Marriage: A Message from the Trenches

I don’t have anything figured out just yet and while I do act like an expert, I am certainly not one. So this blog is my letter from the trenches of marriage, where I’m always learning- never an expert.

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But I can’t talk about the trenches of marriage, without talking about the trenches of rediscovering myself and growing up. Because marriage is made up of two people in their own trenches who are either digging toward each other or digging away from each other.

Right now, we’re both dirty and weary from the shovels and all the digging, but we’re digging toward each other.

First, an update from my own trench. Recently, I’ve …… come to rest. Relaxed. Let go. Eased up. Worried less. These attitude changes have made a HUGE difference in my life (consider my Type A perfectionist disposition). There are 3 things that have been the catalyst to my newfound peace (plus God- everything is plus God, and I’m not saying this lightly. I’m stating the facts. God.)

1. Anti-depressants. Anti-depressants have caused me to relax in a way that I could not have without them.

2. Kon Mari. I’ve already blogged extensively about the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but again this weekend I saw how wonderful it has made my life. We’ll call this abbreviated Kon Mari: House Renovations Edition. My husband “destroyed” two bedrooms in our house in the process of putting in new windows. For the first time ever– I was able to see the new windows part of that sentence before I saw the destroyed part. Because I knew the destroying- house part was temporary and was only going to take me a few minutes to clean up and I knew at the end I’d have new windows. There was no fighting or stress to be had between my husband and I. If you have known me more than say, 5-6 minutes then you know this is a true MIRACLE! This is because of Kon Mari. My house is in such a state of perfect order, that two destroyed bedrooms still only takes me a few minutes to normalize. And in the end, I have all new windows.

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3. Brene Brown. Besides reading Brene’s genius works, I’ve been attending a small group where we talk openly about our personal struggles. This safe place has become a place of healing for me as I walk through my past and present struggles.

So- that is one of the big things that has changed in my marriage: me. I’m not bragging, I’m stating facts. The fact is: I might just be growing up a little bit. Andy, though imperfect, has always been steady, loving and ready to serve. I have not always been so gracious in my dealings. Recently, after relating some story to my friend, she looked me in the eye and said this, “Celina! You are letting go!”. I hugged her and immediately turned to Andy for confirmation (he confirmed).

Here is a special chart I created to sum up the changes in my general disposition. As you can see, I have a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long way:

Chart

 

Andy is digging his own trench. If he had a blog you could read about it. work-boots-gloves-shovel-dirty-rubble-red-clay

As a couple, we’re making positive changes. From the trenches of our marriage- here’s one: I mentioned earlier that when we went on vacation, Andy and I didn’t really do a good job connecting, but we did work it out in the end. We decided from the missed connections on vacation that we needed to be super intentional about connecting- even for just five minutes a day. (Look at us! Learning from failure and moving on with positive changes instead of wallowing!) In the busyness of day-to-day life: working, schedules, parenting- marriage is often the thing we are too tired to work on and it’s something we take for granted. We worry about the soccer schedule and not the emotional state of our mate and frankly a few days/weeks/months of living like that makes marriage feel like rooming with someone you used to love.

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In response to that,  Andy and I have been doing daily aBc Scans. aBc Scans are short, but they can be as long as we have time for, but basically after we get all the kids to bed, we sit down for at least 5 minutes and chat. From “how was your day?” to “how are you feeling?” we put it on the table. If we’ve hurt one another, we discuss that. aBc Scans begin and end with a hug. A hug communicates love and that we are on the same team. Sometimes, we discuss Baldwin Current Affairs (BCA) and sometimes we just sit together and talk about our day. Usually I relate a funny or mind-blowingly frustrating story from my trench of motherhood, and Andy shares from his trench of corporate America. What we are doing is something all of you emotionally healthy people probably already do, but we’re working hard on “healthy” and connecting emotionally is difficult. So together, we are wading the uncomfortable waters of true connection. We are listening, hugging and loving each other unconditionally. As painful as it can be, it’s not nearly as painful as us digging our trenches away from each other.

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Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we still dig in opposite directions- or who am I kidding, I dig in the opposite direction, but we’ve come so far it doesn’t make sense to go another way when what we have is the very best of all.

 

XO,

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The Power of “Yes”

Recently Andy and I did an activity that I found incredibly powerful. We sat face to face and we asked each other questions that the other person could only answer “yes” to. We asked things like, “Do you love me?” , “Do you think I’m beautiful?” , “Would you chose me again?” , “Will you stay with me forever?”, “Are you proud of me?”. We asked questions that we are always asking in our heads, but don’t always have the answer to in the midst of life’s stress. We sat face to face and said “YES!”. “Yes” to love and “Yes” to each other. It was an intimate experience that spoke deeply to my heart and has impacted my marriage even months later.

So yesterday, I did it again. I gave that powerful “YES!” a place in my life. I said “yes”. I said, “yes” to being loved. I said “yes” to being cared for. I let other people say “Yes! I love you”. “Yes! I will care for you!”, “Yes! You are a friend!”.

See, I like to think I’m pretty tough. I like to think I don’t need anyone. And I like to say, “no” because it makes me feel powerful. I can say “no” to you before you can ever say “no” to me = I’m in control.  I also tend to think that if someone helps me then I am “less than” so I say, “no thanks, I’ll be fine”. I never let anyone take care of me- I quickly shoot them down with a “no” thereby keeping my power intact.  Because of this, I don’t get to receive love and connection from those who love me most. I love to say “NO!” because “no” is also very powerful. But it’s really a different kind of power. It’s a power that says, “I have power over YOU.”, “No, you can’t love me”, “no, you can’t take care of me”. Just “no” and oh by the way, can you tell that I’m in control here?

Of course, I am simplifying ‘no’ and ‘yes’, but you get the point here. They powerful words.

Yesterday I made a series of choices that added up to a change in perspective. I didn’t even realize it until I sat down last night and looked back at my day. Yesterday, I joyfully received the gifts of love, friendship and care. I was horribly sick on Sunday night. I spent most of the night puking and woke up on Monday with a horrible migraine headache.

I directed the morning routine for Vaughn and Eloise from my bed. Literally, I told them what to do and then sent them to the driveway to wait for their ride. My kids asked if they could make their own breakfast and get themselves ready and I said, “Yes. Please.” [I humbly receive your care. Thank you and I’m sorry.]

I texted Amanda and asked her if she could take my kids to school. She said yes and offered to make dinner for my family. I said, “Yes. Please. That would be amazing!” [Thank you for taking care of me. You don’t have to do that, but I really need the help today and I am going to step out and let you do what you offered to do.]

I texted Julie to apologize for not filling her truck that I borrowed yesterday and to explain why. She asked if she could get me anything at the grocery store. “Yes. Please. My kids need milk. This morning they had dry cereal.” [Thank you for helping me even though you have a busy life and now you have to fill your own truck with gas.] Julie brought me milk AND home made zucchini bread.

I texted my mom with my sickness. “Can I take the baby this morning?” she asked. “Yes. And will you please bring me breakfast?” [Thank you for breakfast and for the break. I receive your care. I need it.]

I didn’t deserve for anyone to do all these things for me. But as I looked back at my day I realized a couple of things:

  1. All I need is a couple good friends. And I have them. And my mom. I always need my mom.
  2. Saying “yes” to being loved feels a lot better than saying “no” to being loved.
  3. Being cared for and realizing that I have true and lovely friends really is really an amazing and empowering feeling.

I think I’ll try to use that magical, powerful “YES!” a little more often.

Three things year eleven taught us about being married

Today is our eleventh anniversary.

Colorado7.04 028What?! I remember being eleven! I can’t possibly have been married this long!

But it’s true, we have been. David and I certainly do not have a perfect marriage. But we do work our butts off. We don’t have it perfect, but we do have it good. Some days are harder than others. Some days are down right ugly. But we are committed to this thing.

Here are three things we’ve decided this year about marriage:

1. Therapy is worth every penny. 

Yup. That’s it. Invest in an awesome therapist, one that you don’t know personally and who charges more than everyone else. I think therapists are like lawyers. The more expensive they are, the better. Because nothing costs more than a cheap lawyer. (I actually have NO experience on this lawyer comparison, but it sounds right?!) Same thing with marriage therapists, you need the expensive ones, the ones that are hard to get into, cause they know what the hell they’re doing. Maybe you think therapy is only if things get BAD, or you think your husband would never go, (Bribe him with sex or homemade dinners, or whatever does it for him. Do what you have to do.), maybe you think therapists just bring up the issues, maybe you think therapists are too expensive, whatever you’ve told yourself about this, rethink it. Do what you need to do to get yourselves to an awesome marriage therapist (2nd mortgages, bribing, stepping outside of your comfort zone, anything!)

David and I don’t go often, but when we do, we reap the benefits for months. And years. At one of our first marriage therapy appointment the therapist looked at us and said, “You guys argue facts. You could argue the facts forever, nothing will ever change when you argue facts. What do you feel behind the facts?

Let me give you an example from a friend. Let’s say my friend’s husband is late a majority of the time. And this enrages my friend. My friend might say:

You said you’d be home at this time.

Why didn’t you think about what you needed to do and plan better?

Why didn’t you leave at an appropriate time to make it here with traffic

Traffic happens at this time of day EVERY day, it shouldn’t be an unknown variable

etc.

And her husband might say something like:

I lost track of time.

I knew you’d be mad if I told you I wasn’t going to be home for dinner.

I didn’t know that last meeting would go so late.

There was traffic I couldn’t account for.

I am working to provide for our family.

etc.

Our therapist would urge these two individuals to share how this made them feel. So my friend would say something like:

When you are late, and do not account for everyday things that could delay you it makes me feel like our family and specifically me, is less important to you then what you’re doing. It makes me feel as though I am less important to you than your work, friends, or clients.

And then my friend’s husband might say something like:

When you act frustrated with me because of my tardiness it makes me feel like a little kid again who is disappointing my father, I feel like such a failure, like I never get anything right, so why try.

Suddenly this argument has taken on a very different tone. One that can’t be debated, suddenly the heart of the mater is our hearts. And this causes each person to just see how it feels to be the other and hopefully compassionately listen to and apologize if they have caused those feelings.

Thats just ONE of the many amazing things our ridiculously expensive marriage counselor has taught us! And ultimately- he is way cheaper than a divorce.

2. Change is inevitable and also not allowed.

That’s confusing, huh? Here is what I mean: There are (maybe) two things that we commit to not ever change in our relationship, after that, change is inevitable, and healthy!

Marriage is so uuber complicated. But one thing I have learned about marriage is that the best marriages are when two people come together to make one, and yet allow the space and grace it takes for each individual to completely change over and over again.

Did you know that on a cellular level you are a completely different person every 7 to ten years? So why do we hold fast and true to things we thought, believed, and promised ten years ago? This isn’t the paragraph where I say, therefore divorce should be okay. But this is the paragraph that I say, no wonder divorce happens so often. If you enter into marriage with the idea that the person you’re marrying will be the person you’re with in twenty, thirty, fifty years from today… you are wrong! Let’s leave space and grace of ourselves and our spouses to change and morph.

In many ways, my desires have completely changed from the day that we wed. And so have his. There are really only two things that we do not allow to change in our marriage.

First, unconditional love is not up for grabs in our marriage. Which means fear cannot exist between us. This cannot change in order for us to have a healthy connection. 

The second thing that can’t ever change in our relationship is freedom. Which encompasses this idea that we can each change individually, and this does not threaten our collective, in fact, it makes us stronger- because when you allow a person to change it shows them that fear is not present within your connection. 

3. Date often or you will loose your connection.

It seems as if people (especially couples with young children) seem to think dating is a luxury, an indulgence of sorts, only for special days, the wealthy, or the lucky. I strongly disagree. For us dating is a necessity. This connection and openness that we strive for cannot happen without these times set aside for just us, to communicate with one another, to support one another, and to HAVE FUN!!!

If we do not keep this as a top priority in our marriage our connection would be lost quickly. If we do not get to go on a date for a few weeks, even when we’ve been together in the same place (let’s say a family vacation), we both feel the disconnection. Our world is so busy, our lives are so hectic, our children are nuts, we have to carve out time, without interruptions, without phones, where we connect, with each other and our friends to just have fun and communicate good stuff, hard stuff, fun stuff, yucky stuff, cry, laugh, and relax. It is essential in keeping this thing above water.

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Marriage is super hard. Find people who encourage you to tough it out, find people who help you communicate. And fight for intimacy in your marriage. And remember any of us who are married are right there fighting too. It’s not easy for any of us. But it is worth every minute.

Love,

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