One year ago today Serge and I were dealing with the most difficult period of our marriage so far. In fact, it was so difficult I asked him to move to his mom’s house while we sorted out our feelings. Even when he came home after a couple weeks, nothing was set in stone.
But time passed and we stayed together and now here we are one year later and I can honestly say we are currently enjoying what we both consider the best time of our marriage. The arguments are few and far between and they are actually just disagreements, not the hissing, bitter, venom-filled fights of last year.
Our circumstances last year left a lot to be desired. We were dealing with a house fire, a subsequent move to a strange town and a terrible falling out with family members. But still. The bad marriage can only be blamed on the two of us.
So. We sat down and had an honest talk. It’s easy to be honest when you’re on the verge of divorce. What we decided was this:
We love each other.
We like each other.
We don’t know how to be married because we’ve never known or witnessed the behaviors of a successful, happy couple.
We don’t know how to argue productively.
We want to be together.
We desperately want our kids to have both parents in the same home.
We want to set a good relationship example for our kids.
We want to be happy. Or at least content.
The other option was divorce. Kids growing up in separate homes, shuttling back and forth between mom and dad. Step-parents. Finances. All the crap that comes with divorce. But we love each other! What was our problem? Basically that we knew no other way.
So. With a little help from therapy we stopped all the bullshit and got down to the business of making happiness happen. I can’t speak for Serge but the following 7 things are the improvements I focused on as a part of my effort to get our marriage back on track.
If you love your spouse but feel like you’re constantly bickering and feeling bitter, follow the advice below and I guarantee you will find a whole new peace within your relationship.
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Stop focusing on the negative stuff! 2 of 8A marriage therapist once told me that when I'm the most angry at Serge I should remember the times when he is sweet. Sounds like some trite therapy nonsense but it really works. Instead of fueling my anger by making mental lists of all the stuff he does that pisses me off (but I'm so good at that!) I now try and think about Serge reading stories to our kids at bedtime (He really goes all out. It should be a one-man show people pay to see.) and my anger dissipates. Mostly. But for this little trick to work you also have to observe the second item on my list. Go on, click the arrow!
Wait a day/night before getting into it! 3 of 8Say Serge says something that I cannot even believe he said. It happens a lot, actually. He says something that makes me want to jump up, grab our chandelier and swing with enough momentum to forward flip into a kick that lands squarely on his chest. Appealing, I know. But! Instead of getting all up in his face about it I say nothing. Yup. Nada. If it happens in the evening I wait until morning and if I'm still bothered I am able to calmly bring it up in a more tactful way than I would've the night before. 90% of the time the thing doesn't bother me the next day because I realize he likely didn't mean anything bad by the comment, it was just a dumb guy thing. Like the time he told me the dress I was wearing for our date did "nothing for my figure." I was hurt, felt like he was calling me ugly. But what he was trying to say in his dumb guy way was that I have a great figure and I was hiding it beneath an ugly dress. In my mind he was a dick. In his mind he was being helpful. And, to be fair, I always tell him when he looks like shit. A lot of our arguments stem from these kind of men are from Mars, women from Venus moments. I've learned if I give it some time I realize that getting up in his face isn't the best response because, most of the time, he has no idea he said anything wrong.
Stop comparing! 4 of 8This is a big one for me. Huge. Stopping this one thing completely changed the vibe in my marriage. After we had kids and both started working from home I constantly kept a tally of who did what throughout the day. If I bathed and dressed the kids in the morning I took note and if Serge didn't offer to get them in their jammies in the evening I'd be annoyed. Or if I changed Henry's diaper four times in a row and Serge didn't change the fifth I'd start resenting him. Nothing kills a marriage faster than silent resentment. And I was stockpiling it like my Mormon relatives stockpile canned goods. If I spent seven straight hours with the kids and Serge only spent five I'd expect him to swoop in and take over. If he didn't? RESENTMENT. If I cooked dinner three days in a row I fully expected Serge to cook the next day. You get the idea. Constantly keeping score of who's doing more. I stopped all of this. Okay, most of this. I try not to keep score. I just do what needs to be done and have actually found that Serge is more willing to jump in and help out because I'm not constantly nagging him. That's not to say that he wasn't doing his fair share before, he totally was. My score-keeping had just become so out of control my perception was skewed and it was impossible for him to do anything right.
It’s not worth it! 5 of 8I used to really feel like it was my duty to inform Serge that the way he loads the dishwasher is wrong (It's SO wrong!) or that he tracked mud on the floor or his hair looks stupid or I don't like when he does this or that. I try not to do that anymore, even if he really does stuff that drives me nuts. Last night, for example, he was doing that thing he always does when he scrapes his fork across the plate to gather food. This is like nails on a chalkboard for me and he does it all the time. ALL THE TIME. Instead of saying "Dude. Easy! What? Are you trying to eat the plate?" I let it go. Not worth it. He scrapes plates with his silverware. Always has. Ain't gonna change. He's a 41-year-old man so no amount of my bitching will do anything about it. What it will do is make him feel henpecked and uncomfortable in his own home and that ain't cool. The two seconds of annoyance I feel when he scrapes the plate isn't worth making him feel that way. This is another way of saying pick your battles! Fork scraping ain't worth it!
Stick to the subject! 6 of 8This one is a no-brainer but we're all guilty of it and it's worth reminding you. If you do end up arguing, keep it to the topic at hand. If you're arguing about disciplining your kid, don't digress into that one time he called you a bitch and you will never. ever. forget it. Because you know he's going to pull a story out of his ass about that one time you fought with his mom and ruined Christmas. And then you have to zing him back and it never ends. And no one wins. Work really, really hard to stay on the specific subject of disciplining your kid or else you'll find yourself in one of those epic fights that ends in slammed doors and tears.
Have sex even when you don’t feel like it! 7 of 8This is probably going to be controversial but whatever. I've spent my entire marriage trying not to have sex (I have issues) so I know how badly not having sex affects a dude. They need it to function. Yes, need. A lot of women can take it or leave it and don't really even think about it unless their man forces the issue but a lot of guys need sex like they need water. Okay, maybe not water but they need sex like they need a shower. They don't require a shower to live but if they go a week without it they start to feel icky, itchy and dirty. Take a shower and they're refreshed and ready to take on the world. Hook your dude up. Not only does sex inspire intimacy but you just might notice he's a little more tender with you even when he's not trying to get you to give it up. Think of it this way: you giving your man a little sexy time makes him feel the same way you feel when he reaches out to hold your hand while you're riding in the car and tells you how beautiful you look in the sunlight.
Balance the time you spend with/without each other! 8 of 8Take a look at your marriage. How much time do you spend together? In my case we were spending too much time together. That's not typically the case. Most couples don't get enough time together but either way you need to figure out the right balance. Because we both work from home Serge and I were on top of each other all day long - and not in the good way. We finally rented an office in town and split the day in half. I get the kids up and to pre-school/daycare while Serge heads to the gym and then the office to write. I get to the office later and Serge leaves to pick up the kids and head home. Evenings are family time. Our relationship dramatically improved because we're not annoying each other all day long. Additionally, if we argued before we were both stuck at home fuming. Now, if we argue at all we can both go our separate ways and have some cooling off time.
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