Getting married is like having a baby, you can read the books and take the classes, and still mess something up.
When my husband and I got married over 20 years ago, we had known each other for a little over six months. We met over the phone, through a mutual friend. On that first call, we spent over four hours talking about our hopes and dreams of a family and the life we wanted to live. It was a whirlwind romance that couldn’t have turned out better if Julia Quinn had written it herself.
Soon after we got married, our daughter was born and life kicked into high gear. Neither one of us had any idea how marriage was supposed to work.
Our first years were filled with babies, and because he was in the military, lots of time apart. In the years when couples would be working out the kinks of life, we hadn’t even scratched the surface.
The first five years of our marriage were challenging because of the distance.
We found out that the illusion of marriage didn’t exist. The reality was different from the fantasy we’d created of family life.
The only time we communicated was to talk about the kids or something needed for the house. Our conversations were surface at best and included one-word answers. We never faced an issue head-on, we waited until it stewed and one or both of us exploded. We had arguments that never accomplished anything. They were nothing more than venting sessions, where one or both of us ended up more mad or hurt than when we started.
These arguments solved nothing, and only created more stress and resentment.
Although we didn’t yell and argue, we did something more detrimental . . . we said nothing.
Here was our pattern:
One of us would upset the other.
The offended party wouldn’t say anything and let it build.
The offended party would then blow up over something unrelated to the real issue
We would glaze over what happened, not say a word for another few days, then act like nothing had ever happened and go back to life as usual.
The offending party would do something extra nice for the offended, and we would move on with life as usual.
This pattern ended up creating distrust, resentment, and unhappiness on both sides.
Our household was always this quiet storm. All it took was one event to take one or both of us over the edge, and the entire pattern would start again.
Although this severe dysfunction was going on in our home, we looked like the perfect couple. In public, we would hold hands, smile, and blow kisses to one another. Other couples asked us, “How do you do it?” and “What is your secret?” They wanted to be like us. We made marriage and family look so easy.
If they only knew the pain and loneliness that each of us felt behind the scenes. The pressure we felt to look like the perfect couple was heavy and added more stress to our relationship.
We continued this toxic pattern for another 10 years until we both hit a breaking point. We admitted our unhappiness to one another.
So what kept us from becoming a statistic and ending it all in a courtroom?
Self-work and communication.
We both decided to start working on ourselves and stop trying to create the perfect marriage. We realized we had no clue about the type of relationship we wanted at this stage in our lives. The idea we had of marriage came from our parents, who didn’t have healthy relationships. We were operating on old belief systems and methods that no longer worked for us.
We decided to have real conversations with each other. Not only that, but we went to therapy to learn how to communicate and listen. We learned how to stop taking things personally and detach from each other’s triggers.
Marriage is easy when it feels good and you’re on the same page. But it can feel impossible if you are at odds with your partner.
We made it through because we were willing to do the work.
Relationships always change, and marriage leaves no room for you to get comfortable. You must be flexible, open to change, and willing to grow as an individual and couple.
We made it through because we see this as a journey and not a destination.
We released the expectations and allowed ourselves to show up fully as who we are.
Everyone says marriage is hard work, but marriage isn’t hard work, it’s intentional work.
Because we decided to be intentional about our marriage, it allowed us to grow. The uncomfortable times helped us embrace life and live it to the fullest.
If you feel like your marriage is in a tough spot right now, just hold on. If you’re both willing to lean into the uncomfortable, all will work out as it should.