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My grandma shared these ways to be a caring wife (and a caring husband!) with me many times over the years… from when she was married in the 1940s until the end of their lives. These lessons are so important when trying to grow your marriage after kids. This is advice from my grandmother. She was an amazing person and a wonderful, devoted wife (and mother/grandmother).
Before I begin… remember that this was 50+ years ago and she did not work. The lesson in this post is simply that caring for others is important in a marriage. Not ‘competing’ but instead ‘wanting’ to help.
My grandfather, Guy, worked 10+ hour days out of the home while my grandma, Rosemary, worked by taking care of the kids and house. Both worked hard and both relied on each other to be able to do what they did.
They met as young teenagers and loved each other from the beginning… this is how they showed it, by helping one another.
He said that he could not have worked outside of the home if she wasn’t willing to work inside of the home: taking care of the house, meals, kids, bills, and everything that goes along with it.
She said that she could not have been able to stay home (working inside of the home- taking care of their house & family) if he wasn’t working hard outside of the home to provide for them.
They truly needed one another and they were grateful to have one another.
She loved my grandfather and this is how she showed him, by taking care of him, their children, and their home.
He loved her and showed her in his own ways, as well (like cooking dinners for her on the weekends, going on MANY trips with her because she loved to travel and he loved seeing her happy, even if he preferred to be at home.)
It takes two to make a marriage strong. It is a give-and-take on both sides.
Here is my grandmother’s advice on the ways to be a caring wife:
1- Have dinner together.
It was so important to my grandma to have dinner as a family. My grandma cooked dinner every night. My grandpap worked 10+ hour days, so she always had dinner ready in the evenings when he was done.
She told me that it was her way of showing him that she appreciated him working all day so she could be home with their children, which was the thing that she wanted most.
She said that if he didn’t work outside of the home, she couldn’t afford to stay home… and he said that if she didn’t stay home to take care of the kids, the house, and the meals, he couldn’t work outside of the home.
The funny part is that once he retired, he became the cook. He always enjoyed cooking but never had time to do it when he was working.
2- Let him be HIM.
She never tried to change him. She was so much better than me about this. I catch myself saying things like, “Mic, you shouldn’t eat that- it’s not healthy” “Mic, can you please not leave your shoes there?” “Mic, it drives me CRAZY when you leave your shirt hung over the closet door…”
She never did this. She just loved him for HIM- she embraced his quirks and loved him in spite of them.
He was the same with my grandmother. She was a TALKER (like me) and she talked to everyone and anyone. He was the complete opposite!
He never tried to change her. He loved her for who she was. He would just wait on her while she started up a conversation with a complete stranger.
3- She took care of him when he was dying.
My grandma did so much for him. She read books on diabetes diets so she could make the right foods for him. She reminded him to drink water throughout the day. She would test his blood sugar for him since he never wanted to do it.
When he had cancer before he passed away, she spent her days and nights just waiting on him, sitting with him, feeding him, talking to him… it actually diminished her own health because of it, but we couldn’t talk her out of it, as she loved him so much.
4- My grandfather had diabetes and had to go to Charleston every six months for his checkup.
They lived in Hilton Head, so this was a far drive for her. She didn’t like to drive AT ALL. Once my grandfather became very sick, she had to start driving. She would even take his wheelchair, put it into the car, and take it out of the car by herself because he was too embarrassed to ask for help (or let her ask for help).
He knew how much work this was for her and he appreciated it. He once told her that he didn’t want anyone with him but her while he was sick- not hospice, not a nurse, just “my wife”. He didn’t want to face a doctor without her or drive that three-hour drive without her by his side. He adored her.
5- Self Care. She exercised to make herself a priority so she could feel her best
By taking care of herself, she could take care of her family. Even well into her 70’s she went to the gym (which was a huge resort with spa, yoga, swimming, etc…) several times a day. She would take Yoga in the morning, then go back for tennis in the afternoons and stay around for a pilates class or a swim.
She was always active and had so many of her friends at the gym (a huge group of 70+-year-old women would gather there throughout the day). She never drove a car, because she biked everywhere (until she had to take those Charleston trips).
She was the reason that my grandfather walked every day with her (on the beach). He would have been happy to sit at home all day, but he walked to be with her. She knew it and so did he.
6- They moved to be together, but really just to support one another.
They left their children and new grand-babies because my grandpa has lost his job 30 years ago. He found a job in Hilton Head, 12 hours from home. She left all that she knew and everyone that she loved to go with him… to support him and his career. While it was hard on her at first, she leaned on him and he leaned on her.
It was the best thing for our family. It introduced us to a place that we know and love so much. Although they are gone, we spend our family vacations there, still (our WHOLE family – my grandma & grandpap had 4 kids…)
Taking chances with your spouse is hard, but it pays off! We go there several times a year.
7- When he was sick, she took care of him.
She took care of him in ways that I didn’t understand at the time. She cared for his feet, his hands, his legs. She explained to me that his feet were so sore because of his diabetes and it really hurt him to have to do things like cut his nails. His hands weren’t steady and if he shook and cut his skin, it would mean a stay in the hospital. Scary for both of them, really. This was a way that she could show him that she loved him, unselfishly. It was truly an act of service and putting his needs before her own needs. She did it because she loved him. He let her because he loved her back, unembarrassed.
8- She kept in touch with his family.
While my grandfather worked many late days, my grandmother would call his mother for him and keep her up to date with the latest family happenings. When they were going to take the children to see her, my grandma would call and make the plans. (This was really an act of love because my great-grandmother was a very strong-willed Italian woman who didn’t always like my Irish grandmother). However, my grandma did it for her family. She knew that it was important.
9- She invested time.
She was so healthy and active and loved to be out doing things, but she would purposefully sit and watch sports, that she had no interest in, with my grandfather, just because she loved him. She would sit and talk to him, even when he didn’t talk back (he was a man of few words). She would watch Jeopardy with him every night, at 7:00.
Likewise, he would sit and play cards with her because she loved it. (She could play cards for hours on end, and he would humor her by doing it with her, even though he would have rather be watching a baseball game). They knew that doing things that made the other person happy was an important part of a strong marriage.
10- They didn’t show their love for each other in front of everyone, but you could see if you looked. During one of our visits to Hilton Head, when I walked by their bedroom at night, I heard them talking.
I heard him telling her funny things and she just laughed like she would have laughed when they were dating. He told her nice things and made little jokes and she giggled like she would have done when he first complimented her.
He loved her and even though he didn’t show the world just how much he loved her, I saw it… and she saw it.
They always followed these marriage rules (click here to print the full sheet):
Related Post: How to Grow your marriage after kids