn’t want to share it with me was upsetting.  But, I let it go.  This however would be on my list of topics for us to discuss in the future.

Fast forward, we’re attending a seminar at the retreat and the presenter, Mark Gungor, starts talking about the “Nothing Box.”  Now I’ve heard and I know that many men have the ability to checkout at times.  But a “Nothing Box”, that seemed a bit extreme.  Well the presenter starts explaining how men and women’s brains are wired differently.  He likened the female brain to the internet.  He explained that women like to consider everything at once, go everywhere at once mentally, explore everything at once and make lots and lots of connections.  We love to see how one thing can possibly relate to or be influenced by another.  And we are always thinking. Well, that was 100% accurate for me.  There’s not a minute in the day that I’m not thinking about something. 

He then explained that men think in a very linear way and compartmentalize things.  According to Gungor, everything has its own box.  There’s a work box, a family box, a friend box, a chore box, etc.  And, these boxes never touch.  He then said that a man’s favorite box is the “Nothing Box”.  It’s the box they pull out when they want to get away from everything.  And when they’re in the Nothing Box, they actually think about absolutely nothing.

This was very eye-opening for me, because to this day I can’t envision how it’s actually possible to not think about anything.  I looked at my husband who could immediately tell that this was new knowledge for me.  He asked me why it was so surprising because he tells me all the time when he’s in his “Nothing Box”.  He then asked, “So basically, you thought I was lying?”

I did. I absolutely thought my husband was lying because I couldn’t conceive that he wasn’t thinking about something.  I thought about the countless hours I’d spent with female friends over the years where we talked about why our men weren’t open and weren’t sharing, all of which were triggered by a single response, “I’m not thinking about anything.”

So wives, if you ask you husband what he’s thinking about and he responds, “nothing”, accept it. A “nothing” response doesn’t have to mean he doesn’t want to talk to you, that there are problems he’s not ready to address, or that you have communication issues in your marriage.  It often only means he has nothing at that point in time to say because he indeed is thinking about nothing.  

 

 

Having a Successful Marriage Is Up to You.

By Davida Brown 

For many couples, marriage is a scary thing.  These couples typically have a good, maybe even great relationship, and fear that “marriage” will ruin everything.  They want to be together, forever, but are somehow convinced that those “I dos” will sound the death knell for their relationship.  So what do these couples do?

I’m currently providing premarital coaching to a couple grappling with this very issue.  They love each other tremendously. They’ve been together 5+ years and have experienced tremendous highs and lows during the relationship.  They’ve both been married before, and were both raised in a home with separated and ultimately divorced parents.  Both want the relationship and marriage to last and thrive and are committed to doing just that.  Both are ready to take the plunge and get married, but admit that, because of their previous marriages and observations of their parents’ marriages, they fear that marriage may ruin their “good thing.”

For this couple, their past exposure to marriage has obviously had a significant impact on how they view it.  During our sessions, we’ve spent a great deal of time talking about perception and mindset.  Because they both believe that “marriage” is more likely than not to negatively impact their relationship, they’ve created and enabled a barrier that may prevent them from getting married or reaching their full potential once married.

The good news here is that mindset and perception can change.  We control our views on marriage.  We control the success and yes the failure of our marriage.  Marriage doesn’t happen to you.  Marriage doesn’t wield some supernatural power of you.  Marriage is a choice you make.  Its success or failure is up to you.

For couples dealing with this issue, I believe it’s critically important to understand and embrace the following principles:

(1)    You are the architect of your marriage.  That saying, “Every marriage is unique” is true.  While the marital plan for another couple can be informative and helpful, you, as a couple, decide what your marriage is going to look like. You decide the goals and objectives of your marriage.  You decide the roles each of you will play.  What you did in your former marriage really has no relevancy in your current marriage.

(2)    You are always in the driver’s seat – You decide whether to change the course of your marriage.  If something isn’t working in your marriage, you can always change it.  Always. You don’t have to stay in a “low” or unhappy place.  Roll up your sleeves, figure out what’s not working, chart a new course, and then follow it.

(3)    You can’t change what you did in the past, but you can change what you do in the future – You will make mistakes.  Every spouse does. And guess what, when you do, you can’t undo them.  Mistakes are instructive and present both of you an opportunity to grow.  Understanding that you can’t change what you or your spouse did or somehow erase the past over time is key.  Understand that you can choose not to repeat the mistake, that you can choose to learn from it, and that you can take that knowledge and move forward together.  Yes, some mistakes may be significant.  Some may require time to get past.  Some may require that you seek assistance from a third party.  Even so, you can always move your marriage forward if you want your marriage.

(4)    You can be a great spouse – It’s in your DNA.  God created us in his image.  That means, He has equipped each of us with the innate ability to succeed in marriage, because yep, He created marriage too.  God would not set you up to fail. Tap into your God-given skills.  Armed with them and those of your spouse, you can reach your potential as a spouse and together you can have a thriving marriage.

Sometimes, You Have to Shake Things Up

By Davida Brown  

The first year of a relationship is nothing short of exciting.  You want to know absolutely everything about him or her, and every new thing you learn makes you want to know more.  Because you're in learning mode, you haven't quite figured out each other's comfort zone.  You haven't quite figured out what works for you as a couple.  What's your role, what's his or hers.  Each day, week or month is like  a new adventure.

Fast forward 8 years.  You have a great relationship and you hopefully still experience excitement and adventure together.  Even so, let's be honest, it's not at a 10 like it was that first year, but that's okay.  There's something special about "knowing" your spouse that's beautiful and comforting.  That said, even the most seasoned couples need to shake things up a bit.  Periodically, each of us needs to step out of our role and comfort zone to light that fire in the relationship.  Yesterday, I did.

My husband and I have been together for almost 9 years.  We've settled quite nicely into our roles in the home.  I'm the primary caretaker for the kids and I handle most of the cooking and cleaning.  My husband takes out the trash, fixes everything that's breaks around the house, takes care of the cars, walks the dog and shovels any snow.  Yes, we'll pitch in and help the other from time to time with tasks, but we generally stick pretty firmly to our roles.

Well, last weekend the DC area was hit with snowmaggedon.  I'm talking 28 inches of snow.  We never thought it'd stop.  The city came to a screeching halt.  Well you know what happens after it snows.  It's time to dig out.  Now, shoveling snow is my husband's responsibility.  And, luckily my hubby embraced his responsibility without complaint.  After all, I had to take care of the kids (two and five), cook, and clean while we were snowed in for four days.  I actually think he may have gotten the better end of the deal.  Being a planner, my husband shoveled in waves during the snow storm. It took him three times, but he finally cleared the front steps, walkway and sidewalk in front of our home, and the walkway to our detached garage.

On day four, my husband and I went back to work.  My office was closed and the kids' schools were closed.  That meant I had to work from home, while entertaining the kids, cooking, and keeping the house in decent shape.  Talk about cabin fever!

Well yesterday, I'd had enough.  The snow plows hadn't hit our street or alleyway, so you guessed it, our cars were stuck in the garage.  I decided that it was time to get the neighbors involved so we could collectively shovel the alley.  So I did, unbeknownst to my husband.  After that herculean effort, I was so proud of myself.  I NEVER shovel snow, so to not only make the effort to shovel snow, but shovel 2 feet deep snow is AMAZING if I must say so.  I couldn't wait to tell my husband.  

When he got home, the first thing out of his mouth was, "I'm tired of the cars being stuck in the garage.  I'm going to go out there, do an assessment and see if I can get some folks in the neighborhood to pitch in so we can dig it out."  I responded, "That's a great idea, babe."

He took his sweet time before heading to the garage.  I thought I was going to burst.  As soon as he stepped out the house and began the walk to our garage, I ran to the door and started my signature,"Gotcha" dance.  When he raised the garage door and saw that not only was the alley clear, but our entrance area to the garage was clear, I thought he was going to pass out from the shock.  He turned and looked at me in total amazement. "You did this, babe?" he asked. "I sure did. How you like that," I said. 

It was an incredible moment.  I had completely stepped out of my normal, "our normal", and doing so had an impact, a very positive impact, on my husband.  It was so refreshing, because at that moment, he saw me in a new light.  He hadn't looked at me with that sense of incredulity in forever.  I was once again the lady full of surprises.  I showed him and myself that I'm still capable of shaking things up, that I can still do the unexpected, that there is still so much excitement in store for us. Needless to say, we had an awesome night.

So what about you?  When was the last time you shook things up?

 

 

 

Sometimes When You Give a Little, the Reward is Monumental

By:  Davida Brown 

We all know that marriage is all about compromise, about give and take.  And we all know that this concept is often easier said than done.  Most of us have the best intentions.  We enter marriage ready to roll up our sleeves and put in the “work” everyone talks about.  We’re ready to let our spouse have his or her way, if it’s best for the union.  But what about when you just don’t feel like it?  Even the best marriages experience those days.  Well folks, that’s when you really have to put your money where your mouth is.  And, when you do so the reward can be more than you ever dreamed. 

Last Friday, I had one of those days.  I woke up late, which meant I was behind schedule getting the kids ready for school and out the door.  Traffic was a beast, so I was already in a not so good mood when I entered the office.  Not to mention, my throat was scratchy, which meant a cold was on the way.  I battled through the day, dealing with fire drill after fire drill at work.  My husband was getting the kids, so I had an hour or so to spare after work.  Given the day I’d just had, I decided to get a manicure.  I thought it would relax me and provide a much needed pick me up.  Well, not so much.

I visited my tried and true nail salon and luckily there was a technician available.  No wait. Yay!!!  She was new, but all the technicians were good.  I wasn’t worried in the least bit.  Well suffice it to say, she cut me in two places before I gave up and ended the service.  I left, without a finished manicure, chalking the day up to a complete and utter failure.  I headed home.  I wanted to take some throat medicine, get in the bed and watch movies.  The hubby knew I wasn’t feeling all that great, so I knew he’d be a dear and watch the kids so I could get some much needed R & R.

On the way home, I checked in and he too was headed to the house.  He asked if we should get pizza, followed by a movie night for the kids.  I was on board, even though I knew I couldn’t eat it a thing, with my throat progressively getting worse.  But hey, the kids would love it and even more, the movie would keep them occupied.  When I got home, he and the kids were there.  I greeted everyone and proceeded to head up the stairs. I couldn’t wait to get out of my clothes and into the bed.

“Where are you going?” My hubby asked.

“Upstairs.  I’m taking off my clothes.”

“What about the pizza?”

I looked at him confused.  “We’re ordering it, right?”

“I found this new pizza spot that I really want us to try. I want to go out for pizza.”

I stared at my husband in complete shock.  The kids were all looking at me waiting for a response.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Yes, babe.  Come on let’s go.

I could see how excited he was to take us to this “new” spot he’d found. took a deep breath. “I need a minute.”

I headed upstairs and into my bedroom. I sat down, with my head in my lap.  I couldn’t believe my husband wanted to go out for dinner.  Hadn’t he heard a word I said ALL DAY.  I was sick.  He knew that and today of all days he wanted to go and get pizza?!

My first reaction was no, No, and HECK NO! Now, what you have to understand is, my husband almost NEVER comes up with ideas for us to do things.  He leaves that to me.  So as I paced back and forth in my room, all I could think was, if I don’t go, he’ll never come up with an idea again.  Trust me folks, I contemplated what I was going to do for almost ten minutes.  Ultimately, I decided to suck it up and go.  I’d made it through work and the nail salon.  Another hour or two before bed wouldn’t kill me.  Besides, I couldn’t rain on my husband’s excitement.  I headed back downstairs and put on the best “fake” happy attitude I could to get through the night.

So we get to the area where the new pizza shop is.  My husband says, “I know it’s around here somewhere.  Bear with me.”  We drive up and down three or four streets several times.  There’s no pizza shop in sight.  Finally, he says, “I think that’s it over there.”

Now by this time, I’m fuming.  My 2-year-old, Grant, is in the back of the truck screaming.  I can already see what type of night we’re about to have.  We find a parking space and begin the trek to the restaurant.  When we get there, I just start shaking my head.  It’s one of those trendy restaurants.  I look around at the patrons and the décor.  This place is not for kids.  These poor people.  They have no idea what they’re in for.  My kids, I love them, but Grant and my 5-year old, Simone, can be a handful, especially when they’re hungry.  I began to brace myself for what would unfold.  We headed to the table.  Grant was already trying to go under some of the tables. My already bad mood was getting worse. 

We approached the table and I heard, “SURPRISE!!!”  I looked at the people and then turned around and looked behind me. Who were they talking to?  My husband starting smiling.  I turned back around and really focused on the people at the table.  It was full of my family and friends.  I was shocked.  Why were they here?  Was this for me?  I noticed the birthday balloons.  My birthday isn’t until after Thanksgiving.  As I took in the scene, reality sunk it.  It was a pre-birthday celebration, as most of my friends and family are away or otherwise engaged over the Thanksgiving holiday.  My husband grabbed me and gave me a kiss.  “Happy Birthday Babe.”

Now, I am in no way suggesting that when you make sacrifices for your spouse, that you’ll get a party or such a touching reward every time.  But, I firmly believe that when you put your spouse first – especially in times when it may hurt you the most – there is a reward on the other side.

For a Thriving Marriage, Remove Your Mask

By:  Davida Brown 

Halloween is fast approaching.  With the day falling on a weekend, there seems to be even more excitement in the air.  My daughter is over-the-moon, waiting for the opportunity to wear her princess outfit and transform into someone completely different, at least for one evening.  As I listened to the various radio personalities talk about the upcoming masquerade parties in the area and unique costume ideas, I started thinking about masks.  Sure, they’re fun to wear for a night, or for a special event, but what about the masks that so many of us wear day-to-day as we go about our daily activities?  What about the masks that we wear in our marriage, keeping us from being the best spouse we can be? 

A mask is defined as “a covering worn on the face to conceal one’s identity.”  But isn’t it really more than that?  Yes, a mask can cover one’s face, but can’t it also cover one’s heart, one’s emotions, one’s thoughts, keeping them hidden from a spouse?  And if so, how do we (1) recognize that it’s there and (2) get rid of it.

Recognize it: This seems easy and intuitive, right?  We generally know when we’re putting up a front, or hiding behind our thoughts and emotions.  But what about those instances when we don’t proactively decide to wear a mask?  You know those times when the mask sort of develops and takes shape over time due to life experiences that we don’t address head on.  Sometimes we wear a mask – an itsy bitsy small one – and don’t even realize it’s there until one day it’s no longer just a mask, but a full costume.  So how do we nip this in the bud?  Here are a couple of my tips.

  • Self-evaluation:  It is extremely important in marriage, or any relationship for that matter, to periodically do a self-assessment.  Ask yourself if you’re able to be yourself in the relationship?  Consider whether the way you interact with your spouse has changed in any material way.  For example, are you able to be as vulnerable as you once were?  Are you able to share your innermost thoughts like you used to?  Answering these questions will help you identify if there are any barriers you have that are blocking your ability to fully connect with your spouse.

 

  • Ask your spouse:  Sometimes we change in ways that aren’t readily apparent to us.  Check in with your spouse.  Periodically ask your spouse if he or she believes the two of you are fully connected.  Ask him or her to identify any areas where they’ve seen a lack of connection or intimacy.  Then, take that information and self-evaluate.  You may be wearing a mask, perhaps your spouse is, or perhaps there’s some other cause.  These exercises will help you figure it out.

 

Get rid of it:  This is easier said than done.  A mask is “protection gear” in a sense, and once there it can take effort to remove.  But don’t fret, you can do it.  Here’s how I do it.

  • Figure out the underlying cause:  You can’t know how to fix it unless you identify and tackle the root cause.  If, for example, you are now incapable of sharing your inner most thoughts with your spouse, determine why.  Something happened that caused you to retreat.  Was it something your spouse said or did, or perhaps your interpretation of  the acts of your spouse or a third party.  If you can’t pinpoint it, it may be a series of small things that led you to creating the mask.  Don’t hesitate to engage your spouse in the discovery process.  Ultimately, removal of the mask will inure to the benefit of both of you and your marriage.

 

  • Take proactive steps to address it:  Once you’ve identified the cause of the mask, it’s time to develop and implement specific action steps to address it so that you’ll be able to remove the mask.  If your spouse’s words or actions have contributed to the mask, discuss what you both can do to minimize those actions.  It could mean a tweak in how or when you communicate, how you handle your marital obligations and responsibilities, etc.  Then follow through with implementation.  If you can’t figure out an action plan together, enlist assistance from a marriage coach, counselor or therapist.  It’s worth it.

 

Marriage is a journey and it requires teamwork.  If there are barriers in your relationship, there's no time like the present to tackle them head on. Masks are best left for masquerades and other events.  Let's leave them there.

Yours Kids Will Learn About Marriage From You

By: Davida Brown 

Before I married, I would dream about my husband, what he'd look like, his personality, how he'd treat me. I'd think about all the kids I wanted us to have, the lessons I’d be sure to teach. Growing up with married parents, I learned so much about the institution of marriage from them. Watching them, I figured out that marriage isn’t perfect, that everyone has a job to do to make sure the marriage works, that you have to compromise at times for the greater good. I can’t tell you when I discovered these truths. Did I understand this at 5, 10? Maybe it was close to adulthood. In any event, I vowed that my husband and I would teach our kids about marriage, how to have a successful one, and not through words, but through how we lived our lives as a couple every day.

I never imagined in a million years that a child 5-year old, my daughter to be exact, would start to figure out some of this married stuff so soon. I recently let Simone have a sleepover at my mom’s house so Derrick and I could have some intense quality time together, if you catch my drift. When I buzzed my mom the next morning, she shared a very interesting exchange she had with Simone. My mom asked her to do something (for the life of me I can’t remember exactly what it was), and she responded, no. Simone went on to say that she would wait until my brother Matt told her to do it. See Matt lives with my mom and no matter how many times I tell her Matt’s my brother, she insists that he’s my mom’s husband. She’ll say, “but he lives with Mama, so he’s her husband.” My mom told her she had to do the chore and my daughter continued to resist, claiming she had to hear it from Matt because he was the man of the house.

Putting aside the fact that Simone needed to be reprimanded for her defiance, I was struck by my daughter’s words. This exchange highlighted two important things. First, my daughter believes that when a man and woman live together, they are married. I don’t ever recall directly having such a conversation with my daughter, but I certainly have said on multiple occasions that her daddy and I love each other very much and are married. In fact, I call him husband quite often. Her perception of what the relationship is between a man and a woman living together trumped every other truth. No matter how many times I told her Matt was her grandmother’s son and my brother, she couldn’t let go of that perceived truth.

Second, my daughter believes that the man is the leader of the house and the one that should give direction. Now my husband is the head of our household and we have clearly defined roles as husband and wife. I give direction ALL THE TIME, but when things get testy, there’s no question who’s the boss. I support my husband and his leadership for our family, even though Lord knows I don’t always agree with him or his method. But, not to digress, I never would have guessed that my 5-year old daughter was perceptive enough to understand this dynamic. Her exchange with my mom really drove home the fact that our children watch everything we do and perhaps even more importantly accept the lessons learned from those observations as truths.


And it didn’t just end with my daughter. I had a conversation with my stepson recently and I made the comment that one day he would grow up, get married, and have a family of his own. He paused and said, “well, first I’m going to live with her and then get married.” I inwardly winced at his comment. See Derrick and I lived together before we married and my stepson had ample opportunity to observe that. While it’s common place nowadays for coupes to live together before marriage, Derrick and I in hindsight wished we hadn’t. It wasn’t consistent with our faith or the manner in which we were raised by our parents. To my chagrin, my stepson believes that “shacking up” is not only completely normal, but the correct path to marriage. So how do we unteach that lesson.

Marriage, it’s such a vital institution. In this day in age with all of the technological and media advancements, our kids are surrounded by people and images that will influence what they think about marriage. While we can’t stop that, we can make sure that we are the primary instructor on what this great institution is. So for all the married couples with kids reading this article, what lessons is your marriage teaching?

We Can’t Agree. What Now?

By:  Davida Brown  

Have you and your spouse ever disagreed about an issue, with no resolution in sight?  You are on one end of the spectrum and your spouse is on the other.  You can’t fathom why she or he thinks that way, and no matter how many times you explain your rationale or blow holes in their rationale, the needle doesn’t move AT ALL.  Seemingly, no matter what you do, you can’t move beyond the issue.  So what do you do?

Well, don’t fret.  This is common.  At some point in every marriage, spouses will fundamentally disagree on something important to them individually.  When this happens, both want their way, because they truly believe that their way is the right way and best for their marriage and family.  If you’re in this situation, here are some tips to navigate these tricky waters.

  • Is it really a Big Deal?  When I coach couples in conflict over a particular issue, I often ask each spouse to answer one or more of the following: (1) on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is the issue to you?; (2) why is this issue so important?, (3) is this issue of vital importance to your marriage, such that holding your ground and refusing to budge is in the best interest of your marriage?  Often, they discover that, when it’s all said and done, the issue really isn’t that important.  The disagreement is more about getting their way.  This is understandable.  The values we learned as a child, our relationships with others, and our life experiences shape who we are and how we think.  Our spouse has had different experiences and often doesn’t think the way we do, even on issues where we can’t even see another valid view.  If you and your spouse are at opposite ends of the spectrum on an issue, take a minute and step away from it.  Ask yourself, does this issue, and resolving it my way, really matter to my marriage?  If it doesn’t, then accept your spouse’s view and move forward.  In a healthy marriage, compromise is key.  This means that you can’t always get your way.  As the saying goes, you must learn to pick your battles.

 

  • Is there any validity to my spouse’s view? No matter how smart we are, no matter how many times we've seen it before or done it before, we don’t know everything.  No matter how strongly we feel that our way is the ONLY course of action to take, it’s not.  There’s always another way.  If you and your spouse are facing a difficult issue that’s plaguing your marriage because it remains unresolved, take some time to really listen and understand your spouse’s viewpoint.  Ask yourself is there any validity to his or her position.  If there is (and there always is folks), ask yourself (1) can I adjust my proposed course of action to accommodate my spouse’s views, (2) can I address my spouse’s concern(s) with my proposed approach so that he or she is more amenable to the approach, and/or (3) are there things my spouse could do to make me more comfortable with his or her approach.  Answering these questions should help put you on a path to resolution.

 

  • Pray for discernment.  If you seek HIS guidance, he will provide it. If you just can’t seem to get past an impasse, ask God for help.  He sees what you can’t.  Pray, together, for His help.  Pray, together, and ask that He order your steps and direct your path on this issue.  He will.  The question for you then becomes, will you follow His direction?