7. Make new traditions. Make changes.
After my complete confession nearly 22 months ago, the one thing I knew I needed to do for sure was make things feel different. Things that felt the same are things that brought on triggers for both of us. We knew that if we were going to survive this trial that we needed to start looking at life a little differently. We were now in the second part of our marriage. A new marriage really. With my re-baptism and my desire to stay clean, we decided to simply call this part of life, ‘Life 2.0’.
There were several things that needed to change of course, but there were also some traditions and holidays that needed to be altered, at least initially.
For instance, in my case, my deepest betrayal took place during the holiday season. As can be expected, that time of year is filled with hurt and sorrow for both the betrayal that took place and for the guilt and shame that is brought to mind.
So we went about replacing bad memories with new ones. For instance, this past Christmas, we took the whole family out of town and went on a cruise. We left the location of the heaviest pain behind and created some new memories with our entire family. It was wonderfully healing and fun.
I’m not suggesting that going on a cruise is the right thing for you. I am simply saying, sometimes we need to change the feeling and atmosphere just enough to eliminate the reminders.
In addition to changing events, there are also several little things we can do to simply make things feel different and to help our wives feel safe and special. The following are a few things we have done over the last year in an effort to draw more attention to her and to make some new traditions in and around our life.
- Daily scheduled texts messages. With the alarm function on my phone, I simply set 2 alarms each day. One for 11:45 and one for 2:45. everyday at those exact times my alarm goes off reminding me to text my wife that I love her. You might say, ‘If it is scheduled then it isn't really spontaneous. Its not really out of heartfelt love”. Well I say Hog Wash. Sure it is. I love my wife. But I am busy. I get caught up in work, or email, phone calls and I forget to do those little things that make the most difference to her. So I Schedule it. And she LOVES it. She knows that every day, at least twice a day she is going to get a text or call or email from me expressing my love to her. Its fun to make them unique as well. I will sometimes send a goofy picture of me with the text. at times I have written a short poem or I have gone out of my way to make it funny and memorable. Your wife, more than anything, needs to be reminded you love her. You can tell her 50 times a day and it won't be enough. This is a new thing for us, so it is a welcome change and has strengthened our bond through a simple text. What's more, she has come to look forward to those scheduled texts so much, that if I miss one, I will get one from her telling me that she loves me. It has become an important part of our relationship in Life 2.0.
- Tulip Tuesday. Last summer I discovered a Farmers market a couple miles from my office that had a couple of fresh flower booths. The Farmers market was only open on Tuesdays. I decided that as part of our new life together that she should have flowers every Tuesday (I also discovered that they give you a punch card and you get free flowers after buying 10 bouquets. Total Bonus). The flowers were fairly inexpensive at $5 to $15 per bouquet. I felt that for the sake of our marriage we could afford $40 to $50 per month in weekly flowers.
So Tuesday became ‘Tulip Tuesday’. Again I put this on my calendar as a reminder that every Tuesday I need to pick up flowers. My Wife loves this for 2 reasons. 1. She loves getting fresh flowers. and 2. I never did this before. Sure I had purchased flowers on occasion but maybe only once a year. She has reminded me several times that I never even brought her flowers when she was in the hospital giving birth to our children. So, to her, this feels like a different man. A man who is taking time out of his day to focus solely on her. She feels special and Loved. Such a small investment can go such a long way. I will also tell you that there have been a couple of occasions when I have forgotten. She is not shy to remind me that I missed her flowers that day. It has become a special part of our new life.
- Couple getaway. This is something that has been healing for us. A few times a year, we will simply get a hotel room for a night. It might even be in town. The idea is to get away from the kids and have a special date night for just the 2 of us. I'm not talking about a long week vacation. Just a single night. It starts at about 5 PM. We go to a favorite place for dinner (Not even expensive gourmet food. My wife's favorite place is ‘Chipotle’). Then we will go back to the Hotel, or maybe see a movie. We always return to the hotel room with enough time to enjoy one another's company (Ill let you fill in the blanks there). We cuddle and talk and simply enjoy being alone. Here is the key. She is not allowed to plan any of it. You have to plan it all. You book the room, make dinner plans, organize the baby sitters. Go buy some flowers and candies and maybe even decorate the hotel room before she arrives with romantic or funny stuff. We sometimes like to wake up at the crack of dawn and sneak down to the hot tub and enjoy some super quiet soaking time, where we seem to have some of our best talks. We check out as late as they will let us. My wife has begun to cherish and look forward to these short little getaways. Again… they are new memories being made in our new life.
- Little changes make a big difference. Simply offering to do the dishes, weed the garden, wash the car, change the kids, make the lunches, take the kids to seminary, or anything that is different. Your life before was built on a routine, but it was your selfish routine of addiction. Everything else or at least most everything else became secondary. new habits were formed around what you wanted to do. Often times that meant leaving all the leftover housekeeping and family rearing stuff to her. Offering to do a few of those routine things will go a long way in showing her that you are trying to become a new man focused on helping her heal. Lift her load a little bit each day. The saying “A happy wife is a happy life” is more true than we sometimes want to admit.
- Do Something for her! I have a friend who tells me that he has discovered the secret to a blissful marriage. He says “A wife sometimes just needs some girl time”. To accomplish this, he will schedule simple things for her a couple times a year. Without her knowing, he will call one of her friends and schedule for the 2 of them to go to a spa for a couple hours. His wife is tickled. She gets to spend time with a close friend and be pampered at the same time. Now I know a spa treatment is not in everyone's budget, so here are some other ideas. Plan a movie night with the girls. Invite all of her friends over, get the movie and goodies together, and then take the kids and get out of the house for a few hours. Last year he planned an overnighter at his home, with a few scheduled activities throughout the day. Each of the women received a gift bag filled with inexpensive items. The ladies stayed up well into the night chatting and playing games and having fun. The ladies invited loved it and are always hoping to get invited back the next time. He says, “All I have to do is create an opportunity for them to be girls and I end up looking like husband of the year”.
There are so many things that we can do to make life feel different. It is a struggle to overcome the trials that this addiction brings into our families. Marriage, takes effort even in the best of times. Our addictions and choices from an old life will undoubtedly add a tremendous amount of strain. Anything that feels positive and different than the old routine is good. The goal is to make everything fresh, new, and welcome in life 2.0.