Monday, January 20, 2014

How Ya' Doin'?

My husband is corny.  He'll admit it to his close friends -- and me -- and our boys.  He is loving, warm, wise ... and sometimes a goofball in the best of ways.  He makes me laugh almost every single night.  Just about every night, I wait.  The boys are in bed, we're out in the living room, and somehow, out of the blue, it comes.  He says something in a way only he can and I have the laugh that makes my day.  Really, not many people can get me laughing like my husband.  And, you know, the best part is, most people don't even know about how funny he really is -- because I married a diamond in the rough and I get to unearth the treasure in him which most people will live their whole lives not knowing.

When we were younger (we were once) and we didn't have children (we didn't once), we were learning this whole "how you do marriage" thing.  And, it didn't come easy.  As a matter of fact, we blew it big.  Our histories were full of brokenness -- the residue of two lives raised in difficult situations with not much to go on as far as what a good marriage looks like.  We had lived lives without Jesus for years, though both of us had come to him outside our family homes at early ages.  We had walked dark roads without God in our lives.  We had left those roads and were seeking Him when we met one another.  So, our early marriage was full of splinters and fragments, not two whole people come together in something holy.  We were figuring this thing out together bit by bit.

In the process of our growing pains, my husband had this idea.  He called it "How Ya' Doin'."  Now, before you go thinking he was raised without a proper education, he doesn't really talk this way -- that's just goofball for "Let's connect in a real way."  What he proposed -- he thought this up -- was that we would sit down every week at least once a week for a "How Ya' Doin'" meeting.  One of us would ask the other one, "How Ya Doin?"  {Yep.}  And then we would sit still and listen while the other person shared how they were doing.  Then, the other person asked {you guessed it} "How Ya' Doin'?" and sat while sharing from the heart went in the other direction.  After that, we took turns with the next question, "How are We doing?"  After we asked that question, we took turns saying how we thought the marriage was doing.  We didn't blame or point fingers, we shared our thoughts and feelings and we took internal notes and made plans together about what would make us better and stronger. 

Now, I am the one in this relationship with a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.  I am the one who has shelves of books I have read, boxes of papers I have written and have paid off a debt for the degree I now possess.  But, he, this wonderfully wise, goofball of a husband, he was the one to put this practice into place in our marriage. 

What happens when two broken, but seeking people sit together regularly and share their hearts?  Well, what happens is that intimacy starts to build.  Communication is strengthened.  We learned that we cared about one another and we cared about having a stronger marriage.  Those days of "How Ya' Doin'?" built a foundation which has been strong.  We have weathered storms and this marriage has not collapsed.  We have had such growing pains and so many hurdles to overcome, but we have lasted the years -- seven dating and 17 married.  Twenty-four years of relationship has stood the test of time and I have to say a good deal of it was due to "How Ya' Doin'?"

And now, now that we have two boys -- one about to enter Kindergarten and one about to enter his teen years -- and we have practice at this whole "how you do marriage" thing,  we still need that time of connection and checking in.  Sometimes, across the kitchen, or quietly at night one of us can just whisper that question: "How Ya' Doin'?" and it means "I love you and I want to know."  It's not as easy to have weekly meetings -- when we do, sometimes it is just to talk about checkbook balances, scheduled plans, the latest struggle one of the boys is facing or something else mundane or mucky.  But, when we do connect about he state of our souls and of our marriage, and we still do, we find the same safety and support that was cultivated all those years ago.

When was the last time you sat with your spouse and asked the simplest of questions, sat back and just listened?  When was the last time you poured out your heart and were heard?  When was the last time the two of you, side-by-side, hand-in-hand assessed your marriage and discussed how you are doing?  I know (oh, I know) how there are seasons where the fires of anger and hurt can burn so strong that these conversations are not possible without a therapist present.  In that case, go get that support.  Please.  But, if you are not in crisis, stop whatever you are doing sometime this week, go to your spouse and ask this question: "How are you doing?" (yeah, I'm not going to make you into a goofball overnight) .... and sit and listen. 

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