Shelley kicks me out from time to time.
She will look me in the eye, like she did about 10 minutes ago, and says, “I don’t know where you can go but you need get away. You need to go spend the night somewhere.” She said that, not because she is mad or we are in a fight. Not because she is sick of me or needs a break.
She kicks me out because she knows that about once a year I need it for my own good. She knows what I need to refuel and she helps make it happen.
This is one of the ways we have learned to embrace each others differences for the others good. The fact that Shelley is an extrovert and I am an introvert matter deeply to our understanding of how to love each other well. (See We Are Different)
Early in our marriage, Shelley figured out that I needed alone time every now and then to think and refuel. By “alone time” I mean either an entire day or couple of days away from everything and everyone. She figured this out about me because I told her. I’m not sure that she understood it at first since we are so different, but she sacrificed to understand it.
I work in an extrovert’s world as a pastor. There is tons of output. There is a lot of time spent around people and I love it! But, the longer I am around people the more I am drained. The more I am drained, the more challenging it becomes for me to love people well, including my family.
For me to love well and to be emotionally healthy, Shelley has learned that I need to intentionally refuel. We are very different, so she has had to work to learn what I need and embrace it for my good. The same is true for me. I have had to learn and adjust to what she needs.
She helps me refuel in two basic ways.
1. The Little Fuel
Reality for most people, like us, is that every time we need to refuel, we can’t drop life and get out of town. But we can learn the little things along the way that help refuel our spouse.
Here is what Shelley knows about me.
- I Need Expected Little Fuel – For me that is exercise. I need 3-4 days a week to get out and run or ride my bike. I get the benefit of being healthier but the main thing it does for me is help my mind process whatever needs processing. It is a stress release and Shelley understands that. She has never once complained to me about my need to get out run. She knows I need it.
- I Need Unexpected Little Fuel – Sometimes Shelley just knows I need what we call a “pick-me-up”. It is usually something very simple. Just the other day Shelley noticed that I was tired and needed a “pick-me-up.” Without me knowing, she took the initiative to get me some “unexpected fuel.” She said, “I bought you a little surprise today.” I little while later she handed me a candy bar. Silly? Maybe. But it was a simple, unexpected fuel to lift me up a little.
2. The Big Fuel
Big fuel happens for me about once a year. It is the “you need to go spend the night away by yourself” moments. Not everyone needs or is able to do this. There have been times when spending a night a way has not been practical. One those occasions, I just take a day and go somewhere where I can think, pray, and rest.
There are those times when it has worked out for me to get away for night alone. The key is that Shelley knows that I need it and she encourages me to go. It is something I don’t take for granted.
Helping each other refuel can look many different ways in all marriages but I think these thoughts are important.
1) Learn what refuels your spouse and sacrifice to make it happen.
For me to get way requires a sacrifice on Shelley’s part. If you and your spouse are different, like Shelley and I, part of the sacrifice is simply embracing the differences and adjusting to them.
2) Be honest with your spouse about what refuels you.
I don’t like guessing games in any part of marriage. If you want your spouse to understand what you need along the way, don’t expect them to figure it out. In a gracious, non-demanding way tell them.
We all know that being refueled helps the health of your marriage. So help each other.
Be like Shelley. Kick each other out from time to time.