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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.


I promise this will not be embarrassing.

A few years ago, I was browsing one of those shops that seems to specialize in overpriced stationary, cards, envelopes and wrapping paper; but in fact has a wide variety of completely unrelated gift-type items. You know the kind of store I am talking about? Anyway, I was walking through with a friend and found a particularly funny calendar.

I guess you would call it a kind of “skin” calendar — each month populated with a man either sans shirt or in a skin-tight shirt– and the title was something to the effect of What Every New Mother Wants. Not terribly promising or even interesting to my taste, UNTIL my eye caught the dialogue bubble coming out of “January’s” mouth.

January depicted an attractive man (skin-tight white tee) sitting on a bed with his arms resting on a laundry basket. The dialogue bubble read, “Go on out with your friends, I’ve got this laundry covered tonight.” That prompted a smile and hooked me enough to flip the page.

February — again some man, this time flexing his arms and cradling a tiny newborn baby. Dialogue bubble: “Oops! Time for a diaper. Why don’t you snuggle in for a nap while I take care of this?” Quiet giggle from me and a flip to the next page.

March — I don’t recall the picture, but the bubble read: “I love you in oversized sweats and a ponytail. You are so beautiful!” Audible snicker from me prompting shop patrons to look in my direction.

The whole calendar continued on in the same sort of fashion and had my friend and I in stitches for a good long time. I recall tears streaming down my face from the laughing.

I figure what tickled my funny bone most was how incongruous and yet completely accurate the entire thing was. To my experience, those dialogue bubbles are EXACTLY the types of things (new) mothers want to hear their husbands saying. We want support with household tasks, reassurance that it is important to maintain relationships with valued friends, shared responsibility for unsavory child-related moments like diaper changes, encouragement to take care of ourselves with rest, and someone to tell us we are beautiful–not necessarily because of what we look like, but because of who we are.

Hot body or not, shirt or no shirt – that stuff is sexy. Sexy because actions like these have the same effect in marriage that sex does—they unite a couple and bring new life.

Seriously, I believe it unites or builds up the spousal relationship when we put ourselves out there; when we help one another carry the load–be it household chores, encouragement to get out to socialize, or room carved out for each other’s self-care. Whatever form it may take, those kinds of things say “we are in this together.” And that is unitive.

In addition to “being in this together,” I also believe the effort present in these actions is life-giving in the broad sense of the term. They breathe new life into the relationship. They make room for both spouses to continue to grow — in both the giving and the receiving. New life comes from both self-sacrifice and from support that makes room for thriving.

I hadn’t thought of that calendar in a long time. Then last night, after a day of the family working our tails off to clean the house top-to-bottom, Joshua did something I found very attractive. He picked up his socks.

Yep, he has a habit of leaving them on the floor of our room. Something I do not prefer, but about which I don’t make a big deal. Just as we were about to go to the couch to watch a movie, he turned, picked his socks up off the floor and put them away instead of leaving them out.

That is SO attractive to me!

It says, “we are in this together” and “I care about your happiness and thriving.” That is what I call foreplay. Because the way we show interest in and care for each other is not limited to the bedroom or to physical affection.