• Jennifer Hastings

Improve Your Marriage One Conversation at a Time

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Marriage Challenge Number One: Listen to your spouse!!!

The very best thing we can do for our marriage is work on our listening skills! I challenge you to take the time this week to stop and listen with undivided attention to your spouse...even if all they want to talk about is college football.

It can be challenging to be a good listener in the midst of the never ending to do list working mothers encounter. Many of our conversations can become a barge of questions with simple yes and no answers...Did you remember to pay Kate for feeding Dottie while we were out of town? What about giving Claire five dollars for her field trip this Friday? Can you take the kids to their dentist appointment?

A relationship with your spouse is special for so many reasons, but I think one of coolest parts parts of the husband/wife dynamic is at least one person in this world actually listens to us, I mean really listens. I mean that lean forward, direct eye contact kind of listening, where you feel like what you are saying is the most important thing in the world. The kind of listening that makes you feel heard. The kind of listening that makes you feel at least one person on this Earth actually cares about my stupid crazy idiosyncrasies that make up who I am as a person.

Now, don't get me wrong, this kind of listening DOES NOT happen at my house all the time, but when it does happen, I can ride off of it for months! Which has led me to believe, if I am more intentional about creating a time and space for real conversation, maybe it can happen more!

If you haven't been giving your spouse this kind of listening ear... try it out! Practice listening to your significant other! Take note of what begins to happen in your relationship. Be intentional and make time to really talk with each other. It can be your own social science experiment.

Blueberries and Elvis TV Trays

It was one of those perfect May days, where the weather is just right for eating outside. Our family sat around the table enjoying each other’s company. The conversation began taking twist and turns that only young children can seem to maneuver, without getting teased about the randomness of their thoughts.

“What all do birds eat?” Caroline asks.

Everyone contributes an answer to Caroline’s question. Claire answers, ”Sometimes they eat blueberries.”

I proceed to add, “Oh, I’ve always wanted a blueberry bush.” I suppose I say this from time to time because unbeknownst to me… Stewart took the girls earlier to buy me blueberry bushes for Mother’s Day.

Caroline’s face comes alive and she screams, “Oh, the front porch, we have you two blueberry bushes on the front porch right now, we got them for you for Mother’s Day!!!” She is bouncing in her seat with excitement.

This moment is seared in my memory. It somehow captures the sweetness and innocence of a child, when the secret erupts from her mouth. At the same time, it captures the love of a husband, his slow smile spreading across his face because he knew the scene unfolded better than he had anticipated.

Stewart's blueberry gift, blew me right out of the water! He was listening! Really listening to me, I didn't even realize that my desire for a blueberry bush had been voiced out loud before. And apparently, I've said it more than once.

I love how thoughtful Stewart is with his gift giving. His gifts always make me feel like he is paying attention to me.

After this Mother's Day, I knew I needed to come through with a sentimental, I listen to you, really listen to you kind of gift. Not that gift giving, is a competition, but if it were a competition...I’m losing so bad, it might be time to enforce the mercy rule. I mean, I need a hit in the worst way.

I tell myself, I will have the perfect Father's Day gift...wrong! I strike out!

So, I made it my mission, I was determined to knock a thoughtful gift out the park for Christmas. I would listen to him to see if he would drop a hit of a wish. I made list of possible gift ideas, but still… not one good idea! I wanted to make him feel just as special as he had me feel.

I'm a firm believer, sometimes you just have to wait. You wait in lines, you wait your turn, you wait for a prayer to be answered, and sometimes you wait for the perfect gift idea.

A few months later, the idea came to me in a song. We were cooking and listening to music, when Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous comes on. Something clicked for me and I knew what Stewart was going to say before he said it, wait for it, wait for it… Will he say what I think he is about to say?

Yes!!! He points to the radio and proceeds to make the familiar announcement. “Man, this is the lifestyle I always wanted, when I was a kid. He sings the line, "If the kids look dirty, that will be just fine. This was my dream for my family when I was kid...they want to see us go hog wild over beans and barbecue..." he sings loud with such conviction, I can't help but to laugh out loud.

My Gift!!! I know this song holds the secret to my present. It reminded me of the blueberry moment, I knew what he was going to say before he said it, just like he knew I would mention my desire for a blueberry bush.

"Lifestyles Of The Not So Rich And Famous"

Honey they're bringin' out a TV crew

They wanna do a story 'bout me and you

They'll be stringin' up bright lights in the backyard

There'll be cameras on their shoulders

We'll be readin' cue cards

Leave them long johns on the line

If the kids look dirty, that'll be just fine

They're gonna put us on

Lifestyles of the not so rich and famous

They wanna see us go hog wild

Over beans and barbecue

They wanna see my Fairlane up on blocks

The holes in all our socks

Talkin' 'bout lifestyles of the not so rich and famous

Tell 'em bout your mama and the bowling league

Tell 'em bout junior and his baseball team

I'll show 'em my nine point buck on the wall

I'll blow a few times on my new duck call

Let 'em see ol' blue how he sleeps all day

We'll bring out the Elvis TV trays

They're gonna put us on

Lifestyles of the not so rich and famous

They wanna see us go hog wild

Over beans and barbecue

They wanna see my Fairlane up on blocks

The holes in all our socks

Talkin' 'bout lifestyles of the not so rich and famous

Yeah our idea of high class livin'

Is sittin' on the porch on a cool night

Our Champagne and Caviar

Is an RC cola and a moon pie

I'm talkin' 'bout lifestyles of the not so rich and famous

Lifestyles of the not so rich and famous

I pull up the lyrics and see if my gift idea lives in this song. I know I’m not and never will have a nine point buck on my wall or a car on blocks in my yard, but Elvis TV trays, that I could do! I could make one tiny part of his dream come true.

I began hunting for pictures of Elvis and organizing them. Here is how the Elvis TV trays turned out.

Stewart’s Tray: Pictures of Elvis as the “KING”.

My Tray: All wedding and couple poses of Elvis and Pricilla.

Claire’s Tray: Classic black and white model poses. She is the serious kid.

Caroline’s Tray: A few impersonator’s and his crazy showboat style with the all the suits.

Carter’s Tray: Well, he wasn’t born, and I'm really busy...don't judge me, but his is in the garage, not decorated.

We pulled out the trays not too long ago for family movie night. It was the

first time we had used them since Carter was old enough to actually eat on one. I felt a little guilty his tray was not finished, but decided to let that go...at least I'm planning a family movie night! Cut me some slack! So, I let him use my wedding one. I know, poor thing, there are some serious disadvantages of being the third child!

The funny thing about the whole TV tray thing is whenever Caroline sees a picture of Elvis, she screams, "Look Daddy, it's Elvis!" She thinks Stewart is obsessed with Elvis.

I’m not sure if these trays make Stewart feel like he is living his beloved song of long ago or if the gift meant as much to him as my blueberry bushes meant to me, but I hope it made him feel heard. I hope he recognized that I listen to him! It brings me joy to see how our dreams meet reality and maybe, just maybe our realities are more than we could have dreamed of, at least that’s the way I see it. Take the time to listen to each other's dreams and when possible, try and make them come true.

(Latest movie night was Hoosiers... kids loved it!)

James 1:19-20

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Marriage Challenge #2 (Treat Your Husband Like Your Best Girlfriend)

Date Night is a Must

#marriage #marriagechallenge #listeningtoyourspouse #learningtolisten #improvingyourmarriage

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