Mike and I met in 2000 and married two years later. I knew the night I met him that he was the one for me. How do we know these things? Those feelings of early love defy logic. For many of us, they are the feelings we begin to miss as the years pile up in a relationship.
Mike and I moved off and finished graduate school, had two kids, moved home, and had another child. Profession took over Mike's life and motherhood took over mine. Did we still love each other? Yes. Three kids' worth of dirty diapers, stressful work, and a few life crises later, were we in love? Not so much.
Somehow, despite the fact that we were committed to our marriage and each other, the arguments seemed to always sound the same. I didn't feel heard. He didn't think I ever listened to him. Completing simple jobs together at The Homestead often ended in digging up mortal wounds from childhood. Mostly, we felt more like housemates than the connected young people we started out as.
So last year, we decided to go all in. We hoped that there was more to this marriage thing than gliding through our parallel lives under one roof. We wanted, audaciously, to be in love again, and we set out to find out how. Mike and I recommitted and read books. John Gottman is one of our favorites. The Five Love Languages was important. Then, by some miracle (actually because he is very brave), Mike agreed to go to a retreat with me by Harville and Helen Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want, based on their bestseller. We came home and put the practices to work. And guess what? They worked.
The things we learned on our journey are what we will share with other couples in the Whole Relationship Retreat November 6th and 7th at The Homestead. Usually we find experts to present on the topics we want to cover in our programming, but this time? We are the experts in learning to create a happy, healthy, better-than-you-imagined marriage, or at least we are able to tell you how to put expert advice into practice.
What are some of the things we learned?
1. We needed a new vision for our marriage: The vision we created as young people had changed over the years, and yet we never discussed it. We hadn't updated our vision for where we wanted to go together since we had those discussions when we were dating.
2. We needed to learn how to fight: Our fights led nowhere. Neither of us ever felt heard or satisfied with the outcome. Learning how to fight fair has been a Godsend.
3. We needed to learn how to appreciate each other: The way I show appreciation is not necessarily the way Mike receives it. The way he shows it didn't register with me either. Now when I see him paying the bills I think, "Oh! He's trying to be romantic."
4. We needed to understand where our old wounds came from: Most of our fights really had very little to do with the current situation and more to do with what we brought to the situation. Figuring that out, and how to change it, was incredible!
So here we are. A year later, fifteen years into a damn good relationship, and IN LOVE. Anyway, you know it must be working if my introverted husband agreed to co-teach this course with me without threats or bribery. In fact, he said, "Sure. People need to know this stuff!"