10 Habits of Happy Couples

On our wedding day, several people told us they’d never seen a happier couple – we were simply beaming, so thrilled to be starting our married life together. It truly was the happiest day of our lives. Two short months later, we were happy to find out we were expecting…but also kind of terrified. Everything seemed to be happening very fast, without time to adjust to all the changes. The happy yet daunting news quickly turned into sickness, high-risk pregnancy, loss of my job, and the stress of moving under these circumstances. Then my husband was laid off and was also suffering from medical issues. A lot to deal with. Throw in a second pregnancy, retraining for a second career, two traumatic births, plus our second baby suffering severe brain damage…and instead of the Happy Couple, you’ve got two highly stressed, traumatized, overly tired special needs parents living together, barely making it through each day.

“So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  ~Matthew 19:6



 

Four years of marriage and two kids later, we are trying to rediscover that happy couple that we desperately want and need to be again. We are well aware of the statistics for couples with severely disabled children, but we want to beat those odds – divorce is not even an option! We love each other; we just need to find each other again, reconnect, better manage our stress, and begin to enjoy each other once more. Our marriage needs to make it back up to the top of the priority list. I came across this article in Psychology Today, and it provided some concrete things we could start doing today, to hopefully transform our marriage relationship one habit at a time. My husband and I chose habits #1, #6, and #8 last week to start building into our daily routine, and we have already experienced a huge improvement!

10 Habits of Happy Couples (By Mark Goulston)

1. Go to bed at the same time 

“Remember the beginning of your relationship, when you couldn’t wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner sleeps. And when their skins touch it still causes each of them to tingle and unless one or both are completely exhausted to feel sexually excited.”

This has been amazing! Mind you, I might not have started this blog if I hadn’t been cranky inspired enough to write If I go to bed first…, because we never went to bed at the same time. Nevertheless, going to bed at the same time has helped us to stop living such separate lives, as well as helped to quell any resentments about ONE of us having to stay up alone to make sure everything gets done. 

2. Cultivate common interests 

“After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.” 

 3. Walk hand in hand or side by side 

“Rather than one partner lagging or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or side by side. They know it’s more important to be with their partner than to see the sights along the way.” 

 4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode 

“If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.” 

 5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong 

“If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.” 

6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work 

Our skin has a memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world. 

This one forces us out of our own “daytime work” bubble as soon as our worlds coincide once again, giving us a chance to reconnect and proceed together going forward. I also love the idea of filling up on “good touch”; I have a background of “bad touch” and “no touch”, so I have to be intentional about this at times. 

 7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning 

“This is a great way to buy some patience and tolerance as each partner sets out each day to battle traffic jams, long lines and other annoyances.” 

 8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel 

“This tells your partner that, regardless of how upset you are with him or her, you still want to be in the relationship. It says that what you and your partner have is bigger than any single upsetting incident.” 

For us, this goes along with habit #1 of going to bed at the same time; if one of us needs to stay up longer (e.g. with the baby, or to pump for her), we make sure to still say goodnight properly. It originally seemed like it would just delay everything, but my husband now asks if there’s anything he can do before turning in. Teamwork! I think we both feel more respected and considerate of one another’s feelings. After an upsetting incident, saying goodnight every night, no matter what, exemplifies the Bible verse to never go to bed angry (Ephesians 4:26).

 9. Do a “weather” check during the day 

“Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you.” 

10. Be proud to be seen with your partner 

“Happy couples are pleased to be seen together and are often in some kind of affectionate contact — hand on hand or hand on shoulder or knee or back of neck. They are not showing off but rather just saying that they belong with each other. “

“Happy couples have different habits than unhappy couples. A habit is a discrete behavior that you do automatically and that takes little effort to maintain. It takes 21 days of daily repetition of a new a behavior to become a habit. So select one of the behaviors in the list above to do for 21 days and voila, it will become a habit…and make you happier as a couple. And if you fall off the wagon, don’t despair, just apologize to your partner, ask their forgiveness and recommit yourself to getting back in the habit.” 

I would also add “praying together” to the list, since someone once said “the couple that prays together, stays together.” 😉 We do believe that God can change our hearts, and that He can do anything! I believe He led me to this article at exactly the right time. Just beginning to instil some of these habits has brought our relationship back into focus; we feel more like a couple again instead of busy roommates. That’s huge! We can now be found on occasion to be chatting or laughing together, praying together more often, and generally paying more attention to each other…amidst the kids, the medical issues, and the chaos that is our life these days. As it should be. May we keep improving, our relationship growing stronger and more beautiful as the days go by. It hasn’t been 21 days yet, so hopefully we haven’t been too ambitious by not starting with only one habit. We are looking forward to a time when each one of these items has become a well-established habit for us. Will keep you posted!

Which habit would you choose to try first with your partner? I’d love to hear any results!

 (Article credit: Mark GoulstonImage credit: awakeningcharlotte.com)

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Happy Father’s Day!

As I remember and give honour today to all the fathers and father-figures in my life (as well as Dear Husband, wonderful and precious father to our two children), I also want to include my Heavenly Father who loves me unconditionally, teaches me, guides me, and ultimately provides me with hope and a future. May He be included when I say today, with thanksgiving, “I love you, Daddy!”

http://www.zeewallpaper.com/church-fathers-day-gifts

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It’s Quiet Time!

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Today, my 3-year-old emphatically declared, “But sleep is not fun for me.” To which my husband and I replied, in unison, “Sleep is VERY fun for me!” We were discussing having a ‘quiet time’ in the afternoon. I TRY to do this every day, because my daughter needs that break in the day, whether she sleeps, quietly plays, or looks at books in her room; her batteries are recharged, she avoids overstimulation, and she can then make it to bedtime without any major meltdowns. More importantly Also, *I* need the break. It gives me some quality one-on-one time with the baby without distraction, or (gasp!) some time to myself. After all, I am hoping to develop a writing habit for my mental health, and quiet time (or very late at night) is my only option. I am not sure if I’m willing to sacrifice sleep if I don’t have to. We haven’t typically instilled this part of the routine on weekends, but we are starting to see the beauty of some time to ourselves as a couple (with the baby) WHILE WE ARE STILL AWAKE. (Funny how everything always comes back to that precious, elusive, desirable thing called sleep.) Quiet Time on weekends will enable us to talk, reconnect, grow our relationship. Brilliant!

It is now almost suppertime, and Quiet Time proper lasted less than 10 minutes. Most of which was my daughter asking us if Quiet Time was finished yet. My husband and I are now both typing on our devices, separately. Baby is partially fed and asleep, and DD has an elaborate make-believe scenario set up next to us with her dollies. Right at this moment, every member of the family is together yet in their own ‘zone’. Right at this moment, it’s actually quite peaceful. Mission accomplished. 

Image Source: chermarie.buzznet.com

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18 Months: Birth Story Revisited

She was born at term, and she came out fast! Much faster than my first, who didn’t waste much time herself once deciding she was finally ready. But this second baby, she got stuck after her head was out. The technical term is Shoulder Dystocia, and this event has changed our lives forever. Somewhere in those long minutes that she was stuck, she experienced a lack of oxygen and/or blood flow, which caused damage to her brain tissue. Technical term: Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). Once out, she wasn’t breathing, Apgars were at only 1. But she never lost a heartbeat.

“Severe brain damage and not likely to survive” is something no parent is ever prepared to hear about their child. She was transported to a children’s hospital in a neighbouring city, and given a cooling treatment for 72 hours in hopes of preventing any further brain damage due to swelling. She was on a ventilator and non-responsive, then she began having seizures. They diagnosed severe Grade III HIE, and given her poor prognosis, encouraged us to withhold feeds and let her pass. They warned us that if she did survive, she would be severely disabled, and her quality of life poor. They reminded us we had another healthy child to think about, who was still under two. They told us not to think of it as starving her to death. We were still in shock, but the one thing we knew was that God had a plan for us and for this baby, and we had to trust and wait on Him. We began to pray.

She went from IV fluids to colostrum to breast milk (via NG tube) – if there was one other thing I could do for her besides pray, it was pump. While her organs all seemed to be recovering, she was lacking basic reflexes such as suck, swallow, gag, and blink. I divided my time between sitting next to her isolette in the NICU and pumping, and nursing/caring for my other baby. I tried to get enough sleep to stay alive and keep producing milk. It felt like a nightmare; separated from my newborn, having to keep choosing between seeing each of my babies, travelling constantly, and all of this having begun mere minutes after I gave birth. My postpartum “recovery” was non-existent. I was literally running around right after giving birth.

She was the sickest baby in the NICU. And while she was busy fighting for her life, the hospital staff was busy threatening us for not authorizing her death, debating “quality of life” and trying to push us towards a DNR. We refused, and God answered our prayers. She began to blink, developed a partial gag, moved her legs, and the seizures became less frequent. Then one glorious day, I heard a staff member say the magic words: “I have no doubt that there’s a person in there.” She had finally convinced one of them to fight for her! She began to manage better with frequent suctioning of her secretions, and talk shifted to getting a gastrostomy tube (G-tube) placed so we could feed her at home. Our baby was coming home!

This all transpired over several weeks; but, almost three months after delivering my baby, I got to take over her care and bring her home. We were FINALLY a family of four, together in one place. And this is when the infamous “new normal” was born. We hit the ground running, again. Her severe HIE would lead to secondary diagnoses of cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, dysphagia, seizures, chronic lung disease, and developmental delay. At 18 months, our precious baby girl still needs frequent suctioning, feeds solely through her G-tube (still breast milk, going strong!), has seizures, doesn’t talk, is legally blind, has no head control, and cannot sit, crawl, stand, or walk. She requires lots of medical care and therapies, appointments galore. For the first six months she did not smile or cry either, but now she does cry, and her smile and special giggle…can light up a room and melt any heart. To look at her already is to believe in miracles, and God is not yet done working in and through her. She has taken her rightful place in our family, and we couldn’t imagine life without her.

Happy 18-month birthday, my gorgeous, strong, and precious baby girl! I love you more than words can say.

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Who I am and why I’m here

Not in the existential sense, but why have I suddenly started a blog?! There isn’t a simple answer, actually. My husband has been telling me I should do it for over two years, but I can’t say that was the reason. [However, I did ask him, “what would I call it?”, and he told me to just call it a “work in progress” then change it later. The name was perfect. True story.] So why am I here? I needed to do something for ME. I hope that doesn’t sound terribly selfish, because I honestly believe that doing something for myself is going to help me be a better wife, a better mother, and frankly not go completely insane. You heard me. I’m at a point in my life where there has been a great imbalance for too long, where I have given so much of myself that I often feel lost and empty, completely drained, and I need a way to start filling back up.

I have always enjoyed writing, and have kept journals for as long as I can remember. So why not keep journaling personally? Well, even that has mostly fallen by the wayside due to lack of time and energy. And I have suffered for it. I hope to develop a habit of taking time to write – my thoughts, my feelings, my story. I may not publish everything I write, but I’m hoping this blog will keep me accountable.

I hope this will also be a way to connect with others on a similar journey, who share my interests, so we can learn from one another and enjoy some laughs together – other full-time mothers, parents of special needs kids, folks who are still getting used to being married, Christ-followers figuring out what it means to live under grace. As I begin to write, my story, who I am and why I am here, should become clearer…to all of us. My life (and this blog!) is, after all, a work in progress.

And hey, blogging is cheaper than therapy, and I can do it at ungodly hours and in my pajamas! :p

~Sienna

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If I go to bed first…

Have you seen it yet? The chart that contrasts the “process” that men and women go through before going to bed…it is funny. Because it’s true.

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That’s what I was reminded of when I got up in the middle of the night after going to bed BEFORE my husband last night. Very rare occurrence (see chart above), but it does happen. Because there are specific things you will only find in our home if I happen to go to bed first.

If I go to bed first:
Lights are left on in seemingly every room.
Dirty dishes are found in the living room that were not at least brought to the kitchen.
Laptop computer is left on and in a precarious position on the couch.
Junk food is left out where our 3-year-old could reach it if she gets there first. [We have higher standards at the moment for our daughter than we have for ourselves. Ahem.]

We also have a 1-year-old. If I go to bed first:
She may or may not have been put down in a clean diaper.
She likely isn’t dressed appropriately for the temperature in our room.
She probably has a blanket ON HER FACE instead of safely on her legs where it wouldn’t have caused any concern. [We usually have a policy of nothing in the crib, but our second baby is a special case and it’s actually not a serious safety hazard, but still stresses me out!]

Our baby has special needs requiring special equipment and special care. If I go to bed first:
Her G-tube site has not been cleaned and treated if necessary.
The suction pump (and/or feeding pump) is not plugged in to charge overnight, possibly even left lying on the floor in the other room.
Syringes have not been rinsed and now have to be thrown away instead of reusing until they wear out.

I’ll be honest with you…I ALWAYS regret going to bed first, without making sure everything gets done properly and completely. I’m a perfectionist that way. And THAT is why I am so tired all the time, Dear Husband, and freak out when you push past me at the sink while I’m flossing so you can quickly brush your teeth and roll into bed. 🙂

Does anyone else out there have a similar issue??

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