5 relationship lessons and 1 motto that saved my marriage

March 12, 2012 · 23 comments

love and fixing marriage

love and fixing marriage

Last summer, Papa Eve and I separated.

We realized no one in our house was happy, and something needed to change. I took my kids and moved across the country to my parents’ home, started looking for a job, and tried to face the dawn of my new reality. Mostly, this involved pretending everything was fine and acting like I was completely ok when I was actually scared out of my mind and drinking a lot of tequila.

At the time, my marriage was over.

But now here I am, more than six months later, moving stuff back into the master bedroom and making plans for the future with Papa Eve and our kiddos, our family intact again. It was a long road to get here (and one we are still traveling), and this is what I learned along the way:

1. You can’t start fixing something until you admit it’s broken.

Call it the Facebook effect: getting caught up in making everything look picture-perfect while not realizing (or not wanting to admit) that it’s all falling apart. I don’t know why neither my husband or I ever wanted to talk about all the little things that were going wrong with our marriage until it all blew up and we couldn’t ignore it anymore. But there were so many signs along the way that we sidestepped — whether it was from not wanting to rock the boat, or not wanting to hurt the other’s feelings, or just wanting to pretend everything was ok — and what we ended up with was disaster. Moving forward, we’ve decided that we need to speak up when we’re unhappy — not in a nagging, “I’m always right” sort of way, but in a “hey, this isn’t working for me — what can we do to fix it?” sort of way.

2. It’s ok to have high standards.

I get a little annoyed when people say all the time that we can’t expect other people to be perfect — not because I think everyone should be perfect, but because I feel like the implication is that we can’t be loving and hold high standards for our mates at the same time. This might not be true for everyone, but I’d never realized before that I didn’t have to be a cold-hearted bitch while asking for help with the kids, assistance in cleaning up, or an active partner in weekend activities. When I realized that part of my duty as a partner in marriage was to express my dreams, and encourage my husband to express his, and then work with him to make them happen, it was a turning point in our relationship.

3. Crushes and fantasies are totally normal.

The flip side about having high standards is that they can’t be too high. Shooting for the type of perfection where you’re always head-over-heels in love with your spouse and can’t ever imagine a life other than the one you’ve chosen is setting yourself up for disaster. Part of making a choice means giving up something else, and it’s not a disaster to flirt with the idea of a different type of life with a different type of spouse (or no spouse at all). When it goes too far though, you have to remember that:

4.  It’s never too late to stop it.

Whether it’s a crush that’s becoming something more, or a fantasy that’s becoming an obsession, or a path to divorce that seems inevitable, it’s never too late to put on the brakes. Of all the parts of a relationship, this is one of the most difficult, because it means putting yourself in an incredibly vulnerable place by saying 1) you’ve messed up, and 2) you still love. Sometimes it seems so much easier just to scrap it all and start over again (and in some ways it might be), but there is something exquisitely rewarding about going through the tough times together and making it through the other side.

5. It doesn’t have to feel right all the time to be right.

This I learned from watching my boys, who will yell at each other and fight with each other but still love each other with a fierceness and a loyalty like I’ve never seen. Papa Eve and I are still going to annoy the living daylights out of each other. There are times when his indecisiveness is going to drive me batty and there are times when my inability to step back and relax will make him pull his hair out. We are going to hate each other and wonder why we are together almost as many times as we know we love each other and think there is no one more perfect in the world to spend our lives with. But in spite of this, it’s right, and we know it . . . because if it were wrong, we wouldn’t have brought it back together and made it work.

And so from all of this is came the motto for our marriage: Go Big or Go Home. We could’ve pulled the plug, and it was many more times than once in this journey I wanted to. I didn’t want to be in a half-ass relationship where we stuck around for the sake of the kids while our relationship and the lights that burn inside us slowly died. If we’re in it, we’re in it for the ages. We’re going to have one of those amazing love stories, or we’re not going to have one at all.

So this is where we are . . . all our chips on the table, trying to take my own advice, and jumping all the way in.

Photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography on Flickr

 

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melanie March 12, 2012

I am so, so happy for you guys.

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2 Suchada @ Mama Eve March 12, 2012

Thanks Melanie. I probably should have added that I wouldn’t have seen these lessons if it weren’t for a really awesome counselor and good friends who helped me see straight. <3

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3 Amy West March 12, 2012

Love. Lovelovelove this. Especially 3/4/5. Thank you for posting and sharing. It really does help those of us in a similar spot. <3

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4 Suchada @ Mama Eve March 12, 2012

Thanks Amy! <3

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5 Beth March 12, 2012

Thanks for sharing. I especially relate to #2. I hope you continue to share more on how that works/is working for you – even tips on helping this happen. I have many mothers that talk about this one a LOT.
My fingers are crossed for you and your family. Much love to you!!

PS. Amen on the awesome counselor! :)

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6 Sylvia@MaMammalia March 12, 2012

Thank you for your openness. It’s really helpful to hear that others struggle with similar issues. It’s humanizing and encouraging to hear that you’re still willing to stick with it.

I really liked #2 :)

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7 Michael Hughes March 12, 2012

I wish you all the best on your journey, S. If the saying is true, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ you must be quite powerful at this point. I’m amazed at your insight and maturity. You would have a lot to teach me and I could certainly cheer you on in your search for self, for matrimonial balance, and motherhood.

I wonder about your parents and how they did seeing their daughter tread this painful path? Tell them hello for me.

All the best,
MH

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8 Suchada @ Mama Eve March 13, 2012

Thank you so much for the kind words. I can always use someone to cheer me on, and it means a lot to me coming from some one who has known me for so many years. I’m not sure how my parents felt about this struggle of mine — we aren’t very close. I will tell them you said hello, though — they are always happy to hear about familiar people from Jakarta!

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9 janetlansbury March 13, 2012

Boy, did I need to read this today! I can absolutely relate. My marriage was in crisis 3 years ago and we are still repairing. I’m going to take your lessons to heart. And I am thrilled for you, Suchada (and yes, you did seem totally fine when I last saw you… Hmmm). Truly, you continue to amaze me… So much wisdom in one lovely, gentle person! Thanks for once again sharing so boldly and honestly. I love you.

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10 Suchada @ Mama Eve March 13, 2012

I love you too, Janet. Your friendship means the world to me! <3

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11 Amy @ Anktangle March 13, 2012

This is beautiful, Suchada. Thank you for your honesty and wisdom.

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12 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama March 14, 2012

I’m so glad to hear this! It sounds like it’s been a very tough year, and I’m sorry you have been going through this, but it’s so nice to know there is a happy ending. <3

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13 rae March 18, 2012

This is the first I’m reading your blog and I have to say, I love it. Thank you so much for your honesty. My own marriage is recovering from a near divorce collapse and it was the same realization that we have to “Go Big or Go Home” that has brought us back together. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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14 Rachel @ Lautaret Bohemiet March 18, 2012

This was a great post, really great. I applaud you for having the courage to write about your marriage. I have written about mine a few times (quite honestly) and received a bit of flack about “those sorts of things being private” and I disagree. People so often wait until it is too late to reach out for help, at which point they aren’t really asking for help; they’re announcing a divorce. I think my husband and I are just beginning to turn a (positive) corner in our marriage. Reading this post was really hopeful. This is my first time on your blog, but I will definitely be back.

Be blessed.

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15 sarah clark March 19, 2012

I can’t believe I missed this. Thank you so much for sharing- marriage is such a trip- so difficult but can also be so incredibly satisfying. I am glad you are coming back together. It gives me HOPE- and I needed it.

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16 Jenny Clinkenbeard March 20, 2012

Thank you so much for posting this! Its great to hear that even after separating you and your husband can still find the good in one another and know its worth trying. I definitely needed to read this, and I’m going to have my boyfriend read this as well. We’ve been together for almost 8 years and have a wonderful 1 year old son. Things have been so frustrating lately that I’ve honestly just wanted to scrap everything and call it quits even though I still love him. This opened my eyes and made me realize that what we need is a really good talk and the willingness to admit that we’re both messing up and we still love each other tremendously. Thank you so much.

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17 Suchada @ Mama Eve March 22, 2012

I think this is a topic I’m going to have to come back to, because I almost worry I made it sound too easy. We are beyond fortunate, and I know it’s due to an amazing counselor and lots of prayer :)

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18 Rebecca March 20, 2012

I’m so glad you are back together. We’ve been through a few rough patches of varying degrees, I understand where you are. I have a friend who calls occasionally and says ” Tell me why I married him again” . It’s just not always good, but learning to appreciate the good time more and minimize the negatives helps. I like the song,” ac-centuate the positive, el-liminate the negative…” with Louie Armstrong. And over time, learning to listen and communicate better and reaping the rewards from learning that. I have personally found that when I ask God to show me something praiseworthy about him, He will and I don’t even have to feel it, but if I will just praise him for something it changes his attitude and makes the atmosphere better.
Best wishes for you and your family.

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19 Suchada @ Mama Eve March 22, 2012

What is so amazing to me is how much we’ve grown in our relationship and as people after having been tested this much. I am always going to have to remember this light on the other side, and how bright and brilliant it is, because those dark spots can get dark.

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20 Lauren @ Hobo Mama March 20, 2012

I’m here today from Anktangle’s Sunday Surf and am so glad I didn’t miss this. I hear about so many marriages that fail because one half doesn’t want to fight for it. I’m so glad you brought yourselves back from the brink and were able to work out what you need to do. I’ll keep your wisdom in mind as I work at keeping my marriage healthy. And I love your motto!

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21 Suchada @ Mama Eve March 22, 2012

Lauren, I’m thankful every day that my husband and I never wanted to throw in the towel at the same time, and our love for each other carried us through the times when one of us was completely done. I know how fortunate I am, and every day I realize it a little bit more.

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