My husband and I just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary this past week.
Our relationship has never really been a fairy tale.
The story of how we met isn’t too bad, but we’ve had ten years of ups and downs.
And the downs far outnumber the ups.
I’ve said it before; marriage is really fucking hard.
It would be hard in a vacuum.
But add in the kids, and ex wives, and financial issues, and health issues, and the renovation projects, and the in-laws, and everything else, and you’ve got an arsenal of things over which to disagree.
Over and over and over again.
And when you find yourself in one of these disagreements, it very often turns into an even bigger argument where the two of you inevitably get to the point where you can’t even remember what you were initially fighting about.
And when you get to that point, where you are really letting the insults fly, that’s when you say things that you wish you had never allowed to escape your lips.
Those things can be very difficult, or even impossible to undo.
Your spouse can’t forget that you said them,
So now you have said some shit that will be brought up, repeatedly.
The more times these horrible things are said,
the more resentment you build up.
And then you are so angry you have a hard time remembering why you even got married in the first place.
My husband and I got to that place this summer.
We were basically just housemates.
Tolerating each other.
And we weren’t really even doing that very well.
Now aside from the fact that an adversarial relationship with your husband or wife is no fun at all,
I knew I was not setting an example for the kind of relationship I want my children to have with their husbands or wives when they are all grown up.
My husband and I had found a great therapist who practiced a type of couples’ therapy that we’d never done before.
And we had been around the therapy block a few times before.
This imago therapy was great, and it had started to turn things around.
Then my husband had knee replacement surgery, and one thing led to another, and there we were 3 months later, in pretty much the shittiest place we had ever been during the course of our marriage.
It was time to shit or get off the pot.
We went back to therapy.
And the therapist asked us to start off the same way we always did:
Susie, tell Daryl something you appreciate about him.
Ugh. We were in such a bad spot that I couldn’t even come up with anything.
It took me about 2 minutes of stammering and mumbling to come up with something.
Uummmm, uhhhh, ummmmm…
I appreciate that you came to therapy today.
About halfway through the session, even our therapist was feeling a little exasperated.
Well. I’m sensing a rift here.
How diplomatic of her.
So we were in a situation of two steps forward and about 437 steps back.
We were both feeling a bit hopeless.
This would normallly be the time that I would throw in the towel and reach the fuck it stage.
But I didn’t.
I am fighting for this relationship.
And that’s not to imply that my husband isn’t.
But some of the things he said at that last therapy session made it very clear that he didn’t have much hope for the two of us.
I had a plan, though.
I was given two nights at the Interlaken, a beautiful inn/resort in the Berkshires about an hour from our house, at a discounted rate.
For two weeks, I worked my ass off and sold enough furniture to pay for the weekend.
I convinced my awesome parents to stay with the kids for the weekend.
I told my husband that my parents were going to come babysit on Friday night so we could go out to dinner.
While my husband was at work on Friday, I packed up his stuff. and hid it in the back of the car.
And then, on Friday night when we got into the car, he looked at me and he said, “Where do you want to go to eat?”
“We’re actually going to the Interlaken,” I told him.
“Isn’t that kind of far away?” he asked me.
“Well… We’re staying for the weekend,” I told him.
He wasn’t quite sure what to say.
I had gotten him good.
And so, my dumbfounded husband and I began the first weekend we have been without any children for the first time in ten years.
I was a little nervous.
We’ve been known to get into an argument at dinner only to return not speaking to each other.
What if we got to the Interlaken and we just drove each other crazy?
What if we got up there and without the kids as a common denominator we just realized that we fucking hated each other?
This had the potential to be really good.
Or really bad.
I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
And that’s what I got.
The best weekend we have ever had.
And over the course of the weekend, I determined the ten most important things our marriage needs in order to be healthy. And happy.
1. A good therapist
It took us ten years to find our therapist. The type of therapy is also important. Imago therapy has been a game changer for my husband and me.
2. Letting each other know what you appreciate about each other. Daily.
It doesn’t have to be much. Just one little thing. But focusing on something you love about your husband rather than something that you hate about him can really change your perspective.
3. Opportunities for uninterrupted meals.
To be able to sit and enjoy a meal with your husband without a kid throwing or spilling food or demanding a bite, or all, of whatever you are eating is crucial.
This has to happen consistently.
4. Time in bed together.
I’m not talking about sex.
Not even sleeping at night.
Just be close to each other.
You’d be surprised by how even just a minute or two of this can dramatically change how you feel.
On the lips.
Like you mean it.
6. Holding hands.
Your kids want to hold your hand for a reason.
It feels safe.
So should your marriage.
7. Having sex. Often.
I couldn’t really show you a picture of that.
But the more connected you are, literally, the more connected you feel.
The more sex you have, the more sex you want to have.
Plus, when you have sex with your husband, he’s much more likely to say yes to just about anything.
8. Giving each other space.
Even on our romantic weekend, I took a little time to go for a run.
My husband had a little time to do what he wanted.
Give your spouse the opportunity to pursue his or her own interests.
It’s not only fulfilling to all parties involved; it also gives you a chance to miss each other.
Every once in a while, make sure you screw the to-do lists.
It’s so easy to get on that hamster wheel and forget to slow down.
To nag and nag and nag.
Sometimes we are so concerned with doing, that we forget all about being.
Take some time to enjoy the view.
10. Remembering that it’s a journey.
Sometimes the road will be straight.
Other times there it will be full of twists and turns.
But when you are appreciating, and kissing, and pursuing your own passions, and pausing, and holding hands, even if you make a wrong turn, you’ll have someone to help lead you back on course.
Now have I been able to incorporate all of these things into my every day life now that we are back home, surrounded by kids and the insanity that often accompanies them?
No, not yet.
But I will.
And when I do, while our relationship didn’t have that fairy tale beginning, it may just get that fairy tale ending.