Parking in the Woods

On our hiking weekend, Danny and I arrived late at the trail head after driving through darling mountain towns in the Adirondacks.  We are nuts, I know, but we decided to spend the night in our car so that we could be right at the trail head at sunrise.

I had never slept in a car before, but it seemed like it wouldn’t be too bad. We parked and leaned back our seats.  I got out my sleeping bag for some extra comfort and warmth.  Danny was very, very certain he wouldn’t need his sleeping bag and so he left it packed deep in his backpack.  Are you SURE, honey?  You won’t get cold?  Positive!

The night carried on and I. didn’t. sleep. a. lick.  I could tell Danny didn’t either.

I actually had a bruise on my back from the discomfort of the seat.  It was one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life.

At 4:30 am, I hear Danny make loads of noise unwrapping a mylar blanket.  I melted.  The poor guy was cold and trying to not wake me.

Of course I was awake, so I surprised him and spread half my sleeping bag over to him.  I could have been as grumpy as can be.  And Danny, too.  This was one of those moments, you know.  But, instead we felt so sad for each other that we were so uncomfortable, cold, and couldn’t sleep.

We do this thing where we pay close attention and if we notice the other person is not doing too well, then we kind of stop ourselves in our tracks and offer them MORE love/patience/kindness in that moment.

It’s one of my favorite things that we do in our marriage!!!  And it averts grumpy moments (and worse) like you wouldn’t believe.  And it leaves plenty of opportunity for good things to happen.  i.e. Danny said, “Well, if we’re going to be awake, we might as well be together.”  And then we found out why it’s not a good idea for teenagers to park in cars in the woods.  🙂

Here’s a little challenge:  Pay close attention, and the next time your spouse is not doing too well for any reason (including if they are snappy or grumpy), see if you can up the love for them in that moment of weakness- it could come in the form of patience, the lack of agitation, gratitude, verbal expressions of love & appreciation, a calm demeanor, etc.  This is one of the most powerful marriage tips I can share 🙂

It would be so fun to hear if any of you do this! 

A few other posts I wrote on marriage that you might enjoy:
The Best Tips I Can Give You for a REALLY, REALLY Great Marriage 
Another Tip for Husbands & Wives
A Date Night in Bed
Dirty Socks & Smacking Lips
Are You Working Away at a Hard Marriage?

Get The About Love Experience


  1. Anonymous October 16, 2012 at 7:06 am - Reply

    I love this sentiment so much – thank you for expressing it so clearly. I need to work on this one more with my husband and I think it applies equally well in those many moments when my kids test my patience.

    • mara October 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm - Reply

      Yes! I think this could work with kids! I'd love to hear how that goes.

  2. Emily October 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I completely understand that feeling that occurs when you know you couldn't possibly be more cold/tired/hungry/whatever…but when you know your spouse is feeling the same way, you only want them to feel at ease. If nothing else, at least you got this amazing star show…and you got to see why teens shouldn't be able to park in the woods at night 😉

  3. Sarah October 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    Thanks I really needed this!

  4. Maria October 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    My husband is a perfectionist and gets frustrated quite easily. There are two things that I know make him instantly feel better. First is just noticing that he is frustrated and saying things like I know honey I am so sorry…is there anything I can do to make it better? Most of the time there isn't a thing I can do but just him knowing that I hear him and care is enough. The second is physical contact….I usually rub his back and it instantly calms his mood. The times when I notice that I don't do this it escalates until the point where it sometimes turns into an argument about something else. It's not always easy to put yourself into that mindset but it works and it makes for a happy spouse!!!

    • mara October 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      Maria – love that you pointed out that NOT doing this can actually escalate things to a full blown argument! It's so true. And nipping these little things in the bud really, really can keep those big arguments at bay.

  5. Kaycee October 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Mara, I love this. You are a beautiful woman! I have found myself thinking about your blog several times these last few days (since beginning reading) when things get a little tough in my life. This post will be one of those I think about when my spouse is starting to get on my nerves! I often sound grouchy when I am not trying to be. It is just my personality! However, that needs to change! <3 love you Mara, and thank you!

    • mara October 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

      You are so sweet…thank you. Just having a desire to do this will help you immensely to make it happen. I'm rooting for you!

  6. Utah Girl Am I October 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    This is such wonderful advice, and I definitely think it's something that can apply in any relationship, not just a marriage. Thank you for sharing so much of your own lives to uplift others. 🙂

  7. Elizabeth Nicole October 16, 2012 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Mara, I love reading this blog. I love this post, especially with the last few weeks of stressors in our hours (i.e. me switching jobs and still working nights, husband trying to get a job, keeping up with bills, etc). I know their are times in which we both get antsy, frustrated, and snappy and we do NEED to step back and be kind and life one another up. So much great info from you guys!

  8. AVY October 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm - Reply
  9. Team MS T.H.A.N.G.S October 16, 2012 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Mara, I have a tough one for you. My husband has horrible road rage. It's not aggressive, just very frequent. How can I calm him down and up the love when this happens? I usually demonstrate a calm demeanor in these situations but it doesn't help. Any ideas?

    • danny October 17, 2012 at 5:31 am - Reply

      Hey Team –

      Mara and I were talking about this and it's a little hard to say, especially cause we're not certain how bad the "road rage" is. If it's more like frequent road annoyance instead of rage, that certainly makes a difference in how important it is to address.

      Also, not knowing your husband and how he might respond to the subject being brought up is another matter.

      I think the key thing behind Mara's post and the concept she was starting to address is one thing you already are doing, and that is demonstrating calm demeanor. That is important because it doesn't escalate it…which is sometimes all you can really ask for.

      Understandably you would like for it to not happen as often, or for its severity to decrease. But that is ultimately in the hands of your partner. That is their decision. You're doing your part.

      If you were going to address him about it (either in the moment it was happening or at some other point) I think the thing I've noticed that is most important when Mara and I do this, or when I see others do it, is the way we try to approach it doesn't encourage defensiveness.

      The way I've experienced it is…let's assign the number 0 to my mood at a fairly neutral state. If I were to lose my temper or get "road rage" (or just simply be really tired or hungry or whatever) and suddenly my mood is at a -5…I'm more likely to be defensive to just about any suggestion, in part because when you're giving into those negative emotions – the ego is taking over, and the ego will defend its territory. All of us certainly try to be open and reasonable to others…but when we're already not at our best and we feel threatened or criticized by someone else, we often times only get worse.

      I don't know what you can do in the moment of his road rage that's going to stop him or change things. You know your husband best. Perhaps the best thing you can do is find a way to bring it up when you're not even in the car. And if you bring it up at all, it's best to find a way to not point the finger (that just engages the ego and all of our very natural defenses). Maybe you can not even make it about him at all. And just say that you're trying to work on responding to things better yourself, and you need his help. Don't even bring up what his problem is, but sincerely make it about things that you want to improve in yourself and that you're going to need little reminders. If you too ever lose your temper while driving than you could use that as an example…but if you don't do that I'd just steer clear.

      Maybe he'll want to participate in this self-improvement exercise, maybe he won't. But I think you stand a better chance of explaining that for your personal development, you're trying to practice responding to things with greater calm, with more love, and with patience. Explain why you want to do that and why you think it is important for you.

      This way if he reflects at all on the overall subject, it will be without his defenses kicking in (which all of us struggle against) and it will be with a desire to help you (which is an exercise of love and support, yay!). Maybe he'll start thinking of areas he can improve as well.

      I hope my rambling ideas were helpful. Again, you know your husband best. Perhaps only one of my ideas will be useful. I think we do our best when we approach things humbly and are sincerely trying to improve ourselves. That can often inspire those around us more than detailing the things they need to improve.

      Best of luck…if you do try anything I'll be curious to know how it turns out.

    • Sage October 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      Hey Team,

      You could share this funny dream my bishop had. He dreamt that he got to heaven and God told him he would only be judged on how he acted while driving. This was enough information for a final judgement.

      That's it. Makes you think, right? Makes me try to be more patient while driving. The humorous nature of the dream might make it easier to share. Good luck!

    • danny October 17, 2012 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      Funnier and more succinct than my "post" above. Sage always manages to deserve her name.

      In the spirit of the post, my only other suggestion is maybe you need to try less driving and more parking 🙂

    • Team MS T.H.A.N.G.S October 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your reply Danny and Sage! My husband is a humorous man so I may just try your suggestion Sage. And your last comment Danny made me think, maybe I should just offer to drive as much as possible. It's obvious driving makes him miserable so I can probably help most by just taking it out of the equation.

      Thanks both you two, I love this blog!

    • mara October 19, 2012 at 12:18 am - Reply

      Love these comments, you guys ! 🙂

  10. Dominique October 18, 2012 at 4:24 am - Reply

    "Up the Love" Beautiful sentiment, Mara.

  11. Anonymous October 19, 2012 at 12:14 am - Reply

    Ok, random comment, but I gotta say that I love that you throw in cute one-liners and tasteful references to sex in your posts and don't shy away from it – even though I know a few readers have made some "TMI" comments in the past.

    I have struggled at times with being able to talk about sex (even to my husband!) without feeling embarrassed. The way you approach it here as if it's not a big deal and just a normal, sweet, healthy part of life helps me to see that I shouldn't feel that way. Thank you!

    • mara October 19, 2012 at 12:27 am - Reply

      Anon – you're brave and sweet to write in. And I'm glad to hear my openness helps you. It's worth the few TMI comments. 🙂 Have a great night!

  12. Senja October 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I have really noticed how big of a difference it makes when I talk calmly to my husband. This works in so many ways.

  13. Sue D October 22, 2012 at 4:57 am - Reply

    Thank you, thank you for these beautiful advice. I am just a stranger passing by, but your post moved me. It comes at a very important time for me and I cannot express how thankful I am for having read this post tonight.

    Have a starry night! 🙂

  14. khuyen mai December 25, 2012 at 9:31 am - Reply

    A beautiful love story, romance

  15. Steve Paul September 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm - Reply

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  16. Emily September 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Mara! So have you ever had it backfire? When you try to stay calm and say or do something kind but they react negatively?

  17. Freya George February 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm - Reply

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  18. Jenna Catlin February 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm - Reply

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