Stephen and I started dating in 1998 and were married a year later. The following year, we became parents for the first time. We were over the moon in love with each other, and there was no doubt in our minds that we would be together forever. And all these years later, we still are, and we’ve still no doubt, but marriage is hard work. Even when there’s great love.
We have had wonderful experiences together but many of the months and years could have been better than they were. So many were tainted by negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior. We’ve shared the joy of having four sweet children together, as well as the pain of four miscarriages. We have had amazing nights together and evenings where we haven’t want to touch each other at all. We’ve had constructive disagreements and angry arguments. And we’ve had open lines of communication as well as times where we’ve been completely closed-off from one another.
Up until five years ago, things were frequently negative and we struggled a lot. For me, it was never that I loved him less, but I sure didn’t act like I did sometimes. It was a matter of:
- Resentment for all the work I was doing that he never could seem to match up to. It felt like I did it ALL, and it sometimes infuriated me that he didn’t contribute the way that I thought he should. The truth was, we both had/have our roles and he did his part just as I did mine. No one is working more than the other.
- Lack of respect for him. I wanted to be in charge, plain and simple. Hand over the controls. Well, he didn’t want to be treated like a child (big surprise), so this didn’t work.
- Loss of sexual interest. Because I had negative thoughts and emotions about him/life, I had little interest in sex. This isn’t good for a marriage.
- My sadness and lack of contentment. I wanted to be having babies when I wanted them, but we kept losing them! This wasn’t his fault, of course, but I somehow let it become a problem between us. I also wanted to be living in the kind of home that we simply couldn’t afford. I blamed him for this instead of appreciating how blessed we already were.
He is hardworking, loving, and loyal – and I was miserable. It was painful for him to see me this way. To know that he wasn’t making me happy made him back away. He wasn’t respected or appreciated, and on top of that, he felt rejected because I wasn’t giving him much physical attention.
I just didn’t know how to change. I didn’t know HOW to be happy in my marriage. I didn’t know if it was me, or him, or both of us who needed to change. I just knew I wasn’t happy. And because of that, neither was he.
It was only in late 2011 that things started happening for the better. It wasn’t instant but it really didn’t take that long to turn our marriage around. After a few weeks, we began sharing the kind of marriage that felt too good to be true – we were both so happy! And it lasted for a good few years, even!! But then stuff happened as it always does and always will which challenged that happiness again. From difficult housing conditions, to work injuries and secondary infertility, we had some struggles. And those struggles, I’m sorry to say, caused some of the old problems to creep back in.
While we are still enjoying some of the aspects of change that occurred five years ago, there are definitely areas that once again need attention. I’m not miserable but I am negative too often, and I don’t have or show him enough respect. Yeah, most of the areas relate to me, and AS I CHANGE, he does, too because he is very responsive to my behavior (whether good or bad).
But how do I change? Exactly how I did before!
A few months after Samuel was born, I began thinking more about all of this marriage stuff. I was tired of the stress between us. I was starting to think along the lines of even if its not me, maybe I can make changes that will help. Maybe I can read some books and find out what were doing wrong, and fix things. I was still very much in the mindset of it being a marriage problem – not a ME problem.
I went to the library one day and I browsed the non-fiction section. I found the books on marriage and flipped through several of them but nothing really stood out to me. I then saw that there was another, smaller section below those books, and they were focused on women. Wives, to be exact. Not marriage books, but wife books. I picked up one about sex, but I was not interested in improving our sex life at the moment, so back on the shelf it went.
Then I found it. I didn’t know I had found it at the time, but I certainly had found it! The book that would ultimately change everything I knew about marriage and being a wife, and being HAPPY as a married woman. It’s called The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands and was written by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The title made me cringe because I didn’t want to care or serve him anything! But once I started reading it, I completely forgot about the title.
In the follow-up to this post , I will share with you how the book helped me, including how I had to “fake it” at the beginning. It took a willing heart, for sure, and the rewards were great.
As we head into the summer, I am once again focusing on my marriage (it seems to take a pretty big hit during pregnancy and definitely again after a new baby arrives) and I’m excited to see the positive changes that are in store for us!