I had plans to post an enlightening and thought-provoking post about marriage in time for our seventh anniversary. But I just couldn’t swing it. However, I did find this old post I never published, probably because I wrote it just before I had Gavin and my brain was mush and I was anxiety-stricken thinking about a new baby and diapers and breastfeeding and holy cow. Then Gavin actually got here and he’s a bit like the spawn of the devil and my brain’s been useless for exactly ten months. (I am feeling tinglings here and there, however, so I think it’s coming back to life).
So I thought I would polish it up a little and post in light of our seventh anniversary last weekend. (And can we all take a moment and think about how insanely unfair it is that I got married before the Pinterest-era? It’s unspeakable).
A couple weeks ago, Cody and I attended a marriage conference called, “A Weekend To Remember.” When I told people our plans to attend, nearly every person’s face fell and said, “Oh, I didn’t know you guys were having problems.”
Isn’t that interesting? Everyone assumed our marriage was in trouble because we were choosing to work on it. “No, you sillies! That was LAST YEAR we were having problems!!” Ha. Haha. Kidding.) We actually weren’t having problems. We had decided that a weekend away to focus on our marriage, especially before our baby boy arrives in January, would be beneficial. We would essentially be “taking a pulse,” as Cody put it, on our marriage before we embark on an entirely new journey of being a family of four. We were actually doing very well as a couple, so I went into it feeling hopeful and positive about what we’d find out about each other.
I was both pleasantly surprised and slightly heartbroken by what I learned, and I will tell you why. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily Cody and I were able to do the workbook activities together. Being able to travel to a different town, stay in a hotel, and be completely out of our normal surroundings helped us really focus on each other. (Not to mention we were without Heidi, and when we’re not with our kid, we’re not really sure what to focus on).
I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of love I found in Cody’s answers to many of the questions, which ranged in topics from how we communicate, our personality styles, family background, hobbies, and family and home life.
I was pleasantly surprised by how sweet and attentive Cody was to me as we worked through some difficult material.
I was pleasantly surprised at his patience, at the things I discovered maybe bothered him a bit about me. His attitude was one of complete acceptance, not criticism or judgement. He said to me, “I have never once doubted you are the one for me, so I figured it all came with the territory and we would eventually figure it out.”
Which leads me to my heartbreak.
I was a little heartbroken that I was surprised by Cody’s warmth, responses and attitude. He truly has never said or done anything to make me believe he didn’t love me or want me to be happy. He has never tried to change me. He has never once told me that anything I have said or done is annoying or makes his life harder…even if it was probably the truth at one point or another.
I was a little heartbroken at how much of him I have missed because of my critical attitude. Over the course of six years of marriage, 14 years of knowing each other (and some random years of dating…I don’t even know since we broke up so many times, haha), I had gotten to a place where I decided that maybe he needed to be tweaked here and there. We’ve all been there. (I mean…right? That’s not just me? If so, this is going to be a really awkward post. Ha.) I had decided I knew better how he should be and act and feel. I had gotten to a place where if he would just change a little bit about a, b, or c, maybe we’d fight less…have a better marriage…be happier.
And by all that, what I really wanted was for ME to be happier.
I was a little heartbroken that I’ve hurt him by not accepting him fully for who he is. And who he is is truly amazing. As I began to pick him apart in a good way, focusing on his incredible strengths and talents, it became obvious why I’d become critical.
The BEST parts of him challenge the weakest parts of me. His strengths are things I really struggle with. But instead of seeing him as God’s perfect provision for me, to make me better, I sometimes allowed myself to grow resentful and see our differences as our biggest struggle. I convinced myself life would be easier if he was just a little more like me. I’d feel less like a failure if he wasn’t so ambitious and successful. Really, those differences (which often times, are truly polar opposites) are what make us work so well together… if we just let them.
I was a little heartbroken to find he knew all this. I had not often come out and told him I felt he should change, but he is incredibly observant when it comes to other people (yet another strength I may have overlooked). Busted.
While I don’t think marriage is purely for our own personal happiness, I would say that marriage actually is for us, in the sense that it shapes us into more sacrificial, committed, honest, patient, fulfilling people. As we journey through life with this imperfect person, who often hurts our feelings, who makes messes, who makes mistakes, who doesn’t even love us perfectly, we find strength in our commitment. As we let that commitment guide our choices to love them anyways, I feel it rises us to a level of selflessness we would never find otherwise.
And then there are those times we just get in a rut. We’re like two ships passing in the night. He has his job and all the stresses that go with it. I’m home all day with two needy kids. When we finally see each other in the evening, he’s ready to put his feet up and rest, and I am ready to go do something fun with him. We just can’t connect, and we get a little testy with each other. It happens.
I have found that these are a few things that work to get us out of the funk:
1. Go back to the beginning. Remember what it was you did in the beginning for fun and try to reconnect in the same ways. I think sometimes, the longer we are together and the more kids we have, the more pressure we put on date nights. For our very first date at the tender age of 16, we both wore jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes, and we talked and laughed over greasy pizza and cold pops. This is exactly what I planned for our anniversary this year after our zip lining adventure. The pressure was off and we had a great time.
2. Tell your story. Or better yet, have your spouse tell your story! Cody and I will have times where we are at each other’s throats all day long. But then we’ll be out with friends, someone will ask a question about how we met, and I’ll listen to Cody tell the story with so much love and warmth that I am not only reassured of his love, but I’m reminded what an awesome story we have. A few bad days can’t ruin that.
3. Get over yourself. Do what they enjoy doing and get excited about what they get excited about. I’ll be honest: sometimes this one is hard. It’s really tough for me to get excited about cars and guns and yet ANOTHER ASSASSINS CREED. MY LANTA, STOP MAKING NEW ONES OF THIS. Lord, let this trial pass quickly. Amen.
4. Think about what you want him to do for you, then do that for him. I love thoughtful cards and gifts and basically anything that lets me know he thinks of me when I’m not around. In reality, men are more like, “So I married you and we made babies…why do I need to keep telling you I love you?? Isn’t it obvious?!” I try to flip it around and do something fun for him sometimes…even if it’s just the new Anchorman movie and some of his favorite candy. It really does feel good to make them smile.
5. Let it go. (If you have finally gotten this song out of your head, I apologize). You don’t have to pick every fight, you don’t have to point out every fault, and you don’t have to address every single issue immediately. Give it a few days, think about it, pray about it, sleep on it. Our spouses are human too, complete with faults, stresses and quirks, just like us.
I’ve realized I’m married to pretty awesome guy (which I always knew…but life gets in the way sometimes), and I’d do well to begin keeping track of his incredible qualities instead of his faults. Just like anything else in life, focusing on the positive is infinitely more beneficial than getting hung up on the negative.
But it would still be awesome if he closed the kitchen cabinets once in awhile. Just saying.
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm…
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
~Song of Songs 8:6-7