It's no secret my relationship has gone through some things over the last 13 years. We've fallen and flown so many different times, so it's obvious we're still together because of a profound love and respect for one another. Otherwise, we wouldn't continue fighting through the bad to get to the good. I think talking openly about my relationship struggles actually saved my relationship many times from falling off a proverbial cliff. To be clear, "times" means "often"
When I met my (now) husband 13 years ago, it was evident how different we were (though I hadn't expected those differences to be much of an issue). You know, the yin to my yang, or whatever. I was naive and caught up in all the good feelings one has when first falling in love, so I couldn't anticipate the relationship souring. Early on, when communication was lacking, I should've known; should've taken that first hint that if he and I would stay together, we'd have to always work at it or we'd wither away. That sentiment is truer now than ever.
As he and I approach our 10th wedding anniversary, we're still facing a lot of the same issues we had way back when. After counseling, new starts, and endless promises that have been broken, we often turn to each other to ask, "What are we doing?" While the question (and feeling behind it) are very real, I know when one of us feels this way, it usually means, "How do we fix it?" Neither of us want to divorce or be apart and with two children, so we aim to set the example of what love is (sometimes it's not pretty).
Through all of our woes, one thing that's been beneficial is how open I've become in airing our dirty laundry. I realize it sounds counter-intuitive but, as a writer, I'm used to telling stories, be it fiction or memoir, which happens to include things I know and live—like my relationships. I've written about how we met at an open mic not long after I left my first husband (married out of high school) and how I went in with trust issues because of that experience. I've talked about my childhood and how drastically it contradicts my husband's, therefore creating issues that otherwise might not be there. I've been open about my miscarriages and how my husband was so there for me through the pains. I've talked about the time we renewed our vows.
Likewise, I've mentioned the successful pregnancy to follow was coupled with a distant partner who'd essentially leave me to myself. We've had hard times and easy times, light times and heavy times. We've detached and reattached. Through all the years of talking about our relationship from so many different vantage points, and the failed ones before, my husband and I have only gotten closer. Here are some of the ways talking about it helps us heal and come together in new ways.
I've Learned A Lot About Myself
I realize in over a decade of professional writing, I've said a lot. More than that, I've learned a lot. I've learned about who I am and who I want to be. This, of course, ties into the kind of relationship I want to model for my children. When I went to individual therapies to aide my various disorders, I also learned about the kind of partner I am. It's easy to talk about my relationship struggles from my view and only sympathize with my feelings, because it's totally one-sided. In putting it all out there, whether it's in therapy, with friends or in writing, I'm often able to see the places it really isn't about just me. In doing this, I can see ways I've contributed to the messes we're in, and therefore, I can do my part to fix them.
It Forced Us To Talk
When I've written about something that's directly affected my relationship, such as the miscarriages, there's little else we can do to gain control of our relationship other than communicate. If we don't talk through the things shifting us off track, how can we be together for the rest of our lives? I mean, really.
I've tried a lot of other things to avoid the simple act of looking my partner in the eye and asking how he feels about something between us. Avoidance doesn't negate the issue. Instead, it only prolongs the matter at hand, which can only worsen things (I know from experience). It's not always easy (or fun) to discuss the uncomfortable or the frustrating, but we have to. We just have to.
It Helped Others, Which Helped Us
I get a weird satisfaction from writing about all the things I've experienced throughout my life and, in part, it has largely to do with the fact that sometimes I say something that strikes a positive nerve and people reach out to tell me so. It happens most often when I'm honest and raw, speaking on topics like my disorders and miscarriages, because there are a lot of people who can relate. Not that I love that people are struggling with the same things, but it makes me feel less alone, and I think, vice versa.
Every now and then, when I hear from someone about how an article about how my anxiety affects my parenting or my relationship, or how my miscarriages have made me a better mother, it inspires me to reach out to my partner to talk about it. I love helping others, even if it's only through my experiences and if it brings me and my partner closer in the process, even better.
It Led To Action
Whenever I talk about issues my husband and I have fought through (or still are), it makes me want to do something. I've always believed love is a verb, so in merely hearing "I love you" or "knowing" he loves me, I want to feel it from action. I've discovered that when I do something to show my affection, he will, too. Honestly, it's like knocking down a set of dominos.
It can be challenging, as a stubborn, self-proclaimed Type A like me to be the first to take action, but I've learned how necessary it is at times. The bonus to all of this is that my kids see words aren't enough. You have to put your money where your mouth is.
It Made Us Realize What We Have
Of all the things I've written or spoken about regarding relationship flubs, parenting mishaps, or any other personal issue, I almost always have a nagging feeling to go hug my husband (or kids). The words resonate, even with me. It's easy to get caught up in all the bad parts but in writing the good parts too, I'm able to reminisce and focus on those memories and feelings that brought us together in the first place. When I'm talking to someone about how frustrated I am with the ongoing lack of communication or whatever else is still bothering me, everything becomes clear. No matter what we're struggling with, it always comes down to us wanting to be together. So in turn, we find a way, whatever it is, to work through it.
I can't speak for my husband, but there's no one else I'd rather spend my life with, even when it feels like we're sinking (again). The older I get, the more I realize maybe relationships, and definitely marriage, isn't only about the good parts. Those are easy. It's just as much about the hardships and how we work together to get past them. We're not perfect (not by far), but we didn't hustle 13 years and two kids to sink our ship forever. It's not our style, or what we want our kids to learn from this verb called love.