|Our Wedding Day|
No bride says on her wedding day, “We promise to love each other, but I know it won’t last.” We all start out with such high expectations. Thirty years ago I pledged to stay together for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health til death do us part. Neither one of us knew what the future would hold, but as we began our lives we both had such high hopes.
We had 3 children, and then my husband started his own business. We both worked long days, him building a business and me raising children and helping him anyway I could. We were extremely tired and looked forward to the moment that we could relax just a little. But we both still had high hopes! Two more kids, downturns in business and having children college age through infant in the house started to take its toll. Adding to the mix were ill parents. We were both stretched so thin, and failed to see how the other was holding up.
Both of us were drowning and couldn’t figure out how to find each other. I know the pain of feeling unloved, and if my husband were writing this, he could say the same. After being married 20 plus years, I began to think that maybe this is all there is. Don’t get me wrong. We both loved each other dearly. We just couldn’t find the way back to a place that we had joy and laughter. I would look across the room at him and know there was more to marriage, but it was as if we were standing on either side of the Grand Canyon without any way to get to each other. I constantly had that deep yearning for more. I would look across the room and want my husband to look at me and say something, anything. The ache in my heart just grew. The reality of the situation is that he had the same ache too, but when I looked at him all I saw was indifference. Guess what? That is what my husband saw when he looked at me.
There were moments when we thought we had finally gotten to the other side of the Canyon and, we stood facing each other briefly. One of us spoke a wrong word and that was enough to feel as if I was falling into the abyss.
If you can identify with these feelings, you are probably in the majority. Marriage is difficult; parenting is difficult; and sometimes it feels like you will never find your way again. My number one advice to you is: DON’T GIVE UP!!!!!!
I know you are probably thinking, “but I am the one that is putting forth all the effort.” And again I say, “DON’T GIVE UP.”
My husband and I tried the traditional things that everyone says to do like look at pictures from your wedding day, reminisce about what drew you close, go on dates. Sometimes we found a spark that would temporarily flicker, but it was never long lasting.
We found ourselves being sad when we looked at pictures. First of all, I am not the girl I was, and quite frankly, I don’t want to go back to that girl. He is not the man I married. Both of us have changed so drastically from our dating days. Secondly, those pictures just reminded me of how far we had drifted apart. We needed something else, but were so unsure of where to find it.
Fortunately for us, we kept trying. Attending marriage classes and seminars did very little to help. Many times it provided a temporary band-aid to our marriage. We needed something that would last longer than a band-aid.
Here are just a few things we have found successful:
1) Pray – Did you know that couples that pray together have a lower rate of divorce? Prayer really works. I can testify to that. But what if your spouse won’t pray with you? Pray alone, and pray for your spouse. I highly recommend books such as: The Power of the Praying Wife or The Power of the Praying Husband.
I am horribly ashamed to admit that there were times that my husband would take my hands to pray and I would pull away. I was so afraid of being close to him and losing that again that I wouldn’t allow him to be that close to me. And my husband (if he chose to acknowledge it) would say that there were far too many times that he forgot to pray with me or turned from me.
It is exceedingly intimate to pray and most couples never get comfortable enough to pray together. It can be more embarrassing than being naked in front of your spouse. Remember Adam and Eve in the garden with the fig leaves? Praying removes those fig leaves and leaves you very exposed.
If you aren’t ready or willing to get to that level of spiritual intimacy, pray alone. Instead, leave notes of encouragement for your spouse that say, “I prayed for you today and thanked God for having you in my life.”
2) Go on Dates – I know that we tried that and it wasn’t always successful, but keep spending time together. If you are never together, you will not get the opportunity to build new memories. We made the mistake of always going to the same places on each date. It was familiar; it was easy; it didn’t require much effort from either one of us.
Honestly, after taking care of children and working all day, neither one of us had the time and energy to devote to our relationship much less plan a date. We had officially drifted into the automatic pilot mode. Same place, same time, same waiter, same food. . .BORING!
I was determined to get us out of years of being in a funk. In January 2014, I planned twelve dates. One for each month of the year. We successfully managed to go out in January and February. March was cancelled due to sickness. April were tickets to a concert. May, June, July, August were forgotten, and then we did go out in September. Even though our monthly special dates failed, we still managed to go on boring dates. I vowed to do better in 2015.
We just recently went on a fantastic date that was horribly romantic. It was filled with laughter, tears of joy and regret, romance, and was low cost! I will write about that date in another post. In fact, I was so thrilled with our date that I plan to blog about future dates. Everyone needs ideas to spark their creativity, and after taking care of kids, the house, work, etc., who has time and energy to think of interesting dates.
3) Accept Yourself – How could I feel love from my spouse when I felt so unlovable? I know this seems odd, but you cannot be happy or content in a relationship if you look in the mirror and can’t accept yourself. I spent many years trying to be someone I was not – for my mother, for society, etc. When I finally said, “this is who I am,” I became a happier person. When you are always so busy trying to please everyone else, you run out of energy. When you aren’t accepting of yourself, you spend a lot of time and energy being defensive. I spent years responding negatively to the things my husband said. I am sure that he felt attacked which caused him to withdraw. His withdrawal made me feel unloved. It was a never ending circle that never had a good outcome.
It wasn’t until I started to accept who I was that real change came. I still look in the mirror and see all my flaws, but I am beginning to love and accept me.
4) Communicate by Listening – Too often we listen halfheartedly and are planning our response while our spouse is still talking. We respond without even listening to what they are saying. By truly listening and repeating back what he/she said to you enables real communication. This gives your spouse a chance to clarify what they meant, and you will find that petty fights don’t occur as often.
You know the saying, “There are two sides to every story.” One of my favorite movies to illustrate this point is He Said/She Said. This movie depicts a relationship from both the man’s point of view, and the woman’s point of view (plus you get the added bonus of seeing what really happened). By listening and repeating back what you hear from your spouse, you eliminate problems before you allow them to occur.
I remember a statement my husband made about 10 years ago. He said, “Do you really think that I spend my time thinking up things to try to intentionally upset you?” When he said those words, I realized that my response to what he said was usually because of how I was feeling, not what he was saying. By really listening I can avoid negative responses.
5) Have Fun Together – Find ways to have fun together. Way too often we think having fun entails spending lots of money. We see our friends going on ski trips, cruises, concerts, and other fun activities. Frankly, having 5 kids doesn’t lend itself to spending money on a lot of those activities. And having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Turning off the television and playing cards, board games, going for walks, all contribute to bonding. Those activities lead to talking and making memories.
Some of our best moments occur when we are just hanging out together. If we never spend time together, we cannot build good memories. You don’t always have to chronicle every moment with a picture either. Some of our best memories occurred without a camera around. Experts say that taking photos diminish memories of the event. Just get out there and have fun together!
|We don’t wear goofy sunglasses everyday, but when we do, we take pictures!|
6) Don’t Give Up – Those couples that have been married 30, 40 or 50+ years all have one thing in common. They didn’t give up. Not one of them can honestly say they haven’t experienced great sorrow, sadness, frustration, calamity, loss and/or difficulty. Giving up is many times the easier path. It is hard work to stay and face another day with the person that makes you remember failure, loss or sorrow. Running away and forgetting that pain seems the logical choice, but I guarantee 10 or 15 years with another person will bring about another round of sorrow and pain.
I can assure you that I do not have it all figured out. But if anyone tells you they have all the answers they aren’t telling the truth. There are so many marriage “experts” out there and many of them have been divorced and remarried. In fact, the divorce rate for marriage counselors is about the same as the general public. If you want your marriage to work, make sure you take advice from people who haven’t given up!
I will start my series on Dating soon, and I encourage you to have fun dating along with us!