I can admit that sometimes I feel under-appreciated in my marriage. Sometimes I feel like everything is my responsibility and the weight of the world is on my shoulders while my husband…naps. It's infuriating. It's easier to become bitter or resentful instead of grateful when you feel this way with the person who is your ultimate partner in life. If you're looking to find out how to improve your marriage even when you don't feel appreciated, then we have something in common.
Marriage Is A Constant Transition
Becoming husband and wife after being “boyfriend and girlfriend” for eight years was definitely a transition. Sometimes it was difficult. Becoming Mommy and Daddy after being “Heather and Dean” for ten years was even harder.
Our lives shifted, our household changed, things became complicated, and we both took on roles that were unfamiliar to us up to this point. Guess what? We are two completely different people and we handled this change in very different ways.
Even though I say that I want to pass off some of my responsibility onto my husband and place blame on him for my anxiety level sometimes, the truth is, I'm not giving him the credit he deserves. He is learning how to be a husband and father at the same time that I am learning how to be a wife and mother. We are in this together.
Call Yourself Out First
When my husband isn't handling stress the way that I handle stress, I tend to feel like he's putting it off, leaving it for me to deal with, or making it worse somehow. Reality check for you mamas out there that are anything like me! Our husbands are not pets that need to be trained and then rewarded for behaving as we've taught them to behave. It's painful to admit, but it is true.
They lived lives before they met us. They handled stress without us. And much to our surprise, they survived it this far, didn't they? (amazing, I know)
Appreciation of each other is one of the most important puzzle pieces to a successful, happy marriage. If you want to know how to improve your marriage during some of the hardest times in your life, you have to be able to look within.
There was a time in my son's first year that I really struggled with my new role as wife and mother. I prayed hard during this time for clarity and wisdom. What I needed was for God to guide me and show me how to embrace these new responsibilities that I asked for and desperately wanted.
I was having trouble handling the cards I had been dealt. I thought that I needed my husband to change in some way so that I could feel better. What I thought that I needed was for Dean to take something from me to make my life easier…
But God lead me to a realization that I had been blind. Dean was already showing me appreciation, love and respect but I wasn't seeing it because it didn't look like how I wanted it to look. I found that if I wanted to feel appreciated, the first step is to appreciate my husband for who he is and how he contributes to our life differently than I do. I had to acknowledge that my husband was enough.
In order for me to feel appreciated for what I was doing for our family, I had to first appreciate my husband for his unique, and incredibly important contribution. Showing appreciation for your spouse allows you to create a healthy perception of yourself as an individual and of your spouse as a partner.
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Learn How To Improve Your Marriage
Know and remember these five things.
1. Our Roles Are Different
Before Dean and I got married, we read a book that taught us to divide chores and tasks between us evenly so that one person doesn't drown in all of the housework while the other gets off scot-free. We went about this pretty reasonably.We were both feeling like it was a fair compromise.
I'm not going to lie, as the years have gone on, I have inherited so many more chores than he has. On the days that I feel like all I am doing all day is marking things off of my never-ending to-do list, I can easily feel under-appreciated. My husband will never understand how much is on my plate. He will never know what it feels like to have the responsibility that I have. And that's ok.
What I realized is that the same goes for me.
We Both Deserve To Be recognized
I will never know what it's like to work as much as my husband does. He has so much pressure to be the leader of this family in between work and sleep. I don't want to walk a day in his shoes. The things that he does so naturally, I would not be able to do if I tried.
My husband works enough hours a week to make me physically ill when I think about it. His schedule fluctuates and he has to alternate his sleep/wake cycles at the drop of a hat. He does the chores around the house that I really don't want to have to do. It all adds up.
Yes, I work too and I run this household sometimes on my own. But whether I want to admit it or not, I can't do it without him. Trrrrust me, he doesn't want to walk a day in my shoes either–he totally couldn't hang.
Our Roles Don't Have To Be Equal
I can't take on his roles and he can't take on mine. Naturally, I do my part better than he would ever do it and he makes his roles easy but I know that I could never do it the same. You know what? The more I am aware of things my husband is responsible for, I begin to appreciate him for what he does because I can't (and don't want to have to) do it myself.
Men and women were created to be different. I have strengths that are very different from his strengths and that's how it was meant to be. It allows for balance and symmetry in our household. Thank God there isn't another one of me running around making me more of a stress case than I already am. Thank God for my husband's calm and composed demeanor. That is his role that God has assigned him with weather I realized it right away or not. It's what we both need and I appreciate it.
2. Our Stresses Are Different
The list of things that I stress about on a daily basis is so long that I get stressed trying to list them. Tidy the house, clean the house, organize the toys, decorate, pay the bills, ask Dean to pick up the dog poop (because he is constantly forgetting), schedule child care to fit into our crazy schedules, go to the grocery store, clean out the fridge, organize time with friends and family, create perfect holiday decorations and celebrations, keep up with our appointments, make appointments, update the calendar, do the laundry…ah I'm out of breath.
Those are just some of the typical things that most wives and mothers do on any given day. And we do it without anyone telling us to do it.
It Isn't A Competition
My mind is always going. When I have down time, I don't really get down time. I have a passion for this blog and in order to keep it running, I have to keep writing. You won't catch me kickin' back on the couch with my feet up and nothing in my hands. If I am watching one of my shows, I am also folding laundry, writing, shopping on-line or planning something for our family.
Those are what my days off look like. I still work outside of the home and my job can be very stressful at times. Sometimes I really do feel like I don't get time to relax because my mind never turns off. Is that my husband's fault?
I like to think it is sometimes. I like to blame him for the responsibilities being so off balanced. When I'm feeling especially overwhelmed, sometimes our conversations start to sound like lists of things he doesn't do or lists of things I don't do. Both of us trying to plead our case for whose stress is heavier.
Acknowledging Each Other –> Appreciating Each Other
My husband has stresses too. He typically gets two days off a week, sometimes not in a row, and sometimes after working 9 days straight. That is harder than I could ever imagine and he is doing it for our family. He will help me with chores when I ask, he will do things for me when he can, and he allows me to take control of the things that he isn't passionate about.
And I can appreciate that.
3. We Handle Stress Differently
Sometimes I still feel like he shouldn't be sitting around relaxing when he gets home if I never get a chance to do that. But the truth is, the way that I handle stress is to keep moving. I am not the type that can “unwind”, turn it all off, tune it all out, and relax (gosh, I really wish I was, because that sounds nice). If I try to do that when I still have a million things to check off my list, my anxiety level shoots through the roof because I feel like I am wasting time.
It's a problem, I know. The fear of wasting time is real. I hate the feeling that time is slipping away from me. So, the way that I handle stress is to accomplish things. If I feel accomplished that day, I sleep better at night. If my house is clean before I go to bed, I can relax easier.
This is the way I handle stress but it doesn't have to be the way my husband handles it. My husband doesn't have the same problem that I do. The way he handles his stress is to unwind and put it out of his mind. No one is going to benefit from me not letting him handle stress in the way that he needs to. If he isn't relieving his stress and recharging, he's not going to be any help to me at all because he is going to burn out.
4. Our Needs Are Different
This should be obvious, but it isn't always. When we plan a life together, we unreasonably expect our spouse to visualize everything the same way we do. When we think about what a perfect day looks like, we assume that their perfect day looks similar. This just isn't sensible! Our spouses have different needs, wants, desires, passions, and expectations than we do. This is O.K!
It becomes a problem when we start to expect our spouse to consistently know exactly what we need and when we think we know what they need without appreciating that not only are their desires different from ours, but they are equally as valid.
I learned to appreciate my spouse even during times that I wasn't feeling appreciated because I realized that his needs were legitimate and important even if I don't share them.
5. Appreciation is Derived From Respect
When I am having a hard time handling the load that I am faced with today (or this month), it is easy to blame my husband for not taking some of the pressure off of me. I have so much on my shoulders, so much to do, so much to think about, and so much to plan but at first glance, it looks like my husband only has to think about going to work and coming home.
It is hard to show appreciation for my husband when I feel like I am the one that needs to be appreciated for all of the things I have to juggle every day to keep this family a float. When I see my husband resting in front of the T.V after he gets home from work, the first thing that runs through my mind is not “I wonder what he's gone through all day”.
No, because I have been running around all day with the baby and now I have twelve more things on my To-Do list that I need to accomplish before I go to bed. Instead, my first thought is something along the lines of “Ugh, he has no idea what I just went through all day. How dare he just relax when I obviously need help”.
It Goes Both Ways
Again, expecting something from your spouse that you are not giving first is going to get you into a ditch that you can't crawl out of. You can't expect him to come home and immediately think about what you need if you aren't doing the same for him. The secret to how to improve your marriage and have mutual appreciation, is to first have mutual respect.
I can't appreciate my husband if I don't first respect what he's done all day or how he supports our family differently than I do. If I just remember that I can't do this without him and my life wouldn't be the same if he weren't in it, I can admit that he deserves as much appreciation as I do. I have a profound respect for the role of husband and father now more than ever. The hours he works, the stress he has at work, the duty he has to protect his family and be our leader–it is a pressure that I will never know.
Develop A Servant's Heart
I am blessed to have found peace in that when I show appreciation and respect to my husband, it may or may not be returned. My husband might not give me respect in the same way that he receives it, but that's my whole point. Try to find and acknowledge the differences between you and your partner instead of brushing them under the rug. Acknowledging that you are different people and you show appreciation differently can maintain an inner peace and respect between the two of you.
When you choose to put his needs, wants, and concerns first, try to avoid doing it hoping for a repayment of some kind. When you do something with only the intention to get something in return, your heart will not be in it.
I do believe that if you continue to choose to acknowledge your husband's differences from you, appreciate the work he does for your family, and remember why you love respect him so much, it will be returned and your marriage will have improved from it.
Your Differences Enhance Your Marriage
Our differences are what bring great value to our relationship. I learn so much from him every day and he would say the same about me. His mind works differently than mine, his heart feels differently than mine, and he loves differently from me and I appreciate that.
Certainly my husband could write a post similar to this one acknowledging that I do so much for our household that he doesn't take the time to appreciate enough. As husband and wife we both are learning to appreciate the individuality that we bring to our marriage. No one is perfect. But as soon as we learn to respect our spouse's differences, we are able to see more clearly how much appreciation they deserve.
My husband is truly amazing. He is loyal and loving and forever helpful when I ask for help. He is exactly the man that God intended for me to have as a husband and as a leader for my family. I wouldn't change him for the world and I thank God for him every day. No relationship is perfect. Find the blessings in yours!