6 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage

This week marks 19 blissful years of being married to Ben!

A young couple recently asked for our best advice on how to have a good relationship. I guess I choked under pressure, because this is the answer I gave: “Being married to Ben is just really easy! I don’t have any advice.”They seemed disappointed with that answer, with good reason. That answer is helpful for exactly…no one.It’s haunted me ever since!! I’ve wanted another chance to do better, and I’ve thought about what answer I would give, if I could do it over.It is easy to be married to Ben – he’s super easygoing, very patient and kind, and the most selfless person I know. He’s tons of fun to be with, and makes me laugh all the time.Our marriage isn’t always perfect, but we’re very compatible, and that helps! Maybe my marriage advice is “Date very, very carefully!!”Beyond that, there are a few other things I would say, if I could have another chance to answer the question:

1) There is no other option.

Ben and I both committed to this relationship for life, so we will make it work. I think that changes everything about how a couple faces hard stuff. If you have to make it work, you will do everything in your power to do so. If there’s another option, it will affect whatever you do.

It’s like my planking challenge that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago – my muscle therapist once told me, “Never start planking until you’ve decided how long you’re going to go. You need to have that number in your mind before you even start.” Same with marriage! 😄

*I feel the need to acknowledge there are circumstances when this is not possible, and there are many, many stories out there full of pain and suffering. Obviously, life happens, and heartbreak doesn’t need judgement on top of it, so that is not my intention. Just wanting to promote an attitude of commitment, with a huge dose of love, grace, and empathy for those who didn’t get their happily ever after.

2) Pray together, even when you don’t feel like it.

When I was growing up, my parents prayed together every night. I always knew that if I went to their bedroom after they had gone to bed, I would find them reading the Bible together, and praying. There was nothing that made me feel as secure as knowing I would find them there together. I loved to crawl into bed between them and have them pray for me.

I thought all Christian couples did that, because it was so normal for me, so when Ben and I got married, that’s what we did. But over the years, I found out that my experience growing up had not been “normal” and I realized what a gift my parents gave to me with the example they set.

Ben and I have stuck with this, and it is such an important part of staying connected to each other, and to God.Sometimes, I do not want to do it. If I’ve had a really bad day, Ben has sometimes just prayed for me. But most of the time, we make it work. It’s difficult to pray together when we’re frustrated about something, so it means we have to work it out before we go to sleep.

It is not always easy, but it’s worth it.

3) Make time together that nothing else can interfere with.

This is easier now because Everett needs to be in bed by eight, so we have to be home a lot in the evenings, but it was harder before having kids. Life got so busy, we would go for long stretches of time without having an evening at home together.

But then I read a book about managing your home, and it included a chapter on scheduling. The author suggested that every couple or family needs at least two weeknights and one weekend night at home, in order to keep life balanced and under control. This may not work for everyone, but we started scheduling these times in. It was HARD, but we found that it made a huge difference for how connected we felt (especially for me, because my love language is quality time!).

But we also found that we had to keep it a secret from some people, because others wouldn’t always see it as “necessary”, and thought we should be meeting demands from other people instead of guarding our time so carefully. But we kept it a priority, and all these years later, we still keep an eye on the calendar, to set aside that time together.

Because our girls don’t go to bed at eight, we make sure to send quality time with them, and then they spend time in their rooms, reading and unwinding before bedtime, which allows Ben and me to have time together in the evening without it getting too late.This has worked very well for our family, and I would do it all over again. Guard your time, because no one else will do it for you!!

4) Honour each other with your words.

Ben and I try very hard not to say negative things about each other. We don’t make mean jokes, and we don’t use sarcasm. I can be critical about stuff in general if I’m not careful, but this one has always been a big deal to me in our relationship.

It probably stems from the example of my parents, as well as being in ministry for the first 10 years of our marriage. Setting a positive example in our relationship has always been a big deal, because other couples have done that for us. It’s not that we’re perfect, but it’s something we hold as important.

5) Work together.

One of my favourite things at Ben’s parents’ house is the way they make meals together. Ben’s dad especially loves to cook, but it’s always a joint effort, and I like watching them work together.

At our house, I usually do the cooking because Ben is working and I’m home all day, but if he’s around, he will always help get meals ready. When he notices that I’m getting overwhelmed by the mess in our house, he’ll round up the kids and be the energetic leader we need to get things cleaned up quickly.

It’s just more fun to work at things together.

6) Leave room for different ways of working through and expressing emotions.

This was my biggest lesson this last year. It’s taken me a long time to figure out that some people want to talk about their feelings, and others DO NOT. And that’s okay!I am a verbal processor. Sometimes I don’t even know exactly what I’m feeling until I’ve been able to talk about it. I feel so much better if I can get it all out, have a good cry, and clear my head.

Ben is the opposite. Most of the time, he does not want to talk about his feelings. He needs a chance to think through things before he’s ready to share anything. This is super hard for me, because I’ve always felt like I’m showing love and concern by asking him about how he’s doing. I actually feel cut off from him if he won’t tell me about how he’s feeling.

This last year especially, it became clear that we needed to get better at dealing with this difference in our relationship. Here are a few tips we figured out:

  • Be honest. It is helpful for me when I ask Ben something and he says, “I will answer that question, but I don’t feel like talking about it right now.” I can’t read his mind, so I appreciate when he communicates clearly with me.
  • Don’t take it personally. I’ve had to work hard at understanding that Ben is just different from me. He’s not trying to shut me out, he just needs time to be quiet with his feelings, as much as I need to talk mine out!!
  • Be brief. Sometimes I’ve felt so worried about Ben, I’ve really wanted to know if he’s okay, and how I can pray for him. But I also want to respect his need for space. A compromise that’s helped is asking him to give me one sentence summing up how he’s doing, and then dropping the subject. It helps him to know we won’t dig into his feelings, but he can still honour my need to know where he’s at.
  • Find other ways to show support. During rough times for Ben, I want him to feel like I care, but if I can’t show that by listening and talking through emotions, I try to look for other things he appreciates. I turn the lights on outside if he’s getting home after dark, just to make our home look more welcoming. I make sure his comfy sweat pants are clean and in the drawer so he can find them easily. I keep the container of homemade granola filled and ready for his favourite snack. Basically, I do anything I can think of to care for his physical needs, because I can’t do much to help with his mental or emotional needs.

These things have helped a lot, and I always appreciate when Ben talks about issues even when he doesn’t feel like it, because he’s also making an effort to adapt to my way of dealing with things.

That’s what I’ve learned after 19 years! A lot of this is wisdom we’ve learned from other couples we know, or from good books we’ve read, so I’m very thankful for the positive influences we’ve had throughout our marriage.

I’m also just really thankful for how fun it is to be married to Ben! We’ve had good, good years together. There have been some hard things to work through, like my health issues, miscarriages, infertility, and some tough transitions throughout the years. But when I look back, I’m really thankful for everything we’ve gone through together, and for all the lessons learned. We have a beautiful life together!

Why Ben and I Are Like Levitating Unicorns

It was our anniversary this last weekend. Seventeen years, and we don’t feel that old, but here it is.

The kids were at Ben’s parents’ for a sleepover, and we had the most relaxing time, eating out, going to the park, and talking about anything and everything, which happened to include me asking Ben for anniversary blog post ideas. It’s tradition, and I’ve done all kinds of things in the past, like anniversary ABCs, five things you might not know about us, 13 things I love about Ben, etc. I was feeling a bit dry for ideas this year, though. I thought it might be fun to interview Ben, but he thought that was too last minute and too much pressure, so I made him promise to do it for next year.:)

For this year, he thought I should write about personalities and marriage, and why our personality combination has been compared to”levitating unicorns”. He was referring to this blog post I sent him awhile back about why our Myers Briggs personality types work so well together:

For every Myers Briggs personality, there’s a counterpart that makes an almost perfect fit. The key is in the functions. Relationships struggle if people don’t have similar functions, or dominate functions that guide them. ENFP and INFJ being both highly intuitive people would struggle with someone who is more dominated by sensing. These two thrive on metaphors, abstractions, and the creative — trying to get them to be normal and grounded is like trying to make a levitating unicorn made of rainbows do your taxes.

I loved this article, because it described our relationship very well, but I’m also interested in the idea that everyone has someone who fits them just right, whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship. At our house, Anika and I are finding it fascinating to look up different personality types to find out what type is their best fit – everybody has their own levitating unicorn!;) It’s possible to be friends with all kinds of personality types, but there’s one, sometimes two types that fit just right.

I’ve discovered a friend who has the same personality type as Ben, and it has been one of my greatest delights to get to know her – it’s as effortless as it is to spend time with Ben. To make it even more interesting, her husband has the same personality as me, so as couples, we’re just the opposite, and it’s been very interesting to understand our spouses better as we talk about things from a slightly different viewpoint.

But my favourite unicorn of all will always be Ben.:) Here’s a bit of what the article had to say about why Ben and I fit well together:

Both the INFJ and ENFP will feel instant attraction to each other. They both have pieces the other one desires. The INFJ wants to be understood and needs help coming out of their shell because they are the most rare personality making them feel constantly like their ideas and feelings don’t fit in with the rest of the way the group feels. The INFJ also struggles with being quiet because their dominate function is introverted intuition — their first objective is to take information introspectively. Until this hits their emotional center and their can translate the information out-loud empathetically, they tend to keep information to themselves. ENFP are primarily information gatherers, but through extroverted intuition. To the INFJ, the ENFP talks in the way the INFJ is taking in information. This is all very pleasing and creates an ESP effect.

The ENFP on the other hand feels a strong Fi-Si loop that they can stuck in. The ENFP is the champion and is wanting constantly to involve people, spread ideas, and get things in motion. But there’s this other more introspective side they have that they don’t always know how to convey, if they should convey it. The INFJ in being more introspective knows how to help the ENFP with their emotional growth. The INFJ knows how to encourage them and let them know it’s okay to have dark thoughts, to be a little serious, to have the crazy kind of depth. Both are obsessed with people and gathering information about people because their in the NF temperament.

One article described the attraction between our types as “a moth to a flame”. When I shared this with Ben, he immediately said, “You were the moth, and I was the flame. There was no way you could resist me.” But since my personality type is very rare, I’m pretty sure it was the other way around – he couldn’t believe he’d finally found an INFJ, even though he had no idea what that meant at the time – our inner unicorns could just sense each other.;)

source

This does not mean our marriage is always perfect, though. When people say “Opposites attract”, this is true, to a point. It is also true that opposites can be annoying or frustrating sometimes. The same goes for the expression, “Variety is the spice of life.” Having no spice is boring, too much spice is gross or fiery, but just the right amount of spice is fantastic.

Ben is the perfect amount of spice for me, but that means there are ways in which he challenges me, and our differences provide opportunities to learn how to communicate better, and how to appreciate and take advantage of the other’s different strengths.

Ben is great at coming up with wild and crazy ideas, so he’s always helping me look outside the box, and see things from a different perspective. I’m the one who likes to think forever about all the details, so I can help him improve his big ideas, and ask questions that help him figure out how to make his big ideas work in real life.

He is more focused on connecting people and helping everyone have a good time, while I am more task-oriented, and focused on getting things done. Sometimes this leads to very different expectations and frustrations if we don’t communicate properly. I remember the first day after we got back from our honeymoon – Ben wanted a slow, relaxing morning, as if we were still on vacation, and I wanted to get up early and go shopping for a kitchen table, and get our little apartment in order. I’m sure the issue had come up before when we were dating, but it was our first married life example of how differently we approached things that needed to get done.

I am much more relaxed and less stressed than I was when we first got married, and Ben has learned to close cupboard doors and push in his chair at the table.;) Lots of give and take, and real life stuff happening in between our levitating unicorn moments.

So to sum it all up, I love Ben like crazy, and thoroughly enjoy him as much as when we first got married – actually, I think I enjoy him even more. We’ve been able to work through some of the bumps and challenges in our differences, and I’m so thankful for our relationship. He really is the most wonderful person to be married to – my beloved spicy unicorn!

Curious what personality type you are, and who is your perfect match? You can go to 16 Personalities, take the test, and then google your type + “best matches”. And don’t feel discouraged if you aren’t surrounded by people who are your “perfect” fit – like I wrote, we all need some variety! There are ways for all personality types to connect and find some common ground, and I’m finding Myers Briggs to be such a helpful tool for doing this!

 

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Ben Stories

Everyone in the room roared with laughter, and all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as possible, but I couldn’t move.

I was on summer staff Red Rock Bible Camp, and one of the staff members was showing off his ability to perfectly imitate anyone’s way of walking – he had just imitated mine with uncomfortable accuracy, and there was something disturbing about seeing a bearded, six foot guy swinging his arms and moving his hips in a way I recognized immediately, even though I’d never consciously paid attention to the details of how I moved.

The rest of the summer staff in the lounge thought it was hilarious, but I sank into my chair, trying not to cry. I hated to be embarrassed and have attention drawn to me in a roomful of people. But if I got up to leave the room, I’d have to walk, and they’d all be watching me to see if he had gotten it right. I remember feeling trapped and panicky, trying to think of how to get out of there before I burst into tears.

Ben was also on staff that summer, and although we had become friends right away, he didn’t know me very well at that point yet, but somehow, he noticed how uncomfortable I was, and knew exactly how to help me. He quickly elbowed the guy beside him, they jumped up, grabbed my chair, and carried me out of the room.

They put me and my chair down right outside the doors to the lounge and ran back in, leaving me alone to flee to the safety of my cabin with no one watching.

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A little girl living at Red Rock Bible Camp was lost, and no one had seen her for hours. She had followed her little brother into the bush, and taken a wrong turn. It was during Staff Camp a few days after I first met Ben, and the staff spent one terrible afternoon searching for her, walking through miles of bush and calling her name, until she was finally found later that evening.

The full time staff were all so busy dealing with the crisis, no one had time to serve dessert when we took a break for supper. The dessert cart was put out, and it was announced that we should all help ourselves while those in leadership left for an emergency meeting. It was a quiet meal as everyone forced down some food before heading back out to search. I remember looking up just in time to see Ben jump out of his seat, head for the dessert cart, and start serving all the other staff members. Nobody needed to do it – we could all just have gotten up and served ourselves, but as I watched him, I was thinking it was a really kind and thoughtful thing to do, caring for a group of people feeling tired and stressed.

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It was my twentieth birthday, and my camp mailbox was filled with little notes and cards from my friends. There was a note from my new friend Ben – “If you ever need to talk, come find me, and whatever I’m doing, I’ll stop to buy you a chocolate bar and hang out for a little while.” A few days later, I went to find him to take him up on his offer. I remember finding him with the weed whipper, wearing safety googles and ear phones. He stopped what he was doing as soon as he saw me, and I said, “I think today would be a good day for that chocolate bar, whenever you have time.”

He said, “I have time right now.”

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This weekend, it’s 16 years since we got married.

Ben and KendraFor some reason, I keep thinking back to that first summer I met Ben, and all the little snippets of memories I filed away in my mind as I got to know him. He was dating somebody else, and I liked a different boy at camp, which changed how we became friends. He didn’t flirt with me and do things for me just because he was trying to start anything – he was always just his kind, thoughtful self, and even though he hadn’t known me very long, he somehow seemed to sense exactly what I needed. He would drop whatever he was doing to care for a friend.

I kept thinking of him as a very nice friend for many months, until one day, it finally dawned on me that someone as amazing as Ben was exactly who I’d been trying to find. He wasn’t dating anyone anymore, I had finally seen the light, and suddenly his friendship was far more important to me than I’d realized.

I went straight to my dorm room and called him at his dorm room 20 minutes away, trying to sound terribly casual, mentioning I’d be in town later that week, and we should go for coffee. He sounded enthusiastic when he agreed, but I felt very awkward, because everything had just changed for me. I tried to act the same as I always had, but when he asked me why I was in town, and the truth came out that I needed a new battery for the answering machine in my phone, I think he started to get suspicious. He asked, “Couldn’t you have gone somewhere closer for that?!”

But I don’t remember what I said. I just remember him pouring milk all over his brownie, drowning it into a soggy mess, and eating it with as much satisfaction on his face as he still gets today.

We hung out “as friends” a few more times, and then it was his turn to awkwardly call, asking me out on an official date. It’s so funny to think back to those early memories, because in some ways, he really hasn’t changed. He is still always looking out for me, somehow knowing what I need, dropping everything he’s doing to help me out, ready to listen, wanting to make me feel better. If I could still eat chocolate, I’m sure he would bring me some all the time.

Thank goodness God finally opened my eyes all those years ago. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for anything.

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Anniversary ABCs

Today is our 15th anniversary. As I was thinking about this week, the two big things on my mind were our anniversary and school starting, which resulted in my idea to write some anniversary ABCs for my dear Ben, which I’m sure he’ll find really cheesy, but we’ll go with it.;)

usAlways able to make me laugh in any situation.

Brilliant at making gravy, pancakes, or stir-fry. (Not at the same time!)

Calm and caring.

Doesn’t say unkind things about people.

Eats anything, willing to try everything, and is not picky about what I cook.

Fun-loving and playful.

Generous and gentle.

Helpful and willing to do whatever he can around the house.

Imaginative.

Joyful.

Keeps getting more handsome with each year.:)

Listens amazingly well and never interrupts.

Massages like a professional.

Never loses his temper.

Outgoing and friendly.

Patient.

Quick to apologize and forgive.

Respectful of other people.

Speaks logic and insight into my stressful situations.

Turns on music to make the work more fun.:)

Unselfish.

Valuable opinions about getting along with people and understanding what makes them tick.

Wise.

eXcellent at bringing fun into any situation.

Young at heart.

Zany sense of humour.

Being married to Ben is the best thing ever! I’m sure we’ll do something terribly romantic to celebrate tonight, like…take Anika to Junior Youth for the first time, give Kaylia a bath, clean up the kitchen, and watch our latest favorite show after making kale chips! Or something like that. Hopefully we can get away for something a little more out of the ordinary sometime soon!

14 Years With Ben

Yesterday marked 14 years since Ben and I got married.

He said, “Fourteen years of love!” I must have given him a funny look, because he quickly added, “Maybe a bit longer!” So then we figured out that it’s about 15 years since he told me he loved me for the first time.:) He did start loving me a little while before we actually got married!;)

Our anniversary was pretty romantic – Ben had a board meeting at church all evening, so I spent the evening on the couch with Pinterest and a bowl of berries and coconut cream.

We’re going on a date tonight, instead.:)

I was trying to think of what kind of post to write for our anniversary – other years I’ve gotten all creative, and written things like 13 Things I Love About Ben, or 5 Things You May Not Know About Ben and Kendra.

So this year, I was trying to think up something creative for an anniversary post, and I thought, “I know! I’ll post a picture of us from each year we’ve been married!”

Only…I could hardly find any pictures. We’ve been married so long, we don’t have any digital photos of the first few years we were married, so I can’t share any of those.

And then we had kids, and we have a ton of pictures of our family, but we never took any of just the two of us! So sad!

In 2011, I decided to make sure that whenever we took family pictures, we’d also get a photo of just the two of us. So we have three photos from the last three years, and on Saturday, we’ll add a fourth…

Ben and Kendra

Ben and Kendra

Ben and Kendra My word of advice? If you’re newly married, keep taking pictures of the two of you, even once you have kids!! So glad we’ve started doing this.

Have a great Wednesday! I’m fairly confident that my day will be great, because I always love a date with Ben!:)

photo credits: Morgan Braun

13 Things I Love About Ben

We got our anniversary date in last night, and enjoyed a delicious meal at Mongo’s. Oh, I love that place.

Mongo'sSince I never wrote anything special for Ben on our anniversary, I decided to make a list – 13 things I love about Ben, for the 13 years we’ve been married. Obviously, I love more than 13 things, but here’s what I came up with, while I was sitting in my vehicle at Great Canadian Oil Change yesterday:

1) Ben is a fantastic listener.

That whole thing about women talking thousands and thousands of words more than men is completely true at our house, but he has always been patient and awesome about listening to me. Even when I wake up the next morning with a completely different perspective, Ben will re-listen to everything, and never make me feel as though I have useless things to say!

2) He is the wisest person I know.

I love getting his opinion and advice on basically everything. He has a completely different perspective than I do, and thinks things through very logically. He is godly, knowledgeable, intelligent, and understands people very well. I love hearing what he has to say, even when it makes me feel uncomfortable, because I know deep down that he’s right, but I wish he wasn’t…

3) Ben is slow to speak.

Proverbs says a fool has lots to say, but the wise man stays quiet, and I think of Ben. In a group of people, he will quietly listen to what everyone else is saying, but never let his silence fool you! And because he stays quiet much of them time, when he finally does speak up, everyone listens, and what he has to say is always worth hearing.

4) He helps around the house!

Because I’ve had tendonitis since we first got married, Ben has always been amazing about helping around the house. I haven’t cleaned a bathtub in years, and he’s started washing the floor for me, too. He’s an awesome cook, and always makes better stir-fry and pancakes than I do. (Stir-fry, because he just knows what seasonings to add, and pancakes, because he’s patient, whereas I try to multitask, and burn everything!)

5) He can always make me laugh.

He always has, and I’m fairly positive he always will….

6) Ben is great with kids.

He is always the dad who plays with all the children at the playground, while all the other parents sit around, watching. This continues to happen everywhere we go. He’s great with any age – babies always love him, but he’s awesome with teenagers, as well. I think he’s tired of me joking about him becoming a children’s entertainer if his current job doesn’t work out!

7) He loves our girls, very, very much.

I think both of us kind of wish we could have had a boy yet, too, but Ben is a dad like my dad was – I never felt he was disappointed with only daughters, and he has loved his girls and all that comes with us. Ben is the same way. He plays dolls and princesses, and never shows any regret over the fact that we’ve got a home full of females. I think he’s slightly unsure about the teenage years, but I’m sure he’ll come through just fine!

8) He helps me see the big picture.

I am the kind of person who gets stuck in the here and now. If I’m in pain, for example, then in my mind, I have always been in pain, and will always be in pain. Very depressing. Ben is able to take a step back, and see things with a better perspective than me.

9) Ben has always encouraged me to challenge myself.

If there’s something difficult or new I wish I could do, he is my biggest cheerleader. He will never hold me back from what I dream of doing.

10) Ben loves to research!

It is very important for him to take in lots of information, and make decisions slowly. Sometimes this drives me a little nuts, but for the most part, I think our life together has been much better for it. I tend to make decisions too quickly, and I appreciate Ben being slow, deliberate, and careful.

11) He makes everything more fun.

When the girls are grumpy, my strategy would naturally be to discipline them into choosing a better attitude! Ben just makes them laugh. He draws people together, and helps everyone have a good time, no matter what needs to be done.

12)  Ben is the best grocery shopper ever!

Again, this started because of my tendonitis, but it turned out to be a very good thing. He can remember all the prices, and does math in his head about 100 times better than me. I am also allergic to Superstore – my nose and eyes get wet and runny, and my head gets very stuffy, so I start making very bad purchasing decisions and can’t think straight at all. It’s better for everyone to have Ben do all the grocery shopping.

13) He is very humble, and will probably think this whole post is unnecessary. But it’s my blog, so I get to write what I want!:)

I love him so much, and feel incredibly blessed to be married to him!