If you have been following my blog this year you have read some pretty honest revelations, including our family mental health challenges, and the state of our marriage, and our choice to seek counseling almost two years ago. This weekend the Hubs and I gave ourselves the Christmas gift of a marriage getaway weekend at Blue Mountain. This choice was a combination of celebrating how far we’ve come, and making a show of our commitment to improving our relationship from recovering to thriving.
To give a little more history, or if you have not read my previous blog about our marriage, a little less than two years ago we were on the brink of divorce. Our marriage began when I was only 19, a very sheltered 19. Hubs was 25 and had been around the block when it came to experimenting, relationships, living situations, education, and most things you expect a 25 year old man to have experimented with. We came into our marriage quickly, knowing each other for only eight months before becoming engaged and then married three short months after. To say we did not have the firmest foundation set out would be an understatement. We did not have very much pre-marital counseling because our pastor was moving and we only had three months. We studied the 5 Love Languages book, and talked about how money, parents, and sex would be the most likely stress causing culprits in the marriage. All good things, we did not have time to really truly break down our different backgrounds, our own ideas on conflict resolution, and how we were going to handle money. These were all things that have definitely come back to bite us hard. As well as our lack of understanding our differences. I’m a bossy first born who would rather ask forgiveness than permission, I am extremely close with my traditional nuclear family and trust them and tell them everything, I hate confrontation but will passive aggressively make you suffer if I’m upset, and in order to figure out my feelings I must talk talk talk, I am an extrovert’s extrovert, but do tire out and need alone time eventually. Hubs is a middle child, very internal, he solves tension with humour or avoidance, he is very attached to his family growing up primarily in his mother’s home he grew up with very strong women in his life, he struggles with transparency when it may hurt or anger a loved one, he has a very soft heart but is not forthcoming with his feelings, he has to think through them before expressing them, but he will debate you within an inch of your life on theology or philosophy, he is an introvert who borders on hermitage at times (partially due to personality and partially to do with panic attacks). In the beginning of our marriage Hubs would actually tell me he thought we’d need a divorce because we had so little in common. I’d fight him on it, until we both got tired of fighting, hauled in our weapons and set camp up in separate parts of our lives. I ran outside the house looking for validation, comfort and affection, Hubs turned inwards for comfort, safety and quiet. We both became isolated and lonely, blaming the other one for our hurt. It got worse and worse, we grew farther and farther apart and hurt each other more and more.
Eventually we came to the edge of a precipice, where I was the one ready for the word divorce to be used. Up to this precipice I had been determined that the D word would not be threatened or used in vocabulary, but it came the time for me to lay it out. I was at my breaking point, well, I was broken, we both were. We were punctured through with holes from each other’s lances of resentment, cruel words, and lack of affection. We were bleeding out and our marriage was on the OR table for resuscitation. I went into Hubs one night, after gathering my whits and courage, and said that either we needed to fight for us or finally give up. He was surprised at this point that I had been the one feeling this way this time. He agreed to therapy for us and for himself as I’d already began my own. At this point I had discussed and spoken with many people and looked for answers and advice everywhere. I had heard from some to fight it through, and from many that divorce is not the worst choice in many ways. At this point the state of our marriage was visibly effecting our children and their relationship with each of us. There was blame shifting, behaviour outbursts, and outright belligerence. It was time to cut and run, or dig in and work it all out. We were able to choose to dig in.
When we had agreed to work on it I went looking for a marriage counselor. I spoke with friends and family. At this point I was feeling wary of church counseling, and what was offered locally by our church was only older male counselors whom I had known as a small child, that made me feel on edge and not comfortable. Especially since what I heard growing up in our denomination was “wives submit to your husbands”, “obey and serve your husband”, “women can teach children and women, but no men”, and now as an adult I have come to hold a more modern view of marriage and women in the marriage and the church. The prospect of walking into counseling and being told that only I needed to be working on making him happy, made me feel unsafe. At this point I was feeling extremely jaded by religion, not necessarily faith, but the institutional tradition that is church. This was how we found our rock star marriage counselor Arlene. I had spoken with my dear friend Colleen about our choice to seek counseling and she connected us, and is the reason, I believe, that we have made it to this stage. Without Colleen championing us to the lovely Arlene, who was attempting to retire from her counseling days a bit, I think we would have not made it onto her client list. Without Arlene and Colleen we would never have made it to this weekend we just had.
Once we had finally connected with our Rock Star, we were nervous, scared, and still very angry with each other. Arlene asked us that first day if we were there for marriage counseling or separation counseling, Hubs very confidently responded with “marriage”, and I said “I don’t know.” I think this surprised all of us.
Over the next months we relied on our parents to watch our boys so we could go to counseling sessions. We were given homework that we were highly reluctant to actually do because listening, and trusting, is scary. Talking about your feelings makes you vulnerable to this person who can utterly destroy you with a word or lack of one. We did this listening exercise less than we should have due to our mutual fear of confrontation, and personally for me, I felt unheard and bullied when we began. Not that he was meaning to convey that, but I was very raw as well. We learned about what made us feel what, because we became more transparent, and I became better at voicing to him when I felt unheard. Slowly, very slowly we took baby steps over the next year. Listening more here, speaking up there, giving each other small allowances where we normally would have taken immediate offense, and having some doozy fights that we brought to Arlene and she taught us about resolving them. We were on our way to figuring this mess out.
Stay tuned for Part Two