Staying close to your spouse is hard. Especially if you’re balancing work and a million kids. There is no sugar coating it! But when we know the purpose of our marriage, it becomes easier to make our marriage a priority. It is about communication, setting a vision, having those tough conversations, and creating time for intimacy. Sure, the arguments will happen! But it is how we respond in them that matters.
Jennifer Smith is a wife and mama to 3 little ones (and another on the way!). Alongside her husband, she provides tons of resources for married couples navigating hardships in their marriage. Jen and her husband are honest and open with the things they have been through and strive to provide hope for those walking in the same challenges.
In This Episode, Allie + Jennifer Discuss:
How knowing the purpose of your marriage makes it easier to stay close to your spouse in a full, busy life.
Having a vision for your marriage and the hope that it brings when you are going through hardships.
Thoughts on arguing with your spouse when kids are around.
Tips on openly communicating intimacy issues with your spouse.
Ways to express your feelings and communicate them in a way that won’t feel like an attack.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Motherhood is hard. I am not going to lie to you about that. While it is servitude and giving to your family from yourself, it doesn’t have to be something that we are waiting to be over. Something that we are counting down the minutes till naptime, or bedtime, or waiting for the next day to start. If you are wanting to sort through the clutter in your mind, your heart, your home calendar, your health, routines, and relationships, I created Unburdened just for you!
It is a guide that will help you go from drowning in the sea of stress and overwhelm, to owning your time and living the best version of your motherhood. So you can live abundantly while intentionally focusing on those who matter most.
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Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and i know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is the The Purpose Show.
Hey ladies! Welcome back to another episode of The Purpose Show!
I am so thrilled to do this one today. We have Jennifer Smith of The Unveiled Wife with us today.
We’re going to dive right in and try to keep this brief because we’ve got 7 ½ kids between us, so at any point somebody could interrupt or something could happen.
ALLIE: To start off, tell us a bit about your family. I wanted to give you space to share your marriage story because it’s the basis of everything that you do and it is really powerful. Can you give us a bit of background?
JEN: My husband and I have been married for 11 years and we have three children with one on the way. Elliot just turned five. Ollie is going to be 3 in about two months. Wyatt just turned one and the next one will be due in August.
We're really excited about our growing family and learning how to navigate all of that. It’s really exciting and fun.
Our marriage story is interesting and full of the ups and downs that I'm sure every single marriage faces. I know people's stories differ from situation to situation, but the hardships are hardships and it's difficult sometimes to get through. Our hardships started off right away.
If I could be really blunt, it had to do with sexual intimacy and it being really painful for me. For the first 3 ½ years of our marriage, we were just devastated. We had saved ourselves for marriage. We had all these expectations about what marriage would be like. We were really disappointed. We felt like we were suffering in that area. Because intimacy is such a requirement for marriage, it amplified a lot of other areas for us, like finances and just our attitudes on a daily basis were pretty negative.
We struggled for about 3 ½ years with that. Then God walked us through a healing process of fixing a lot of those areas in our life, including intimacy. A really unique part of our discovery is that things that were my personal care products, which I was putting on my body every day, was hindering my body from functioning the way that it should be, specifically parabens. I don't know if anyone's familiar with that, but we see it a lot in the cosmetic industry. “This is paraben-free.” I feel like there's a lot more attention coming towards that now, but back then not a lot was being said about it, so it was hard to figure out. But, we finally figured it out and once I took all of that out of my system and I'd switched all my personal care products, things changed within a week. It was pretty amazing.
Then it was this healing process of my mind and being anxious to go into sexual intimacy because I didn't want it to hurt. That was another year of retraining my mind. But, we figured it out and then we wanted to share our story.
We started blogging and sharing the things that we were learning. I was learning about how to be a wife, what God was teaching me about living a healthy lifestyle. It started gaining momentum so quickly. We have so many followers that love what we're doing and we feel so supported by them. It's been an incredible journey. We've been doing it for seven years now, which is crazy to think about. I feel like time's just flown right by.
That's the summary in a nutshell of what we've been walking through. My husband and I still blog together. We write resources for married couples and try to give them the encouragement that we felt was so necessary when we were going through our hardships. I felt like if someone could just have that little bit of hope to get past that one day, it's enough to maybe change the rest of their future together.
ALLIE: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's so random what was causing your problem. People don’t realize. You guys have done so much in redirecting marriages, wives, and husbands to the Lord and bringing Him to the center of their relationships again. It's easy to get self-centered and try to fix problems ourselves. You guys have done so much work to “rebirth” that idea the way that it's supposed to be.
But even setting that aside, just bringing light on the Parabin thing. It's so random. People would never think to look at that. I can't even imagine how many countless women you've helped realize, “I had this problem too. I didn't really know how to talk about it, or where to go, and this was totally it.”
I think everything about what you guys have done is so amazing, and that's why it's grown so big. That’s why people love you guys so much is because you're so honest. To me, that's what you guys are known for. Being super honest. “Here’s what we're struggling with. If it’s you too, here’s some help; if not, that’s OK.
There’s a lot of questions I get asked and I can answer and that’s fine, but I really wanted to bring you on to answer them yourself because marriage is sort of “your thing” and what you talk about and they think it's important to get other “takes” on things.
One thing that I always get asked a lot is, “How do you stay close and remain in that close space with your husband in the midst of three/four kids, a really busy life? You guys are like us where you both work together. You run a business together. You’re homeschooling, right? We have a very similar situation. It's so amazing to be able to work together, and this was our goal, but if anything, it's harder to intentionally connect on a personal level because there is work, kids, and homeschooling involved in our relationship now. It's easy to go out on date night and end up talking about those things. What would you say is a way that you and Aaron have remained close throughout all the business, all the kids, and all the things going on in your life?
JEN: I'm not gonna sugarcoat it. It’s hard. I feel like there's so many high priorities, especially in this early phase of young kids. Aaron and I do run our own business. There's a lot of high-priority things that require time and attention. It does get really difficult to make sure that we're coming together and being intimate even if it's just a conversation or letting each other know where our hearts are at.
But, I think when we know the purpose of our marriage, then it becomes really easy to make that a priority. Aaron and I always try and come back to the purpose of our marriage is oneness and we know that we can't do this individually.
We can't parent individually. We can't run our businesses individually. Everything is so tied together to the oneness of our team that we have to come together. Sometimes I do forget this and I do struggle. I'm exhausted. It's the end of the day. I've been through a lot. I just want to crash; I want to go to bed. Then he's sitting next to me sometimes scrolling through social media or whatever, and I just want to go to bed.
But I know that the priority of our purpose of “being one,” of being on a team, I have to communicate to him. I have to tell him where I'm at, if I'm struggling with something, if the kids had a hard day, or whatever the thing is that's on my heart. I need to tell him and if for whatever reason I fall asleep before that happens, I have to make time for it either the next day or whenever I get that chance.
My husband and I do carve out time to do this. We try and do a date night once a week. If, for whatever reason it doesn't happen, because our babysitter canceled or whatever, we just do it as a family. We let our kids play in the living room with blocks or something and we'll just talk right in front of them.
We love to go on drives. Our kids love drives. Sometimes we'll put a movie on long drives or just encourage them to talk to each other. That gives us a time to go over maybe some of our goals or what are we working on. That's some of the ways that we try and come together.
ALLIE: I love the drive thing. We do the same thing. The kids are contained and safe. We will turn on a movie or music and, “everyone relax and be quiet.” Then we can just hash things out.
Also, one funny thing that we used that for was when we were going through a really rough time in our marriage, probably two years ago now. That’s how we would “argue.” The kids were there so you can't get out of hand. They are contained and safe. We can sit and discuss like, “OK you go and then I'll go next.” It was always civil and calm because the kids were there, but it was a way to work things out. The kids are safe and busy. We're fine. We're going to work this out and we're not stopping driving until we're fixed. It’s a funny way to do it, but whatever works when you have little kids.
I love how open you've been about your guys’ intimacy issues in the past and that you guys are totally on the other side of that now. A lot of the messages that I'm sure you receive and that I receive, were things like “I just can't open up to him because we have issues and it's hard for me.” Do you have any tips for being communicative to your husband about intimacy issues? Typically, the man doesn’t really use sex to feel close and the woman needs to feel close before sex. I feel like I get a lot of messages with that theme. How would you encourage people to be communicative to their husbands about intimacy issues?
JEN: The first thing I always say is start with the spiritual side of things. It's really hard to go into conversations like that without God really prompting your heart and making sure that your attitude and everything is under control. I always want to encourage people to go to prayer first. Pray for your husband's heart. Pray for your heart. Pray that everything that you do communicate comes out right, and that God would help you navigate that conversation.
You have to make time to be able to talk to your husband about these things, because if you avoid it, then you're talking about years of accumulation of things that aren't being said. And that doesn't help anyone.
One thing that I wish I had learned earlier is that you have to practice communication.
So those first conversations are probably going to be kind of muddy and messy and, they may not unfold the way that you'd hoped. You and your spouse are basically training each other in how you respond to one another, how you get messages across, or how you let each other know where your hearts are.
It takes practice over time. Like I said, my husband and I have been married for 11 years now. We have put in the investment of communication. We've figured out how to best communicate and we still mess up. It's a matter of doing. By doing you gain experience and you start to understand that you can work through that.
ALLIE: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I love that answer.
Kind of on the same topic, do you have any more tactical tips for actually how to express things and communicate things in a way that doesn’t seem like an attack? It's hard not to go there when we're very emotional, they are hurting our feelings or whatever. What are some tactical, practical ways to bring things up, phrase things, to not make it sound like, “You suck. Everything sucks. I'm mad at you.”
JEN: I think that understanding that God built our bodies with emotions is really important. But, we are still called to have self-control and we're responsible for how we communicate in those emotions. So, if you're really intense, if you have those really strong emotions, I would wait. I would push pause a little bit, just so that you can reign it in.
Then, when you go to talk to your husband, start with “I.” “I” feel like this is happening or “I” have been struggling because of this. Because when you start with “I”, they're focusing on you. Whereas, if you start out the conversation with, “I really feel like you are…,” you’re pointing the finger and starting with a complaint, and it's going to start the whole thing off on a negative foot.
When you start with what you're struggling with or maybe what you've realized over the last however long you've been struggling with an issue, I think it could soften things a little bit.
A long time ago somebody encouraged me to do “the Manwich,” which is complement, critique, complement. I don’t tactically use that, but you could. But, I just started with trying to compliment my husband and saying, “Hey, I really noticed you've been strong in these areas and if I could just encourage you in this other one…”
ALLIE: Oh yeah. I love that. I think a lot of people’s main issue is communication. As far as Brian and I, he is very sweet and I'm very blunt. I have no problem saying, “I can't believe you did that that way. That was so dumb.” I have to tone it down and he's so sweet. But also we'll hold it in, so then it volcanoes out eventually. We had that going on for the first half chunk of our marriage. We had to really work on toning that down and smoothing it out. I hadn’t heard it called “the Manwich”, but someone told me about “the compliment sandwich kind of thing” and it really helped.
I didn’t want it to feel condescending. “You're so good at this. I just really wish that we could work on this.” I don't know, it felt weird. It felt a little bit unnatural, which is good. That's why it worked because it was my not my natural fleshly way of handling things and it really, really helped. I still try to do that when I'm focusing on being a good wife. It really, really helps. He always says, “I love talking with you because I want to grow and be a better husband. And I love it when you say it in that way.” It's not like, “this is another thing that's not going well.” It softens it.
JEN: It softens your heart too. I think when you come at the situation with a compliment for your husband, your heart can't be in a negative place or you can't be gritting your teeth while you're complimenting them.
It really does soften the whole atmosphere. It brings a gentleness to the conversation that I think they appreciate.
ALLIE: Yeah, exactly. There's always something to be grateful for. There’s always some reason that you married him in the first place that’s good about him. Bringing up something that reminds you of that, especially if it's really an issue that you are hoping can be changed, it's hard to talk about those things.
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ALLIE: Staying on communication, I don't even know a specific question but I just wanted to talk to you about arguing. Do you have any general tips for how to argue? The kids are there and if things get really heated, what are your tips for that kind of situation?
JEN: I have changed my viewpoint on this little bit. I used to think that arguing in front of the kids was a good thing because then they get to see you also make up and show apology, forgiveness and all of that. Because I believed that, I justified my intense behavior in front of my son. I remember, specifically, the moment that changed for us. My son was about 1 ½ maybe 2 years old and my husband and I were arguing in the kitchen. To us it didn't seem that intense, but we also had a problem with bickering at the time. Things were escalating.
Our son was standing between us in the kitchen; we didn't even recognize him. He was standing there crying as loud as he could, just adding to the chaos. We stopped immediately and realized that we were creating this atmosphere of intense chaos for our child and his little heart didn't need to participate in that. He didn't need it and we didn't need it. It wasn't a healthy way of communicating for us. That really opened up our eyes to what was going on.
Now there's times that things come up and we get a little heated in our conversations in front of the kids still. We recognize it a lot sooner, a lot quicker and we're quick to cut it off. We actually do practice apologizing to our children. “Mommy shouldn't have said that to daddy like that” or whatever.
I've learned there's other ways of showing the kids how to be in unity with my husband and showing that forgiveness and apology even if they don't see the arguing.
ALLIE: Do you guys go to another room and work it out?
JEN: Yeah. If we notice that things are escalating to where things are being said that we don't want the kids to hear, we'll save it for later and make sure that we go away or wait until they're sleeping or whatever. We do whatever we need to do to protect their hearts. We want them to see us as one unit. We want them to see us as a team. We are trying to cultivate that in their hearts so they know who we are and that they can trust us and feel secure around us.
ALLIE: Yeah, absolutely. I've had a similar heart change with arguing in front of the kids. It’s really out there. I feel like that's more the common piece of advice is to go ahead and argue in front of the kids. It’s hard when we do that.
Like I said about the “car thing.” It makes you keep it in a conversation where you're just discussing it. I love that you had that change of heart after seeing, “this isn't really working for us” and making it work for your family.
JEN: To encourage those listening if there are continual heated arguments happening and the way that you guys are responding to each other and communicating is not healthy, that needs to be addressed.
I think you guys can work together as a team to encourage one another to change and mature in that area. Because I think that even if we're doing it behind closed doors, it's still not a good thing. It's not healthy to be arguing with that kind of intensity, especially on a regular basis.
I encourage you to maybe evaluate that part of your marriage. If heightened, if it's intense, maybe work on that. Hopefully that encourages some people that are listening.
ALLIE: Yeah, absolutely. I love everything that you said. We’ve gone through such a hard time with that and I wish that I had found you sooner because it would have helped me so much. Knowing that it is OK to feel like this, but you just need to address it. Not feeling shame or feeling like, “Your marriage shouldn’t be like this. You’re not going to make it.”
I remember one time somebody handed me a book and it was basically a scientific study on how to know if your marriage is going to make it or not. It said, “I'm a 100% accurate, if I see this then you're eventually going to get divorced.” And it made me feel like, “there's no hope here.”
Jesus can radically change anything. That’s what draws me to your guys’ messages. It’s a hope anthem. Any marriage is if those people are willing to change or even one person is willing to change and work on things. I love that about you guys.
My last question for you is what is one way that you would like to encourage our listeners to pursue purpose, just right where they're at. If you want to relate that to marriage or something more general. What is on your heart in terms of them pursuing purpose in their lives right now, wherever they're at.
JEN: I would say that vision is really important and it's a really great way to experience that unity and oneness with your husband. My husband and I pretty much started out on our journey with goal setting and we love this. We love to take a day or drive or whatever it is and lay out on the table what are some goals that we can work on together as a team.
Now that we have kids, we even add them into the mix and ask ourselves, “OK, what can we do for Elliot? What can we do for all of them? What are some things that we want to look forward to in the future that we can work on today?
This really helps put us back on the same page too, so that he's not out chasing his dreams and I'm not out chasing mine. It really helps us keep the focus on our unity and our oneness. It reminds us about our marriage, what we're striving for.
We do this often. We do it at the beginning of every year, but also throughout the year as we're hitting goals or if new ones come up.
I want to encourage everyone out there that if you don't have vision for your marriage, you are basically living a little hopelessly because you don't have anything to look forward to. Even if you're going through hardships, if you have something to look forward to, it really gets you through that next day.
That was true for us. I think that was one thing that really carried us through those hard times that we were having. Establish a vision for your marriage, - for your family, if you guys work together or whatever it is that you want to goal set for - paint this picture of your future of what you want it to look like.
Even if it's a month from now, start. Start small and then work your way up to years or whatever. I really feel that it will get you guys communicating because you have to talk about how to accomplish those goals and what strategies you're going to make. It'll help you move forward together as a team.
ALLIE: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think it's Proverbs 29:18, that says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It’s so true, as a family, as a couple, anything. I have applied it to my business, my team, our family. It's such a team building thing for you and your husband to be on the same page.
And I've found Brian’s goals will maybe be a little bit different than mine, or I just don’t have those goals right now. We can still pull it together and make it work together to where we're helping each other. I love that you said that.
Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom. I am so honored to have you.
Jen has written how many books now? 8 or 10?
You’re at Unveiled Wife, pretty much everywhere on social media, right? Where are you most active?
ALLIE: OK. So, we'll link to everything there in the show notes.
I have Wife After God. It’s an amazing book. I encourage you guys to get it.
Jen has been blogging a year longer than I have, so there is a huge archive. You can get lost in there.
It’s unveiledwife.com. Go check it out.
But thank you so much, Jen. I'm so excited to have you here.
JEN: Thanks for having me. This is so awesome.
This was an episode of The Purpose Show. Did you know there is an exclusive community created solely for the purpose of continuing discussions surrounding The Purpose Show episodes? And to get you to actually take action and make positive changes on the things that you learn here? Go be a part of it. To join go to facebook.com/groups/purposefulmamas.
Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, and get step-by-step help from me, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, courses, classes, and ways to learn more about what the next step might look like for you and to focus on whatever you might need help with in whatever season you are in right now.
I am always rooting for you, friend!
See ya next time!
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