Caregivers are always on, and while that’s necessary, it’s also exhausting. And often our marriages suffer. So today I want to offer a solution—we’re going to talk about setting a feeling-based goal for our marriages. Instead of the goals you may have set at the beginning of the year that were easy to track and see success or failure, this one is about changing the mood of your marriage. If I just set the goal of more date nights, there’s a clear pass or fail there. Either I’m successful at going on more dates with Lee or I’m not. But when I focus on an emotion, a feeling, there are 100 ways to be successful at meeting that goal.
In this episode, I’ll share my goal and then we’ll reverse engineer it to see how to make it happen. You’ll be able to apply the same process to your feeling-based goal!
Listen to Self Care and Soul Care for the Caregiver on iTunes or the link at the end of the show notes.
Quick links from the episode:
This is self care and soul care for the caregiver, and I’m your host—Sandra Peoples. To us, self care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. We want to take better care of ourselves so we’re able to care for our loved ones who rely on us.
It’s Valentine’s Day week! It comes at the perfect time of year, doesn’t it? For many of us, it’s the coldest part of winter. When we lived in Pennsylvania and sometimes got lots of snow, we loved it. But by February we were kinda over it. The piles that are cleared from parking spots are black and gross and take forever to melt. We even had one year that the school district didn’t have a full week of classes from January through Easter! There were full snow days, early releases, or delays every week. Cabin fever can set in with all that snow and together time!
And even if it isn’t cold or snowy where you live, February may be the time your New Year’s goals and resolutions really fall apart. We can blame that on the Girl Scout cookies, the cold weather, or even the realization that maybe what you thought you wanted on Jan. 1st isn’t what you want in Feb.
So today I want to talk about a different kind of goal setting. And we’re going to focus it on our marriages. For many of us who are caregivers, we may never be empty nesters. We need to invest in our marriages so they stay strong for the long term. Caregiving is also an emotional and physical investment that can leave our spouses feeling neglected.
For example, my son James is a sensory seeker and loves to touch. We even got a double-wide recliner so he could have room to sit with us as he grows. He doesn’t understand the concept of personal space and will often have his legs draped over mine or lean his head on my husband Lee’s shoulder. Since I’m not much of a toucher, I can hit my limit pretty quickly and not have any affection left for Lee at the end of the day. I’m simply all touched out. Even if you don’t have a sensory seeker who loves touch, you are likely using your body to care for someone else in ways that can wear you down, whether that’s lifting, or bathing, or wiping noses.
The investment in caregiving isn’t just physical. It’s emotional as well. You may use up all your patience for the day on your child and not feel like you have any left for your husband. There’s an invisible workload you carry that includes remembering appointment dates and times, giving medicine doses, or worrying about your son’s social interactions (or lack of social interactions). Caregivers are always on, and while that’s necessary, it’s also exhausting. And often our marriages suffer.
So today I want to offer a solution—we’re going to talk about setting a feeling-based goal for our marriages. Instead of the goals you may have set at the beginning of the year that were easy to track and see success or failure, this one is about changing the mood of your marriage. I’ll share my goal and then we’ll reverse engineer it to see how to make it happen. You’ll be able to apply the same process to your feeling-based goal!
First, think about what feeling you want more of in your marriage. Maybe it’s patience—you want to be more patient with each other. Maybe it’s intimacy. You may feel like you’ve drifted apart and need to get close again. Maybe it’s safety. Something may have happened that has left you feeling vulnerable and unsure in your relationship with each other. If you need help deciding on a feeling, look at the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Do any of those stand out to you? Pick one as a feeling you want to work toward.
When I thought and prayed about what feeling I wanted more of in our marriage, I settled on joy. I want to enjoy Lee and my time with him even more. I want to experience more joy with him than I do anyone else. If you listened to episode 9 last week, you know he’s funny and likes to have fun. But we can sometimes get in a pattern of feeling more like co-workers than a couple in love.
We’ve been married 16 years and have two boys going lots of different directions right now. Plus, we don’t have consistent time away together. One of the challenges we face that I didn’t think of was getting a reliable babysitter. David is 14, so he can stay with James for short periods of time if we’re staying close. But I can’t just call on any 16 or 18-year-old girl to come over and watch James. Especially when David is home. They are all too close in age and it’s awkward. James needs lots of help with personal care, so we either need to be back by the time he needs to get ready for bed or wait to leave until after that entire routine. We live close to my parents and they often help with James, but it’s usually for church-related events and not necessarily fun events because I don’t want to ask them for help too often.
So the goal is more joy. Let’s reverse engineer this goal and figure out how to make it happen.
First, we think about and talk about what brings us more joy. Even this first step can be a little challenging because what brings Lee joy isn’t necessarily what brings me joy. My happiest evenings are spent in comfortable clothes reading a book. Alone. His happiest evenings are going somewhere with people. He especially likes going to movies and community events (like high school football games). If I’m making a list of what makes us both happy, one of the top things is eating out. As we talked about in episode 9, I do the cooking and he does the dishes, so eating out gives us both time off from these tasks. He likes lots and lots of people, but he knows I’m more comfortable with a smaller crowd. So one way to add more joy is to plan a night when we eat out and invite friends!
Then, we create a plan to make it happen. I need to plan a night out with friends. That means deciding who we want to hang out with, finding a night we are free and they are free, getting a babysitter (or my parents) to be with James, and making it happen!
The third step would be repeat as necessary! I can think of other things that would be fun to do together and then make them happen. Maybe it’s a long weekend somewhere. Or lunch while the boys are at school, somewhere new and different. Maybe it’s an afternoon at the beach for all of us. Fun together doesn’t always have to mean fun away from the boys. Maybe I get a board game we would both like or rent a funny movie. Anything that creates the feeling I’m going for.
Maybe the feeling you want is peace. Go through these same steps and decide what would make your marriage and home feel more peaceful. Maybe you want more unity. You may not feel like you’re on the same page when it comes to decisions. How can you create that feeling? And friends, you may need outside help to create the feelings you want. Reach out and connect with a couple at church who can mentor you. Or see a therapist. Remember, we are in this marriage for the long term, and even though we will go through changes, many of us will always be caregivers. It’s worth the time and money it may require now to keep you as healthy and committed to each other as possible in the years to come.
Let’s wrap up by talking about the best part of setting a feeling-based goal. Your acknowledgement of it and your mental work toward it are a huge part of making it successful. If I just set the goal of more date nights, there’s a clear pass or fail there. Either I’m successful at going on more dates with Lee or I’m not. But when I focus on an emotion, a feeling, there are 100 ways to be successful at meeting that goal. Even just thinking about ways to make him laugh each day helps me meet the goal of increasing our joy. That isn’t dependent on a babysitter or extra money in the budget. It doesn’t require a big chunk of time. It just takes noticing and being intentional. Even that can make a huge difference in our marriages.
Are you ready to pray with me? God, thank You for the gift of marriage and specifically for the gift of my spouse. We are partners, friends, and even co-laborers at all You have given us to do. And sometimes we focus so much on what You have given us to do, we forget to just be. This week as we think about a feeling-based goal for our marriages, guide us in that process. Help us see what may be missing, what investment we can make now for our future together. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to produce more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control in our marriages. Give us wisdom on how to focus on those fruit in our marriages. We ask in Jesus’s name, amen.
Thanks for joining me this week as we talked about setting feeling-based goals for our marriages! In our Facebook group that focuses on self-care for the special-needs mom we’re going to share our intentions to increase a specific feeling in our marriages. I’d love for you to join us there! The link is in the shownotes on my website, sandrapeoples.com/thepodcast
Take a minute to subscribe so next week’s episode shows up on Monday morning!