Connecting?

The counselor called in sick this week, so there’s no update there with that.  This has put us in a bit of a holding pattern, or so it seems. 

He did bring up one thing last session that we have not followed up on at all.  He said it might be a good idea to reconnect with some sort of “date night” type of activity without the kids.  It’s a good idea on the surface of it, but we’re having a hard time with it.  First off, there is an issue with childcare.  Arwyn is quite fussy about who can or can’t watch the kids so we don’t get out very often as a couple which is pretty typical of parents of children on the autism spectrum.  We haven’t had an overnight trip without them since they were born, unless you count when the second one was born.  The childcare issue makes for a pretty convenient excuse, but it’s not the only one.  In fact it might not be the main one.  Our kids are not bad kids at all.  In fact, they are better behaved than most kids that I know because Arwyn and I are nothing if not vigilant.  Other kids may be free to terrorize neighborhoods, restaurants, grocery stores, churches and the like, but not our kids.  They do have spastic periods of running around and acting like crazy kids and they have both had meltdowns.  But we’re always there and they do not do it while we are out as a family or we won’t be out.  They have firm boundaries and limits and when we had a babysitter last week (a friend of Arwyn’s from church) she commented on how well behaved they were and they really liked having her over.

No, it is not just about childcare.  It’s about US, and the fact that there isn’t a lot of US there.  Apart from the kids, we just don’t have a lot going on as a couple.  So the few times that we do end up going out sans kids, we always, always, always end up talking about them.  Even if they are not there, they are there.  So why pay someone to watch them when they might as well be there? 

Sometimes we can have conversations that do not include the kids.  Sometimes the conversations are about us, when WE were kids.  That’s one reason the last session was so boring, because Arwyn and I had been there many times before.  Yeah, I know the therapist hasn’t so I get why he needed to hear it. 

We talk about work, the neighbors, and lots of logistical things like we need to get our roof fixed and the lawn reseeded and what we want to eat for dinner all week.  But we are in need of experiences or interests that are ours and unique to us.  She doesn’t like movies or books very much.  I’m not much into Discovery Health or American Idol.  She’s not into LOST or Battlestar Galactica.  I’m not into Spider Solitaire or autism bulletin boards and she’s not into blogging or Age of Empires.  She’s not into politics much at all.  We do have some pretty good discussions on religion and spiritual things.  We can’t really talk about sex, which is a big part of the reason I blog about it.

With sex off the table for the moment, we are in need of quality time together.  We just aren’t quite sure how to do it.  So what are y’all doing to stay connected apart from kids and logistics?

D.

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22 Responses to Connecting?

  1. rumpltuskin says:

    We don’t get a sitter because we would have to pay for one. By the time we do that and then pay to go out–who can afford to do that once a week? Our deal is that at 930 we’re sure our daughter is asleep so we meet, have a snack or a cup of hot chocolate–whatever–and talk. We’ve found that we end up doing this more than once a week. Sometimes though we’ve had nothing to talk about and have ended up talking about the news, a tv show he or I watched, or even just pick a controversial topic and go at discussing it. In the afternoon if I’m thinking that we’ll have trouble thinking what to talk about I’ll search the internet for “date questions” or something to get some ideas. Not sure this is helpful, but just the idea that you don’t have to go out to be together.

  2. Rosie says:

    Commentor rumpltuskin has a good idea. Try it. But it might be good for you and A to get out. How about agreeing that talk about the kids will be limited to only on the ride home? AND you watch American Idol so that is one given topic to discuss. I’ve never seen it myself, but you need to do so. Keep up the good work. Don’t give into negativity.

  3. Desmond Jones says:

    Hmmm. . . talking about spiritual stuff is one of the main ways that Molly and I ‘get below the surface’ with each other. For us, it certainly seems to engage us on a more-than-superficial level, on the order of, ‘what is centrally important to me’, or ‘who am I, really’. I mean, you can get pretty self-revealing, even ‘intimate’, talking about spritual things.

    Of course, we come at those questions with a lot of common ground and experience, so maybe it has a different texture for us than it does for you and Arwyn. . .

  4. Desmond Jones says:

    Heck, even talking about the kids can be a ‘connecting’ thing; I mean, it’s the main project that the two of us are engaged in together. And if you talk about your kids from that perspective – ‘this is our major life-project, and we’re in it together’, it doesn’t have to be superficial, does it?

  5. xi summit says:

    Queenie and I struggled with this for several years 1) when she and Sensible were having physical issues that consumed us AND 2) After those issues were ‘resolved’ and we were broke paying the left-over bills from treatments.

    Interesting solution: I watch some of her ‘junk’ with her so we are in the same room more often, particularly after the kids are in bed. Oh, and I get up to go to another room (or to the store) as frequently as possible. See Queenie has this disorder that only allows her to start chatting about something serious/important when it’d be most inconvenient (i.e. when I’m leaving the room or the house). Starts a conversation every time. Oh, and it helps if I pretend to be annoyed that she stopped me as that is when she gets into the most detail about what she’s REALLY feeling. Oh, and it helps to have a DVR ’cause she’ll pause the program to really concentrate on our chat. That ensures that she’s engaged and won’t jump back to the telly if something ‘significant’ happens on whatever she’s watching. Oh, and she talks more just because we’re watching something she likes ‘together’. Just be careful NOT to harsh the program, that’ll shut her down.

    Yes, I’m a rotten-snot trickster who uses his skills to their max. It’s subversive but effective and makes it less necessary to spend money, etc. Oh, and it makes her happy(er).

  6. Farmwife says:

    Together time doesn’t really have to be a traditional “date.” Just get a babysitter for 2 hours and go for a walk. Sit in the park and people watch. Take a picnic with you and a bottle of wine.

    We don’t watch TV at all, so that doesn’t come into our conversations. We talk about small town gossip stuff — he works in town, so gets to hear all about who is doing what, so he comes home to pass it on to me 🙂 We talk about plans for the farm, what fields need to be reworked, where fencing needs to be addressed. We talk about livestock plans, and what needs to be bought/sold. Hunting, fishing, gardening, talk radio — all usual topics.

    You guys must have some interests in common? How about going to an art gallery or museum so that you can discuss the exhibits?

  7. Schweeney says:

    To expend on Farmwife’s great suggestions:
    visit a museum or historical site (whic might entail drive in the country), art gallery, shopping for something fun and inexpensive (not for the kids) perhaps a houseplant or magnets for the fridge, test drive cars you don’t intend to buy (kidding), cooking class, dance class. Or agree on a new recipe you might like to cook together, go shopping together and come home and make it. These would be daytime excursions for the most part but sometimes that takes the “date pressure” out of the equation and that might not be a bad thing. I really enjoy spending daytime time with my husband without the kids.

  8. diggerjones says:

    Rumpltuskin, you do have a good idea and it is certainly doable. Our kids are in bed by 8:00, so there are possibilities there. Arwyn, however, often is in bed asleep by 8:30 which is waaaay too early for me. But what time we have spent making progress has occurred just that way.

    Rosie, you really should at least watch it once before prescribing it to others! Having said that, I’m not opposed to watching occasionally but the stupid thing comes on 3x a week. The only thing that makes it worth watching is Simon and his snippy insults towards Paula.

    You’re right, Desmond, in that the spiritual topics do often lead to a lot of disclosure which is a lot more intimate that a lot of people would think. In your case with as many kids as you have, I can appreciate how they pretty much dominate the household conversation. Our child talk, multiplied by 8 would equal an entire 40 hour week!

    Xi, I’ve noticed some similar things with my wife. She likes to try to start a major conversation right when I’m late for work and stepping out the door. The amount of depth seems to be directly proportional to the amount of mental attention I’m diverting elsewhere. When I’m focused totally on her, she has nothing to say. If the kids are all over us, she has something very pressing to talk about. Me being tired also seems to help spark major discussions. In a hurry, tired and distracted = major conversation. I need to remember that.

    Farmwife, I remember growing up that Mom and Dad’s conversations did NOT revolve around us kids. They revolved around the farm. Land, livestock, crops and weather with politics thrown in with the prices of the previously mentioned items. That’s the nature of farming as it is a distinctly family business. I have less than an acre of land but I do try to make the best of it!;-) We’ve been to various family attractions (Coke museum, GA Aquarium, Atlanta zoo and other historic sites) and these make for lovely outings but don’t spark a lot of discussion. Actually more discussion happens when we visit things like this separately and talk about it.

    D.

  9. Schweeney says:

    expand not expend. Which not whic Sorry hard to believe I proofed it before posting.

  10. FTN says:

    “I’m not much into Discovery Health or American Idol.”

    Thanks, that made me laugh. At myself. And the eery similarities. Autumn will actually DVR American Idol and wait for me to be home to watch it with her — if only so I can make fun of it, because it often drives me nuts. But I’ll watch it with her, and she likes watching it with me. I can live with that. Better than “The 900 Pound Tumor,” I suppose.

    It sounds like the two of you are so amazingly different, you don’t even know where to start. What did you do together back when you were dating? I mean apart from all the sex you were having, of course. I think it’s important to find something fun that can make you laugh together. It sounds like that is one of the key things missing. Find a way to play video games or air hockey together. Play miniature golf. Go karaoke. Then go get a huge ice cream sundae together and break out some of those “serious” questions that others mention above — even if you’ve got them written out on index cards ahead of time.

    Granted, maybe those are all things that I like to do, and Arwyn would have no interest in them whatsoever…

  11. John says:

    Any chance you could sneak in a lunch date as an alternative? All the suggestions are good. What’s most important is finding something to start sharing, so that you have some common experience to talk about. Even if that experience leads to a conversation about how much you don’t like American Idol ( one year I watched it with my daughters just so they had something else to chat with their school friends about) baby steps. take it slow. its been a long tiem since the two of you spent time together, so it may take some time. I think what you don’t want is to schedule a 3-hour babysitter and then find yourself out of things to do after one hour, and an awkward silence takes over. start slow.

  12. Dave says:

    Our marriage counselor gave us the same advice, and honestly my thought at the time was “How obvious.”

    What wasn’t obvious, is that we weren’t doing it- no together time, at least nothing that wasn’t directly focused on something else. We really didn’t do anything together, just for the two of us.

    Now, we don’t have a bunch of hobbies or anything, although we’re better about doing things with one another, but we make a point of going out together weekly.

    Our kids are a bit older, so we can go for the evening without having to arrange sitters, and usually we just go for dinner; but it’s been a nice time, planned with one another, and been very good for us.

    I like a lot of the suggestions you’ve been given, so I guess I’ll only add that even if in the beginning we weren’t sure “what we’d talk about”, it did help us.

    Good luck, and you’re in thoughts and prayers as always!

  13. DH says:

    You’re asking the WRONG guy, Digger.

    When we do go out, it’s the usual dinner and a movie…never any real connecting going on.

    God knows there’s never any kissing or sex.

  14. rumpltuskin says:

    Lunch was brought up too. This has been a great thing for us. My daughter is in 2nd grade so my husband comes home for lunch at least twice a week. He drives an itty bitty car so so far gas hasn’t been an issue. One thing we do during lunch which sometimes leads to conversation and sometimes doesn’t is watching an old twilight zone. They are on the sci fi channel daily–and there’s nothing inappropriate to it. But it always gets us talking. Example was Friday’s show was about a genie and wishes so of course we spent 45 mins. talking about wishes. This is a big deal to us–to come here because we had a major, major blip in our marriage. That we overcame–slowly.

    Anyway–I’m writing a novel here.

    rmpltskn

  15. Square1 says:

    Digger, I may not be entirely accurate, but I think the last time Mr. Muse and I had a date sans children was about 4 years ago. He is fussy about childcare, though I think for much different reasons than Arwyn. Autism presents it’s own challenges in dealing with new people. Not that we’re the perfect picture of a healthy relationship or anything, and in some ways we have an advantage in that he and I have a great many interests in common, but one thing he does quite often when he senses the stakes are down is he’ll ask me a pretty poignant question. Usually it’s along the lines of “Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?” or “What do you want out of our marriage?” Inevitably I can’t answer because I hate being put on the spot, but it keeps me thinking in terms of “US” in the future and by proxy the present context. Later when the question has long expired I have in mind things I want to talk to him about, whether it’s what I want to do with my education, what we plan to do to purchase a home, how his job is going, when he’s going to go back to school, what we plan to do with the children’s education (we home-school but it’s getting to be quite an overload for me), hobbies that I have that I want to expand upon, whether or not I should try to work part time in order to update my resume and earn a little towards Social Security (even though it might be going the way of 8 tracks)… etc. I understand how consuming children are, but it’s not healthy for her to have nothing but them and Spider Solitaire. Surely there’s some sort of hobby, craft, or other kind of interest she used to have before you had kids? I’m taking up my drawing pencils and crocheting needle again. And as always I’ve been a prolific writer, simply because I have no other way to stay sane. Does she like photography, sketching, aerobics, nature walks? Anything?

    If there is something she used to do that you can renew her interest in, perhaps you can show interest in it too, even if it’s not something that you really enjoy, you might find that the fact you’re doing it together, or that you can at least talk about it together will make it enjoyable enough? I’m shooting in the dark here. Maybe this could be applied to something you already no she’s interested in, though I don’t recommend it be on the Spider Solitaire… there’s only so much to talk about there, and the last thing you want to do is encourage more time at it.

  16. Square1 says:

    P.S. I’d be happy to get her started selling Avon! I’m really stretching here to find something!

  17. rumpltuskin says:

    I love the idea of helping to find her a hobby. I have just started playing the violin again and the last time I touched one was 6th grade. And I’m trying to learn Italian. It’s more a lesson in frustration than anything…but it’s also something new–keeping my brain working. I feel like I’m talking way too much on here. 🙂

    rumpltuskin

  18. C-Marie says:

    There’s a lot to choose from here, Digger and why not try a the mix? Sometimes saying nothing is just as powerful as that connecting conversation you’re looking for.
    Best to you~

  19. Emily says:

    Well, my Big Dude and I are kind of boring. Every week, we order takeaway and watch videos. Actual outings are more for the Little Dude’s benefit than ours.

    But it’s cosy and comforting. We mostly like the same movies, which helps, but sometimes we each watch something we wouldn’t normally watch because the other one wants to. Sure, there’s not much talk. But the snuggling is good…

    Personally, I’d start with the 8pm hot chocolate, if its worked in the past.

  20. diggerjones says:

    Okay, these are all good suggestions! Some of them would be difficult for us (the daytime lunch, especially) but other things are worth thinking about and trying. The consensus seems to be that I may have to bite the big one and watch American Idol, which does bite. Our cable recently dropped Discovery Health so I lucked out there. FTN, you may want to consider going to Charter as your cable provider!

    I think the disconnect is a real common problem, either from just drifting or from deliberate withdrawal. We’ve had moments but just not real recent ones.

    D.

  21. trueself says:

    Sigh. . .

    Everything you say about you and Arwyn not connecting sounds so familiar to my situation with W. Even though we have some things in common there aren’t many. We rarely ever talked about anything but logistics — who’s picking up N, who’s making dinner, oh yes, the plumber is coming at 2:00 to fix the leak, yadda yadda yadda. Roommates was all we were. Definitely try to fix this if you can. If not, you might end up where we are, and I don’t think you want that.

  22. selkie says:

    wow – just tuned into your blog so have some catching up to do, but kudos for working so hard at your marriage – something a lot of people do NOT do.

    I can actually relate to a lot of the issues (some present, some in the past) – but, just want to address one issue – the idea of “date nigbht” –

    I came up with that on my own quite a few years ago when D and I were really drifting apart and very unhappy. It WAS awkward initially – seeming forced and stilted … but we did a couple of things to improve – 1) we started doing things we loved to do together way back when we were dating; and 2) we STUCK to it and eventually we began to enjoy it.

    I do realize that sitting is a problem but we had four kids under 6 – all dynamos so that was an issue too … what I did realize over the years is I used the KIDS for a lot of excuses …

    I know that one thing we decided was it was a PRIORITY to try to make this relationship work … after, in the big picture the kids will be better off with two happy parents!

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