I’ve always thought chipmunks were cute, scurrying around in our yard, stuffing their cheeks with birdseed and generally looking adorable.

In the past, however, all the chipmunks I’ve ever seen were outside. They aren’t quite so cute when they’re in your house.

Twelve days ago, a chipmunk ran out from under my husband’s chair into the kitchen. I caught him under a basket for all of 15 seconds, and then he got loose again. We set out a live trap, loaded with peanut butter and sunflower seeds.

We aren’t sure how he got in, but I often leave the door to our back porch open, and it’s likely he got in that way.

On the Hunt . . .

We still haven’t caught him yet. That’s right. We have had a chipmunk in our house for nearly two weeks.

I’ve heard him several times and I’ve seen him as well. (Did you know that a chipmunk who is scurrying down the basement stairs can take a moment to turn around, look you in the eyes, taunt you, and still get away? It’s true. He can.)

It isn’t clear whether the chipmunk has been really living with us during this time or if he has found a way in and out of the house and is just a frequent visitor.

I haven’t found any evidence of his presence (chewed-up stuff or droppings), so in that regard, it isn’t a problem—but it’s driving me a little nuts. He hasn’t caused any real trouble yet, but he could. He could be carrying a disease and bite one of us. He could get into our food. He could chew up my knitting supplies. (I don’t know if chipmunks chew things like mice do, so I might be making that up.)

On top of all that, he has already caused me one injury. I was being so careful about where I was walking so I wouldn’t step on a chipmunk that I tripped over the cord on my laptop and fell full-force forward and landed on my knee. (You didn’t know chipmunks were so dangerous, did you?)

Every time I hear any kind of unfamiliar scratching noise or a chip sound, I investigate. I’ve been researching chipmunk removal so much that I’m starting to see extermination ads show up when I’m on other websites. I have convinced myself that if I just gather all the right information, I’ll know exactly what to do to eliminate the problem.

One website reassures me that the chipmunk doesn’t want to move in and that we should leave a door open so it can leave. (Sorry, chipmunk expert dude, but wouldn’t that just be an invitation to all the other chipmunks in our yard to come on in?)

Several sites show me how to make a bucket trap that will drown the chipmunk. (I don’t want it to die such a horrible death. I just don’t want it to be a problem anymore. Can’t I do that more gently?)

Even the experts are saying that it’s way too expensive to use an exterminator since chipmunks are so easy to take care of on your own. (Oh, really? Then why do I have the one chipmunk that is the exception that proves the rule?)

My husband is looking into snap traps that are just larger sized mouse traps that kill quickly. I suspect that we may have to go that route. 🙁

Our cat is completely useless, either sitting next to the cage scaring away the chipmunk or giving herself a bath while the chipmunk runs right in front of her.

Screaming doesn’t help, either. Trust me. I’ve tried. Several times. The chipmunk mocks me.

Life Goes On

Meanwhile, life doesn’t cease just because I have a chipmunk in the house.

What I would like to do is a massive purging of everything in the house, digging into everything in the basement and not stopping until we’ve identified the chipmunk, proven the point of entrance, and ensured that he and his little friends will never, ever come into our house again. If I did that, though, my life would become totally chipmunk-focused to the exclusion of everything else.

I want to call everything to a halt, but I know I can’t. Instead, we need to keep going on with our lives. We still need to sleep. I have meals to prepare and dishes to wash. I have laundry to do (ack! In the basement with the chipmunk!) and floors to sweep and toilets to clean. I have writing and grading to do, dishcloths and blankets to knit, and relationships to tend.

Life does not stop just because we have a chipmunk in the house. If it did, everything would fall apart. My family would starve or end up living on chips and sloppy joes. We would have no clean clothes to wear. I would probably create a bigger mess to deal with in digging through things to find the little rodent. I would experience little relaxation or pleasure. I would spend a great deal of time feeling stressed and grumbling under my breath (or not) rather than soaking in the presence of God and enjoying my time with my husband.

So I keep living my life, armed with an empty ice cream bucket over my arm when I wander into the basement just in case I have an opportunity to pounce. But life doesn’t stop for a chipmunk.

When a Problem Shows Up in Your Marriage

I’ve thought about the lesson this offers me in dealing with marriage problems.

Life does not cease just because there’s a chipmunk on the loose.

Marriage does not cease just because there is a problem.

My approach to marriage problems used to be to put the entire marriage on hold until we dealt with the one thing that I thought was the problem.  I thought our lack of emotional connection was the problem. In my mind, until the emotional connection problem was solved, other aspects of being married (like sex) should be put on hold.

I would dig into everything and not want to stop until I’d identified the exact cause of the problem and taken measures to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again. I assumed that there was just one right answer and that we just hadn’t found it yet.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t be doing any of the things that need to be tended in a marriage to help it hold together. We went through times when our marriage was essentially starved of affection and communication. We wore old worn-out habits rather than renewing our ways of relating to each other. I had begun thinking about drastic solutions.

Our marriage was full of tension and stress, with little pleasure of any kind. We both grumbled a lot rather than enjoying our time with each other. I would do so much research and focus so much on the problem that in no time at all, the problem was the only thing I could see when I looked at our marriage.

Just like life doesn’t stop just so you can find a chipmunk, marriage doesn’t stop while you are working on the problem. The marriage still needs to be tended. It needs to be fed with the physical, emotional, and spiritual food that helps it grow. It needs times when it is replenished by rest and recreation. It needs conversation. It needs communication. It needs two people, together. It needs sex. It needs God.

Focusing so much on the problem that we lost sight of our marriage didn’t do us any favors.

Carry On

Marriage doesn’t stop just so you can fix one problem. We need to carry on with our marriage even as we work on addressing the problem.

Now, when we encounter a problem in our marriage, I make a point of continuing to tend the marriage in other ways, even while we address the problem. In fact, I often work harder on tending the marriage as a whole because we need the marriage even more when there’s a problem than we do when there isn’t one. I focus on the marriage as a whole rather than being problem-focused.

I may do some research and some rearranging of things in order to address the problem, but I don’t let the marriage come to a halt. I keep myself armed with information, insight, and the presence of God because I never know when the problem will bubble up and need to be dealt with—but the marriage doesn’t stop just because a chipmunk problem has taken up temporary residence.

When there’s a problem on the loose in your marriage, do you remember to tend to your marriage?

Image credit davidpwhelan | 

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12 Thoughts on “When There’s a Chipmunk in Your Marriage

  1. FarAboveRubies on October 3, 2014 at 2:14 pm said:

    About that varmint, I would leave sticky traps everywhere downstairs. The bigger the better on the traps. Sorry Kitty, you will be outside for awhile until the sticky traps work their magic.

    We are dealing with rats in the hen house and the cowyard. Last fall we used $300 worth of rat poison. It was very effective. Time to go to Menards again.

    • I hate using the sticky traps. They take so long for the critter to die. It may be what we have to do, though. I don’t like using poison, either, but since I dislike the chipmunk more than I dislike sticky traps or poison, I suppose we just have to get mean.

      I hope you get rid of your rats quickly. My brother-in-law (also a farmer) refers to squirrels as tree-rats.

      • FarAboveRubies on October 3, 2014 at 4:48 pm said:

        Us farmers, think alike. 🙂

        • Yup. As a farmer’s granddaughter, I have just enough of that in me to know what I should do but just enough non-farmer to feel bad about it. LOL

        • FarAboveRubies on October 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm said:

          Speaking of critters, that reminds me of another incident that happened recently on our farm. It was kinda late when we came home from a date at Menards. Rich spotted a skunk walking across our driveway. He said to me, “Get ’em.” I replied “On the alfalfa fields? Really?” My husband knew that he would be plowing up a good portion of that field this fall. I chased it for a bit, then I floored it. Got ‘er. I aim well. It wasn’t my vehicle. It was only his pick up that stunk from the skunk. You know you’re a redneck when…

        • That isn’t redneck. That’s just practical. The smell is awful, but it’s better to have it contained on the alfalfa field than to take the chance that it will get you close to the house sometime.

  2. charlie on October 3, 2014 at 3:34 pm said:

    I just trapped a raccoon last night and let it go down the road by the river. I just couldn’t drop the cage in a garbage can of water as others do. Their pitiful sorrowful eyes go right through me. Even thought that rascal has completely destroyed my mulch beds! It seriously looks like wild boar ravaged it! I may catch another tonight, who knows?

    Or how about last winter when my son asked why we had handfuls of dog food under the couch cushions. Our house is brand new and I thought spiders were are only concern, but no, I knew that we had mice. Caught three the first night, then two more the next, and one more after that. Spent days cleaning everything. Great fun!

    Along the lines of intimacy, I humbly asked my wife to look at your sight! Didn’t go so well to say the least. Triggered her fight response. So we don’t or can’t even talk about it. I guess if bullying works…. why change.

    • I generally think it’s a bad idea for many husbands to share this site with their wives. It says to her “You aren’t good enough” or “See? I told you so.” 🙁

      Perhaps she can find another site or can end up here some time on her own. It seems to work best if either a) she has asked him to recommend a site about sexual intimacy, or b) there is a particular post that addresses a question or concern she has expressed before.

      My husband used to send me links, too, and I fought about it. At the same time, I did actually read what he sent me (even when I said I didn’t). Eventually, the ideas began to sink in. So hang in there.

      I’m a sucker for an animal’s eyes, too, even though I know they’re just animals.

  3. charlie on October 4, 2014 at 8:24 am said:

    Well, I caught another raccoon last night. this one was a fighter even after being in the cage for 8 hours. I saw it before I went to bed. Strangely, this time the cage had blood on top of the cage and outside it! It even had shells from nuts around it when I baited it with a tuna sandwich. Could it be his buddies were fighting for his rescue? Am I the only one who sees the irony in the trapped racoon and a husband trapped in a sexless marriage? I guess thats not right because you cant talk about married sexlessness with family or friends. You just suffer feeling trapped all alone with only a computer.

    • I encourage you to find someone in real life to talk about this with–a trust-worthy family member, close friend, or brother in Christ. If nothing else, talk with your pastor. Your pain is real. Despite the way it feels, it is not a reflection of your worth or value or manhood. It is a reflection of your wife’s heart.

      Triggered her fight response. So we don’t or can’t even talk about it. I guess if bullying works…. why change.

      If by “fight,” you mean anything physical, then focus on getting yourself safe. If you are referring to verbal fighting, is there anything you can change in how you respond? The answer to “why change?” is that the goal is worth the effort. The fact that you as a couple can’t talk about it doesn’t mean that you can’t share with her your pain or frustration. Do so calmly so she hears your words and cannot focus on your demeanor. (I used to focus on my husband’s anger and use that as a justification to avoid thinking about his actual words.)

      It isn’t fair, but since you’re the one who is here and miserable, you’re going to have to be the one to “go first.” Examine yourself. Strengthen yourself in Christ. Prepare yourself for your wife’s reactions. Know that if you press the issue consistently, she may dig in her heels. She may be angry. That doesn’t mean that it is the wrong thing to do, although how you do it will be important. Let your wife know that she is worth the effort. Remember that your battle is not against your wife but against the enemy, for your marriage.

      I know you are weary. You feel trapped. Is the freedom from this trap worth some bleeding on your part? The raccoon fought hard to get out of its cage. His raccoon brothers were trying to help. How hard are you willing to fight in order to get to the marriage that you and your wife both need? What Christian brothers do you have who you can enlist in prayer for you?

      On this blog, as much as I am aware that husbands can find help and insight here, I am always mindful of how that can ultimately minister to wives. Right now, I am thinking about her. She may be nothing like me–but I will say that there were times my heart ached for my husband to show me that my heart was worth my effort. I wanted to know that in the face of my emotional storm, he was a rock who would still be there for me. I needed the demonstration of his love for me and the knowledge that this love was about far more than sex. I wanted to be worth it–and when he gave up when I fought, I often felt disheartened and unvalued. Does your wife know that you think she is worth the effort for you?

  4. If you catch your chipmunk in a glue trap, you can use cooking oil to free him. It unsticks the critters. Although I grew up in a very rural area, I never got over the soft heart for animals.

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