Ok. This post is kind of a big deal for me. When I got in my inbox, I kind of gasped. Someone writing about marriage from 10 years in???? That’s… what it’s all about for me. So after I got this post, I did some thinking, and realized it’s time to start working a little more seriously about breaking Reclaiming Wife out into it’s own full (and very interlinked) site. Because we need to have more space to have both of these conversations. The wedding conversations and the marriage conversations. So I owe Nicole for that, big time. And for the rest of you, this is such a treat. Having someone a little further down the path tell us what it’s really like? I just want to drink it in, roll around in the truth and the bravery. And then there are the pictures. They… knock me out. Because you know how everyone tells you that you’ll never look as good as you do on your wedding day? Well, I call bullsh*t. Nicole and her husband look so much more beautiful, and present, now. Because they are there, for good times and for bad. Their marriage is lived in. And what’s sexier than that?
Don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t a post about a re-commitment ceremony. Or divorce. It’s a post about a couple who, after ten years of so-so marriage, have decided to tackle some of the big issues in their relationship and take it all – love, intimacy, communication, self-worth, and relationship patterns – to the next level.
We’ve decided to finish our oldest arguments, to talk about all those things we’ve decided not to talk about for the sake of marital harmony, and to say (with tact) all the things we’ve stored up for 10 years. And it’s AMAZING. I think every married couple wants to do this. We want to learn how to treat each other properly and how to negotiate life’s difficulties without yelling at each other. But either the motivation or the solution is missing, or you get to the other side of a fight and decide you don’t have a problem anymore.
But after 10 years of mostly good marriage, Steve and I found ourselves at a point where we knew we couldn’t go on without fixing some things. There was no one big issue, but we knew we had to change if we wanted to stay married. The first step was deciding if we did, in fact, want to stay married. This was a difficult period of time, and not one with a clear stop or start. But eventually we were able to say with clarity and conviction that divorce was off the table and we wanted to fix our marriage.
The next step was finding the right marriage counselor. This step – finding a counselor – was where we always got stuck in the past. How do you find one, what will it cost, will we like them, etc, etc. Tackling the details of getting from crisis to the counseling office always stumped us (and provided a good excuse for ignoring our problems). I’m sure a lot of other couples are the same: it’s scary, it’s expensive, it’s time consuming. But this time the stars aligned and we made an appointment.
This first counselor was fine in the beginning. We were comfortable with him and he fit our short list of requirements: insurance coverage, taking patients, and marital and addiction therapy experience. But after the second appointment of hearing him talk about his ex wife, his kids, his dog, we knew it wasn’t a good fit. We needed a tougher version; we needed Dr. Melfi. So we went back to the drawing board and found another therapist, and made another appointment, and we’ve been going every week ever since.
We’re about 6 weeks in and I’m kind of flabbergasted by what we’re talking about and tackling in our relationship. Have you ever fantasized about having a marriage referee or judge to step in and declare a winner, or ask for more information, or call your partner on their shit? It is THAT AWESOME. It takes a lot of bravery (and love for each other) to say what we’ve been saying in there, and hear what we’ve been hearing, without retaliation or hard feelings. It is a surreal experience to essentially throw our marriage in a blender for 50 minutes each Tuesday, and then go home and be parents and partners. But, it’s also amazing. We may actually stop having the same fight about housework, the same fight we’ve been having since our first year of marriage. Can you imagine?
For now it’s very raw, and we have to be careful not to come home and go back to old patterns of yelling, or silence. We have to practice the new skills of communication and active listening that we use in our sessions. We will probably go to counseling every week for a long time, maybe a year, or more. This isn’t a patch, it’s a rebirth. But I feel invigorated. And hopeful. What if I can have the marriage I’ve always wanted to the man I’ve always loved? What if we can stay together and raise our kids together, but break the patterns and pain we’ve been living in for so long? It feels like we’re starting over, without the divorce.