I feel compelled to write this article following the last one, and wanted to be completely real with you. Since we’ve been re-doing the floors in our house we also decided to paint the rooms that we didn’t get around to completing before we brought home our daughter. As I was painting the hallway the mint green color that the entry way was painted years before, I had this deja-vu moment. A moment where I was feeling thankful, lucky, and happy.
A fresh coat of paint will do that to me I guess, and I ran away with that in my last article titled, “From Infertility to Foster Care, Why this Mama Painted Her World Green.” While painting my house did help me gain some positivity back at the time, it is not the only thing that helped.
BUT that was only one very small part in what helped me gain my positive perspective back. The biggest and most important part was the support from my family and the re-strengthening of our marriage.
More than anything, we knew if we wanted to bring a child into this house we had to be happy first. A baby couldn’t strengthen the marriage or pull me out of my depression, we had to do that as a couple first. We knew any baby or child entering our home deserved to feel warmth already there, and in turn add to it.
There were two key elements that helped us strengthen our marriage.
1) 15 minute conversations:
The best advice we were given during this time came from a marriage counseling session. We only attended one, and honestly that is all we needed once she gave us this gem of advice.
The therapist saw us separately and then together. At the end of the session she told us that we followed the pattern that most couples do. The woman over obsesses and the man wants to solve the problems and move on. This in turn creates a problem because the woman thinks the man doesn’t care (when he really does) and the man gets annoyed because he’s trying to help and it’s just not working, and can we move on already?
Yup! This sounded just like us. I wanted to talk about babies and the infertility treatments all of the time, and he wanted to help in any way he could by finding distractions for me. In turn I thought he didn’t care.
She explained that we needed something called 15-minute appointments. 15-minute appointments are scheduled time with your spouse to discuss the issues with whatever you are struggling with. For us that was infertility. And there were rules we had to follow.
The first rule: Schedule the appointment into our calendars. We could not cancel them because we were too busy. It was an appointment, and an important one at that. The rule was to drop everything and attend.
The second rule: We had to listen to each other. We couldn’t bicker and argue, we had to take turns. He would talk first and I would listen. We could not get defensive. This was challenging. Sometimes we said things to each other that were hurtful, but honest. Because we were calm and not speaking to each other out of anger the words weren’t mean spirited or spiteful. But they were an honest perception of the other person. Next I would talk and he had to listen. His job was not to solve my problem. This was remarkably effective for us. We both were finally listening to each other. We were hearing each other’s fears and worries; we began empathizing with the other, and really understanding each other.
The third rule: We could not keep discussing it after the appointment was over. If we needed the appointment to run a little longer or shorter we could, but once the appointment was over we had to move on.
2) Finding something to do besides talking about babies….
Because the discussion had to change we had to find something to do with our time. This was challenging. We both adore each other and had common interests, but as for hobbies to do together. This was a little harder. See, he likes things like computer games, sci-fi, learning to play the guitar, while I like reading and crafting. While we like each other presence, and would often do our hobbies in the same room together, we weren’t necessarily completing something together.
We didn’t actually have a discussion about how to strengthen our marriage and what interests we would partake in, it just naturally started to happen. We started to take an interest in each other’s hobbies and started doing projects together. At the time I was into making coasters and he started helping me, we found a book we both took interest in to read together. I also started taking an interest in the puzzle games he liked to play on the computer. We would sit there together and try to solve the puzzles and it was really fun.
These activities pulled us back together. They gave us something else to focus on, and that was the second most valuable thing our marriage needed. Doing these activities together, I saw a side in him that I hadn’t before, and I fell even more in love with him. Not only had we strengthened our marriage, but I loved him more than the day I married him. And that’s a good feeling; to know that the marriage we have is one that we felt comfortable bringing a baby into.
The beauty about the 15-minute appointments and finding activities to do together is that it required us to do something together, not separate. They are also key elements in surviving the foster care system together.
If you want updates on this blog or are interested in the foster parent resources like the foster parent planner, the foster child binder, or the foster parent binder I have available please follow this link to register and gain access to the resource library.
More recently, I published a post on recommended foster parenting reads, and thought it’d be really cool to start up a closed Facebook group where we would read a common book and share ideas and strategies that enlightened us. Please reach out to let me know if you’d be interested by commenting on the post or shooting me an e-mail. If I can get enough interest I would love to organize something like this.