Leave a message after the beep

Do you and your spouse check in with each other about your marriage?

While driving home from work one day last week, my husband called to check in and chat. Normally I hate when he does this, and I don’t pick up my phone. I do not want to report on my progress home as if I’m a teenage driver. Plus, my commute home is my time to decompress from the work day. Do not call me between 5:30 and 6:30; depending on how my day went I am busy doing one of three things: listening to NPR, jamming to 90s gangster rap, or driving in complete, stone cold silence.

So, please leave a message after the beep.

On Thursday, however, I picked up because I was going straight from work to volunteer, we wouldn’t see each other until later that night, and I didn’t remember him kissing me goodbye at 5:30 that morning when he left for work. After the usual “How was your day?” And “Here’s what happened at work today,” he asked:

“What are three things you want me to improve upon as your husband, and three things I’m doing well?”

These questions left me speechless for a minute, because he’s not the type of guy to sit back and randomly analyze a situation. Nor have we really checked in with each other about our marriage since January, when we tried to (but ultimately didn’t) schedule another counseling session.

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You want to talk about what? Now?

Does he think I’m unhappy? Have I been too hard on him lately?

We’re still working on a routine for keeping up the house and meals/activities/time for us during the week, but I thought we were doing okay. We blew up at each other over a series of miscommunications regarding March’s anniversary date night. It ended with me driving us home before we were halfway to our sushi dinner, then me stewing on the couch in my pajamas while he drove off to … Publix, as it turned out. Only a man who God truly handpicked to be my husband would storm off, then return with sushi for both of us to salvage the evening.

But we’ve been doing better since then. Why would he want me to lay into him by rattling off three deficiencies when, at 5:15 p.m. on a Thursday, I’m feeling pretty good about life and the upcoming weekend?

Husband calmly explained that since March date night he’s been working on a list of traits he wants to build and things he wants to do better in our marriage. He wants to know how I think he’s doing.

Oh. This is much better than listening to Ari Shapiro and Kelly McEvers break down the day’s news.

I think, and give him my three requests: Help me maintain our home more proactively. If you say you’re going to do something (the dinner dishes, taking the dogs outside, calling a lawn service), actually do it. Don’t procrastinate and make me get on your case. Be more active with me. I miss running with him.

What is he doing well?

He is paying the household bills on time, which saves me a lot of time. He is supportive as always of my desire to be involved in our church and in other groups, although I have willingly scaled things down to have time for us. And he is sharing his love of motorcycles with me. He spent his money on a second seat and pegs so I can ride with him, and he’s teaching me to ride so we can enjoy another hobby together.

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WWJR: What Would Jesus Ride?

 

Now it’s his turn: What do I need to do better? I can’t let this conversation end without putting myself up for discussion.

Relax, he says. If you ask me to do something, I’ll do it, but I might wait until my Netflix show ends. It doesn’t have to be done right away. Things don’t always have to be done my way. Call him or text him during the day. We sometimes go a day and an evening without seeing each other — so call him and let him hear my voice, even if it’s just to report on what I ate for lunch.

It is so good for our sanity and for our relationship to have this calm, civil conversation about what we need to work on, but also what we love about each other.

A year ago we were strained to a breaking point. Words like these would have devolved into a screaming match. I think we have finally turned around and gone back to mile 1 of this marathon. We’re feeling fresh, strong, and hydrated in the Word and in love.

I would love to hear how you and your spouse check in with each other about your marriage. Do you check in regularly? What kinds of things do you bring up? What issues do you have to talk through the most?

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