Not only that, but he was going through some personal problems of his own. He had finally moved into an industry he loved, and was enjoying the camaraderie he found at work. He was frustrated by our inability to sell our condo, and frustrated by the loss we were bound to take. He was scared of the huge step we were planning to take in trying to have children. He was scared of getting old.
With both of us feeling unloved and wrapped up in our own problems, we had stopped being good to each other. In fact, we were constantly on the defensive, because we each assumed the other had checked out.
So how the hell did we come back from that?
1. We wrote Love Lists. Identifying everything we loved about each other reminded us of why we were in the relationship in the first place, and sharing our lists gave us each the warm fuzzies.
2. We shared everything we hated. No matter how helpful the Love Lists were, they didn't change the things that made us unhappy. So I told Michael I hated feeling like his lowest priority. He told me he hated my lack of participation. We both hated feeling unappreciated. The hate flew around, fast and furious.
It was great.
Because, after that? We had something to work with.
3. We went to therapy. I believe that most people can benefit from some QT with a mental health professional. I'd been benefiting from talk therapy for years. Finally, Michael went too. We went alone and together. Having an objective listener really helped Michael. He'd been walking around with a huge weight on his shoulders, and confiding in someone other than me was a huge relief. Once that was out of the way, he felt ready to move forward.
4. We eased up on each other. Once Michael and I reopened the lines of communication, we gained a better understanding of what the other had been feeling… about our marriage and about life in general. Knowing these things made us infinitely more forgiving.
5. We got harder on ourselves. Sure, we still lost our tempers sometimes, and felt low-level bits of irritation with each other, but mostly we concentrated on improving ourselves. It's reassuring to see the effort your spouse is making on your behalf. It lets you know that he's in it to win it. (Whatever. It sounds corny. Shut up.)