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By Ranae Aspen, writer https://www.facebook.com/ranaeaspenwriter

In a month, I will celebrate 22 years of marriage with my soulmate, Dan. Notice, I did not say “wedded bliss.” While some times have been blissful, others have been hard, really hard. 

It dawned on me while thinking about our upcoming anniversary that there are stages of marriage, just like there are stages of childhood development. Embrace each stage because you go from newlyweds to a seasoned married couple in the blink of an eye. 

Newlyweds, now that is the magic! This is the phase where you can’t stand the thought of being away from your spouse. At the drop of a hat, you are intertwined in blissful love. Bliss, this wistful state of love—where you breathe in love, you walk in love, and it is all-consuming. After a while, though, something happens, whether it is the birth of your newborn or just the routine of life, you realize you are not a newlywed, but you are moving into the business of marriage. 

What is the business of marriage? It’s mortgages, car payments, and in general, daily life. Raising a family is expensive, and if you are now a parent, there are expenses involved with diapers, clothing and activities. Then, as they grow older, there are even more fun expenses. The flow of money can be a source of distress or a source of joy. 

A lot depends on your planning and partnership when life hits you with unexpected expenses. Looking back, if I could do one thing before marriage, it would be to have extensive conversations about money. 

The day-to-day grind can be good, or it can be a source of stress. Life can become routine. You get to a point where it almost feels like the movie “Groundhog Day.” You get up, you go to work, and you come home. You eat dinner (sometimes the same thing you had last week), you talk about the same things, go to bed, and do it all over again. 

Dan promised me one thing before we got married—every year, we would have a vacation. It may not be a glamorous vacation but time away to have different scenery. For a few years, we’ve hiked in the mountains of Colorado. Another year it was an epic trip to the west coast, and sometimes it is a day trip to Lincoln, to tour around the UNL campus where I attended college. 

Getting into a rut can cause issues. I find when that happens, we tend to take each other for granted. I recommend changing things up, even if it’s something out of the ordinary on your weekly menu. Discover a new place to have dinner or when the weather is nice, take it outside. Take time to talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. 

In a way, a marriage is like a child. The early stages require a lot of attention and nurturing. The years pass, and it is more routine. You still need to go back and water the seeds of love—where your story began. Growing in your love with one another is very important. We all evolve as we journey through life, and our relationship needs to evolve as well.

I have leaned on the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” 

While this is a testimony of God’s love for us, it is a recipe for the love we should have for our spouse. Twenty-two years have allowed for opportunities to be proficient in recognizing what our relationship needs to keep it going. Twenty-two years have produced a family that we have centered our world around. Twenty-two years is a long time, but it also goes by incredibly fast. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 22 years in our book of love. 

Cheers to my soulmate Dan; I am thankful that we are together and navigating the waters of this thing called life.

You can read more stories about marriage, midlife, and filling your nest on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/idoparttwostories/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/idoparttwo/

*Neighborhood photo by David McBee from Pexels and Mountain photo by http://www.rachelclaire.co/?ref=pexels; other photo credits are unknown

4 Minute Read

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t.-Rikki Rogers

It burned as it went down…I’d been here, in this place, before. It smelled and felt familiar. Like a knowing friend greeting me: but, there was no friend here. Never kind and never hopeful; only unrelenting in its demand for my full attention.

It whispered with certainty, “You will not win, not today. You don’t have the courage, the strength. All you have is me. I own you.”

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Slam. The door closes jarringly in the hallway. My husband’s home. I’m pulled from my thoughts as he passes through the kitchen.

“Hi! How are you? How was your day?” I ask with too much fervor and excitement. I can tell he knows, but pretends anyway.

“Oh good. You know, just another day. What’s for dinner?”

“Oh right….dinner! Yes! I was just getting it started. The boys are upstairs playing. So I’ll just go check on them and then…yeah I’ll get it going!” 

“Whoa, 5:30 already? ” I rush by him, looking down, avoiding eye contact and any physical touch he may try to initiate.

I make my way up the stairs. I say something to the boys, loud enough for my husband to hear. To know, I’m still there.

“Hon? Do you want to change and shower before dinner?” I ask hopefully. Say yes, please, pleassse, say yes…

“Umm. Sure, I guess so.”

He stops in to see the boys on his way up while I rush by, “I need to start dinner!” I say a bit too loudly. Trying to explain what I imagine he must be thinking, “why is she avoiding me?”

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It’s chasing me, or maybe I’m chasing it. I can’t tell anymore.

We circle one another. Like sharks smelling for first blood. Who will break first? Me. I always do, I remember.

I find myself alone with my thoughts again. I know I don’t have long before they boys will be down, asking about dinner.

Will you ever figure this out? Doubtful. 

You’re too weak and incapable. Just throw the towel in now. Accept this. Accept me, you need me.

Like a master and his slave, I can’t tell if my thoughts are my own anymore. We’d become one, and I was burdened into a slavery that I could not escape.

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We’d met many years before, in my early 20’s, I was at once enamored. I’d never experienced such shiny and glamorous things in life. I was funnier, more confident and self assured. The relationship brought me contentment and offered new opportunities.

At first, it was just a fling; just being reckless and young. Soon, it turned into something more serious and then, controlling and abusive. 

Before I knew it, I was wrapped up: nothing else mattered. Once a relatively prudent and thoughtful young woman, I found myself throwing caution to the wind; all for this new relationship.

Through a series of events, it became clear this, I, wasn’t healthy. And so, we parted ways. I was met with a sneering, “you’ll be back.”

But, I didn’t return. I met my husband, we married within the year, had two beautiful boys and built a remarkable life together.

Something happened though. A life change. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I found myself at home, alone, with two small children. 

Day after day, the same routine. It pained me to admit, I was bored, dying, and uninspired. And so, I found myself going back to my old fling.

Let’s be real: I wasn’t the victim. I knew how unhealthy the relationship had been. 

What would make it different now? Not to mention how unfair it was to my husband, my marriage…my boys.

Familiarity breeds contempt. Indeed, contempt is what I felt. I hated this path I’d found myself wandering on again. I couldn’t break the chain; I’d become a slave again.

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Some like it sweetened for disguise, others like it on a hot summer day, still some prefer it in the cold of a winter night.

I preferred mine straight from the bottle. In the middle of the day. Brad Pitt once said, “I can drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka.” 

Me too.

For months I tried to disguise it. But eventually, like all things, it started to show. I had to have a little more each time to numb the pain I was running from, the person I couldn’t stand to see in the mirror. 

Before I knew it, I was going through vodka like water. “You need me…” it would whisper. Cunningly and deceivingly, “you might beat me someday…but not today.”

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This second time, the consequences were much deeper; more significant.

The trust I’d lost with my husband, slowly had to be rebuilt. The partnership and deep union we’d once felt, had started to crack at the foundation. 

The ramifications of my choices, I’m afraid, may never fully heal.

Like most “affairs”, my decisions were made emotionally and recklessly. And as a result, the most important relationship to the health of my family suffered at great consequence.

After seeking individual and marital counseling (something we should have done earlier), my husband and I have almost fully healed from my choices.

We work daily to guard of my past affair, just as we do with other situations in our life that may lead to unhealthy behaviors on either of our parts. 

Today, I dance a careful dance with the “tiger” that is alcohol. It lives in a cage in my life, and we are learning to co-exist with one another.

By the grace of My Savior, I can say with full conviction and confidence, I no longer am a slave to sin. I was given a renewed spirit and a second chance.

As painful as it is to remember those moments in my life, I force myself to come to terms with them each day. 

As a result, now when I look in the mirror I am proud of the wife and mother I have become, and the marriage I am continuing to build with the man I love so deeply.

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*Anonymous Writers for I Do Part Two have been thoroughly vetted. We applaud all our writers for the courage to share their stories. If this story touched you, please ‘Like’ and comment on FB, Instagram or you may comment below without social media. Thank you so much for reading this story.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or mental or emotional health, I Do Part Two encourages you to reach out and call a trusted loved one, friend, co-worker or member of your church or visit:

SAMHSA’s Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services  1-800-662-HELP (4357) or www.aa.org: Alcoholics Anonymous


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