Fit as Fiddles, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Fit as Fiddles


July 6, 2010

We both have become acutely aware in the past few years that we do not have the bodies we had when we were first married.

My metabolism is slowing down and we have a lifestyle that goes with having a family—I can’t just up and go out for a kayaking trip or a day-long hike up Mt. Hood.  Additionally we have an office job that includes a lot of sitting.  It has all added up to 20-30 extra pounds.

It is not like we’ve been bumps on a log, though. I play more than an hour of basketball in a regular pickup game at the parish and I box with friends when I can. Stacey jogs regularly and enjoys yoga in addition to basketball.

All in all, though, we’ve just not been losing the weight we know we should.

We’ve been watching The Biggest Loser on TV and so for Christmas, I gave Stacey the Wii fitness game that is based on the show.

I know that in general, it is pretty dangerous territory for a husband to directly or inadvertently refer to anything sounding like a comment about his wife’s weight, but we’ve always been open about what we’re noticing about our bodies.

One of the things I love most about marriage is its physicality. When all is said and done, the marital experience is fundamentally physical. Not just with sex, but also with sleeping and eating habits, sharing bathroom space while I shave and she dries her hair, washing kids before bedtime… Our bodies are essential ways we experience relationship with each other in marriage and family life.

We’ve been at this new fitness kick for about four months now. I’m down 20 lbs and Stacey is losing weight at about the same pace, so that is gratifying. We’re both losing a pound or two a week, which is good.

We’re starting to have fun with our younger bodies. It feels good to fit into clothes with room to spare, and we have more energy. I think I have literally added six inches to my basketball game. Not that I could ever jump, but it has been fun to make it up and down the floor without losing wind and to have an extra spring in my step for rebounds and defense.

The biggest help from the Wii game has been a calorie diary. Once a day, I enter the amount of calories I consumed. I’ve never counted calories before, but it has certainly helped me think twice about what I put in my mouth throughout the day. It has trained me to have good eating habits.

Another help has come in the form of exercise routines that I can do in our living room in the evening. So when Stacey is on campus for a student meeting, and the kids are in bed, I can get a good 30-60 minute workout in before settling in for the night.

We’ve even been able to do those workouts together, which is also fun, at least when we’re not cursing the cyber trainers.

It has been a big help that we are on the same page together—we are both committed to seeing progress towards our goals. When we sketch out our days together, we both figure in when we each will be able to fit in a workout. Sometimes it means just one of us getting kids out the door in the morning, or going through the bath and bedtime routine solo, but this is not a long-term state of affairs.

We’ve been encouraging one another and helping one another make good choices. It is a long haul, but we’re being consistent and it seems to be paying off so far.

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Invalidation or, Guess Who is Less than Perfect?

Invalidation or, Guess Who is Less than Perfect?

Many years ago, Joshua and I were trained by the excellent folks at Northwest Family Services in Portland to offer relationship communication workshops. One of the wonderful bits of information that the workshops offered was called the Four Communication Danger Signs. The four signs of impending communication danger are: escalation, invalidation, negative interpretations, and avoidance/withdrawal.

One of the things we have always appreciated about working with couples is that it provides the opportunity for us to reflect and take a new look at our own relationship. So too with these workshops. As we were learning the material, it was abundantly clear to us which danger signs were particular pitfalls in our own relationship: escalation and avoidance/withdrawal.

Having identified those danger signs all those years ago, we have paid particular attention to them in our communication patterns with one another. We try not to fall victim to them and when we do, we try to name them as soon as possible. The effort to avoid them is so much a part of our marital communication that we have even written about them here more than once. Needless to say we feel aware and cautious of them.

Sadly, just because some of the other signs were not present years ago does not mean that we are immune to them.

Recently, as we prepared to meet with a local couple, I came across the list of the four danger signs again. Truthfully, up until then, I had actually forgotten about the invalidation and negative interpretations dangers. After refreshing my memory with the description of each of them, I quickly realized that while Joshua and I are vigilant about not falling prey to escalation or avoidance/withdrawal, we are actually increasingly bad at invalidation!

Invalidation is when one person subtly or overtly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other. It could include interrupting, eye rolling, sighing, sarcasm, name-calling, insults, and other such interactions.

Now on some level this makes sense. I think it is a simple product of the length, and therefore complexity, of our relationship with one another. Joshua and I do not get so far as using the most overt or extreme examples of invalidation like name-calling or insults. But the other subtle examples creep into our communication more and more.

So while our old tried and true patterns of communication are still present, we have gotten quite excellent at improvising in new and creative ways. When we are not at our best, this “creativity” quickly morphs into laziness. And in our experience, laziness in marital communication can easily lead to stepping all over each other’s human dignity. In the midst of conflict, we have even gone so far as commenting upon how good one of us (Josh) is getting at eye rolling; or how heavily one of us (Stacey) sighs. Interrupting is just a foregone conclusion (and I am the worst at it).

It’s ugly stuff to be sure.

The other night on our way home from our conversation with the local couple, I mentioned this whole realization to Joshua. I told him that while I think we are getting better at escalation and avoidance/withdrawal, I am increasingly aware of how badly we do with invalidation. At which point he paused and then agreed by saying, “Yes, you are very bad at that.”

Which is hysterical and awesome on a couple levels: first, his response is the opposite of invalidating – it is affirming of my position and I love being affirmed, even if it is pointing out my weaknesses. Second, it was a light-hearted way of responding to a pretty heavy realization which indicates that we are in a good place and able to talk about this without too much guilt.

I immediately responded, “I know!” and we shared a laugh and had a very good exchange about our mutual susceptibility to invalidation.

So here we go again with learning new things about ourselves and the nature of our self-emptying, loving commitment. On the one hand, the personal lesson is consistently the same: somehow, I am not perfect. But the multifarious ways in which we fall short of perfection are always new and abundant. As are the opportunities to grow in holiness through our life with one another.


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