Having a large family has caused my beliefs, goals and priorities to evolve. Understanding that every person in my family has their own thoughts, ideas, feelings, emotions, desires, needs and goals from the youngest of us to the oldest of us has changed the way we function and interact with one another. I strive for my family to live a harmonious life, loving one another and considering each other’s needs. This includes the needs of my husband and I also. As a family, I do not want to sacrifice a relationship with one member to fuel a relationship with another. It is my choice to care for my children with my own body, time, and energy to a sacrificial degree. I have learned to better gauge my personal limits and accept that others, including my husband, may not have the same limits.
In my marriage, sex and physical intimacy, such as hugs and kisses, are essential to my husband. This stems from his belief that sex is the deepest form of intimacy in life. Yielding himself to me while I yield myself to him brings a strong and powerful connection between the two of us. This is one that my husband cherishes and is not able to easily cast aside when the tensions and demands of life are weighing down on us with every breath. Sex is a refueling connection that energizes him and empowers him when life is at its hardest. It took me many years of overcoming physical and emotional scars from a sexual assault that happened to me during my teenage years before I was able to value and respect my husband’s need and desire for intimacy. My husband patiently helped me to heal by teaching me a new side to intimacy that is very much focused on me and my pleasure. He has learned to read my body and comforts me by slowing down, stopping or talking with me when he notices I am not okay whether I am able to speak it or not. The comfort and familiarity I have with him is something I have come to treasure. We focus on taking care of each other when we are together which makes me feel valued, appreciated and safe.
Although intimacy is something we both enjoy, making time and saving energy for physical affection is a challenge in itself. In addition to caring for six young children, running a business is much like having another baby with its own set of demands. The business requires time, attention, nurturing and refining to grow. When the business is neglected or pushed aside too many times, it suffers and the effects are felt all the way down to our customers. Since Ariel and I work together to cultivate Truly Charis, our handmade clothing business, while supporting our children solely off of its income, our business ends up being a pretty significant part of our daily lives. Needless to say, keeping the marriage spark lit can be challenging when living a life where more is demanded of you than you are able to give on a daily basis. Ariel and I apply these principles to our marriage to stay connected and supportive of each other while riding out this hard season.
- Communication and understanding are essential, since compromise is required from both sides.
Trying to describe the feeling of being touched out was difficult in the beginning. It was not something I had previously experienced. Communicating what types of touch I can handle or what types of touch I actually welcome at different stages of being touched out has been helpful in guiding my husband on what to do. This is definitely a conversation to have when you’re not already touched out since there may need to be some creativity involved.
Over time, Ariel and I have tried so many methods of communicating our needs. We have created songs, dances, or key words like “peaches and cream” or “banana pudding” to signal when we are really struggling. This is our red flag so the other understands this situation requires an emergency-type response. Seeing each other vulnerable encourages us to make the other a top priority, as though our marriage depended on it.
- I have realized that you cannot choose the amount of time or energy you are given, but you can choose what to do with it.
Each of us must decide what is important to us and pursue those things intentionally with our lives on a daily basis. Knowing how important intimacy is to my husband motivates me to prioritize that in my life. Many times when I want to be intimate with my husband, I plan ahead. I think about what I can rearrange to make time, and I strive to reserve some of my energy. This could be me reorganizing my work day so I can get off early, planning an easier dinner to free up time, waking the kids up a little earlier to put them to bed a little earlier. It looks different each time, but I’m thinking of ways to accomplish my goal of spending time with my husband.
- Developing boundaries and communicating my needs to my children has improved my relationship with them.
My children love to talk and touch all day long. There are times when my touch tank or patience levels have been met or exceeded. In these times, I try my best to communicate how I am feeling and what I need to my children. Creating a space or a routine for some down time has helped throughout the years. Having a designated time or space for quiet, such as a reading time, coloring time or quiet carpet can help to create that mutual understanding and care for one another. When mommy needs a break, she will sit on the quiet carpet. You can sit next to me, but no talking until we get up. I do things like this to help myself to endure the long days. It doesn’t work perfectly, but it has helped numerous times. The key is usually some visual indicator that the kids can see. As long as I am repetitious, they seem to do well to understand and try to help because they desire to care for me also.
- Setting the example for healthy relationships is an important life-long lesson for my children.
The mindset of caring only for the children and neglecting everyone else does not work in our household. I want my children to understand that other people’s needs and desires are significant, just as theirs are. This principle should be applied to all of their friendships and eventually to their marriages. I know my children will follow my example and prioritize other people the way Ariel and I prioritize each other. This matters to me a lot for my sake, as well as theirs.
Every day is hard, but some days are extra hard. Sometimes I just have a lot going on, and I am not up for any measure of closeness. During those times, my husband and I talk about how we are doing and what we want from each other. If he’s able to help out with the kids so I can sleep or finish what I need to, I’m usually up for being close afterward. We try to work through things together, so we both get what we need. When I’ve turned him down numerous times in a row, I am mindful of letting him know that I have not forgotten him. Then, together, we go on to discuss how we can set aside time for each other in a combined effort.
Marriage is hard. Family life is often demanding and exhausting. Staying connected to my husband as closely as possible makes the chaos of our lives a little bit easier to manage. Sometimes the moment to focus on each other is just what we need.