3 Tips From the Kitchen To Inspire Your Expat Marriage

I was recently asked to speak words of encouragement about marriage at a kitchen gadget bridal shower. After doing some math (which took a while since math is not my forte), I discovered more than 10 years of our lives are spent preparing and cleaning up in the kitchen. Wow! Why so much time? Well, we all need food to thrive.

Expatriate marriage needs certain ingredients to thrive too. 3 tips from the kitchen to inspire your marriage:Couple in the kitchen

1. The kitchen is a place of connection. It’s a space that allows connection after being a part – hanging out with a glass of lemonade or wine… preparing the meal… talking about our day. Connection happens because there’s a space available to make it happen. When you create space in marriage, connection happens. 

What are ways you create space to connect with each other?

Much is dependent on the phase of married life you’re in. Each stage has its unique challenges. Here are some ideas to help you create connection:

Newly-weds: walks; participate in sports like tennis, badminton, golf, kayaking, rollerblading etc; date nights; read a book on marriage and talk about it; sightsee; enjoy cultural and art events; play together – board games; go dancing; do something crazy like sing in the rain or make snow angels

Little ones constantly hanging off a hip: text endearments and/or anticipations; date night that you take turns planning; walks with the kids, keeping them occupied so you can talk; road trips – kids in the back, you in the front means some couple time; connect once kids are in bed; cuddle up with a movie; sneak a 5 minute “how are you” call at kids afternoon nap; do something creative like learn a new hobby together

With school kids demanding much attention: play games back and forth on i-phone (ie. Scrabble); sneak away from work for a coffee date; teach the kids to clean up from dinner while you sip tea and talk; talk once kids are in bed; explore the area- even with kids allows you to talk; do something out of the ordinary like a steal away picnic

Teenagers constantly coming and going: date night; recreational activities like watching soccer, baseball, cricket; games – board or otherwise; explore places where you live; do hobbies while talking; find a kids playground – swing and talk, or sit on the slide – after dark; cook together; do something wild like ride carnival rides together

Empty nesters: outdoor activities; plan trips away; read a book together; enjoy the farmers market; cultural or entertainment date night out; do something unexpected like kidnap your spouse for a fun filled weekend

The key is being intentional and consistent in connecting. Find ways to connect daily, weekly and monthly. It’s about what you enjoy doing together so you can BE together. Try some new ideas! Book dates into your calendars so they happen!

2. The kitchen is a place to celebrate– birthdays, cultural and religious traditions, accomplishments and successes.  How do these times make you feel?  Celebrations like these are called rituals: routines with meaning.  Becky Bailey, author and developmental psychologist, says “Rituals create sacred space for togetherness”. They help hold families together in both good and hard times; are repetitive and ccouple walking outsidean be small and daily, or occasional and big.

What rituals do you engage in that give meaning to your marriage? Can’t think of any? Many times you don’t recognize a ritual, because it’s habit. Begin to notice and see what you can come up with! How about kissing when you leave in the morning? Saying ‘I love you’? The way you look at each other or a gesture that takes you from tense to smiling? Perhaps a phrase that you say that has some deep or funny meaning.  Often the ways you connect (from point #1) are rituals – going out for dinner or coffee, sightseeing or making a meal together on the weekend. Some rituals are totally personal and intimate and for your spouses’ eyes and ears only! ?

3. Clean up must happen in the kitchen! After a meal, don’t you wish you could walk away? What happens when you don’t clean up? It’s important to keep things clMessy kitchenean in your marriage too, because “mess happens”. At times emotions get in the way of seeing the best in the other. Or behaviours are acted out from negative emotions. Sometimes I question my husband’s intentions… where he’s at with me… why in the world he just did what he did. And at other times it seems we’re more the enemy then a team, mostly when I think my idea is more ‘right’ than his!

What do you do to clean up your marriage? Several tips from the ladies at the kitchen gadget shower:

Make a move. It always takes someone to initiate clean up. Lean in for marriage mess cleaned up and make it you.

Forgive. Such a big word that means to let go of the grievance you have toward another person. It doesn’t mean they were right – it just means you won’t hold it against them. It could mean forgiving your spouse. Maybe it’s means asking for forgiveness from them. And forgiving yourself.  Giving and receiving forgiveness is such an important, unselfish and honourable act of courage in marriage.

Trust your partner. How often do you take things into your own hands and try to control a situation because, bottom line, you don’t trust your spouse. You think you could do better. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt and trust.

In the busyness of expatriate life, these three ingredients will make a huge difference in your marriage. Begin to put them into practise –one small action from each this week. Enjoy being together, laugh lots and have fun!

Empowering you to build a strong expatriate marriage,

Signature of Becky Matchullis - Expat Family Resilience Coach

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