Seven Year Itch? Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

Have you ever heard of the “seven year itch”?

According to Wikipedia,  “Divorce rates show a trend in couples that, on average, divorce around seven years. Statistics show that there is a low risk of separation during the first months of marriage. After the “honeymoon” months, divorce rates start to increase. Most married couples experience a gradual decline in the quality of their marriage; in recent years around the fourth year of marriage. Around the seventh year, tensions rise to a point that couples either divorce or adapt to their partner.”

Simply put, whether fact or urban legend, time passes, frustrations build, and at year seven things are thought to finally reach a boiling point. 

I found out about this so called “seven year itch” as we were nearing the end of our seventh year and I was intrigued. Why, you ask? Because I thought our seventh year had been the best year of marriage yet!

So, my husband and I took some time to talk over the things we did this last year that led to it being so great and what we want to keep working on so we avoid any “itchiness” in the years to come!

Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

#1 Make intimacy a priority

You know what I’m talking about.. marital relations, bedroom time, coitus.. wink wink, nudge nudge. There is something about this God given aspect of marriage that flows over into all the other areas, helping to smooth things over and bring unity. Because of that, we (especially me) realized we needed to cut the excuses and just do it. 😉

#2 Make intentional time for just the two of us

With two young children and a seemingly always changing and busy schedule, this didn’t mean anything neat like regular planned date nights out. It looked more like ice cream and Netflix on the couch, working out together (cause of all that ice cream ya know?), working on projects around the house, and chatting while driving in the car.

Regular date nights are awesome, but I’d venture to say that there are more of us than not who are in a stage of life where it’s just not possible. So, we found that we had to be intentional about using the small moments we did have, or we’d end up living two separate lives in the same house.

#3 Be more positive with each other (the 5-1 ratio)

A while back my husband had a training at work where they talked about how it is optimal to say five positive comments for every one negative comment. They don’t need to be elaborate praises either. A simple “thanks” or “good job” will do just as well.

This is something that we have been working on, but need to keep getting better at! I think it is so easy to get into the habit of taking your spouse for granted. You get into that day to day rut and forget to take note of the positive. However, it is amazing what a difference such a simple thing can make. It can totally change the atmosphere of your home.

#4 Have quality family time

In addition to having one on one time with your spouse, family time in general is so important. Seeing your spouse care for your kids just brings about those warm fuzzy feelies. Being together draws you all closer together. So, put down the phones, turn off the tv, and do something. This year, we found that taking walks and having less TV time made a big difference for our family.

#5 Spend time figuring out what makes your spouse tick

After those initial fun “getting to know you” dating days, it is easy to stop learning more about your spouse. However, the more you know about each other, the closer you can become! I love that my husband knows me better than anyone else! Plus, having an understanding of how my husband works (and him me) has saved us from a ton of unnecessary conflict.

If you are looking for ways to get to know each other even better, I highly recommend the personality test the Enneagram. It is the most in-depth, spot on personality test I have ever used. You can get started digging into it at the website 9types.com but I highly recommend the book “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective” by Richard Rohr. Author Shauna Niequist also has a great overview of the enneagram here.

#6 Pray more together

I’ll admit, we did way way better at this in the early days of our marriage. We seriously could use some improvement in this area because I know how important it is to make God the center of your marriage. I think these ideas from Sheila at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum are great and we need to get started working on this asap!

#7 Talk about the big stuff

Intentionally discuss the big topics. Have healthy fights. Get on the same page in life.

You can’t avoid these types of discussions because of the possible conflict they might bring. In fact, we’ve found that it is often because of these healthy conflicts, not in spite of them, that we grow closer together.

This also includes things like making marriage and family goals. Where do we see ourselves in 5 (10, 15, 20) years? What do we want to work on this year? How can we improve? What goals do we have in the big areas of parenting, faith, money, and health? Tackling these goals as a team can make all the difference.

What about you? Have you ever heard of the 7 year itch? What have you found to be important for building a steadfast marriage?

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If I could go back and give advice to my newlywed self… (#3 of 4)

If I could go back and give advice to my newlywed self...

My little sister is getting married this Summer and it has got me thinking back to when I was preparing for my own wedding seven years ago. The excitement and the unknowns of it all. The first couple years of figuring out what marriage is all about.

The truth is, we’re still figuring out what this thing called marriage is all about, but if I could go back in time and share with my young(er) self my advice after seven years of marriage, I think I’d share four main things.

Today, I’d like to share the third thing.

 The trials you face will be some of the best things that happen-3

#3 The trials you face will be some of the best things that happen to you.

I covered this a little bit under my second post of this series, but I think it bears digging into further.

You are going to go through some tough stuff. However, you’re not going to want to change a thing. Here’s three reasons why…

#1 It will force you to lean on each other

Going through these difficulties will really spur you on to develop a mindset of tackling problems together. This mindset will continue to help build and strengthen your marriage when you face problems both big and small later on down the road.

With the right attitude, the problems you face will do an amazing job of bringing you closer together. Sometimes one of you may have to do more of the heavy lifting, and sometimes there might be tension to wade through, but if you stick together you’ll make it through.

One more added benefit to this is that, in the future, when you are struggling with the big decisions of life, you will know that whatever path you take you will be able to make it through it if you’re in it together.

#2 It will build your character

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

I hate to break it to you, but at the age of 21 you still have a lot of growing up to do. Just like our muscles don’t grow stronger when they aren’t used, that maturing is not going to happen unless your character is put to the test.

Both you and your husband will be stretched and molded by God through all these trials. Seven years later you will still be learning and growing every day, but by the grace of God, you will be much further along than when you started.

#3 It will draw you closer to God

Much like you must rely on each other to get through your struggles, you must even more so rely on God. You will learn that there are hurts and trials that only the Lord can be the strength to get you through.

Your faith and love for Him will be refined through the trials you face. He will truly become your Rock during these times.

Not only this, but looking back over your life, you will be able to greater realize God’s perfect plan for your life. So many things will not go the way you would have planned. Though you may grieve the loss of some of these plans, the joy brought from God’s will for your life will far outweigh that.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. – Proverbs 16:9

If I Could Give Advice To My Newlywed Self-3

What lessons have you learned through the trials in your life and marriage?

Stay tuned next week for the final installment in this series!

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

As I flopped into bed, exhausted, I lay there thinking of all the things a left undone. Yet another day had passed, busting at the seams. Filled with highs and lows. Responsibilities, routines, and even some excitement.

I sighed, trying to figure out what I would need to prioritize tomorrow. “Life is crazy,” I thought. “Will it ever slow down?” My days felt like a never ending to-do list.

I was frustrated. I am someone who generally prefers the slow, simple life. However, this kind of life seemed to have disappeared lately. Replaced with early mornings, late nights, and a whole lot stuffed in between.

Frankly, in that moment, I had a little bit of a bad attitude.

But, then it hit me, life isn’t just this crazy mess I was portraying to myself. Yes, our days were full. Very full. However, they were bursting at the seams with good. And if I looked close enough, I just might see what’s really there…

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life Days full of baby snuggles, interspersed with the delight of a child over a simple tower of blocks or a splash in a rain puddle.

Time that was sacrificed for friends. One helped to move across town. Another over for dinner last minute. Plus lots of spontaneous playdates among the kids.

Meals were cooked with little hands alongside. Walks around the block were taken, with stops every 20 feet to look at the scenery.

Small hearts were shaped through tantrums and chores, kisses and hugs, and silly giggles. And, of course, lots of pointing to Jesus.

Hidden Blessing of a full life

Sure, the bathroom (still) didn’t get cleaned. And routines were once again derailed, though my intentions were there. Lunch was mac-n-cheese from a box.

There may have been moments of anger, frustration, and exhaustion. There were moments I wish could have been skipped and time I wish I could reclaim.

But still, life is so rich. So good. So full of the sweet moments. Moments that will pass you by without a second glance if all you are doing is focusing on the crazy and wondering if you’ll ever get to take a nap again.

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

It is these moments I want to keep my focus on. Because, yes, times of peace and rest are so important, but how we view the other, not so peaceful times of life is what determines how we feel about our days. And even the hard moments can be bittersweet and full of good, if they cause us to lean more heavily on our Savior.

The Hidden Blessing of a Full Life

So, instead, as my head lays on the pillow, I choose to redirect my thoughts. I lay aside the mental to do list for the night and thank God for the good he has surrounded me with. Thankful for his grace, once again, carrying me through another day.

Thank Goodness God’s Not Like Me

Thank Goodness God's Not Like Me - www.simplelifemessylife.com

Bitter words they can’t really even comprehend pour out of my mouth.

“Kids! Please just play nicely! Everyone will have so much more fun if we treat others how we want to be treated.”

“That’s it! Time out! Now. You’re done.”

“You see? I told you this was going to happen if you didn’t listen to me!”

Wow. Toddlers sure could be frustrating and I was exasperated. Why wouldn’t they just listen?! Everything would be so much easier if they could just use a little bit of common sense. I wasn’t trying to make their lives miserable, but they sure seemed to think it was fun to try and make mine.

In case you couldn’t tell, I had a horrible attitude.

Then, a thought came mind.

What if this was how God treated humanity? 

After all, we must seem an awful lot like foolish toddlers to Him.

“Come on humanity, can’t you just be kind to each other? I’ve condensed it all down to two simple rules! Follow them already!”

“Now, see – I told you these horrible things were going to happen if you didn’t listen to me!”

“Alright, you’re done. That is it! I’ve had enough of you and your attitude!”

Needless to say, if God had my short temper I’d have been done for a long time ago. Dealing with humankind must be beyond frustrating, yet still He loves us and responds to our foolishness with grace and mercy.

The challenge is showing that same grace and mercy to the imperfect people around me.

“The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”
-Psalm 145:8 

Thank goodness for mercy.
And thank goodness God is nothing like me.

Do you struggle with a short temper some days? What do you do to help keep things in perspective?

Two Simple Things That Have Made A Big Difference In Our Family

2 Simple Things That Made a Big Difference For Our Family

When the new year rolled around, like millions of others, my husband and I sat down to discuss what areas we felt needed improvement. Being the imperfect creatures we are, the list ended up being quite long!

We started January with high hopes to make some changes – both personally and for our family. We made a plan to focus on the things we felt were the most important and we set out to put our plan in action. And it worked… until it didn’t. Since then we’ve fallen on and off the New Years resolutions bandwagon more than once.

However, there have been two simple things that we’ve been able to keep up with that have made a huge impact in our family.

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#1 Nightly Walks

This goal was originally made for the purpose of starting a healthy habit – and getting this pregnant lady moving each day! However, I never would have guessed what it would do for our family.

Almost every night when my husband gets home from work we head out for a walk around our neighborhood. It takes us about 45 minutes and we usually get back just in time to eat dinner. While this does give us some good exercise, the biggest benefit is a side product of the walk – conversation.

We push the stroller, walk briskly, and talk. We talk about our days, we talk about our plans, we talk through our problems. We brainstorm together, dream together, laugh together, and yes, sometimes have an argument as well.

Conversely, on the nights that we stay home (for whatever reason) we tend to go about the business of the evening and never get into the same depth of conversation.

In order for these nightly walks to happen, we have had to make sure it is a priority. We encourage each other to keep up the habit and I’ve had to make sure K and I are ready to head out when dad gets home. Although sometimes we’ve gone for our walk after dinner, we definitely prefer to go before we eat. Because of this, I have to make sure as much of dinner as is possible is prepared in advance so we can eat as soon as we get home.

The work is worth it though. We’ve grown closer as a couple and even K looks forward to our nightly stroll!

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#2 No TV until 8pm

Now, those of you who don’t even have a TV to begin with are way ahead of us in this area, but this has been a big thing for us. It used to be that my husband liked to come home from work and decompress by watching TV. However, the TV would end up staying on all night. It sucked us in and didn’t let go.

So, for Lent this year I suggested changing our TV habits. After some discussion we settled on no TV until 8pm, K’s bedtime.

Now, in the evening we go for our walk and then eat dinner together around the table (or as of late, the picnic table!). Daddy and K have time to hang out for a while before K’s bedtime and I have nothing distracting me from either cleaning up the kitchen or joining in the playtime. If we have anything that needs to be discussed further or any to-do’s that need to get done, they are much more likely to happen with the TV off.

This has been so nice for our family. We interact. We make memories. And I have a better chance of waking up to a clean kitchen. 🙂

Then, K gets put to bed and the final stage of the evening can happen – relaxing together while we watch our favorite shows. A time that we both thoroughly enjoy even more without having had the TV on all night already.

Lent may be over, but this is one habit that we will be keeping up.

Well, those are the two simple things that have made a big difference for us. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with that long list of things you need to improve on. However, you can’t forget about the little things you have accomplished that make a difference in your life.

Do you have any little changes you’ve made that have made a difference in your family? I’d love to hear them!

Using a Bad Day to Point Your Child to the Gospel

bad day point to the gospel

It was one of those nights. The ones where the clock ticking down to bedtime couldn’t possibly move any slower. It had been a rough day. K had been particularly… well.. three years old. We’d been struggling with disobedience, stubbornness, angry outbursts, mischievousness, and lack of self-control all. day. long. Typically on nights like this I’m ashamed to admit I normally speed through the bed time routine in record time and then crash on the couch. Teeth, potty, jammies, prayers, kiss, hug, lights out – done.

However, for some reason this night something stirred in my heart and I decided to slow down. I tucked K in and smiled at him.

“We had a rough day today didn’t we?” I said.

It took maybe all of five minutes, but the conversation that followed brought about more fruit than a quick kiss and “I love you” ever could.

We talked about how he had made a lot of bad choices that day. He didn’t do a very good job obeying and he wasn’t very nice. Then, I said something that surprised him a little. I told him that mommy and daddy make bad choices too. He wanted to know what kind, so we talked about that for a little while. Then I told him that everybody does bad things, that’s why we need Jesus. I told him that God is the only one who never does anything wrong. God only does good things.

He thought that was pretty cool.

I told him that we can only be with God if we do good things too. If we do bad things, we can’t be with God, because He is good. Then I told him the good news. Jesus came to be good for us, so we can be with God. Jesus saves us.

We ended our short discussion by deciding to try again tomorrow to make good choices and be nice, because that’s what Jesus would want us to do. Then finally the kisses and hugs and goodnights. I came downstairs feeling at peace, instead of drained from the day’s struggles.

The gospel was something both of us needed to hear.

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How much did my son, a little three year old, retain or even understand from that conversation? I don’t know. However, what I do know is that a seed has been planted. A seed that will continue to be cared for until it grows to fruition.

Later that night as I lay in bed I told my husband about our conversation. He said that earlier in the day he, too, had a similar talk. K had run out into the road to get a ball even after being told to stop. There was a car coming (slowly, thankfully) and my husband had to run and grab K. Somehow their discipline conversation moved to talking about how Jesus saves us, just like daddy saved K from the road. When I had my conversation with K, he mentioned how daddy saved him when I was talking about Jesus saving him. Even though I didn’t know what he was talking about he had remembered the earlier talk and connected the dots.

They remember more than we think sometimes.

In our goals of raising kind, obedient, and thoughtful children we must not forget the bigger picture. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Even our kids. No amount of training is going to change that. Let us never cease in pointing them towards our Hope.

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What tips do you have for sharing the gospel with your children? Share them in the comments. 

My Husband Travels for Work: 10 Tips for Transitioning Home

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After spending an extended amount of time away from my husband over the last two years, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the process of returning to doing life together again. Today I’m guest posting over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum about what I’ve found are my top ten tips to make this a smooth transition.

I’d love it if you would come join us over there!

My Husband Travels for Work: 10 Tips for Transitioning Home

 

 

 

When I Don’t Want My Child To Obey

obey

My blood was boiling. It felt like the tension inside was going to break me into a million pieces. The last string of patience I could muster snapped.

My thoughts whirled.

“Why does this always have to happen?”

“Can’t I just have a few minutes of peace?!”

“That is it!”

Words spewed out of my mouth like poison.

Anger. Frustration. Bitterness.
Hurtful words. Shaming words.
Little eyes wide open, taking it all in.

Finished with my lecture, I collapsed at the kitchen table. I regained control of my racing pulse and pushed back the tears. My heart felt like it was a million pounds.

What had I done?

I opened my Bible and tried to pray. But I was overcome with remorse. I gained obedience, but at what cost?

It was then I knew that I didn’t want obedience like that. I didn’t want to teach my child (or any child) that you obey the person who hurts you. I want my child to obey me because of my calm authority as his mother, not because I know which words will cut at his heart.

I love my child and I want it to show. Even when I am frustrated.

And I must admit, I am far from perfect. The life I lead is often a messy one. However, I’m trying my best to take my parenting lessons from the best Father of all. The One who is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. The One who never shames, but holds out abundant grace and invites me to sin no more. The One who is ever just and lets me reap the consequences of what I sow, but who never deserts me along the way.

This is the Father I want my child to know as well.
So, I swallow my pride and I ask for forgiveness from the little one that I hurt, pointing him to the One who will never fail him.

 

Have you had a messy moment this week? I hope you will join me in casting my burdens at the feet of a Father who cares.

Why I Stopped Telling My Son “Be Careful”

becareful

“Be careful!” The words spilled out of my mouth without any thought as my son attempted to navigate some rough terrain in the backyard. I must have said it at least a half-dozen times already in the half hour we’d been playing outside.

It was then that I knew I had a problem.

I had fallen into a bad habit and it wasn’t helping either me or K. I knew I needed to make some changes in the way I was communicating with him. Here are four reasons why I knew the phrase “be careful” needed to be virtually eliminated from my vocabulary.

1. It didn’t work.
Even though he heard me say it all the time, I doubt my rambunctious, fearless toddler really understood what it even meant for him to “be careful.” It didn’t communicate any practical information.

2. I didn’t want “be careful” to become synonymous with “don’t do that.”
If it was something I really didn’t want my son to do, I needed to get to the point and clearly communicate my expectations.

3. It eliminated his ability to learn to weigh risk.
At this point he doesn’t really understand why standing on a foot tall rock is less risky than trying to scale the side of a five foot trailer. However, I’m not always going to be there to tell him he should be careful. He needs to learn how to weigh a situation for himself and see if the benefit is worth the risk.

4. It didn’t teach him how to overcome obstacles.
I don’t want my son (or any other future children) to be driven by fear – whether it is in the small things now, or in the bigger things later in life. That said, fear does serves a purpose, it lets us know that we probably need a plan for overcoming obstacles in our way. “Be careful” doesn’t teach him how to climb a rock wall and it won’t encourage him to chase big dreams later in life either. K is naturally an adventurer now and I want him to be able to stay that way even as he grows up.

5. It removed his ability to face real life consequences.
Pain is a good reminder to not make the same mistake twice. Although sometimes pain is the obstacle we need to overcome, a lot of the time it can remind us to plan out a better strategy next time or just avoid something altogether.

A New Strategy

So, with these things in mind I’ve adopted a new strategy. When the words “be careful” are threatening to pop out of my mouth I try to evaluate using these 3 questions:

1. “Is this something he can figure out on his own?”
If that’s the case, I shut my trap.

2. “Does he need help figuring out this challenge?”
If so, instead of giving a generic “be careful” I try to give specific instructions for what he needs to look out for. For example: “stay away from the edge of the deck, if you fall it will hurt you;” “hold onto the railing as you go down the stairs, it will help you avoid tripping;” “that branch is dead, if you pull on it it could break off and hit you;” or “if you are going to swing that stick, stand away from where other people are standing.”

3. “Is this activity risky enough that, should he fail, he could be seriously injured?”
If not, I usually give him a warning that he could get hurt by what he is doing and then let him learn the consequences for himself. If it is, then I either stop him or give him more assistance to lessen the danger.

I’ll admit it, even with these steps, “be careful” still pops out of my mouth here and there, but I am trying to break the habit!

What do you think? Do you find yourself saying “be careful” or another phrase too much? Share your experience in the comments. 

 

Tips For Surviving Time As A Long-Distance Family

“No! My daddy stay at my house! Awight?”  I pushed back the tears welling up in my eyes and told my son that it wouldn’t be too much longer before daddy would be with us again. However, inside, I felt the same way he did. This was only his third time getting to visit with his daddy in the last 5 months and we were both sick of saying good bye.

In K’s short 2 1/2 years of life his daddy was away for almost 10 of those months. Unfortunately, for various reasons, we’ve had to spend time living life as a long-distance family.

If you’re facing a similar situation, here’s 8 tips that helped us get through this difficult time.

  1. Stay in each other’s routines. Even though we were 600 miles away, K could expect to call his daddy every night to pray and say goodnight. I could usually expect a call during nap time to catch up without interruptions. Facetime and Skype make this easier than ever.
  2. Make the most of visits. We had four visits of varying lengths during our last 6 month separation. During these times we tried our best to make family time a priority and eliminate unnecessary distractions – even if that meant playing catch up with the laundry afterwards!
  3. Send the love. I tried my best to document life and send it to my hubby in the form of pictures and videos. The good and the bad. The exciting and the boring. Its not really almost like you were there too.
  4. Snail mail. For daddy’s birthday K helped me bake him cookies and picked out a few little things to send in a package. It was great because daddy gets some love and K got to be involved in making a connection. I wish I would have been better about sending pictures and letters too.
  5. Fight the discontentment. It is so easy to settle into the mindset of “everything will be better when…” Every time I found myself thinking that it was a red flag to step back and make sure my mind was in the right spot. We tried to immerse ourselves in what was going on at that time and be fully present in the moment.
  6. Anticipate the re-entry. Whenever you’ve spent time away from your spouse there is going to be a period of readjustment. Being a very independent person, this was harder for me than hubby, but knowing it was coming helped. I knew it was hard for me to transition to functioning as a unit after spending time functioning independently. Knowing this, I could prepare myself mentally for what was coming.
  7. Focus on gratitude. My husband was living in Minnesota for next to nothing with a friend, working a job earning money we really needed. During this time K and I lived with my in-law’s. We had a great place to stay and I had support while I was effectively single parenting. We also knew that there were a lot of families that had to be apart for a lot longer than we did. There was a lot to be thankful for.
  8. Look for the lessons. In any time of difficulty, there is the potential for growth. This situation was no different. We both learned a lot during our time apart and we were able to use our time apart to grow our family together.

The time spend apart was far from easy, but using these tips and a lot of prayer we were able to make it through.

Has your family ever had to live apart from each other? Even though I hope to not have to go through the experience again, I’d love to hear how you made it through!