After our Serious Talk, Darrel and I felt a lot more optimistic about the state of our marriage.
In behavior, nothing had yet changed, but simply being on the same page again, simply communicating clearly with each other injected a spirit of hope into our lives that we hadn’t felt in a long time.
I left for work the morning after our Serious Talk and epiphany, which was actually perfect since that gave us some distance to sit and work on our homework assignments.
We realized that showing each other that we loved each other had been easy when we were alone. With the kiddos around, our lives had changed. We couldn’t have 100% of our focus on each other any longer (even without chronic health issues), and our personal expectations and needs had changed, as well.
So for our first homework assignment, we each had to sit down and write out the things we needed to hear and see from the other person in order to feel loved.
This goes back a “5 Love Languages“-type approach. We realized that neither of us had actually stopped doing things to show our love for each other; with the demands of our life being so much more demanding, though, we needed to prioritize to make sure that the things we did for each other would get the most “love bang” for the their buck!
I had the additional homework assignment of writing out my priorities for housekeeping.
Darrel, as I said, is not a mind reader, and he agreed that having a list printed and displayed would help make him aware of what I wanted done, and ensure that anything he DID around the house would be off my list. That would ensure the house operated more smoothly, and I would feel gratitude for his participation and loved by him (turns out? “Acts of service” is one of my “love languages”!).
In the end, I created 4 lists for our wall: daily tasks, weekly tasks, never-ending tasks, and a “honey-do” list.
I printed them out, put them in some cheap frames I had laying around (that I spray painted to be pretty), and hung them up. We use a dry erase marker to check off tasks as completed.
It seems so simple, right? Could a conversation and some homework assignments really make a major difference in our relationship?
The morning I flew home from work, Darrel sent me a text saying he’d had a hard time sleeping that night, and instead of getting up and playing video games or watching TV, he’d taken advantage of his unexpected insomnia to scrub the bathtub out for me.
He’d heard me mention that I was especially sore and achy after this work trip, and thought I might appreciate a long, hot soak when I got home, you see!
Y’all, I can’t tell you the last time Darrel made a gesture like that on his own! Driving home from the airport that morning, I felt like I was floating!
And I enjoyed a “kids-free bath tub soak” that was just what the doctor ordered.
Darrel’s birthday was last week, and I surprised him with a date. I arranged for my parents to watch the kids overnight, and showed up at Darrel’s office before he left for the day. We ate dinner at his desk, then went to a place that has mini-golf and arcade games (and other activities) and played for a couple of hours before going home and getting some cuddle time without kids interfering.
I’ll be honest – neither Darrel or I have been able to check off every item on my daily or weekly lists at the end of every day or week. However, more of those jobs are getting done than ever had before, and now I’m not anxious about the lack of completion.
If the job didn’t get done that day or week, I know, now, that it was because we had too much to do and couldn’t get to it, rather than “I’ve worked my tail off and he’s not helping”.
We’re both working off the list, and that makes it possible for me to not feel upset when the list doesn’t end.
Darrel has left love notes out for me to find at unexpected moments, which always make me smile and feel “twitterpated” (you’ve seen Bambi, right?).
We’re back to seeing eye-to-eye on all things. No more feeling like the other person “doesn’t get it” or is being stubborn and willful.
We’re more casually affectionate toward each other. More random hand-holding, side hugs, quick pecks, and sitting side by side on the couch.
The biggest benefit, though, is in Darrel’s demeanor.
I know you’ll think I’m exaggerating, but he looks younger now! He’s lighter and more pleasant in everything; more patient with the kids, smiling more, laughing more, finding more humor in things. He’s just…happier in all aspects of his life.
Turns out, Darrel can handle anything that life throws at him, as long as he confidently has me in his corner.
Darrel says the same demeanor change is there for me, too. That I seem happier and calmer, as well.
Apparently, I can handle anything life throws at me, too, as long as I know Darrel is in my corner.
We’re a damn good team, y’all. We make it possible for each other to function at our best…as long as we are together in our hearts.
Now, all marriages are different, and while I shared this story because I thought it could help somebody, I realize it won’t help everyone.
However, having been in a marriage that ended, and in one that is still going strong, I can say with total honesty: as long as both of you WANT to make the marriage work, you CAN make it work. There is always hope!
Maybe your epiphany will look different than ours. Maybe your homework assignments will be completely unrelated to ours. Maybe the change will be slower.
But it can be done.
For your kids, but mostly for your own soul, if you are in a marriage that is in a rough place, I sincerely hope you’ll reach out and have a conversation with your spouse.
If both of you are willing to accept responsibility for your own actions and do what needs doing, you can have your Honeymoon marriage back and life will feel better all around.
I know it seems hard to do when things are rough, but it helps to remember why you married your spouse before you start the conversation.
Here’s a tip to help in that process: before you sit down to talk to your spouse, grab some quiet, alone time by yourself. (If you have to hide in a closet to do it, so be it.) Close your eyes, and start with the first day you met your spouse.
Force yourself to remember every little thing you liked about the person. Think about their smile, their good qualities. Think about the things your spouse did that made you feel like the most important person in the world. Think about the times your spouse has “gone to bat” for you; defended you and your family. Think about the sweet, loving things your spouse has done.
If you’re like me, your brain will automatically start throwing in “Yeah, but…” thoughts.
Focus on the Good.
A little bit of time with that, and you may not be madly in love with your spouse again, but your heart will probably be softened enough to ease some of the stings from the recent disconnect you’ve experienced.
Your heart and mind will remember: I married this person for a reason. I love this person. I can sit and love this person in my conversation today, offering grace and understanding (even if I disagree). This person is important to me, and we need to figure out how to make sure we show that to each other.
It works, y’all. I did that, and it made it a LOT easier to listen to the hurtful things Darrel said in our first conversation. It made it possible to not immediately jump on the defensive. It made it possible to temporarily ignore the sadness and remember the love.
Showing forgiveness, grace, and understanding to him made it possible for him to show the same things back to me.
And we saved our marriage.
I don’t think I have all the answers about marriage. I don’t assume what I’ve said here will work for everyone.
I only hope that this story might give someone some hope, some encouragement, and maybe an idea of a place to start.
Let’s not let FPIES (or parenthood in general) trash our marriages.
Let’s fight for them.