You did what?!

So this post goes first in my soon-to-be-growing public catalogue of marital fails…

And what a way to start!!

Let’s set the scene first… Mid-January, I realise how many mistakes I’ve been making as a husband and start writing this blog as an outlet for processing and as a reminder to keep at the simple things…

After a good few weeks of progress I go away for 10 weeks on business, and do quite well on the whole, good contact, good communication, presents for all… Job done!

What a great guy I am.

Plane home. Great. Feeling pretty awesome about myself.

First day with the family. Pretty good. Presents a success. Oh yeah – got this husband/dad thing nailed…

Day 2. Have a few days off planned, to ‘reconnect with family’, but what do I do? 8am. Start decorating my home office… Wait a minute… What’s was that I hear you screaming?
I’ll repeat myself. Day 2. Started decorating my home office…

Yes, I really did embark on a work-based home project within 36 hours of landing home after 10 days away, during the time that I had booked to ‘reconnect with family’.

And yes, even my boss would be disappointed with my priority choice here.

And yes, I realise how high a percentage of readers are banging their hands against their heads in disbelief…

I thought I was doing so well up until then…

Yes, I know, this is one of those fails Homer Simpson would have been proud of.

Now, I had my reasons, and some really good ones too: I have some meetings in a few days that I needed to sort out the room for… Plus we had sick kids so we couldn’t really do much else out of the house… Also I prefer to get this kind of thing done quicker so it’s not hanging over, and it was a full moon on the second Sunday of the month, which everyone knows is the best time to start decorating… You see, really solid case I have here…

But what I realise now is that it makes a difference what I do first.
That is to say:

I need to make my first thing the first thing!

When I’ve been out of the country for the best part of two weeks, the balance needs to be reset: S. has to be shown that I value her over the work that has occupied my life 100% for the last 10 days.

The best way I can do that is to give her the time of day, to hear from her, to actually ask how her time has been, to let her debrief and unload before I launch into my projects, my stories, my my my…

Whatever I do first is going to be understood as my priority, even if it is not and I have perfectly ‘valid’ reasons!

Now, part of me feels that this particular mistake was a one off with extraneous circumstances, but I’d be foolish not to learn from the principle here, otherwise you’ll likely see me writing another sheepish piece in a few months time!

I will get a second chance at doing a ‘re-entry’ well before long (not that I want to go away again!), but I did well and truly blow this one.

Actually, this principle doesn’t just apply to long trips – what do I do after a day out at work? Straight to phone to pick up more emails? What about straight into my world and my hobbies? Or offloading from my day without sparing a thought for hers?

Reminds me of this:

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

In short. I need to make sure she knows the value she holds in my eyes. I need to show it with my words, my time and my priorities…

And if you screw up? Don’t forget to say sorry. And sorry I am, because it’s me who starts work tomorrow without having been blessed with much-needed quality time with my other half.

But as for the last few days, other than a lesson learned, I leave you with the wise words of our great modern day sage, Homer (Simpson):

Doh!

When you’re tired…

So I’ve had a long few days… Nobody’s fault. But I am tired, and ‘doing good’ can be hard work! Especially trying to be, so and say things that don’t come naturally to you…

I was reading about Myers-Briggs personality type testing yesterday – all about how we have different types and what you should (and shouldn’t) expect from each type in a relationship.

I agreed to a point, my personality type means I am ‘naturally disposed’ to find it harder to express my feelings, I might find it ‘naturally easier’ to hole myself away into my work…

But does that make it excusable?!

I may not get it right all the time, but I want to lay down those ‘natural barriers’ to providing what S. needs – just as much as I’d hope she’d do the same to validate my needs!

Philippians 2 puts it like this:

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4

Which is tough. And tiring.

But worth it.

So, for those fighting against some of their ‘natural urges’ to be the best spouse they can be. Good on you. Keep up the good work. Don’t beat yourself up if you stuff up. Look over my catalogue of errors (sorry, blog) and be encouraged!!

These verses are for you:

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

When is an act of service not an act of service?

Have you ever spent a whole bunch of time doing something that you thought was helping out, and then all you got at the end of it was a bunch of complaints?

I’ve been there – and I’ve been left fuming…

“I did this for you and that for you… I spent X amount of time… I, I, I, I…. Can’t you just acknowledge what I did…”

Now is there something you noticed about my response – I certainly did – the word ‘I’…

I’ve been helping clean up this morning, and like all slightly self-centered human beings, I’ve been thinking all about what a great job, you guessed it, I have been doing.

I’ve been thinking about how many brownie points I’m going to win – the mileage I’m going to get out of it…

So, all of a sudden, the question that started toying around in my mind is – ‘who am I serving here, S, or me?’

And then it dawned on me – it’s not really an act of service – if I’m serving myself!

It’s not really an act of service, if I’m so caught up in what a great job I’m doing bringing her breakfast in bed, and how pleased she’ll be with me – but all the time forgetting that when she actually gets out of bed, she’ll feel obliged to clean up the bombsite I left downstairs in the kitchen!

Is it really an act of service if it creates more work than there was to begin with?

“It’s the thought that counts…” I’ve heard myself say a ton of time, but really – if I’m going to do something, I’ve got to start thinking about who I am serving!

Philippians 2 says:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

True empathy

And I guess now I understand what empathy means – not looking at things my way, but looking at things her way – what will actually bless her? Am I trying to see the things that she sees, or just trying to check a box?

Can I do something that she’ll really appreciate – and would I do it even if she doesn’t notice?

What am I trying to communicate – how great a husband I am? what a wonderful sacrifice I made? Or how much I actually value and love her?

And with that in mind… I better get back to folding clothes.