Day 23: It doesn’t have to be the end

I wrote an earlier post about going to marriage counselling, and I return to that today. As we moved through the weeks of uncertain emotions within a commitment to stay married, we needed strategies and new tools to help us to improve things. If we had simply said we’re sticking this out, without trying anything new or different in our ways of relating to each other, I don’t think anything would have changed.

We both needed to, and did, maintain an openness to trying new things, alongside being willing to accept that our perceptions of each other were not accurate. That was part of treating hope as a reality, rather than wishful thinking.

Today I want to share something that has been pretty fundamental to this restoration, in the hope that maybe someone reading this will identify and it may help you to see that your situation may not be as hopeless and life draining as you believe it to be. It is possible to come back from a place of deep hurt and find ways to reconnect with your spouse or partner.

I had harboured a belief that my husband did things to hurt me. My logic went as follows. He is a good guy. He isn’t unkind. He treats people well. Therefore if he does something which hurts me it is so out of character that it must be intentional. Yes, even I can see the skewed thinking in there and we had agreed years earlier, that if I thought he was being hurful to me I should assume that he didn’t mean it and that there was some level of misunderstanding. I did try that but over the years the actions seemed to me to be so obvious in their consequences that I couldn’t believe that they were unintentional. Surely he knew me well enough after all our years together to kow that doing X would make me feel Y?

I came to a realization, through the counselling process, that he was telling the truth when he said that he had never meant to hurt me, but that realisation brought with it a recognition of other difficulties in our relationship.

This was one of the times when the ‘in making decisions turn towards each other and not away’ advice had to be implemented. I could either choose to say I can’t do this , and turn away, permanently. Or I could choose to turn towards my husband and work at finding ways to compensate for the weaknesses that were being highlighted in our relationship.

I write this at this point in the story, because our anniversary weekend away helped me to see a way in which I could choose to turn towards my husband. I enjoyed our time away. I felt happy. Why? Not so much because of what we said, or the feelings that were shared between us, but because we did things that we both enjoyed. We didn’t talk about how they made us feel, nor did we necessarily feel the same things about them, but the by-product of our experiences was positive emotions for each of us. We realised that we could share experiences which would make us individually feel good, and therefore we would equate each other with good emotions. This may seem contrived, but I would suggest it’s being realistic. It was seeing things as they really were and working out how to make them better.

We thought about what we liked to do together – outdoor activity – and so we returned home with one more positive shared experience in our lives. We are still making time for this activity. It gives us hope. Every time.

Lights in the darkness.

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20 thoughts on “Day 23: It doesn’t have to be the end

  1. Isn’t it amazing how our assumptions of the other person affect how we interpret their actions? Years ago my husband and I read Eggerich’s book “Love and Respect.” What you describe here exactly lines up with his description of “goodwill.” We had a good marriage–no obvious problems–but my changing my attitude about his actions towards me is one of the things that has helped us go from good to great.
    Thank you for your writing. I think you have an important story to tell.

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    1. Thank you Cheryl for reading and encouraging me to tell this story. Goodwill is the right word to describe what we are trying to. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but it makes such a difference.

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  2. Such a good post. So true that just “hanging on” without implementing new ways of thinking and reacting doesn’t change much. I had similar misunderstandings early in our marriage. One was his leaving things around the house, which I thought meant he expected me to pick them up. He said he wasn’t thinking that way, and after a long time I came to believe him. He can sometimes be the “absent-minded professor type.” I still don’t like it, but I understand. If let out long enough he will eventually put them away when he notices them again. Sometimes I go ahead and do it for him, too often because I just can’t stand it any more, but sometimes (and this should be my motive more often) just to serve and bless him. And I try to focus on the good things – there is so much he does for our family that I need to be thankful for that and not concentrate on the areas of irritation.

    It is helpful, too, to do things together we both enjoy. Like you said, we may not always get the same things from the experience, but that’s ok.

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    1. Thanks Barbara. We need to keep changing and adapting and working out how to make it work better. I think we need to keep talking about these things so that we learn from each other, because marriage is such hard work, so thanks for sharing part of your experience with me here.

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  3. Haven’t followed your story until now, but it sounds intense! Happy to hear that you still see light in the midst of darkness and that small things can make a difference. Seeing past own assumptions of another person is important in any kind of relationship, I guess. Many blessings for your journey!

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  4. I needed this post today. Often I find myself thinking the same thing.. That after all the time we’ve been together, my husband should know which behaviors set me off. And so when he does them, I get angry, even when he says the acts weren’t intentional and he didn’t mean to upset me.

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    1. I hear you. It is so hard, and I don’t have it sorted in any way at all. I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s ok that he doesn’t understand me – i don’t understand him either – and if we just keep trying to treat each other with kindness it will go a long way. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with me ; it is so good to know that these difficulties are not uncommon, and we can gain so much from each others’ encouragement to keep going 🙂

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  5. Another great book is “His Needs, Her Needs” by Willard E Harley, Jr. Together with the Love and Respect books, they are full of gems of advice and things to remember whilst building and maintaining a marriage.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this – I so believe in counseling…so many couples just give up! How can you go through life with all its ups and downs and life changes, sharing life with this person who is so different from you and expect not to have to work at it sometimes? Great words and great encouragement!

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