The Surprising Way I Finally Chilled Out (And Saved My Marriage)

The Surprising Way I Finally Chilled Out (And Saved My Marriage)

The Surprising Way I Finally Chilled Out (And Saved My Marriage)

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It wasn't drugs. It wasn't therapy. It was so much better than that.

When I returned home from my retreat, I tried to look at everything through that lens. With every disappointment, I reminded myself of everything I had to be grateful for. With every small frustration, I tried to practice empathy. Sometimes it made me feel better. Sometimes it didn't. But hell, it was a work in progress. As Donna Farhi wrote in Bringing Yoga to Life, "Life does not become easier; we become easier with life just as it is."

Still, I found it particularly tough to apply all of this newfound wisdom to my marriage. After all, it's often those we love the most to whom we act the most insufferably. But Farhi also wrote that "harboring resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." She went on to write, "we manufacture our own torment by failing to detach ourselves from things that ultimately we cannot change in another."

And therein lies the key. No amount of alternate-nostril breathing was going to change my relationship with my husband. No amount of restorative yoga poses was going to change the way I felt when he left his dirty dishes on the coffee table ... again. I had to change my thinking. I had to let go of the need to control his behavior when he spent five hours playing a video game instead of spending quality time with me. I had to practice restraint and withhold judgment when he spent the entire day in his pajamas, watching TV, eating chips for every meal.

Instead of flying off the handle for things that, in the grand scheme of things, didn't really matter, I had to remind myself that this was the same person who took me hang gliding for my 30th birthday, even though he had a fear of heights. Who raved about my writing work to his friends and colleagues. Who eventually attended the very first yoga class I taught, even though he couldn't do a downward dog to save his life ... and couldn’t care less if he ever did.

Realizing this was a revelation, and I've since tried to be mindful of the way I react to Michael when my first instinct is to nag or complain.

I recently asked Michael if he felt my yoga practice was having a positive impact on our marriage. He acknowledged that, yes, my yoga had done more for me than my meds ever had and, as a result, we fought less and got along better than ever before.

"But you're also around less," he said, "which is good and bad."

I narrowed my eyes. "How's it good, punk?"

He laughed. "It's good because I have the house to myself more often. I don't feel bad when I spend five hours playing video games, or eat chips for breakfast while watching TV."

He paused.

"But it's bad 'cause when I want you home, sometimes you aren't there."

I was speechless.

I thought back to the time we almost separated, when I'd felt such resentment over the fact that he rarely came home before I had finally given up on him and gone to sleep. I thought back to all the times I'd missed him so desperately, feeling like the lowest priority in his life. I thought of the ways in which I used to place so much pressure on him to be my main social outlet, to be my everything.

Once again, I felt a deep gratitude for my yoga.

It seemed all I had to do—besides live with gratitude and practice santosha and learn how to reach my legs behind my head and go into a deep backbend—was give Michael the time to miss me.

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