The Military Spouse 101 Workshop was the first time in this military journey that I was in company of other women my age who "got" it. A bunch of us had just been married during holiday stand down. Some were already married and had just arrived to the area with their sailors after boot camp. The comradery in the room was absolutely the highlight of the workshop. It was also the first time I realized as a newlywed I was focusing too much on couple time.
One of the most important interactions of the workshop happened when one of the speakers sat down at the conference table with us. While all the other speakers shared their information presentation-style, the Family Advocacy Intervention Specialist, Karen, was the one to slow down and just chat. She spoke a little bit about resiliency and stress as we all sat in silence listening.
Then she stopped and asked, "Any gamers?" I don't think there was a woman at the table who didn't immediately start to smile or nod their head or raise their hand. Of course our husbands loved video games! They're huge dorks and we love them for it. That's when the presentation turned into a constructive conversation among like-minded women. Karen spoke about the stress it can cause spouses when their service member turns to video games to relax after a long day instead of prioritizing couple time.
It was so validating to sit at a table filled with tons of other intelligent, awesome ladies, and hear that so many of them had also had that fight. The one where it felt like yet again he was choosing video games over us after we had already been apart all day. The one that boiled over unexpectedly because we were all trying to make ours needs small in order to be understanding of his stressors, but it just lead to a bigger fight.
Why a Happy Marriage Needs More Than Couple Time
I think some of the most applicable advice all of us received that day was that we needed to specifically carve out times in our schedules for three things.
- Individual Time
- Couple Time
- Family Time, for those with children
All of us wanted to carve out time as a couple, but how many of us had actually considered setting aside time for ourselves? Specifically, to do something fun and relaxing? Sure, I knew I should do stuff just for me. I already spent plenty of time doing things alone. But most of the things I did alone were fulfilling needs; going to work, studying for school, and cooking for the both of us.
As a self-proclaimed workaholic and a giver, it's so easy for me to push myself to give more. Work more, work two jobs, study more, take two classes while working two jobs, then realize that's too much so I drop the second job just to fill all of my new "free" time with chores.
I can't speak for any of the other spouses that day, but I already knew I was getting enough time with my new husband given our two intense schedules. I just couldn't figure out why it didn't feel like enough, and why he didn't crave more, too.
Practice Breaking the Cycle
Fast forward four months later. We started fighting again about spending time together (but this time I wasn't blaming the video games. Yay, baby steps!). So I took a look at my schedule. What was I doing every week? Still working full time, cool. On a break from school until classes start again, awesome. And spending 100% of my "free" time cooking, cleaning, trying to hang out with my husband (yet never satisfied with the time he gave me), and building my beloved blog.
These were all things I loved to do. Yet, not one of them was just for fun or just for me. The next day I went to work, I didn't rush straight home to see him. Knowing he would actually be home since it was a weekend (huzzah, shift work!), I took my time. That's right, I walked over to Sephora and tried on three different colors of purple lipstick. Anyone else obsessed with that shade of lilac this spring?
I got myself a new lipstick I had been wanting for months as a little treat. Then I took my time to get back home. It made all the difference in my day and in my interactions with my hubby to take time to relax and enjoy myself. Normally I would fight to switch straight from the hustle & bustle of work to holding expectations for our interactions. I had time to relax and consciously decide not to have expectations he couldn't possibly anticipate.
Then we had a wonderful afternoon filled with gardening, shopping, and going out for dinner at a casual local restaurant. Was there a moment or two when we accidentally said the wrong thing, or someone tensed at a remark? Guilty. But coming at it from a place of relaxation and minimal expectations made the turn-around fast so we could continue our great day together filled with quality couple time instead of getting lost in an argument.