ONE STEP TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE
I got a request today from a mom at my kid’s school. She asked me if I would blog about what I learned during the couple’s workshop my husband and I attended. She is hoping she can get a knowledge nugget to bring a little life back into her marriage.
I am getting my Masters in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica. When I heard they were having a couple’s weekend, I asked my husband if he would join me. He said, “Sure.” I was tickled pink! Not only so we could grow closer, but also I was excited for him to see exactly what I do at school. Many of my friends had asked their husbands to come, and they declined. So, I would like to acknowledge my man for taking my hand and walking with me! Was this his first choice on how to spend the weekend? No. But, he did it for me, for us, and we later found out, for himself.
Just like my friend wanting a nugget to take back to her marriage, so did I. I take my husband on marriage retreats from time to time, to spruce things up and to get our groove back. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and once you’re in it, it’s so hard to climb out. We are all running as fast as we can, working harder than we had anticipated, and we never have enough money. All of this adds up to too tired, too stressed, and too unsexy to connect.
I want to be lovers, not roommates. I want to have my hand held, my face touched, and regular make out sessions. I want to feel heard, seen, and appreciated. I also want to do the same things for him. I want to be the kind of partner I want my husband to be. I want my home to be the place that is filled with love, support and laughter. So, when the disconnect is weighing heavier than the good stuff, it’s time for a regroup, reboot, retreat, or in this case, a couple’s workshop.
I have been married 16 years and we have five children. There is a lot going on. My husband is an actor and never has a regular schedule, my kid’s interests are all over the place and so are the locations, and I am giving attention to my creative endeavors. There is never a dull moment in our home. Even just hanging out is an event because there are some pretty amazing personalities living under one roof. We are scheduled tight, so we make sure there is time set aside for mediation, family meetings, family night, rest, etc. I find the more organized we are, the more time we have to play and have fun.
Our life wasn’t always like this. When our kids came into the picture, our attention shifted from the love we shared exclusively, to loving the little ones too. The disconnect between husband and wife happens gradually. When you have your first kid, it is the biggest life changer. You were only focused on you two, now there is another human being involved so: no more spontaneous trips, staying out until whenever you want, or sleeping in. When the second child comes, you realize you can actually love them both equally and the balancing act begins. By the time the third child comes, all bets are off. My dad once said, “After three, it doesn’t matter. You can just keep throwing kids in the mix and figure it out as you go.” That’s about right. He had six.
The biggest thing I learned from the weekend is that we attract a partner that will trigger us and push our buttons, eliciting feelings that we didn’t like so much from our childhood. But now we are adults and can look at them with an adult mind, while we work through them and heal. It’s about turning the finger I am pointing at my partner when I want to say, “I am mad because...” and turning it back at myself, so that I may get to the real root of the issue...me.
“Success in marriage depends on being able, when you get over being in love, to really love.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
I am aware that my husband loves me and he is going to trigger me so I can get to work on myself and heal. If I continue to point the blaming finger at him every time I get upset, the cycle will continue. It will continue in this marriage or the next or the next. How refreshing is it to think that my life partner loves me so much, that he would trigger me to allow me to heal my past hurts and feelings of unworthiness?
Every time we get triggered, there is something inside us that needs our attention, our love. It is never about the issue, it’s about how you react to the issue that’s the issue (not sure who said this, I heard it in class). Imagine next time your partner upsets you, instead of getting mad at him / her, you look within. Look at how you are feeling. Where does it hurt? Have you felt this way before in your life? Are you angry? Is there sadness under the anger? When did you feel sad like that in the past? The more we have ownership of our feelings, the less we can play the victim role. And I am saying victim role with no judgment, it’s just part of the story we tell ourselves and others to justify why we hold ourselves back; why we can’t be happy, why we can’t do what we really want, why we can’t have it all. I am working on owning my feelings, using past and current hurts as learning tools, and rewriting a new story for my life...my childhood version no longer serves me.
Marriage is like anything else in life. It is there to teach and support us. When you learn your lessons and do your work, it’s awesome! When you don’t it sucks and the same issue will come again and again until finally it knocks you down so hard, you have no choice but to look at it. Start looking now. Go within. Listen to what the hurt or upset is trying to tell you. My school says that healing happens when you apply loving to the places that hurt inside. Give yourself love. (I have specific ways you can give yourself love to move towards healing, if you are interested.)
Oh, one other thing my husband and I are doing that I love is; saying three things we appreciate about each other and ourselves at bedtime. I’ll have you know, it’s a great way to fall asleep. Dave is enjoying my workshop take aways more than me! I am almost to the place where I can thank him for pissing me off and showing me that I have more work to do. Almost. All right, it’s time to pick the kids up. Good luck out there and remember to turn that finger back at you.