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Marriage is not easy, my friends. And we hear this a lot. We’re told that marriage takes work. But do we really hear that message? We may know that marriage isn’t a fairytale, but are we really prepared for the effort required to make marriage successful and fulfilling for the long haul?

Our 30th wedding anniversary is today and I’ve been reflecting on our marriage and marriage in general. Somewhere along the way, I went from being a Wife in the Moment to being a Mom in the Moment, and while in theory, I should have found a way to be both perfectly, in practice that wasn’t so easy.

Even if we think we know what to expect from marriage going into it, there are just some things we can’t be fully prepared for. We may be used to working through the obvious issues, but it’s hard to be prepared for the way having children can impact our relationship. Yes, becoming parents enhances our relationship in so many ways – but it will also most likely add some strain to it.

In the early years, we moms face constant demands on our time, endure exhaustion from sleep deprivation and feeling needed all the time. This often leaves us feeling touched-out and craving time to just crash on the couch. We may feel like we don’t have much left of us for our husbands, and not only does this cause our husbands to feel distanced, it often leaves us feeling guilty.

Before I became a mom, I was really good at being a Wife in the Moment.

Back when we were a couple, and before we became a family, everything was about us. Plenty of couple time, time spent with friends, time to exercise together, time for trips together. We invested so much beautiful time in each other. Of course, I’m well aware of the guidance that reminds us that a happy family is dependent upon a happy marriage. And that the marriage relationship should always be paramount. I’m just going to be honest here, and I think many moms will relate….sometimes this is easier in theory than in practice.

Even after we became parents, the change wasn’t immediate. It happened gradually. We slowly lost some of “us” along the way. Little things added up, and less time devoted to each other exacerbated other issues that would have otherwise been tended to and worked out. Spoiler: we have found our way again and worked out these issues. Where there is love, there is hope. It sounds obvious, but the first step forward in hope is to be mindful of investing consistent time in the “us” relationship. Date nights are great, but simple time together is recharging, too. It can vary by the week, as long as there is a conscious connection. A walk, coffee, or iced tea on the patio and eating dinner separately from the kids are all easy ways to create a connection.

Sydnei and her love of 30+ years

While time is an essential building block of a strong relationship, another important factor in strengthening our love and relationship is good communication. Being tuned in to how we are feeling and then being completely open and sensitive in how we share that. Sometimes there’s accumulated resentment over past disagreements or negative patterns that make it harder for us to communicate from a place of love. When this happens, there is no shame in seeking help. I can attest to the healing power of couple’s therapy. Having a neutral person listen and guide us back to healthy communication, and facilitate us sharing and working through our feelings and needs, was less complicated than it sounds. And it was transformative for our relationship. As couples, we should never stop working on our relationship. Life will throw us curveballs, but it’s up to us how we choose to deal with them.

Love changes over time. We may know that with our minds, but feeling it with our hearts is a whole different thing. What begins as butterflies and dreamy love transforms into deeper, through-the-ugly, intentional love. We took vows on our wedding day and we must choose to keep those vows. We must consciously choose to love each other each and every day…and strive to be both a ‘Wife in the Moment’ and a ‘Mom in the Moment.’

“I want you to listen, really listen to me.”I want to be heard.

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”I want to be validated.

“You never support me in front of your friends”I want to be protected.

One of the most common messages we receive at I Do Part Two is the desire to feel validated. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Validation is one of the most important tools of communication in marriage. It allows you to support your spouse, even when you disagree. 

A good example of validating your spouse’s feelings would be to put away your device when they’re talking—listen to understand what they are saying from their point-of-view.

A friend was sharing with her husband about a disagreement she had with a co-worker and he replied, “What did you do to set her off?” This would be an example of not validating your partner’s feelings.

Our feelings are like a personal alert system—they aren’t right or wrong. They reflect our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. They help us to understand how we are feeling about a conversation or an interaction with our partner. The Gottman Institute, a highly regarded licensed counseling group, points out that when our partner ignores or dismisses our feelings, “it is a form of relational trauma which, over time, harms the brain and nervous system.”

Where does this lack of empathy come from? For many of us, it’s just not in our natural wiring. And it may go way back—possible before our earliest tangible memory. As children, we may have also learned to not “talk back” to our elders, not to make too much noise, or not to bother anyone while they’re reading, cooking, or working on a project. 

Maybe you watched as one parent berated the other parent or an older sibling, and the message formed loud and clear in your growing brain, “Don’t speak up, stay small, and by all means—don’t share your feelings.”

How would you know how to show empathy and validate others’ feelings if it was never modeled for you?

Awareness: Simply recognizing that this is an issue for you and acknowledging your willingness to work on it is the first step. Experts recommend individual and couples counseling, reading books on the topic, and working on listening to understand from your partner’s perspective. Also, I would add, let them know you love and care about them, and you do not want them to feel invalidated anymore.

The Gottman Institute recommends three steps toward healing: (but friends, this will take some time.)

  1. Atone: Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is crucial; it is a practice that heals ourselves and others—again and again.
  2. Attune: This means listening, perhaps for the very first time and seeing the situation “through their eyes.” When we are really listening for understanding, we’re able to share someone else’s story from their perspective. 
  3. Attachment: If your partner is there for you and has your back, you will feel secure in your attachment to them. The closeness creates a deeper bond where trust and commitment can flourish. 

The Gottman Institute (and I paraphrase), recommends committing to repeatedly working to Atone, Attune and Attach on an ongoing basis. In other words:

  • Apologize when you are in the wrong
  • Listen to your partner and understand from their point-of-view
  • Validate your partner’s concerns, they will feel more secure.

If this story resonated with you, it’s either because you have felt “unheard” or realize you have some work to do. Friends, it’s never too late to work on your relationship skills and say you are sorry. Learning how to empathize and validate another’s feelings is probably one of the most powerful relationship skills most of us were never taught. By Lisa Reinhart-Speers

*Please note: Where a licensed expert is not credited, I share from my own experience gained from 28 years of marriage, reading loads of marriage articles and books, and working with numerous licensed marriage counselors myself over the years—much of which was sought pro-actively with my husband, so we could learn new skills as we hit road bumps or new phases in life, like empty-nesting. It is a never-ending process but well worth it—By Lisa Reinhart-Speers @I Do Part Two

“She’s the puzzle I chose to solve. Far too many people are looking for an easy puzzle, you’re never going to have an easy puzzle” – Anthony Trucks talking about his lovely wife

A few months ago I heard Anthony Trucks speaking about his marriage, divorce, and remarriage to the same “amazing woman,” and I reached out to see if he would share his story with I Do Part Two—Anthony graciously agreed.

Anthony is a devoted husband and father. He is also an author, internationally known motivational speaker and has his own business http://anthonytrucks.com, where he coaches clients to reach their full potential.  In addition, he is the host of his own podcast Aww Shift, which can be found wherever you listen to podcasts.

Anthony is a former NFL player and interestingly enough— he’s a 3 time American Ninja Warrior, and the first NFL player to complete the very difficult obstacle course and push the ‘Red Buzzer.’

He has an amazing ability to navigate life’s challenges……which is so important right now. So, I encourage you to listen and look him up after our conversation.

Anthony had me at hello when he said, “I got to meet someone for the first time that I’d known for 16 years.“

I know you’ll enjoy this interview. Thank you for listening and feel free to pass it along— Lisa Speers

You will be hearing more from contributors to I Do Part Two in the future because, “What will the world miss if you don’t share your story?” (A quote from Donald Miller)

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

*Note to Facebook Users: PLEASE return to FB and click “Like,” which lets the author know how much you appreciated their story. **If you’re NOT connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section.

*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.

*If you’re not connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section. Please note, I Do Part Two does NOT have an affiliate marketing relationship with DiscoveringWE

A couple writing about their 30 years of marriage
“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 30 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

“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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