Welcome to a blog tour for Spouse in the House
by Cynthia Ruchti & Becky Melby
(be sure and keep reading to the very end for a book giveaway!)
When Quality Time Becomes All of the Time
Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby offer couples a guide to making room for each other
Grand Rapids, MI — There are times in marriage when the hustle and bustle of life, the demands of work, and the busyness of the kids have couples desperate for even just a little bit of time alone together. While two’s company, especially for those who love each other, what happens when—due to retirement, working from home, or even running a business together—spouses find themselves spending what feels like too much time together? When being in the same space all the time is awkward, complex, annoying, and just plain challenging? How can partners coexist without co-exhausting each other? In Spouse in the House: Rearranging Our Attitudes to Make Room for Each Other (Kregel Publications/September 21, 2021/ISBN: 9780825446788/$18.99) Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby take a frank and funny look at what to do when time together may seem like too much of a good thing.
Change is seldom easy, and the authors know all too well how adapting to a new, all-the-time closeness can cause the bliss of marriage to form blisters. It is an adjustment to share the same space 24/7, work around each other’s routines, communicate expectations, and divide the chores. Drawing from their own experiences as members of the HHATT Club (He’s Home All The Time), and from men and women across the country in the same situation, Ruchti and Melby take a deep breath and dive into the root causes of the discomfort. They dig into what God’s Word has to say and they offer practical tips for learning the spiritual, emotional, relational, and even physical steps that can help readers replace irritation with peace.
“Any home, large or small, can feel like too tight quarters unless we learn how to relate to, appreciate, and work around each other’s personalities and preferences when a health need, job layoff, retirement, temporary circumstance, or new working arrangement results in both spouses in the house for long stretches of time,” Ruchti explains. “A husband and wife can rub each other the wrong way, find there’s not enough oxygen in the house for both of them, and trip over each other’s physical and emotional ‘stuff.’ But there’s hope for every hurdle, and a joy possibility for every relationship jolt.”
Spouse in the House is a resource for couples that is needed now more than ever. As the authors point out, not since the Industrial Revolution transformed American life from what had been largely agricultural and family-run businesses has there been such a seismic shift back to two spouses at home. This migration to more time at home can be traced to many factors:
- Advanced degrees can now be earned entirely online.
- A rising entrepreneurial spirit is creating more and more home-run businesses (many with “work-linked” spouses collaborating on the same business, or each running a business of their own).
- Company employees increasingly work remotely to cut down on overhead (which had started pre-pandemic).
- As many as ten thousand baby boomers retiring every day in the United States.
“After several years of working part-time, I quit to focus on writing. My husband left at 8:30 every morning and came home at 6:30. Those hours in between were mine to plan and fill as I pleased. I played worship music as loud as I pleased. I moved my laptop throughout the day from the kitchen counter to the couch to the dining room table. I ate lunch when I pleased and ate what I pleased. I spread folded laundry across the kitchen table, left cupboard doors open, and held animated phone conversations in any room of the house I was in. I…I…me…me…mine,” Melby admits. “The adjustment to living in an ‘our’ world wasn’t easy. While I loved the idea of more time with my man, and the freedom of camping trips during the week and seeing our out-of-state kids more, it was the little day-to-day things that frustrated me. He wanted to play, but I needed to work. I wanted to read, but the TV was on. As our subtitle suggests, the problem wasn’t actually a lack of time or space, but the need to stop labeling things and blocks of time as ‘mine.’”
Through Spouse in the House, the authors are hoping to help make the transition from the mindset of “mine” to “our” more smoothly for their readers. For any couple who wants their home to be a refuge of peace and serenity for all—not just themselves—and who wants to know they aren’t alone in the mental and physical claustrophobia of too much togetherness, Spouse in the House is a vulnerable, charming, and pragmatic breath of hope.
An Interview with Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby,
Authors of Spouse in the House
There are times in marriage when the hustle and bustle of life, the demands of work, and the busyness of the kids have couples desperate for even just a little bit of time alone together. While two’s company, especially for those who love each other, what happens when—due to retirement, working from home, or even running a business together—spouses find themselves spending what feels like too much time together? Times when being in the same space all the time is awkward, complex, annoying, and just plain challenging? How can partners coexist without co-exhausting each other? In Spouse in the House: Rearranging Our Attitudes to Make Room for Each Other (Kregel Publications) Cynthia Ruchti and Becky Melby take a frank and funny look at what to do when time together may seem like too much of a good thing.
Q: Spouse in the House was in the works prior to March 2020, but did it take on a whole other life after the initial COVID-19 shutdown? How can couples who aren’t home together for most of the day benefit from reading this book?
Becky: Though we originally saw our audience as women who were home with spouses 24/7 for an array of reasons—working from home, retirement, disability, seasonal occupations—the shutdown added a whole new group of couples who were thrust into togetherness without warning and were scrambling to make it work. The adjustment can be hard enough when you have time to discuss foreseeable problems. One of the things we’ve tried to do in each chapter is offer action steps and discussion topics that are as helpful for those in the midst of unplanned togetherness as for those who have time to prepare for it.
Cynthia: Interestingly, if anything changed, it revealed that it is not a subject only applicable to retirees. So many situations can put two spouses in the house for more time than expected, even if it’s just for more time each day. It’s true that COVID magnified the potential for relationship glitches and demonstrated how often a couple might need to adjust and readjust to keep themselves from colliding when there doesn’t seem to be enough air for two.
Many early readers said that they wish they would have had a book with this kind of encouragement when they were first married. When we talk to couples married only a few years, they too have stories to tell of moments or seasons when the quarters seemed too tight. I was just talking to a young couple that mentioned how shift work has created a problem for them—when their needs for quiet or activity or sleep fall in different parts of the day. We tried hard to make it clear that the principles apply whether that “too much togetherness” is five minutes too much or all day every day.
Becky: The spark for Spouse in the House came from our shared experiences with retired husbands, but we have both experienced seasons of togetherness for other reasons—job layoffs, injury, etc. Three of my adult sons are self-employed, allowing them flexible schedules, and one is home 24/7 due to disability. From the beginning, we wanted to offer hope and help to couples in all of these situations. As of August 2021, 16% of companies worldwide are 100% remote, and 85% of managers believe having teams with remote members will become the new norm, so we see our audience as a growing demographic. But even couples who have limited hours together each day will benefit from our relationship experiences (and mistakes) and what we’ve learned from them.
Q: You speak to the heart of women in Spouse in the House. In what ways do you envision its encouragement reaching men, too?
Becky: We hope to hear of couples who either read it out loud together or read separately and then compare notes to spark productive discussions.
Cynthia: Some of our early readers report their husband looking over their shoulder, that they share chapters together, or that they take the book with them on date nights. It offers an opportunity for them to laugh at themselves or start conversations they may have avoided. The husbands who’ve read the book report appreciating that a guy’s perspective is scattered throughout the book.
Q: How do people tend to respond when you tell them you’ve written a book for couples who are home together 24/7?
Cynthia: One person—one—responded, “Oh, we’ve enjoyed the 24/7 so much!” Everyone else has leaned in a little with a hopeful expression that conveyed eagerness to discover a place they could find genuine, down-to-earth, practical empathy as well as hints and tips for navigating the challenges.
Becky: The response is almost universal. Either “I need this book now!” or “I have to buy this for my parents, sister, best friend.”
Q: What did you learn about yourself and your marriage as you wrote Spouse in the House?
Becky: While neither Cynthia nor I will ever claim to be marriage experts, we both realized we needed to be writing from a place of at least partial victory in the areas we tackle. I confess there were attitudes I had to focus on correcting while we were writing. I’m so grateful for the push this project presented and hope the end product offers the same incentive to our readers.
Cynthia: Oh, my! What a loaded question! I realized how far I’d come, how far we’d together come over the years. And I realized how much I still have to learn about relationships. A few years ago, even though we’d been married for centuries by then (only a slight exaggeration), I couldn’t have written this book authentically. Mired in more than a little awareness of what wasn’t working, I too needed some attitude adjustments before writing word one of this book. But with those adjustments—some gradual and some lightbulb moments—came the peace-hemmed, tender, mutually satisfying relationship we enjoy today. (Note that I didn’t claim “perfect.”)
Q: What were your husbands’ initial reactions to the concept of the book?
Cynthia: Every time my husband says something hilarious or noteworthy, I always ask, “Ooh! Can I use that in a book?” So he was prepared for the big ask—“Can I use YOU in a book?”
Becky: It’s dangerous to assume you can read your spouse’s mind, but I’d label my hubby’s initial expression “cautious.” As we got into the writing, his input was invaluable, and I think he enjoyed being part of the process.
Q: How should you work out the annoyances that are bound to come up around the house? After being married a long time, why do they seem to be more of an inconvenience now?
Becky: The little things we managed to ignore or tolerate when we were only together a few hours every day can turn into major sources of irritation when they happen All. The. Time. Even after years of marriage, we can think we know how our spouse prefers to be approached about what’s bugging us, but if we haven’t talked about it, we might be wrong. Would he prefer you use a bit of humor? Maybe side-by-side in the car is easier than the intensity of face-to-face, or maybe a note or text would give him time to ponder an answer without overreacting. How about you? If your spouse is frustrated by your habit of leaving lights on in every room, or all the cupboard doors open, how can he bring it up in a way that won’t set you on the defensive?
Cynthia: Ask anyone who has had to move their family to the in-laws’ basement while their home is remodeled or who are sequestered in a hotel room while their home’s flood damage is repaired. Togetherness and tighter quarters are a breeding ground for annoyances, no matter how long you’ve known one another or how much you love each other. In the book, we discuss converting what can be annoyances or irritations into either opportunities for the application of humor or a chance to show uncommon grace and courtesy. One path—letting the irritation fester—leads to destruction and bitterness. The other path—granting a “pass” and not allowing the irritation room to grow—leads to an atmosphere of peace.
Q: Can you offer some tips for families that find themselves home together now, maybe homeschooling and a new work-at-home situation? If both parents work jobs from home, where is a good place to start discussions of the division of labor?
Cynthia: In most couples, one is clearly a more linear-thinking, organized personality. The other is likely more spontaneous. But together all the time or work from home or running a business together from home situations call for some measure of preplanning and organization. Tip #1: Figure out, if you don’t know already, your best learning styles. Are you a visual learner/processor or an auditory processor? Do you appreciate detailed plans on paper, in color, with pictures? Tip #2: Play to your strengths. Which of the two of you are naturally more skilled at jobs that don’t take a lot of thought but do take a lot of endurance? Which is better at homeschooling math help, for instance? Can the other then get more involved in the art projects? Is emptying the dishwasher no big deal to one of you and torture for the other? That’s a no brainer then in division of labor. Tip #3: Jettison the idea that it will ever come out looking like a precise 50/50 balance of tasks. Even our stamina can differ from person to person.
Becky: For starters, take some time as a couple and as a family to talk about all that is good about this new arrangement. Let every family member finish the sentence, “Now that we’re all home more, I hope we can ______________.” Make a list of all of the ideas that come out of this family meeting. Including the kids in creating a who-does-what-when chore chart can help them take pride in doing their part. Built-in rewards can help motivate everyone, including Mom and Dad.
Q: Throughout each chapter are nuggets of wisdom from a variety of people. Can you tell us more of how you recruited help to offer advice to readers?
Becky: When I first mentioned our idea for Spouse in the House to friends and family, people often shared their own stories, some funny, some hard to hear. When I sent out an email inviting them to share their experiences in the book, it was heartwarming to see how many wanted to help others with what they’d learned.
Cynthia: We drew our research from others through several avenues. We asked couples we knew who had great relationships for their perspectives. We talked to marriage and family experts. We conducted surveys of family and friends. And we observed others who were either navigating well or seemed to be growing more tense over spending additional time together.
Q: Why is it important for both husband and wife to spend times separately, with friends of their own?
Cynthia: The concept of symbolically becoming “one flesh” as the Bible describes it doesn’t mean we don’t each still have our own hair, nails, bones, skin, and brain. I can either make my man miserable by insisting that he participate in every activity or hobby I enjoy, and vice versa, or we can each have our own things—our own hobbies, our own reading interests, our own cadre of friends, our own space for what fills our soul—and wind up with more to talk about together because of it.
Becky: The right kind of friend, one who believes in your marriage and cares enough to speak the truth in love, can be a marriage saver. Ideally, every woman should have a confidante she can vent to when things are rough, knowing that friend is going to listen, then compassionately turn her heart to God and back to her husband rather than adding fuel to the fire. We also need girlfriends just for fun. A day spent antique shopping, baking together, going to an art show, or a dinner-and-a-chick-flick girls’ night out can lift our spirits, change our outlook on life, and give us something fresh to talk about when we get home.
Q: How long have the two of you been friends? What things did you need to consider before entering into a writing partnership? Any advice to others who may be considering co-authorship?
Cynthia: When we discovered we had so much in common, and then when I found out Becky was a wellspring of wisdom and the best kind of listening ear, we bonded on a deep level. She’s a giving, caring, insightful woman. And a great author. But what made me know we could write together was partly because we’d collaborated on two novella collections before and understood each other’s patterns and strengths, and partly because I knew I could trust her to be kind but truthful with me. Co-authorship is challenging for many authors. Speaking for myself, I thought it was fun. Her thoughts inspired me and pushed me to be a better writer. And we prayed with and for each other. Highly recommended.
Becky: We aren’t exactly sure when we met. I think it was at a Wisconsin writers’ event about twelve years ago. My advice for anyone entering a co-authoring arrangement is that it needs to either be approached as a purely business arrangement, complete with signed agreements, or you need to have the kind of history and understanding that allows you both to be completely honest and receive suggestions with genuine humility. Knowing Cynthia will always speak the truth bathed in love meant I could relax and enjoy the process. Plus, it’s just so much fun working with someone who knows you almost as well as you know yourself!
Q: What’s next for the two of you?
We are both working on concepts for novels with an eye toward publication. And there just may be another collaboration on a nonfiction book about… well, Dr. Snuggles and Wonderhubby are likely to show up in that book, too.
Learn more about Cynthia Ruchti and her writing at cynthiaruchti.com or by following her on Facebook (@CynthiaRuchtiReaderPage), Instagram (@cynthiaruchtiauthor), and Twitter (@cynthiaruchti).
Find out more about Becky Melby’s books at beckymelby.com or follow her on Facebook (becky.melby.9) and Instagram (@beckymelbybooks). She also shares short blog posts each Friday on the Fill My Cup, Lord page on Facebook.
I enjoyed reading this book, even though I am currently not in the stage of life this book is focusing on. I think there is something in these pages that is relevant to most people that have been married for a number of years. We all have things we need to learn, to grow in, to continue improving and building up our marriages.
Cynthia Ruchti has compelling voice, she imparts words of wisdom using snippets from her own personal experiences. I’ve loved reading her fiction books, and now I can say the same about her nonfiction titles.
I’d never before read anything by Becky Melby, and I also greatly enjoyed reading her contribution throughout this novel. I found it to be timely and thought provoking, leaving me much to think about and mull over.
I especially enjoyed the fact that there is humor sprinkled in. And paragraphs here and there from each of their husbands, both of which are named Bill, so they are identified with specific nicknames, which had me chuckling on occasion.
Overall, I found this book to be one that could be helpful to most Christians. In marriages, yes, but practical tips that could also be carried over into other relationships, particularly those in which you find yourself often in close quarters with others.
This book shows us much about giving and taking, patience, kindness, and showing Jesus to those around.
Disclaimer: I receive complimentary books from various sources, including, publishers, publicists, authors, and/or NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review, and have not received any compensation. The opinions shared here are my own entirely. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway <a href=”http://<a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b3c91bb29/” rel=”nofollow” data-raflid=”8b3c91bb29″ data-theme=”classic” data-template=”” id=”rcwidget_0swpsxav”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a> <script src=”https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js”>here