Maybe August is a hard month for marriages.
Or maybe my friend group is in a hard season for marriages. Demanding careers, young kids, aging parents. Juggling decisions like moves and education and finances and what’s too much or not enough.
Whatever the reason, I’ve had heartbreaking conversations this month with a number of my friends.
We haven’t had a passionate kiss in over a year.
He rolls his eyes at everything I do.
We’re sleeping in separate rooms.
Watch, we don’t even talk to each other.
We can’t agree on how to spend our money, ever.
I just don’t know how much longer…
It is crazy hard. This marriage thing. Crazy hard. I’ve been writing about the struggle as long as I’ve been writing.
You look from inside your hurting marriage and see the outside image other people project about their own marriages and think, wow, it’s so much easier for them.
I had one friend, who was sharing her hurts, say to me, but you and Bray, you just keep it alive and are still so in love.
Ha! I laughed. Not that we aren’t in love, yes we absolutely love each other, but let me tell you our marriage has just as many hurdles as yours!
Yes, we had a wonderful getaway this summer for a couple of days but even getting to the getaway was hard. And then returning to real life and paying for the getaway was hard.
Last August, we were in the middle of a tremendously hard place, and we bounced back, but we still fight. Because there is no way you are going to agree with someone every day for the rest of your life.
That is what you do. You live to fight another day.
I was talking to my father in law at the farm a couple of weeks ago. I love this man. He’s just another awesome thing my hubby brought to our marriage. Talk shifted from the oil business to marriage. He and my mother in law have been married for 56 years. FIFTY SIX YEARS.
He will tell you, and was telling me over wine on the back porch, marriage is hard. The seasons are gorgeous and then brutal. So you just tell yourself, and your spouse, I am in this thing. I am not leaving. He and I sat outside, as the sun went down, talking honestly about the tough spots marriages find themselves in and how you push through.
(Obviously, I’m not talking about abusive relationships. But just the hardships of every marriage.)
There are marriages that look easy. Romance and roses. They are not. It’s all Instagram-ed, Facebook-ed, photoshopped pictures. You don’t see them when the bad news come. When the job loss hits. When the kids get sick or the parents die or one travels all the time or the money dries up.
No one has a piece of cake marriage. No matter what you see or what you think.
So what do you do?
My close friends and I were just discussing this. When you feel on the brink in your marriage, how do you step back?
1. Kiss. On the mouth. Really kiss. Not a passing peck. For thirty days straight. Do it in the morning or the evening or both. But kiss. In front of your kids. Embarrass them. Let them see what marriage can look like after years.
2. Say something nice. For thirty days straight. Say one nice thing to your spouse every single day. Find a way to compliment them or thank them. Focus on the good. Keep a journal if you need to make sure you don’t forget a day.
3. Be in the same bed at the same time. Without kids. Intimacy will not fix the underlying hurts but it absolutely helps. In order for that to happen, you have to be in bed at the same time and your kids have to already be in their own beds. This can’t happen every single day, I realize. We all travel or have sick kids you’re up with in the middle of the night (I just was last week). But prioritize the same bed, same time, just you two, for thirty days straight.
4. Use psychology 101 words to start talking. There is a reason we teach our kids to say “I feel.” It shifts the conversation to what you are experiencing which can’t be challenged. I feel lonely when we don’t talk about our day after work. I feel disrespected when you roll your eyes at me. Whatever the thing is. Money, time, family, words, etc. Start the conversation. Recognize what your spouse does, I’m so grateful for… but also acknowledge where you all are struggling.
5. Be Honest. A friend of mine and I had a hearty laugh when she shared how she learned to manage expectations. When she was pregnant, she would get super emotional, and her husband did not know how to respond. By her simply saying, I don’t need you to do anything, I just need you to be here with me, she was able to let him know what she needed. I did that last week about work, can you just listen to this so I can unload it somewhere? Share where you are at and what you need. Don’t make them guess.
It’s imperfect. It’s three steps forward and two steps back. But hold on. Fight through the dark hours – there is sun up ahead.