There is a pervasive myth in our society that a good marriage is like living on easy street. People have the misperception that there's never or rarely any tension in a happy marriage. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. But one thing that separates a good marriage from a bad one is the willingness of both partners to communicate openly, especially when it would be more comfortable to clam up and shut down. How To Communicate Effectively
I've been married for eighteen years. During that time, we had one tremendously rough patch in which we separated for nearly a year. For the past few months, we've been in another very rough patch. It came to a head this week, so I've been reflecting on what got us here and what might get us out of it.
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It began when my partner shut down because his work was getting intense. A new boss and new mandates made him feel trapped, and he stopped doing most of the things that help him maintain balance in his life. My reaction to his choices was intense and judgmental. It triggered in me all the feelings that came up two years ago when I left him. I decided that he had been fooling me for the past fifteen months since we've been reunited; he hadn't grown as much as he had pretended. It was just that we'd reunited that made him appear more stable, but once his equilibrium was affected (in this case by work) he reverted to his old ways.
I began to withdraw. I found lots of evidence to support my fears. Then I did something I'm always counseling people not to do. I started projecting into the future. I started seeing things spiral down, feeling more and more distant each week. I began to think we'd be better off divorced.
We were still communicating regularly. Our conversations were blunt and intense as we both explored whether or not we could find our way back. We faced the elephant in the living room, but we didn't know how to get rid of it.
Finally on Wednesday I made a decision. I was tired of feeling my crappy energy and decided to shift it. I decided that we should have sex every day for seven days (at least). I decided to practice being in the moment more. I decided to acknowledge that my partner had actually come out of his hole and was being much more present. In other words, I decided to make another go of it. 5 Reasons I'm Not Leaving Him Yet
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After a few hours of intensely raw and open dialogue, we agreed to try one more round of therapy. I don't know if it will help, but I was pretty certain it wouldn't help last time, and within a couple of months we had reconciled. I'm willing to hold space for that to happen again. Could Couples Therapy Really Save Us?
In the meantime, we sit in the space of not knowing, in the space between love and pain. I'm doing my best to focus on this present moment. I'm doing my best to stay in my heart. And one thing I do know: whatever the outcome, we will create it with courage and clarity… and hopefully grace and ease.