I don’t usually write more than one blog in a day, but today, I decided that I needed to write a second one.
Jeff has asked me several times why my husband would ever want to leave me and my kids.
I have offered him shallow answers to that question, but today I feel that I am ready to give the DEEP answer.
Maybe the wisdom I have gained through my failures will be of some help to someone who is currently struggling in their relationship.
Or maybe just give a good foundation for couples like Jeff and I that are just 5 months into a relationship, and are committed to growing stronger together for a long time.
So Jeff, here are, in my opinion the 4 ways my marriage was destroyed.
#1. Hitting the “Pause Button”
Kids, careers, friends… life.
Families are often built-in the early stages of a marriage, at the same time that careers are being established.
One or both may somehow believe that when everything slowed down, they could return to the relationship and pick it up where it was.
I was either pregnant or nursing a baby non-stop for sever years. That was a huge strain on our marriage. One that we never really recovered from.
Unfortunately, like many areas of life, there is no “pause” for relationships. They are either growing or deteriorating.
“Pausing” begins the process of disconnecting.
More than that, since we all need connection, when the disconnection deepens, it leads to hurt and resentment.
The hurt and resentment continue to perpetuate further disconnection.
The cycle deepens.
And a marriage “on pause” simply becomes a disconnected relationship, fueled by hurt and resentment.
I have learned that unless your relationship is a top priority, it will fail! There cannot ever be a PAUSE in your communication, or intimacy.
#2. Change and Growth
People are in a constant stage of growth and evolution.
Failing to acknowledge that fact is dangerous to any relationship, but especially to a marriage.
Unfortunately, how we are changing as individuals is often almost invisible to ourselves.
We don’t always even notice how we are changing, ourselves.
Which is why it is crucial for couples to continue having those conversations about what is important to each of them in life.
To illustrate this point, let’s go back to how most people fall in love:
We share our inner life, our hopes, our dreams.
We talk about our experiences and how they have formed us as people.
We discuss politics, beliefs, social issues.
We basically spend those early days of bonding by telling each other of how we have grown into the people we are.
And then, we stop.
Sometimes, it is gradual.
For many couples, it is abrupt.
Somehow, there is an assumption that the other person knows you,
SO… why continue to share?
Aspirations disappear from the conversation, covered over by the minutiae of existence, schedules, personal problems, etc.
We humans are aspirational, driven by dreams and hopes.
We are naturally drawn into conversations about our hopes, but tend to pull away from conversations about all that is going wrong.
Is there a need for sharing those frustrations?
That is part of being in a supportive relationship.
The problem is when the preponderance of the conversations are focused on the frustrations.
A focus on the frustrations keeps people locked into the feelings of frustration.
And the more locked into those feelings a person is, the less capable that person is of seeing the other elements of life — the points of connection, of love, of respect, the view of the other person and of life in more complete ways.
So the need to prioritize conversations about dreams, hopes, and desires are crucial to a healthy marriage.
Without these talks, the relationship will fail.
#3. Suppressed Conflicts
We have the mistaken nature that a conflict-free relationship is proof of a strong marriage.
In reality, this is a couple where one or both have refused to be honest and admit differences of opinion.
For the sake of maintaining pseudo-intimacy, the disagreements are avoided or denied, leaving a growing chasm between them.
You see, the conflict and disagreements do not ever go away.
They just get buried, slowly eroding away at the relationship.
Recently, in Australia, a coal mine caught fire. It is not the first coal mine to do so.
Sometimes, the fire erupts from the surface, as in Australia.
But other times, such as in Centralia, Pennsylvania, which has been burning for 50 years, the fire eats away at the underground, mostly invisible on the surface.
But what eventually happens is, the burning coal finally gives way and collapses the surface, swallowing buildings and homes.
The same thing happens with buried conflict and anger.
The hurt and pain eat away at the foundations of the relationship, often invisible to the people in the relationship.
As the buried conflicts build, a low-grade level of resentment begins to build.
And resentment becomes a systemic infection to the relationship, killing connection and numbing people to the relationship.
One day, someone realizes that he or she is numb to any connection with the spouse.
The feelings of love have evaporated, the connection is gone, and they are too exhausted to care.
The sad part of this process is that it was avoidable when there was a stronger connection.
When there is connection, a true and honest resolution to the conflict allows the couple to move through the stages of intimacy, finally arriving at genuine and authentic intimacy.
#4. Drawing Boundaries
One question that I wish I would have asked before I ever got married was,
“How do you plan to protect this relationship?”
Because on my wedding day, I never imagined all the ways we would be capable of hurting each other.
Nobody ever does.
But without boundaries, that is usually what ends up happening.
As the Head Custodian, I am responsible for large amounts of grass.
When I have a bare spot that needs to be re-seeded, I am careful to select a seed that is of high quality.
The contractor grade seeds will produce a green surface, but not with grass…it is full of weeds.
If I am not careful with the type of seeds I plant and water, I will end up with a lawn full of weeds, not grass.
Then those bare spots will become a source of major problems for my lawn. The weeds will spread if I don’t stop their growth, and the weeds may eventually destroy the lawn altogether.
So just like starting a lawn out with good seeds, we need to plant good seeds in our relationships from the beginning.
When we don’t think it through on the front side, we end up playing “catch-up,” often having to take extraordinary steps on the back-side.
And that is especially true with boundaries of a relationship.
A “boundary” is simply what you will not let someone/something do to you or what you hold dear.
It marks the “boundary” of how you expect to be treated.
For example, a boundary may be an unwillingness to tolerate someone yelling at you or calling you names.
A boundary is step one; enforcing the boundary is step two.
Why are boundaries so important?
Because the world is constantly encroaching on the relationship.
Boundaries can include how you protect family or couple time, how you monitor threats to your relationship, and how you take care of your own health (mental and physical).
Often, couples quickly fail to protect the boundaries around couple time, fidelity, religion, money, etc.
Unless boundaries are in place that protect the commitment to the relationship, the low connection point becomes a high danger point for the relationship.
It is easiest for a couple to establish the necessary boundaries of their relationship when there is no need for the boundaries.
That is why I think it is important to have boundaries firmly established before the wedding day.
So that is the 4 ways that my marriage was destroyed.
I have spent the better part of the past seven years trying to figure out how my marriage failed.
What my responsibility in that failure was.
How I could learn from those mistakes so that I could enjoy a healthy relationship in the future.
I pray that I will never again forget thses 4 points.
That I will always remember the ways that I allowed the love to die.
I never want to allow that to happen ever again.
Seven years from now, I am determined to write a blog about the 4 ways I have built a solid foundation for my marriage.
Jeff, I hope this helps. I promise to always remember that path I took before, and to avoid that path in the future.