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By Patrick Fletchall

Our eldest son used to get frustrated with his Duplo set. His Duplo are comprised of many blocks, each of them distinct yet perfectly designed to fit each other. Most of the time he would patiently play, but on occasion he’d lose patience and angrily mash them together. The more he mashed, the less likely they were to click together. I’ll come back to that later.

My wife, Nicole, and I could not be more different people. After ten years, this is abundantly clear. She’s blunt and I’m circuitously wordy. She reads mommy blogs and I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She’s OCD and I’m slovenly. I could probably give 10 volumes of additional examples.

When we were first married these differences were exciting. During our first six months of marriage we lived in a 200 square foot room, and I discovered her the way that Louis and Clark explored a path to the West: exhilarating, breathtaking, and frequently dangerous.

At each step on the trail, I explored new territory and we learned more about ourselves along the way. Nicole revealed a different way of thinking, communicating, and looking at personal relationships. She viewed the world entirely different then I did.

For my part, I was thrilled to share my passions and interests with the woman I loved and admired. I was like a 6-year-old hosting his first sleepover. “Come look at all my toys!” It seemed like the perfect synergy: she taught me how to establish healthy boundaries within my relationships and I introduced her to the Die Hard movies. Either we fit each other like two puzzle pieces, or I had an extraordinarily munificent and patient wife.

I was like someone sipping a full cup of coffee while driving on a smooth road: I patted myself on the back for our steady marriage. But life, as we all know tends to throw a few bumps. Bump…recession. Bump…child #1. Bump…child #2. Lose job, downsize, sell car to buy groceries, global pandemic…bump-bump-bump-BUMP!

The circus of young children, careers, and school leaves very little luxury for reflective relationship-building. We all spin off each day and collide back together in sporadic bursts of energy. Nicole and I had less time to be able to have the deep conversations; our interactions became transactional. The cracks began to develop.

Over 10 years, our differences seemed less like doing a puzzle together and more like an unbridgeable gulf. The slightest interaction became the seed for bickering, and bickering became our new normal mode of communication. When you’re having five fights a day, saying “I’m sorry” or “I love you” ceases to become the first step in the process of reconciliation.

Through unemployment and pandemic, our lives became condensed into a 1000 square foot apartment. There are very few places to storm off to. We had started this thing living in 200 square feet and 10 years later we’ve gained only a little more space and two adorable, inconsiderate roommates.

When you’re quarantined and have nothing else to distract you, you start noticing more things. For example, you can tell a lot about a person based on how they extract toothpaste. There are numerous methods: flattening, squeezing, rolling, etc. Personally I’m a flattener: I press the tube from the bottom upwards using my palm on the counter. Sometimes, I use the edge of the counter to ensure maximum efficiency; but I sometimes worry about the 0.05 ounces of paste that squirt back to the bottom and go wasted. My wife, on the other hand, throttles the life out of the tube like she had an ex-boyfriend named Colgate.

We’ve always shared toothpaste. For a long time, I felt mildly protective of the poor toothpaste. However, recently I’ve been struck by how incredibly effective our conjoined methods of toothpaste extraction are. Each day, we alternatively choke and press the same tube, which results in the most efficient technique to get the last ounce of product. I was impressed by the fact that our efficiency was the result of not simply complimentary methodology, but a common goal.

I mentioned previously that our son would periodically get frustrated and slam his Duplos together. To date, I’ve never seen him swing two bricks together and have them match up perfectly. And if they had, I believe he would have been too upset to notice they had aligned before ripping them apart. My wife and I have been doing the same thing.

We were designed to fit together, but we collided with such velocity and frequency, how could we possibly come together and how would we know when we had? What would it take to shake us from our bad habits?

Like many, the last month has been extraordinarily challenging. But it has also made life uncharacteristically simple. Nicole and I are still learning to put the pieces together, but the monastic minimalism of our days has forced us to intentionally partner with purpose.

No matter how long it may take for the world to get back to any semblance of normality, our marriage (and many marriages out there I suspect) will never be the same. We’ve always unwittingly squeezed and pressed together, but now we realize that we were designed to meet this challenge.

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No one wakes up one day and thinks, “I’m going to have an affair today.”- Stacey Chenevert

An affair doesn’t just happen…

Have you ever wondered how an affair starts? In my opinion, there’s such a misconception as to how affairs begin. Most people I’ve talked to believe its when two people meet, flirt, and then bam they’re having sex. However, by the time an affair is usually discovered, the couple has been involved for quite a while. 

In reality, an affair starts long before the affair partners ever meet—the affair actually starts taking hold in the husband or wife’s thoughts as soon as emptiness and hopelessness set in, and the vulnerable spouse begins to believe their marriage will not change. In case you are wondering how I know how an affair starts, well the truth is…I’ve had an affair. 

I was young when I married my first husband, my high school sweetheart. Our relationship was definitely not the fairy-tale I had imagined. We were married seven years, and during those years my husband had multiple one-night stands and became emotionally abusive. Ultimately, I became very angry and vindictive towards him.

Even so, I never thought I could be the one to have an affair…

My first husband and I had a particular couple we often socialized with, and the husband happened to be my husband’s best friend. One day, my husband’s friend expressed an interest in me and we began “discreetly and innocently” flirting back and forth over a number of years. 

Regrettably, as my marriage began to deteriorate, I started confiding in my husband’s friend about what was going wrong in my marriage. One day, when we were alone, things crossed the line. Two years later, we divorced our spouses and married each other.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but at the time I was angry and hurt by my first husband’s unfaithfulness. I thought he deserved what he got for how he treated me all of those years. I didn’t realize at the time—no one deserves to be cheated on—even if they’re unfaithful themselves and not treating their spouse with respect. It was my response to my husband’s behavior that caused me to have an affair. I know now, I had a choice!

In the beginning, my new marriage was fun and exciting. We spent lots of time together, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. But as the years went by, and we added a couple of kids to the mix, and the stresses of everyday life intervened—our marriage began to take a back seat.

Then, about eight years ago, when my second husband and I had been married for nearly 10 years, we hit a rough patch in our relationship. I was busy raising kids and my husband worked hard to provide for us, but in the process, he became a workaholic and filled his free-time with hobbies on his own. 

Over time, I felt lonely and became angry with my husband for distancing himself from me. The closeness and friendship we once shared appeared over as we began living like roommates. By the time my affair partner entered my life, I was a shell of the person I was when we married, and desperate for attention.

Infidelity is not something you go looking for…its something you allow your thoughts to lead, and your actions to follow.

My affair partner was in the medical profession and had been caring for my children for several years before the affair started. It wasn’t until I began seeing him for my own dental needs that things between us became flirtatious. Never once did I think we would end up having an affair. I was just having fun, and it felt good to be noticed. He was also going through a similar situation, so as our discussions became more intimate, we bonded over our failed marriages.

The Lie: “We‘re just friends…”

Our friendship flourished, and it didn’t take long for us to seek a relationship beyond the phone. The more time we spent together, the closer we became. The affair became like a drug. I needed to feel wanted, and he needed to feel appreciated.

Both our needs were being met for the first time in a long time. 

My affair partner spent a lot of time talking to me and listening to my heart—he was very interested in ‘who I was.’ He made me feel very honored and accepted. I needed this quality time and validation from my husband, and he wasn’t aware I even needed this to feel fulfilled.

In contrast, I grew farther away from my husband and gave up on ever being able to have with my husband again, what I had with my affair partner. I convinced myself that I never really loved my husband, and we shouldn’t have married. 

I would tell myself it was “fine”; our marriage was dead, and we didn’t have anything in common anymore. I reduced our love to a feeling, and since I no longer ‘felt in love’ with my husband, it validated my belief that “it was time to move on.” 

Affairs start in your head—long before you end up in bed…

I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt my affair started in my thoughts long before my affair partner showed up. I felt neglected by my husband, and I began withdrawing from him about a year before the affair started. Looking back now, I see how hard my heart had become toward him.

Did I mention my husband and I are Christians? Well, we are, and when the affair started, we had just finished hosting a bible study in our home. To say the guilt and shame were beyond measure would be an understatement. I was so in love with my affair partner—I didn’t care anymore about right from wrong, I just never wanted to feel empty again.

I learned first-hand having the title of ‘Christian’ will not give you the power to not have an affair. I looked like I was doing all the ‘right things’ on the outside, but my heart was still leading me down a dark path. 

Eventually, change for me would only come from my relationship with the Lord. I know, I digress, but I wanted to bring up this point in case there are some Christians who find themselves where I was—feeling overwhelmed with guilt and shame. You are not alone, and there is hope for healing and recovery.

It’s important to note—an affair can happen at any time or anywhere—it is never the physical location you are in that causes the affair to start. What makes you vulnerable is where your heart is, how empty you are feeling, or how unhappy you are in your marriage. Affairs begin within ourselves.

We believe the lies we tell ourselves…

So over time, I began to have a negative narrative about my husband. Especially when he would hurt my feelings, make me angry, or wouldn’t listen to how I was feeling. 

The narrative running through my mind would go something like this:

  • You don’t understand me.
  • You don’t spend time with me.
  • Why don’t you like me?
  • I don’t like you right now.
  • I’m tired of arguing with you about this.
  • You never listen to me.
  • We don’t have anything in common anymore.
  • I really hate you right now.
  • You are such a mean person.

I believe you get the picture. But all of this negative narrative did was cause me to look at my husband negatively—I didn’t even want to be around him. Every time he hurt me or neglected me, I would put another brick on the wall-of-anger around my heart. 

It’s hard to love someone with all your heart, only to have your needs go unmet day-after-day. I was protecting myself from further pain, but I wasn’t actively seeking healthy strategies to repair my marriage.

How to recognize when your marriage is vulnerable to an affair… 

  1. When intimacy decreases significantly or is eliminated in your marriage. We crave a deep connection with our spouse and intimacy fosters closeness. Intimacy enables us to bond with our partners on many levels. If intimacy takes a back seat and we begin to neglect the quality time our relationship needs to survive, we can become vulnerable to someone else’s attention. 
  • We begin a negative narrative about our spouse– this changes our perspective of who they are and causes us to magnify their negative qualities more than their positive attributes. So much so, we can no longer see what we loved about them.
  • Resentment sets in– even if they apologize, we can’t receive anything positive from them because we’ve allowed our hearts to be hardened. This leaves our hearts open to someone else.
  • We meet the ‘perfect-other-person’ who flirts with us and makes us feel wanted and special.
  • Communication breaks down in our marriage, and we start thinking about how good this ‘perfect-person’ made us feel. We even begin to avoid small talk with our spouse.
  • Fantasizing begins- as the flirting continues, the fantasies about what it would be like with the other person intensify. We start imagining, “what if this happened or I wonder how this would feel and what it would be like to spend time with this person?”  So by fantasizing about these different scenarios, we tell our hearts (which is where our emotions sit) that we are enjoying this attention. “It’s okay” to prepare for an encounter.
  • An agreement is made—once the line has been crossed, what’s done, can’t be undone. We begin to search for fulfillment from this person who is meeting our needs, and a chemical called Dopamine starts to kick in. 

Dopamine is the reward chemical in our brains. It releases feel-good chemicals when we are excited about someone or something. A study was done on a brain in love, and someone addicted to a drug affects found that the chemical reaction effects the same area of our brains. You literally become addicted to your affair partner. This makes ending the affair incredibly difficult but not impossible.

Once you choose hope, anything is possible…

I believe that most people go into marriage with the core value of believing they’ll have a monogamous marriage and that they won’t cheat on each other. I had the same intention with both my marriages, so I had to question myself, “what made me cross the line of my core values?” 

Was it my response to life difficulties, or neglect in my marriage? I believe it was my response to the hard times my marriage was facing, and this is the area I needed to focus on healing.

If you’re feeling discouraged by betrayal or your own thoughts, there is hope for healing your marriage. It is hard work, but when two people want to fight for their marriage and are willing to do the work required to rebuild something beautiful, then the outcome is a stronger and healthier marriage. 

My husband and I worked really hard to get through the recovery process, and I can tell you it was worth every struggle and setback to be where we are today. 

To Read Part 2: 5 Ways to Affair-Proof Your Marriage by Stacey Chenevert Go to — https://idoparttwo.com/5-ways-to-affair-proof-your-marriage/

To find more about healing from infidelity, go to https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com and connect with Stacey Chenevert

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*Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment or consultation with a mental health professional. Please note, I Do Part Two and Women with Scars Affair Recover do not have an affiliate marketing relationship.

By Tiffany Kong, founder of DiscoveringWE
with her husband, Joseph Kong

If you could go back in time to give yourself advice before getting married, what would you say? Chances are, there’s probably a lot that you would tell yourself to do or not to do. I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk much about what to expect in marriage. Everybody knew that when you got older, you’re just supposed to find a job, get married, and then have kids. 

A lot easier said than done.

I wish I knew that being married would mean dying to myself every day and putting my spouse first. I wish I knew that being married would be one of the hardest things I experience because I’m tested and tempted each day. I wish I knew being married isn’t about finding the right person but being the right person.

You may not be able to change your thinking from the past, but you have that opportunity to do so now for the future of your marriage and also as you teach your future generations on what this sacred covenant really means.

Whether you need the reminder or are giving advice to a loved one headed for the altar, here are 10 pieces of advice for a happy and healthy marriage.

  1. Work on being a better version of yourself

The key to a better marriage is by being a better you. You are the only person you can control. Become the type of person you want to attract. And while it’s important to find the right person, it’s also just as important to be the right person. You can’t give your best to your future spouse if you aren’t your best.

2. You’re not always right

And it’s okay to be wrong! That’s how you learn and grow. When you want to be right all the time, you’re only allowing yourself to see one possibility instead of seeing all the possibilities together. You don’t win anything being right all the time, it will actually end up doing more damage to your marriage than you think.

3. Master the art of apologizing

Own the mistakes you make and apologize sincerely. We all make mistakes and do stupid things, so take responsibility for your actions and apologize. And sometimes just saying I’m sorry won’t be good enough. Be specific in your apology. Admit your fault, take responsibility for your actions, ask for forgiveness, and then ask what you can do to prevent this from happening again.

4. Learn to actively practice forgiveness

You and your spouse will be apologizing to each other for the rest of your lives. One of the hardest things you’ll need to learn is to become an excellent forgiver.  Stop holding grudges and keeping score. When you learn to forgive more often, you release yourself from constantly feeling chained. Forgiveness opens the door for change and growth.

5. Continue to date each other after marriage

Just because you got them, doesn’t mean they’ll stay. By dating each other and continuing to build emotional intimacy, you are building a strong foundation for your marriage. Going on dates creates the memories that you look back on and remember why you fell in love in the first place. It’s okay to schedule your date nights too, it’s all about being intentional.

6. Learn to manage your money

When you get married, you and your spouse’s finances will be combined. There should be no secrets because you will be sharing your debts, bank accounts, and credit. If you don’t learn to manage your money right now, it’ll only get worse after you get married. Your money habits that you have when you’re single will transfer over to become your money habits in marriage. If you have toxic spending patterns, you need to address that and resolve your own money issues before being responsible for someone else’s. Get smart with your money. 

7. Don’t bring your childhood baggage into the marriage

The reason why we act and think the way we do is largely because of how we were raised. When you face conflict, look for clues that explain why your significant other acts in the way they do. Did something happen to them as a child to make them feel this way? Your marriage is not the same as your parent’s marriage, whether it was good or bad. Your spouse is innocent from all of that. You must start fresh and new with your spouse.

8. Love and respect yourself

How you treat yourself will determine how you allow others, including your spouse, to treat you. When you love and accept yourself, flaws and all, there’s no chance that anyone else would treat you with disrespect. Know who you are and how much you’re worth.

9. Throw everything you think you know about marriage out the window

You’re going to build your marriage with your spouse. You two get to define what that means and how your relationship will look like. It’s good to learn about marriage by reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching informative videos. But be careful not to idolize a relationship, whether it be fictional or real, and create unrealistic expectations for yourself and your marriage.

10. There’s a time for everything

There’s a reason why you’re still in this season. Learn everything you can from it, and do not be so anxious for tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

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A couple writing about their 30 years of marriage

4 Minute Read

“If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago, and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).

When we meet couples who are on their second marriage, sometimes we feel like we can’t relate. After all, what do we have in common with them?  But as Allen and I joke, we aren’t only on our second marriage, we are on our third…it just happens to be with the same person. Very different and also somewhat the same.

Our “Three Marriages” have been loosely marked by the decades we’ve been together. This past weekend, questions were posed to us by our Pastor when we were interviewed on stage at our church, “Tell us about the early years of your marriage. What came naturally… and what was a challenge for you?  Any Points of Conflict?”

My answer to him was hard for me to say and even harder for me to hear out loud and share with the audience. However, it was worth telling because vulnerability breaks strongholds and provides undeniable freedom.  (Sorry. I have kept you in suspense long enough with how I answered, so here goes.)

Our first Marriage was characterized by HIDING. We so longed to be the perfect Christians, the right kind of wife and/or husband, the ones everyone would look at and say, “We wish we could be just like them.  They have it all together.”  Needless to say, with this kind of pressure to perform, we hid from ourselves, our families, our church and mostly, from each other.   

We had lots of manners, not a lot of meaning. Lots of talk, not a lot of truth. Lots of outer, not a lot of inner. During that time, we actually did NOT have a lot of CONFLICT (which probably made my conflict-avoiding, peace-loving husband a happy camper), but we also did NOT have a lot of CLOSENESS.  And to be honest, it felt good.

Thank God He didn’t leave us there. It all “hit the fan” at the end of those 10 years.  

Our first marriage came to an abrupt end. With the help of some friends, Allen took a huge risk and shared some of his “not-so-perfect” stuff with me. I would love to tell you that I returned his risk with the reward of kindness, understanding and grace. Not so much. His reward was judgment and anger. After all, I liked my perfect, cookie-cutter world, where we were “godly” people and had a picture-perfect marriage and family.

Over the next months, my heart began to slowly change. Allen’s risk affected me. I was free to explore the ways I was hiding, the “not-so-perfect” parts of me. For the first time in our marriage, I felt safe and free to share those things with him.  If he wasn’t perfect, then I didn’t have to be either. What a relief!

This was the beginning of our second marriage, one characterized by a lot of HARD WORK. Transparency and authenticity came to the forefront and was mostly met with forgiveness, grace, and compassion, which required long talks and much conflict.  

We plunged headlong into books on authenticity, life groups that offered mutual transparency and trust (we have a couples’ group and we each have our own group comprised of just men and just women), and fought for these everywhere in our life: each other, our kids, and our friends.

As that decade came to a close, and our second marriage felt fairly successful, God called us to another, even deeper level in our relationship with Him and with each other.  With the help of a very safe and close-knit group of friends who regularly meet together and the decision to go to counseling, we found out that we “married the wrong person,” to quote Pastor Tim Lucas’ book on the subject.  

We began a slow undertaking towards HEALING, wholeness (I MEAN SLOW), another marriage, our third. Our small group went on an inner journey together exploring our pasts and how those played into who we are today, for both good and bad.  

Counseling revealed to us that we each had core wounds that affect most aspects of our lives and especially each other. That was tough. There was even one very scary night that stands out vividly in my memory. 

We were lying in bed, seeing very little light at the end of the tunnel, and asked each other, “Will we make it? Is there any hope for us?”  We actually weren’t sure and this made for a very dark time.

We pushed ahead with our group and with counseling.  This journey for HEALING seemed endless.  One evening during a session, we came right out and asked the question, “Do you see any hope for us?  Is this normal, that it gets much worse before it gets better?” 

Thankfully, our counselor answered with a resounding, “YES!”  to both questions.  That gave us the spark we needed to move (albeit slowly) forward.

We have found a few things during this time that have been huge for true HEALING in our marriage.

1. Working on our marriage without recognizing and working on our own individual brokenness is pointless. They go hand-in-hand.

2. Removing blame from each other for our own wounds is huge.  Blame produces shame, shame begets blame and the cycle goes round and round (that might just be why our fights kept going in circles).

3. Neither of us is changing the basic core of who we are.  We have each had to (and are continuing to) grieve the things about each other that we wish were different.  To give you an example, I am just not a physical person and Allen’s highest love language is physical touch.  Even if I set alarms on my phone to cuddle and hold his hand, it just doesn’t come naturally to me.  It’s really sad for Allen.  It might never change, no matter how hard I try.   He is grieving what might never be.  The hope we cling to is that at the end of the stages of grief lies acceptance and freedom.  YAY!  We’re slowly getting there.  (Believe me, it’s not just one way.  I’m grieving too, but not throwing Allen under the bus this time around.)

4. The journey is SLOW. There’s no way around it.  It takes lots of time and needs the “long-view” approach. None of us can undo years of damage and bad patterns in days, weeks and even months. The good news is that this perspective calms hearts and gives the much-needed room for long-term growth and change.

5. The process requires struggle. It might be painful. There will probably be some conflict. It won’t be comfortable. On Wednesday, Allen reminded me of the image of a butterfly, my all-time favorite creature. Without the stage of the cocoon, there would be no transformation.  Scientists tell us it looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis, kind of like caterpillar soup.  Finally, after weeks of this and the butterfly is ready to emerge, it takes hours of struggle to get free and more hours of waiting to fly.  The result is sheer beauty.

6. The other person is worth fighting for. Each of us longs to have true intimacy:  being fully-known and fully-loved, naked and unashamed, as Genesis defines it. We want it for each other and for ourselves. This is the place where the most transformative healing can happen, inside true transparency and trust. This is the toughest and yet most rewarding path of all!

We wonder if we will have even another marriage, one where HIDING, HARD WORK, AND HEALING are over.  

 It actually sounds a little bit like HEAVEN to me!

Esther and her husband were interviewed by their pastor about the authenticity and transparency they have in their marriage today. The entire 51-minute video is excellent, (if you love This Is Us-you’ll love it) and the Goetz’s are interviewed at the 26-minute mark and last about 10 minutes. (Click “Here is the link”)  HERE IS THE LINK

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Boating in Hawaii

3 Minute Read

So many of you have asked, why did I name this blog—I Do Part Two? 

Why, Part Two? 

Because ‘Part Two’ means something different to each of us, it’s as varied as all of our marriage experiences. I wanted ‘I Do Part Two’ to be a space where readers could relate to different couple’s stories and know they’re not alone.

Plus, don’t we all have those moments we wish someone would’ve stepped in and yelled, “CUT…Take-two!”

Wouldn’t that have been great? Instead of, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that…” We keep getting chances to say what we intended to in the first place. No harm, no foul. 

Unfortunately, that’s only in the movies.

Some of you also mentioned, ‘Part Two’ is about getting it right this time, and feeling confident enough to share the best version of yourself with your partner. And for others, ‘Part Two’ means finding love again after a heart-wrenching loss. 

For us, ‘Part Two’ is all about discovering what it’s like to be “almost empty-nesters” as our kids leave for college and beyond. Last time we were alone in the house, everything was new, and it was all so exciting—but we had no clue what we were doing.

Honeymoon 1992

How can we keep that excitement flourishing with more experience, wisdom and a deeper affection for each other than we ever thought possible? Personally, I don’t have the answer to that—I wish I did. But, I do believe we each have something to contribute to this conversation.

Like you, our marriage has it’s own story. I certainly have moments in the last twenty-five-plus years I would love to do over again, but I wouldn’t want a complete do-over.

A do-over might erase some of the best moments of my 27-year marriage to my husband. So, even if it were possible to start over, I wouldn’t want to. We’ve worked too hard to get to this place in our relationship.

Of course, there will always be those moments I wish we’d done it differently…

I would’ve loved it if, in our early years, I hadn’t always been the avoider and my husband the fixer

I wish I’d been naturally gifted with empathy, genuinely able to see through his eyes. Unfortunately, empathy wasn’t a skill I was even aware I was missing—let alone one I desperately needed—until a few years into our marriage.

I also regret not asking my husband for help more often, when the demands of motherhood, laundry, figuring out what to make for dinner every night, and running the kids to all their activities began to overwhelm me.

I wanted my husband to read my mind. I thought he should just know how to help me, but how could he—when I rarely asked. 

So for me, and most definitely for us, ‘Part Two’ is a process of learning from the past, forgiving, and moving forward… 

Instead of fixing and avoiding, we’re really listening to what the other has to say. And more importantly, we’re more aware of how the other is feeling. Even so, we still don’t always get it right. 

Sometimes feelings get hurt… but we’re quicker to mend and more vigilant to repair what we’ve mucked up.

I remember the first marriage counselor (yes, there’s been at least five, but that’s another story…) that introduced the idea of responding to my husband with empathy versus the silent treatment.

Our counselor literally had to role-play how I was supposed to be empathic. I didn’t get it, and it frustrated the hell out of my husband. How could she not get this? Apparently, empathy is learned and I must’ve skipped class that day. 

Our marriage will always be a work-in-process. So when we start to get off track, we have a little phrase we use.  Actually, calling it ‘little’ doesn’t give it the credit it deserves. Many, many times, it’s been our saving grace. It’s only five simple words, but it’s protected us from misunderstandings more times than I can count.  

“May I make a suggestion?” 

It presses the pause button. It asks permission to give advice—you may not like what I’m going to say, but trust me, you need to hear this—it will help us both move forward.

We’ve learned to trust each other, as it’s only spoken with the best intentions.

This season of our lives is also about unwinding old patterns, finding our voices, having fun together, being more intentional, and continuing to learn how to be more empathetic with each other.

We are embracing ‘Part Two.’ I don’t ever recall a time we’ve been more intentional with how we’re showing up for each other and anticipating the other’s needs. We’re excited about the future, and we‘re looking forward to planning more adventures—together.

What will Part Two mean for you? 

*Many thanks to Amy Leimbach, my friend for over 30 years, who thought up the name— I Do Part Two. We’d brainstormed countless duds, epic fails, and domain names that had already been taken. Then, I woke to a text from her in the middle of the night—isn’t that when most women come up with their best ideas? Amy, thank you for your support and creative genius!

3 Minute Read

I sat there on the couch, my counselor across the coffee table from me. Her “office” didn’t feel like one. It felt more like my great aunt’s living room. Relaxed and inviting, warmly lit and messy. Imperfect

“Solace?” She trailed off…. she took a breath, a big one. I could see her shoulders lift heavily upward, as she prepared for her next words.

She was going to ask me what I knew the conversation had been leading up to, the question I’d been dodging and moving away from.

“Solace, do you love your husband?”

Boom. 

She knows me, I thought to myself. She knows everything. I’ve told her all of my struggles, in life, relationships: the thoughts deep within my soul.  I’d convinced myself over the years, that if anyone knew all she knew, I’d surely be unlovable. Like this room I sat in, I was messy and imperfect. I hated knowing that about myself.

I chuckled, “Of course!” 

“Why?”, she asked.

“He’s a great dad and provider. We share similar values and our faith. We have the same life goals. We’ve built a life together that’s remarkable!!” 

She wasn’t going to let me dodge any longer.

“Okay”, she said slowly, “you just outlined why you are compatible. You just told me you like the life you’ve built. But, do you love him?

_________________________________

Mr. Solace travels two out of four weeks, on average, each month. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But, he travels… a lot. 

During this same conversation, my counselor asked me if I miss him when he travels. Of course I did, I said emphatically. I miss his help: I carry the load alone when he is away. 

Again, she pegged me: but do you miss him. Did I still feel that ache I once felt early in our relationship, did I miss his presence, spending time with him: being around him?

I wasn’t sure. 

Did I? Or did I just miss his help at bath time, with the dishes, and taking the trash cans to the curb? Did I miss him and love him or did I just miss his help?

I struggled with these questions for a number of weeks. I wrestled with them. I wanted my heart to feel that tug again. 

__________________________________

Through the process of being mindful within our marriage, we’ve also become intentional about our time as a family and the core relationships of our unit of four.

We’ve started saying “no” a lot more. As a result, we’ve made space within our family for relationships and activities that feed us, sharpen us and rebuild our foundation.

We are getting to know each other again. 

When Mr. Solace left recently for a two-week trip he said, “This last week has been remarkable. I’ve enjoyed you, the boys, our time together…

We’ve all been mentally and emotionally present and available. I think our work within ourselves individually is really starting to show…

By rebuilding our individual foundations and our marriage, I can see the fruits in our family relationships and our life.”

This was earth shattering. I was speechless, and my heart seemed to freeze in that moment, unable to beat. What Mr. Solace shared in this moment of vulnerability, from his heart, floored me. 

He was right. We were both more present and intentional. Mindful in our interactions. Protective of our time and the priority of our family. We stopped worrying about expectations of outside influences and instead started to focus inward.

_______________________________

Weeks later, there I sat again, in the same warmly lit room. 

My counselor, in her chair, sipping hot tea. She asked the same question she always did, “So, what’s been going on with you?”

“Mr. Solace is traveling again; he left last Friday. So, you know, just the normal day to day routine, now.

Nothing major….”, I answered. “Well, actually….there was this one thing that happened.”

“Okay? Tell me about it…”

“Well, I went for a run on Saturday. Since Mr. Solace is traveling it was just me running and pushing the stroller. You know, zoning out.

Before Mr. Solace left we’d had a really amazing week as a family; we both agreed it felt rich and full. It was entirely about being together and enjoying each other.

I was just thinking about the week as I ran, and then I passed this couple pushing a stroller together.  They were talking, I think they were drinking coffee and just clearly taking the Saturday morning slowly, together. And…”

I trailed off. I knew it was coming. An unfamiliar feeling washed over me, tears welled up, my heart beat a little quicker, and my voice trembled.

“And….I missed him. I wished in that moment more than anything in the world that he had been there. With me. I missed him.” 

I cried. And as those hot tears rolled down my cheeks, my heart in a moment of pure joy, leapt.

I missed him. I loved him. I felt joy again….I felt the tug.

________________________________________


Friends, marriage is work and it is ongoing. The process of rediscovering the love I have for my husband isn’t something I could calendar out, it’s not something that I add to a to-do list, or put on a timer. 

It’s happened as I’ve chosen to make my husband and our marriage a priority, a mindful and intentional priority.

I’ve decided to keep up the fight, to continue to persevere through the good and bad days. Remembering to stop and recognize the joy I feel in loving my spouse, and I can finally say it aloud.

I love you deeply Mr. Solace. Thank you for sticking with me.

*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.

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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.”

_______________________________________________________________

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?”

_______________________________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________________________

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.”

_______________________________________________________________

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.

_______________________________________________________________

*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


3 Minute Read

“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers.  K.  Thanks.”  (Pinterest)

On our wedding day 28 years ago, my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these:  Pirates.  Penguins.  Steelers.

I can’t say he was entirely wrong.  Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh. 

Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)! 

Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!

Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl).  They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!

Fast forward.  Four houses.  Four kids.  Four jobs.

Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another.  As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.

Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me).  “Are we going to make it?”  “What is wrong with me/you/us?”  “Is there any hope?”

THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband).   “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.

“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.”  Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.

Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth.  “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

These simple THREE words:

  • allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
  • bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
  • remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
  • spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
  • usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
  • grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
  • energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
  • breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown

Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!

We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared. 

Two things we noticed:  most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).

Marriage is like hiking

It’s windy.  It’s periodically smooth-sailing.  It’s unmarked in places.  It’s gloriously scenic.   It’s difficult to navigate in spots.  It can be scary.  It definitely takes our breath away at times.  We need hope every single day. 

We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to. 

Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.

Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!

*If you’re not logged into Facebook, you may leave a comment below the Author’s Bio section. Thank you for taking the time to read this story!

Couple golfing

4 Minute Read

Even though most experts would agree it’s more of a mental game than a physical one, it was painfully obvious I was going to need a lot of practice. So, when I casually mentioned to my husband I was going to hit golf balls, I wasn’t expecting his reaction.

He was ecstatic! “Wow, I’ve just never heard you say that…what prompted this?”

“Well, it’s I Do Part Two yeah know,” I laughed in response. This phrase has become our mantra ever since I started trying to figure out why some couples thrive after decades of marriage and why others quietly grow apart.

I always wonder, what happened? Could it happen to us too?

To his credit, my husband, Phil, has asked me countless times to play golf over the last thirty years—yes, 3-0! But, I rarely found the time.

I don’t hate golf, but if a genie granted me four kid-free hours when the kids were little, I would not have chosen to spend them trying to hit a tiny white ball into a little round hole. Regrettably, I never considered playing golf with my husband as an opportunity to simply enjoy time together.

For us, although we haven’t golfed much, but we still enjoy each other’s company. We do projects around the house, we take the kids on fun outings, and we eat dinner as a family almost every night. Plus, Phil’s had carte blanche to play golf with his friends, so why is it so important that we play together?

As we talked about it one evening, my husband, Phil, recalled how before kids we used to ski in the winter almost every weekend, and he loved that I was always up for trying to beat him on the tennis court. “It was one of your most endearing qualities,” he said, before hesitantly adding, “You used to be game for anything.”

When had I stopped being game for anything?

I always assumed it was fairly normal to have completely separate interests until I started reading about the importance of “recreational companionship” in Dr. Willard F. Harley’s book, His Needs Her Needs.

Dr. Harley stresses my assumption is true… but only to a point. He asserts, “Men typically place a surprisingly high importance on recreational companionship, second only to sex for the typical husband.”

The doctor’s words wouldn’t have cut so deep if Phil and I had at least one activity we regularly pursued together; but sadly, we did not.

I’d never even heard the term “recreational companionship,” let alone understood it was important to my husband. How had I missed this?

For years, my husband’s said we need to find activities we enjoy so when the kids move out, we have fun things to do together. I often laughed when he said it, but as our youngest gets closer to leaving for college, his words carry more urgency.

Sure we travel together and enjoy an occasional date night. We even Netflix and chill, but apparently this “isn’t enough to sustain most couples,” according to the book, “especially if either spouse has additional needs that are not being met.”

When we were dating, I jumped at any chance to spend time with him. We’d take road trips, ski and attend all sorts of sporting events at a moments notice. Once we married, I guess I didn’t feel like I needed to as much. Somewhere along the way, our careers, our house and eventually our kids all vied for my attention.

Spoiler Alert:  I was shocked to read (and I paraphrase Dr, Harley), that not having activities couples frequently enjoy together is one of the most common reasons for divorce, regardless of how long a couple has been married. (Yikes!) It’s typically one of the root causes that can be traced to other, more obvious issues that have crept into the relationship over the years.

We all know those couples that seem fine and even look happy together, but then all of a sudden they’re getting divorced. What? But you two just posted beautiful, Instagram-worthy pictures together!

Eventually you hear, “they just grew apart” or “they don’t have anything in common anymore.” I’m not immune to realizing if it can happen to them, it can happen to us.

So, now what? I’m taking golf lessons and trying to play golf more often, that’s what!

I can finally play 9-holes of golf without sounding like a little kid in the backseat whining, “Are we there yet?”

We’ve also created a list of activities we’d like to try, and Phil says he’s game for hiking the nature trails I’ve been talking about exploring for years. Who knows, maybe we’ll even try skydiving.

It’s become an adventure just trying to find new things we both enjoy—together. Because at the end of the day, we all know, foreplay is the most important part of the game anyway.

Who is your favorite recreational companion?

Epilogue: I am happy to report that since this article was first published a year ago, we have added a few more fun activities we like to do together and with other couples…we skied Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Sun Valley, Idaho last winter, started paddle boarding and kayaking this summer, and finally tackled a few hiking trails. Cheers to finding your own fun activities to do together!

If you’re interested in learning more about recreational compatibility, Dr. Harley offers a free Recreational Enjoyment Inventory at www.marriagebuilders.comIt covers hundreds of activities from stamp collecting to skydiving.

*I Do Part Two does not have a direct affiliation with Dr. Willard F. Harley or marriagebuilder.com.  For more information, see the Disclaimer statement at www.idoparttwo.com

**If you are not logged into Facebook and wish to leave a comment, you may do so below the Author’s Bio section. Thank you for taking the time to read this story.

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