Yes and No: learning to love in marriage

If you read my last post about Yes and No phases, you can probably guess I’m back in a No phase because I’m writing again! (If not, reading Part 1 will help you understand this post a bit better.)

I want to share with you how this idea of Yes and No phases has increased clear communication within my marriage, and how it relates to showing love to your spouse.

The biggest determining factor for me in figuring out if I am in a Yes or No phase lies simply in listening to the thoughts running through my head. Am I being very negative about myself and feeling like I am failing at life? Probably in a No phase. Am I very positive in my thoughts about myself, and feeling like I am accomplishing all I want and need to? Yes phase.

When those negative thoughts are constantly running through my mind, I need to do those recharging activities on my list and figure out how to be loving to myself again. Being married (or in a relationship) means you have someone who loves you, and they are there for you in the No phases and Yes phases. In Yes phases you don’t need that person as much, and you can give love to them more easily and readily. But in a No phase, you’re gonna need lots of lovin’.

Using the terms “Yes phase”, “No phase”, “recharge” and “drain” has completely changed how my husband and I communicate when we need love the most from each other.

I’m sure by now you can pretty easily figure out when the other person is in a bad mood or not feeling well, but sometimes it helps to be told directly “this is where I am; and this is what I need”.

How this looks for us:

After becoming enthralled with all these new terms, I sat my husband down to discuss these ideas. I wanted to know from him (not just “knowing” by assuming myself) what he needs in order to recharge when he is in a No phase. As is usually the case in marriage, he is the complete opposite of me. While I need to talk and socialize, he needs to be alone, and time for creative thought and expression (he is an artist, after all).

I think I’ve known this in my mind our entire marriage, but these concrete terms have given my heart a way to truly understand him.

I asked him to give me a list of activities (or non-activities) that recharge him in these areas the fastest. It looked something like this:

  • Sitting (or napping) alone, listening to music
  • Eating good food
  • Time with the girls (our daughters)
  • Drawing for fun (not for work projects)
  • Exercising
  • Watching movies that stimulate creative thought.

Having this list (which, I really already had, but not concretely) now gives me a way to help him when he is in a No phase. If he comes home from work and I can tell that he is completely drained from doing his (very extroverted) job, I can say, “Hey, why don’t you go upstairs and rest for a half an hour while I make dinner” or “do you need to grab your sketch pad and draw? Or go color with Nina?”

Sometimes your spouse is exhausted and you can see that but you don’t know how to help (or they don’t know how to help themselves). Having a list like this and staying aware of your partner’s “charged” level can help you know when to give them what they need or push them towards what will recharge them.

Sometimes Life happens 

More often than not, one of you is in a Yes phase, while the other is in a No phase. When that happens, the Yes spouse can give of themselves to help pull the No spouse out of that phase. When both of you are in Yes phases, life’s pretty great! When that happens, though, it’s still good to be aware of your partner’s needs and try to help each other stay in that Yes phase as long as possible.

However, there are times where you find yourselves in a No-No phase (Haha! I sound like my two year old. “No, no Mama!”).

These are the hard parts of marriage. If you look back, you’ll probably be able to find them. Times when you were both unable to show love to one another, where you sat binge watching shows you didn’t really care about or always managed to be in separate rooms, not wanting to be with each other.

It’s not a fun time for anyone. Nobody really wants to stay in a No-No phase, but couples often get stuck there because neither is capable of showing love to the other and both want to be the recipients of love. I believe this is probably the situation most people are in when they search for love outside of their marriage (i.e. hobbies, extra-marital affairs, working overtime).

None of those are places to find love though, and they allow us to step outside of our marriage which is not healthy. (Obviously hobbies and work are okay in healthy amounts, but they are still distractions from those we love.)

When you find yourselves in a No-No phase, there has be a martyr. This makes sense though right? In the Orthodox wedding ceremony, our wedding crowns are literally crowns of martyrdom. We have to be martyrs for one another!

Sometimes you are the martyr, sometimes your spouse is; but somebody HAS to step up. One of you has to say, “I have no energy to give of myself right now, but because I love you I am going to go into the negative in hopes that when you are in the positive you can help me.”

If you’ve ever had a newborn, you’ve done this a lot. Well, and really, with no expectation of getting anything in return, but that kind of love is exactly what is needed in a No-No phase. In a healthy relationship, that is what will happen. One of you will give of yourself with no expectations and your spouse will show love in return by helping you out of your No phase.

Using their Love Language

A No-No phase is the hardest (and the least love-filled) of the phases. Being so deep in a pit of negativity requires the strongest love ropes to pull you out (I know, cheesy simile, but stick with me).

If you have read the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I’m going to use some of his terminology now (I highly recommend the book if you haven’t read it).

Gary basically breaks down the ways people give and receive love into 5 categories:

  • Gifts
  • Physical Touch
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service

I had read the book and knew the terms before discovering Yes and No phases, but never really understood how to use the categories….UNTIL NOW!

Using both of my husband and I’s lists of “recharging activities” we finally figured out what love languages we each use! And as you probably guessed, none of them are the same! We literally speak different languages.

Ha. Marriage is hard, you guys.

What it looks like for us

I give and receive love via Quality Time (talking deeply, being with my daughters and husband) and Acts of Service (cleaning the house, baking and cooking for others).

This means, if my husband is going to be the martyr in our No-No phase, he has to sit and listen to me talk (which drains him, poor introvert that he is), or he can clean up the kitchen for me, or make dinner one night. Or even just take the girls for a walk so I can be alone and take a shower or sleep. (two2andunder)

When I see him doing these things (which are the last thing he wants to do when he is drained), it is then my turn to say, “Thank you so much for helping me recharge! What is going to help you recharge the fastest? Do you need to go take a nap?”

Every scenario is different and usually requires different (or multiple!) ways of speaking your spouses’ language. Using these new “vocabulary words” has drastically changed how proficiently my husband and I truly communicate with one another, and I hope that just maybe, they can do the same for you and your spouse.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I know this was a very long post, so if you did read all the way through, I hope these tools are useful to you. If all of this makes no sense and is thoroughly confusing to you, please don’t feel like you are failing at marriage. It took me a lot of thinking and time for all of this to make sense and work for me and my husband. Every marriage is different, and maybe your marriage doesn’t need these terms and tools- more power to ya! You’re probably a more holy person than I (and I’m not saying that sarcastically).

*Lastly, if you like a lot of what I’m saying here but genuinely don’t think you and your partner are capable of communicating in this way, I sincerely encourage you to seek out a marriage and family counselor. I have recently started seeing one and it has been a relief to my husband. There is no shame in working hard to make your marriage work. *

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