April 25, 2011

Digging Out of the Hole

Blogging has changed many things about me. It's made me more comfortable discussing topics such as poop, boobs, and a whole variety of things that make my mother blush. But one thing I very rarely write about is my marriage. Sure, I'll occasionally make the odd comment about how I appreciate my husband's shirtless appearance or how we're working together to conquer our son's new sleep schedule, but of the things I'm fiercely protective of, my marriage is one.

I'm making an exception to that rule today because I've heard from my readers about how many of you admire my marriage. And several of you would like to know if my husband has a single brother.

Though this will be a shock to those that know us well and those that don't, we're actually coming out of a bit of a rough patch. Sure, we've only been married for two years and together for a grand total of four, but a lot has happened in that time. We've gotten married, purchased a house, experienced job changes, and made two babies. If that doesn't put a little strain on a marriage, I don't know what will.

For us, the issues started when we stopped fighting fair. Compounded by job pressures and a toddler with an attitude that JUST WON'T QUIT, things began going downhill. Fights became longer. Hurtful words flew without a second thought. And with a frightening frequency, we found ourselves storming off in the midst of an argument just to be apart, often with one of us slamming the front door on the way out.

Neither of us was proud of the empty shell our marriage was becoming, but we couldn't agree on a solution. Giving things more time? I had a few choice words for that. Going to see a counselor? Over my husband's rotting corpse. And so we did the only thing we felt we could do; we kept fighting and the space between us kept growing.

The two of us finally realized how bad things had become one morning after a particularly horrible fight. The irony of the situation is that our fight wasn't about something that typical couples might argue over like money or sex. Because we like to keep things unique around here, our blowout argument started over A DIRTY DIAPER.

I kid you not.

That fight was a bad one, snowballing from a simple diaper change to everything that was wrong in our marriage. After the hubs left for work, I informed him via email that Nathaniel and I would be spending the next few days at my parents' house. While neither of us considered divorce an option, I wanted more than anything just to have a little space. Time to think, to be away from the fighting with no end, and to be in a place where things seemed simpler.

But deep down inside, I knew that space wasn't going to solve a thing. Being away from my husband for a few days would only prolong the inevitable. When the toddler and I came back home, nothing would be different and the fighting would pick up right where it ended, between the baby wipes and diaper rash cream. Somewhere in there, I had lost my best friend and I hated myself for it.

That morning via email, we came to an agreement. We vowed to try one last thing before taking some space and thus, The List was born. After taking a few days to think through our problems, we would each write a list for the other, explaining exactly what needed to change to make our marriage work. Then, even though it would be like pulling teeth, we would sit down, have an honest conversation, and exchange lists.

Several days later, we sat down and had that difficult talk. We shared our lists, established new ground rules for fighting, and came to a place where we each understood what needed to change. That day marked a complete one-eighty in our marriage. With each of us in possession of a copy of our list, we moved forward.

Since that day, I've seen my husband change how he speaks to me during fights and make a concerted effort to give me his undivided attention when I need it. Likewise, I'm slowly learning to change my attitude and to stay engaged during our fights instead of shutting my husband out. And despite the temptation in the arguments that followed the creation of our two lists, neither of us has walked out of the house during an argument. It's not perfect, but it's a beginning.

Staying committed to each other isn't the easy road to take, but when we stood before God, our family, and our friends, we meant every word of our vows. For better or worse, through arguments, hateful words, and hopeless nights. As we've stayed committed to each other, we've seen God work in our marriage and begin to heal the hurt, change our hearts, and draw us closer together. We're still not the perfect couple and we're far from having the perfect marriage, but we're digging ourselves out of the hole and the important thing is that we're doing it together.

6 comments:

  1. Marraige isn't easy. Parenting makes it even harder. Good for you for not giving up, even when it sounds nice!! Thanks for sharing what has helped you!! I'll say a prayer for you guys! ((HUG))

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  2. Love your honesty, Alyssa! You are so not alone in your situation - so many relationships have rough patches here and there. Marriage is definitely not a piece of cake. Honestly, before Joe and I were even engaged, that's what our relationship looked like. Before living together, before kids, before real jobs. It was scary, because there was seriously not anything that important to even fight about while we were still in college! I was so worried about how our relationship would be if we did get married and throw all of that into the mix. We knew that we were meant to be together, but we literally fought all the time (even though we had a long distance relationship for 4 years. So stupid). The most important thing we learned in our pre-marital counseling was learning how to fight when we get in those situations. Fight fair: No blaming, name calling, pointing fingers, no raising voices (especially in front of children), and make sure to clearly point out and articulate your feelings and heart. Come to an agreement together. Understand where the other person is coming from. Be patient with each other. These things are SOOOO hard at first, but after practicing it over and over again, it becomes easier. I promise! Praying for you guys!

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  3. Alyssa, you are an inspiration to anyone who reads your blog. Your protection of your marriage is understood, your inclusion of your marriage is brave. Everyone who is married has had a rough spot, if they say they haven't they are lying. And your story reminds everyone that we are all human and that marriages take work. Marriages take time. They take passion. Your solution sounds a lot like mine when my husband and I separated a few years ago. And now I am more in love with my husband than ever. We are more that "sick lovey couple", even more so than the day we were married. And my husband would tell you the same thing if you asked him.
    Remember what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. And tonight as I pray for my marriage to continue its growth, I will pray for peace and growth and strength in yours.

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  4. This post is actually very inspiring. It is so hard to "fight fair", and I am also guilty of being the one that shuts down. Every marriage has its tough times, but it is so worth it when you get through them! :)

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  5. Thanks for your bravery, it must have been very hard to write this post; I love the way that you have approached your problem and I see so many benefits to taking the time to carefully compile your list and also being able to clearly present your concerns. Best of luck, it sounds like you guys are on track to making everything work! Amber :)

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  6. I just ran across your blog and I'm happy I did. My husband and I have only been together 2 years and married ~2 years. We have a 13 month old daughter and the strain on our marriage is immense right now. I plan on trying what you two did in order to find a way to push through this rough patch. I'm glad it worked for you two!

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