Hubs and I are escaping reality for a few days to celebrate our Anniversary this weekend. In thinking about all I need to do before disconnecting and dumping the kiddos with Mimi I have been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned about marriage thus far. Sure, I specialize in relationships and couples therapy, I have read lots of books, been to many conferences and work with relationships every day.
But what have I learned about marriage and myself in the past 12 years?
1. Be Flexible. This probably is one of my biggest challenges. Being flexible is a must being married to my fly by the seat of his pants man. I prefer plans, structure and knowing. He prefers last minute fun, pushing the limits and winging it. This probably goes back to that opposites attract thing because I am sure we would be the most boring couple if we did not challenge one another in this area. Not being flexible has caused many an argument and I’m sure it will cause more as I am a recovering control addict. 2. Don’t Always Put the Kids First. I must confess I miserably fail at this a lot. When our boys were younger and things felt like pure chaos I think I sought out feelings of control by the structure and routine of their schedules. Unfortunately, their schedule did not include much mommy-daddy time. Chaos or control, who knows, but I do know I put the kids in front of hubby too much. I still do at times. Showing up as mom is a top priority, but I need to stop and remember I would not be blessed with these boys if it were not for hubby.
3. Intimacy Is a Constant Challenge. Emotional and physical. He struggles more with emotional intimacy, I struggle more with physical intimacy. Love Languages aside, both need to be a priority and knowing what I struggle with and what he struggles with helps us know where we need to work harder, ask for help, forgive a little more. Opening up is hard, sometimes hardest with the one we love the most. This is often where fear creeps in to rob us of the love we deserve.
4. Say I’m Sorry and Mean It. Two powerful words, “I’m Sorry.” Often I have to say I’m sorry for my words. I am a say it like it is girl and truth is sometimes things need to be said a bit more gentle so they can be heard. Saying I’m Sorry is difficult for me because I would like to think I am always right. Ha! Marriage has definitely taught me is it not always about being right.
5. You Are A Team. “TEAM JOHNSON” I say this a lot to the boys, but every team has to have its leaders. Hubby and I are the leaders of this team, so for Team Johnson to be successful first and foremost Hubby and I have be on the same page. From agreeing on after school priorities, ways to disciple, to supporting one another’s careers and budgeting. Thinking that leaving the other out of the responsibilities has made be bitter through my own faulty thinking it would just be easier to do it myself. In the end, doing things together, big and small, makes us feel closer, like we are doing life together.
6. Reflect on The Reason’s Why We Got Married. We often talk about how we ended up together in good times…I was recently broken up from a long term relationship, He was single too, which was rare for him as he always seemed to have a new girl with him every time we ended up at the same party. We had mutual friends yet no one would have ever seen us together…remember the opposites attract theory? This is the enjoyable way of reflecting on the reason’s we got married. I have also found that during the rough, hurt, disconnected times I find hope and comfort in reflecting on the reason’s we got married. He was fun to hang out with, he was funny, he was hot!, those blue eyes and bald head, he was a hard worker, he would give the shirt off his back to help someone, he brought me coffee in the dark hours of the morning the day I started my 1st ‘real job.’. Reflecting on why I knew he was the one, helps me remember he still is all these things.
7. I Need Alone Time. This is more about me than us. I need time alone to relax, restore and renew. I am a raging introvert married to a raging extrovert. Yes, opposites attract again. I am a better wife, a better mom, a better friend, a better therapist when I have had alone time. While I know this I also have to be able to manage this within my marriage. Balancing those sometimes scarce moments between my need to be alone and my need to connect with my hubby. This one is a constant struggle being married to my social butterfly. It affects our times alone as well as out social life. I crave being at home, he craves being out and about.
8. Being Vulnerable is Hard. I often find being vulnerable with my hubby is the hardest of all. Why? Most likely because he is my person and what if I say that one thing, share that one part of me, express my deepest to him and he rejects me? Although as I write this I logically know this is complete illogical thinking, sometimes in the moment, in the conversation, when he and I are in the fire that same fear that tried to block and destroy intimacy rears his ugly head again. I can feel the fear press on my chest and try to wire my mouth shut. I have to decided that love is worth pressing through the fear, stepping into the fire and allowing myself to be vulnerable. Truth is, love has always won when I choose to not let the fear force my mouth shut.
9. Arguments Don’t Have To Be Disastrous. Yes, we have had many a disastrous fights in our 12 years. Hubby disappearing in the night after barreling down the road in anger. Me shutting down out of hurt for days. Saying things we wish we never said. Yelling, texting, crying, hurting. Luckily, this is one that 12 years has taught us to do better. Now we know when to just stop, it’s not going to get any better if we were to keep arguing. Now we know how to listen better, not talk over one another, and clarify what the other is saying. Now, we know how to recover from a fight in a very strategic way.
10. Appreciation Is Powerful. Noticing what we appreciate in one another is so simple yet so powerful. From the simplest things like Hubby making me coffee every morning, to the big things, Hubby sacrificing his softball team to coach our boys. When chaos and stress and disconnection are ruling us we tend to neglect stopping to appreciate what we have. Even on days when we barely see one another moments of appreciation keep us connected.
11. Commitment Makes Us Work. At the end of the day, during our seasons of discontent we both know that we both want this marriage to work. Amidst times of worry if we will make it we tend to come around to our core commitment to one another and our family. This commitment makes us say “I’m sorry,’ this commitment makes us forgive, this commitment makes us dig deep to untangle our baggage to make our marriage stronger. Our commitment lets me know what he always has by back, no matter what.
12. Marriage is HARD WORK. Marriage is the hardest things I’ve done. It is the most important relationship I have, yet the one I take for granted the most. My marriage has motivated me to make myself a better person. Marriage has made me rip the bandage off old wounds of trust and control to strengthen the We I am committed to. Marriage has shown me I do not want to do this life alone, I want to do it with Hubby, my Hubby, no one else.