Category Archives: Marriage

Fireside Chats

 

Lately I have heard from a lot of acquaintances and friends about marriage issues.  Mostly on social media but a couple at lunches and dinners and phone calls.  Some are actually separated or heading for divorce, others are just really struggling.

And while the beautiful Hannah and I are relatively new to this thing called marriage, I’ve (we’ve) been at the struggling point and come up with something that works really well.  It is six questions we ask once a week or so. We call them our fireside chats because they started around a fire.  And there are a couple rules…no getting defensive or interrupting. No technology or distractions.

Also we ask them knowing what they are and let the other person finish before responding.  Knowing the questions stops us from feeling blindsided.

I’ll tell why they came about in a minute but first:

The Questions

  • What did I do to offend?

This can be simple like “you didn’t do the dishes when you said you would”, or something bigger like “you lost a paycheck gambling”.

  • How did I show you love?

Again simple can be “you cleaned the bathroom” to “you canceled plans to spend a whole day with me” to “you bought me chocolate and a new BMW”.

  • How can I show you more love?

Simple can be cooking dinner more to making time and buying flowers.

  • Where is the trust?

We found that a lot of couples lose trust in each other and stop believing what they say even when they do talk.  In our story, I broke the trust substantially and so needed to work to regain it.  By asking this I had to confront the fact I had broken it and needed to work hard to rebuild it.

  • How are we?

We weren’t always good.  We didn’t always like each other completely so needed to confess that.  But after some time of checking in, we have been “good” or “solid” since.

  • Did you tell the whole truth?

I pulled this one from various accountability groups I had been in.  It surprisingly helps.

The Story

A couple years ago now, I broke trust with Hannah by letting my stress about money turn into a gambling problem.  For over two months I played video poker/ slots around Portland, going from losing my personal spending cash we had budgeted to maxing out the cash advance on my credit card. An account she didn’t ever check or really know about.   The whole time keeping the mounting debt to myself.  By the end it was two months of my wages.  I had become lost in the greed and stopped counting about half way to the max. Thinking that if I won big it would all come back, instead of realizing it had become basically insurmountable.

When I finally realized what happened, I was scared.  I thought this was one of those things that could end a relationship.  But I told the beautiful Hannah in writing because that is what I do.  She wasn’t happy.

She wanted me to seek counseling, all my plastic cards and regular check ins.  We fought over little things a lot.  And we fight dirty so my loss of money was always the final thing yelled.  I would just walk away not knowing how to get over it. After a few weeks of “nothing” working she wanted couple’s counseling.  We went to one session I didn’t like because we were spending money we didn’t have and I was being attacked.  Afterwards we went to dinner where we really talked.  The dinner cost about half of what the counselor did.  At that dinner I wrote five of the questions out and we tried them a couple nights later…knowing what the other would ask we had time to prepare answers.

We did it every Friday or Saturday night for months.  And it helped us rebuild trust because we had a place to complain without judgement and to hear where the other person was at.  Eventually we would ask what we did to offend in the middle of dinner because the other was silently fuming.  Or I would get flowers because I hadn’t done anything to show love in a while but complained about being tired from husbanding a lot.

Five years in to this marriage, I think we are better than ever.  And it is because we communicate.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

I would love to hear if they work for you or how you decide to slightly change them.  Also I have tried various times to monetize this because we are still broke.  So if you use them and feel like donating, tips are accepted. 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Adulthood, Marriage, The Jesus Way, Transparency

New Beginnings

Five years ago today my life changed drastically.   That old life is now unrecognizable.   I was horribly hung over after passing out at 7 pm the night before on the couch of a house made empty by roommates out of state with their families.  I was still drunk that morning probably.  I was literally sick to my stomach.  I had been eating grease while I picked up items for this big event.  I was exhausted and stressed out.  I was confused about the future and lonely as I looked at another Christmas alone.

I walked into a gym that was empty besides a couple tables for the worship bands to eat some dinner in one of the corners.  It needed to be set up to feed 300 people the next day, but also made nice as not to continue to feel stale and cold.  In my head we were throwing a party.  In reality, we were providing a needed meal in a warm building were half the people didn’t care what it looked like and the other half would judge me.

There were a few people milling around, and it turns out that the small attendance made people leave.  A father and couple teenagers started setting up tables with me.  A single woman started helping us.  After about 20 minutes the tables were set up and the family left.  The single woman and I spent about 3 hours working to make the tables not stale and to add Christmas lights and brightness to the massive gym, to make it small.  We also spent about 3 hours talking.  How we didn’t like traveling at Christmas.  How we didn’t have living fathers.  How our families were far away from Portland but actually close together.  Our jobs and hobbies.  How we liked being in Portland now.  Where we had been and where we wanted to go.

It was longer than planned so I offered to drive her home.  Something I had done literally hundreds of times before as my dad made me a protector of women to an often negative extent.  When I dropped her off, something was different than those times before though.  There was an awkward moment.

The awkward moments continued the next day as we saw each other and chatted a little as I ran around being in charge of chaos of a community Christmas dinner that comingled housed with unhoused friends.  By the end of the meal, I was wiped and had plans to sit in front of my computer and finish binge watching something I am sure.  But there was another awkward moment when she wrote out and handed me her phone number and an address to come hang out with her friend’s family.

Somehow I knew I needed to go. Even though I only met her less than 24 hours before I figured I should make an appearance.  So I did.  I grabbed a couple 22s from my cases of beer and went to a house, that apparently generally didn’t drink, and where I barely knew one person.  I awkwardly walked around saying hi and got another plate of Christmas dinner since I didn’t eat at the first.  And went and planted myself near this girl that intrigued me.  She played games with her friends and we made small talk about what we had planned for the week and how much time free she had.

I left after about an hour because I needed quiet not craziness and couldn’t fake it anymore.  I wished her well, told her Merry Christmas and said thanks to the random family that just set up a couple without knowing it.

That night there were quite a few texts from my dark, cold, quiet basement bedroom.  By the end of them, I had a real date with a real girl.

Within a week, I would start spending everyday with that single lady. Within a month we were pretty sure we weren’t going to be single long. Within 8 months we were wed and in a tiny apartment.  In 2 years we were no longer drinking much or going out to eat but just sitting around with each other.  In 3 years we had a child, a house and a family car.

Now it has been five years since I drank or partied like I did the day before I met the beautiful Hannah.  And tomorrow it will be five years since the best Christmas ever.

And I wouldn’t switch back to that old life for anything.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Junior, Marriage, The Jesus Way, Three O Clock People

18

Dad

 

It has been 18 years since I lost Dad.  Which is just a stupid long time for it still to hurt and for me to need trigger warnings on multiple shows and online videos still.  But long enough to forget stories and memories.  His voice no longer just comes to me when I think of him.  But will eventually when I think long enough.  Too long to see his posts online somewhere, or pictures, or voice mails.

Being an adult is still difficult without that fatherly figure to help me with relationship issues, work issues, or to show me how to stop the fireplace from smoking up the whole house. Or why the lights over the dining table won’t stop burning out. Or how to build a vegetable garden that is too big to keep up with.  I might have that under control.  I’d love to be able to chat about his stay at home years and how he stayed sane.

But instead, for the last 18 years, I have been winging it.  I have looked for other father figures, but none are the same.  None will do when I was already “raised” when he suddenly passed.

I have made it another year though.  I have figured out how to be a dad myself with a talking, complaining, questioning son.   I have lost track of the times I have thought about how he would like to hear Junior is getting revenge on me by do what I probably did at his age or older.

It doesn’t make it easier to be constantly reminded of the loss in that, or the fact I have multiple friends in the midst of similar shocking losses right now and it brings up the “too soon”, “too young”, “too sudden” thoughts.   But it is part of my story.

And with each passing year, I try to identify with it being part of the story, not the climax, or piviotal moment just a section of the story.  But it is a large part, and I am trying to find something else to make the pivotal moment.

And this year, Junior is old enough to know who pictures are, so he is beginning to meet Grandpa Jim, if only in the couple pictures I have.  And the couple stories that have stuck.  And the silly things he said that are now coming out of my mouth.  Which brings up a whole ‘nother bucket of turds in trying to teach a little boy without real Grandpops what they should be.  And that is the hardest to stomach some days.

Miss you Dad. Every day.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Adulthood, Death, Freewrite, Grieving, Junior, Marriage, Transparency

Left

We – the beautiful Hannah and I- live in a nomadically transplanted city. Most people aren’t from here and most won’t stay… as we are learning.   People come for work, school or adventure often in their 20s and stay as long as they can or want.  The city houses a lot of people with grand dreams and plans who hang out until another job, partner or dream pulls them away.  We came as part of that group.

The beautiful Hannah has over a decade here.  I have lived here four times as long as anywhere else in my adulthood and am approaching that decade mark too.  We have lived in multiple parts of the city and are on the edge of it now it sometimes feels.  The mountain can be seen from our patio window when the leaves are gone and the sun is out.  The coast is an easy drive away and allows us to have lunch after a nice drive if we have a free day to play.  The food is amazing.  The beers were good and hopefully will be when we can go out again.  People are generally laid back and welcoming.  And even though it is touted as the Whitest City in (US) America and part of the Least Churched Region in North America, we have many people of other colors in our inner circle…and our “local” church.  People think and act similar enough to us for us to feel accepted.  We don’t get weird looks for talking to homeless or people with special needs.  We can own chickens, garden and buy only from the edges of the grocery store without judgment and know a lot of others that do the same.

We really like it here.  We have a house in a neighborhood that has a lot of real locals.  We have our spots, our stores, our communities, our old and new neighborhoods and the beautiful Hannah has a career at a school that won’t be transferred or moved.  We plan to be here a long time.

But we are consistently saying good bye to friends with whom we have connected it feels.  They move because of work promotions.  Because they want to move closer to family before having kids.  Because it was a short term thing that lasted many years and is now over.  Because parents need them back home. Or because housing is silly expensive and they didn’t buy a place yet and can’t imagine living paycheck to paycheck just to stay here.  Whatever the reason, Junior has a lost a lot of friends as have we and we realized we need to start making more connections again.  And in chatting with people we have heard that many are planning to head back “home” at some point.  When the kids need to go to school, or when it’s time to have kids, or when they need a real job.

The beautiful Hannah and I initially bonded over not wanting to live near where we were raised again.  Shortly after we met we began to make Portland our city together. We shared with each other what we loved.  We started combining traditions, routines, drinking spots, eating spots, and friends.  We made our home and are strengthened ourselves in the communities that would take us.   Those communities changed and shifted with marriage, work changes, and Junior and his demands.  And they change substantially when close friends move to green pastures they find or dream.

Leaving is not our plan or story it seems.  So I guess we are a little different here but that’s ok.

1 Comment

Filed under Adulthood, Dreams, Freewrite, Global Community, Junior, Marriage, Overthinking, Transparency, unfinished thoughts

Lack

As I write this, Neil my robot vacuum is cleaning. And all I can think about is lack of money. How we make spontaneous decisions that require money, generally not budgeted money. How we decide things will pay off eventually, but struggle to see the rewards. Somehow getting chickens was supposed to reduce our grocery budget. And even though we haven’t bought eggs since July, we haven’t had extra on that line. How growing a garden still has kept us in the red. How going to the farms in the area to pick berries, beans and peaches has filled our freezer but not our budget lines.
I like to see rewards and there don’t seem to be any. It might be because costs are slowly rising everywhere. Or it might be that we decide to add more line items to the budget.
A couple weeks ago, stressed about seating and storage we decided we will build an addition to our dining room. It will be amazing but even planning for it we noticed it will wipe out 20% of savings. But both the beautiful Hannah and I think it will make the house more “livable”.
Last week we made the incredibly adult decision to buy a car at a party. We went to say good bye to friends we were connecting with again because they were moving away and back to family. And while I checked into how move prep was going for them we ended up test driving a car. And then a couple days later had a payment contract and they took 60% of our savings as a down payment. We wanted a car instead of a truck because, well, an older standard cab Ford Ranger is not a family car. Junior can sit in it but the seats don’t conform to the car seat like a standard family car for some reason. So he just bumps and sways. Which of course he loves, but I imagine his foot kicking the door handle open, and his bumping seat flinging him through some magical serious events through the straps into a mailbox. We had talked about upgrading and about selling the Ranger, but didn’t actually plan for it. So now we have 3 vehicles and no leads on going down to two.
Also now, we don’t really have savings, as we go into winter, which has increased costs. But the beautiful Hannah gots a raise at her work. And in the middle of writing this, I sold a lawnmower. Talk about multitasking! Apparently this is what we do to get by, or what SAH parents do to pay bills. At least that is what I have heard. But they don’t have robot vacuums.

 

PS.  Here is the link for the Ranger if you know anyone and missed it above. https://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cto/5811924702.html  

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Adulthood, Freewrite, Marriage, unfinished thoughts