For those regular readers of my blog and writing, I am sorry that it has been a little while between pieces.
As you can see from my last social media post, I’ve taken a few months off to create margin in my life and direct my focus to a few important projects, the most pressing being the Clinical Diploma in Palliative Care that I am currently completing.
Quite simply, free from the distraction of the news and social media feeds, focussed solely on my family, work and self-care, I’ve found tremendous peace and the results in my life have been stunning, something that I will write about soon.
I thought that I begin with an essay that I started writing in January on my reflections on how I am learning to be a better husband.
For those short on time, I’ve written a summary at the start, but as I gave this to Kylie to proof-read and approve, I realised that it is almost everything that I’ve learnt about what it takes to make a marriage work, so it is a long piece considered piece!
Kylie and I have been married for 14 years and been together for 19 and when I say this, its isn’t out of comparison, but in joyfulness and awe of how God can use two imperfect people to create a beautiful life together.
No matter how long you have been married, each year that you are drawing closer to each other in love, respect and honour, should be celebrated!
And a request to those couples who have been married for decades, rejoice with those who are celebrating smaller milestones without comparison to your own lives. For each year of marriage is precious and every journey is different.
Celebrate every win!
Summary: for those short on time.
Esteem your wife
Encourage your wife’s pursuits
Encourage and support your wife’s need for self-care and replenishment
Take the initiative and organise date nights.
Find a mentor
Read a book or twenty about marriage
Present the best version of yourself to her in marriage
Sex in marriage isn’t rocket science
Learn freedom with money
It’s not all about my work and certainly not all about the kids
Work out the core-business of your marriage
Ways that I’ve learned to be a better husband
Esteem your wife in public and in the close private moments that you share, resolve never to degrade and deride her to others.
I am always weary of men who complain and make fun of their wives in public and in front of other guys, as this to me is the test of integrity and respect in marriage.
Resolving never to do this elevates your personal standards of respect to your wife and of all women and confers protection around your marriage.
Encourage your wife’s pursuits and learn more about why, what, where and how of the things that interest her.
This is one area that I failed to recognise as important when Kylie and I were first married. She loved cooking, sewing, baking and gardening, activities which I never appreciated as important or thought were “cool enough”. My words, interest and attitude were therefore negative.
But I was so wrong.
By the grace of God and through developing a greater emotional intelligence, my full support has allowed these activities to become Kylie’s greatest and defining skills and ways that she uses to serve God and others.
Her happiness in pursuing her interests freely has had a tremendous effect in improving our relationship and building the intimacy and trust within our marriage.
Encourage and support your wife’s need for self-care and replenishment
Every Saturday morning that I am not on-call and not working, which pleasantly doesn’t happen too often, Kylie takes the morning to do what she wants and loves.
Dressed in her active-wear, the routine is always mostly the same, RPM at 8am, walking around the Albany Farmer’s Markets, coffee at Fredrick’s and then shopping for clothes, plants, fabric or whatever takes her fancy.
These 4 hours of free time, away from the boys and myself, is Kylie’s fun, healthy and interesting way that she seeks replenishment each week. It helps to create margin in her life, breathing room and provides space to allow her mind to wander and creativity to follow.
My job as her husband is to do whatever it takes to make this happen and as interesting as it may sound, these 4 hours each week over the last 5 years has made all the difference to her wellbeing and in our marriage.
Take the initiative and organise date nights. Even if you aren’t great at grand romantic gestures, being mindful of continuing and cultivating your friendship after marriage, is THE most romantic gesture a husband can do.
The best date nights that we’ve had in the last 9 years since starting a family have been at home.
They’ve been purposeful and planned ahead of time and usually don’t cost a great deal.
They’ve been either a movie on the couch on Friday night or a beautifully cooked fillet steak with a West Cape Howe Shiraz over candlelight when the boys are asleep.
The biggest point here is that they happened, regularly.
Unglamorously, unfiltered and inexpensively, they happened.
Find a mentor, another husband who has a solid, passionate and thriving marriage who is willing to meet with you regularly and share his wisdom and walk the journey with you. Keeping wise counsel is one of the most protective measures a husband can take.
I’ve found peace in being accountable to another person, someone whom I trust, who will ask me difficult questions about how my marriage is going and whether there are issues and offense that I am hanging on to.
As a man, you must be mindful of your social circle and those whose opinions and advice that you seek. If you desire to be married until “death does us apart”, then choose friends who share the same values as you.
Never take advice from angry, broken, sexually immoral and bitter men. Run far away from them.
Reading a book or twenty about marriage and relationships is one the best ways to learn new ideas and challenge your innate immaturity.
The three best book that I have read, that I recommend to everyone are, Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll, Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About it by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. My favourite blog on marriage is the Gottman Institute Blog.
As a doctor, I am constantly reading, attending courses and learning about how to become a better clinician, why wouldn’t we do the same with our marriage?
Some of us enter marriage with either a pre-marital course or counseling as preparation but generally, most of us enter with the most basic knowledge of how to make a marriage work, thrive and solve differences.
The advantage of reading books and blogs about marriage is that it helps add to our knowledge and skill, about the most important and defining relationship of our lives.
Present the best version of yourself to her in marriage. This speaks to your self-care, the way that you care for yourself physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
The purpose of good self-care is to present your wife with a husband who physically takes care of himself, manages his stress and anxiety from work and life and finds his own unique ways to rest and replenish his energy stores.
Many of the arguments that we’ve had as a couple have been because I’ve been depleted, burnt-out, stressed and physically in poor shape.
I’ve taken out my frustrations on Kylie and the boys because my threshold of patience and reservoir of important energy (physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological) have been low.
Over the last number of years, my self-care has been a priority and my simple mantra of “regular rest and replenishment” has become more specific and molded to suit my life as a busy GP, father and husband.
I will share more on self-care in future posts but this should serve as a start:
Take a rest day each week — your Sabbath to do nothing!
Make sure you get enough sleep
Exercise not for ego but for your health and to produce energy
Pay attention to your diet, what you eat matters
Find a hobby, something that you can play and lose time doing. It is essential to your wellbeing to “play”.
If you are struggling emotionally, find someone to talk to and debrief.
– Personal Clinical Supervision has been a game-changer in my life in dealing with death, dying and the stressors of being a GP.
Mindfulness and meditating is a key habit of top performers. My hero Jerry Seinfeld has practiced “Transcendental Meditation” for over 40 years to help him stay focused and relieve stress and anxiety. I try to meditate most days to calm my mind and sharpen my focus. I use Headspace and Insight Timer.
Sex in marriage is not rocket science. I am aware that my parents and parent’s in-law read my blog, so I will keep this part respectable!
When I read this article a few weeks ago, I was warmed because never before had I seen a number of central elements of our marriage outlined as keys to a great sex-life!
It is only by the grace of God and many difficult conversations that we’ve found our way here.
9 years ago after our first son was born, we made a choice based on a few agreed facts.
We were both tired of playing the “I am more tired than you game”, we both loved each other and found each other desirable, we both contributed to the health, wealth and wellbeing of our family and so we agreed that we would make physical intimacy a priority above almost everything else: work/hobbies/recreation/other stuff.
The ripple effect of this one simple decision has been far-reaching.
Not only has it drawn us closer together, I’ve learned that sex begins outside of the bedroom with the way I talk, treat and live with Kylie AND the boys. I’ve learned what it means to serve and listen to my wife and attend closely to her needs. I’ve become a better servant leader.
Sex in marriage isn’t rocket science, it is about a number of key relational activities and a commitment from both husband and wife that sex within marriage is VERY important.
The bottom line is this: We are all busy, but if we prioritise meeting together in the bedroom regularly and doing the work of learning to love and serve our wives, we will build a great sex life.
Freedom with money comes from having an open dialogue, acknowledging the truth and taking the lead in setting the right tone.
Close your eyes and visualise your financial future.
What do you see?
For me, I saw Kylie and me working to serve others by using our gifts, unconcerned about money.
I saw us traveling all over the world when we wanted to, usually at the pointy end of the plane.
I saw our boys thriving financially, making wise decisions about debt, saving and investing and using their God-given talents to serve him and serve others in their field.
I saw us leaving a financial legacy of generosity to our community and resources for Ramachenderan’s of the future.
I saw financial freedom.
What is the financial tone in your home?
As a husband, if you are overly controlling of money, chances are there is an atmosphere of fear.
If you are reckless and carefree, chances are there is an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty about the future.
If you exist between controlling and reckless, then it is likely that everyone around you is walking on eggshells, unsure about what is going to happen next.
I’ve learned that your money background doesn’t define your future, you do.
Money turnaround stories are almost always about a mindset and habit change and never about a windfall.
Reverse engineering your vision and starting with the end in mind is one thing that I’ve learned on how to be a better husband in the area of money.
Taking the initiative to regularly discuss our spending, our income, our goals and the things that we fear have given us freedom.
Freedom in being able to discuss money openly without conflict (meeting regularly)
Freedom in know exactly how much we are spending, giving, investing and earning (budgeting)
Freedom in trusting each other and experiencing joy as we reach milestones together (investing and living on less).
It is not all about my work and certainly not all about the kids.
After our second son, Hunter was born and I was faced with the responsibilities of being a newly minted GP Anaesthetist in a country town and there never seemed to be enough time for Kylie and me to grow our friendship and marriage.
It was all about work for me and all about the two boys for Kylie, and it didn’t work.
I missed my friend, the physical intimacy and laughing with her and she missed morning hugs and time alone with me.
But being seasoned veterans of conflict, we soon realised our angst centered upon not being able to talk, touch and be with each other due to tiredness, work and lack of prioritisation.
Spending time alone allows for dialogue, it allows for greater understanding of your partner, it allows for empathy and then compassion in looking for ways to help and soothe them
Spending time alone is what you used to do when you first met and what you’ll likely do when your kids leave.
Therefore the only way to grow your friendship is to make spending time alone a priority above work, kids and other commitments.
I’ve learned as a husband that the foundation of my marriage is about my friendship with Kylie and it is the solid place by which I practice medicine and parent our boys.
Sure there will be intense weeks of work commitments and weekends filled with kids sports and travel, but the founding principle is not to let this interfere with our marriage.
Here are a couple of insights that I’ve learned over the last few years on how to place my wife above work and the kids.
- Schedule a regular date night — time alone doing something you both love
- Regularly intimacy — In the years of having young children, you may need to schedule your fun times alone.
- Plan holidays alone together — Last year we spent two nights alone in the city in a very nice hotel and watched Seinfeld at Perth Arena. This year is already planned!
- Make it a priority to talk, debrief and confide.
- Learn to say “no” and simplify your work and extra-curricular activities — There is so much to say on this topic but we have learned to say “no” often and prioritise our relationship over many other things (which disappoints many but the fear of man is a trap!)
Work out what is the core business of your marriage.
A few years ago I was talking to a successful GP entrepreneur and investor who surprise me with his business advice.
“Jonathan, your wife is your business partner, she is your closest and wisest advisor. You need to make sure that everything is good in your marriage if you want to grow an outstanding business and enjoy your life!”.
He was right and as he described how he met his wife every Friday for lunch, took regular holidays with her and made every crucial decision about their business together, I could see how integral the strength of their marriage was to the health of their thriving business.
I’ve learned that if you want to be successful in your work and career pursuits and to have a beautifully healthy marriage, you need to work out what the core business and core activities of your marriage will be.
What are the elements, compounded every day, that are going to make your marriage grow exponentially?
Every relationship will be unique in how this question is answered, but all will usually settle around a few core activities that a couple will compound everyday to allow their marriage to grow.
Here are a few core aspects of our relationship as an example. We aren’t religious about these but they serve as guideposts.
We will pray together each morning and night (if Kylie doesn’t fall asleep before me), serve and attend church together and share our struggles with each other.
We will kiss each when we leave, arrive or see each other after being away/out.
We will say “I love you” often and follow up with reasons ”because you…”
I will always try to serve Kylie and make her life easier everyday.
We will always aim to spend time regularly with each other and our trips away will become more epic, adventurous and luxurious as our resources increase and the boys are able to left for longer.
We will say no to things that disrupt our friendship and family time.
I will try to hug Kylie each morning, make her coffee and give her a neck rub (if time permits)
Core business. It is the small positive and loving things that you do every day that make the difference.
Thank you for taking the time to read this piece. It is effectively almost everything that I’ve learned on how to be a better husband.
I hope you found it helpful as it is a collection of learnings from a man who has made many mistakes, but who desperately wants to be married to the last day.
Call to action:
Please feel free to leave a comment about something that you have learned in your marriage, I would love to hear from you and start a conversation.
Also please feel free to share this article if you believe it may help and subscribe to receive my latest posts.
Enjoy your health.
Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan