Rough Patch

Chris and I are coming out of rough patch that we’ve been battling for a couple months. Those are never any fun to be in, but they are even LESS fun to come out of because in order to get out of a rough patch, you have to speak to each other. Without fighting. And you have to agree. Without holding resentment. And, in my experience, being in a rough patch by definition means I don’t really want to get along with my husband, much less AGREE with him on anything. So, the working through it part is often much harder than the going through it part.

Being an adult sucks.

For a few months now, I have felt judgment from Chris. I felt like he was angry and irritated, but just wasn’t saying anything to me about it. Which made me do two things. First, it made me feel guilty all the time. I kept asking him if he was mad about something, but he never gave me a reason. I knew there was more going on, so I spent all of the month of March walking around with the weight of the world on my shoulders, all because I felt like my husband was mad at me for any and/or all of the following reasons:

a) I wasn’t doing enough around the house
b) I was going out on week nights too often, leaving him home with the kids too much
c) I wasn’t taking care of myself and so I looked like crap and gained a bunch of weight
d) I was nagging him
e) I was spending too much money

March was not a fun month for me.

By April, though, I began to get pissed off. I was tired of being silently punished, and so I began to silently punish back. Chris wasn’t talking to me? No problem. I wouldn’t talk to him. So, we didn’t. We took care of the household responsibilities, we took care of the kids, we took care of our family obligations, we took care of our jobs, but we decided we didn’t care enough to take care of our marriage. So, we sat in front of the television at night or we came to bed at different times or we planned fun activities with other people instead of with each other. And, quite frankly, we just didn’t care.

Thankfully, though, we had The Great Fight of 2013. We usually have one big, giant blow out fight about once a year. They aren’t usually this early in the year, but it was about time. The subject of this particular fight was money. How we made it, how we spent it, how we saved it, and how we budgeted it. Money, money, money.

But, here’s the thing. The fight wasn’t really about money. How do I know that? Because we ended up screaming at each other, only we were saying things like, “YOU’RE RIGHT, DAMMIT!” and “I COMPLETELY AGREE, YOU ASS!” We weren’t even arguing right. We were actually agreeing with each other more than we were disagreeing. We just needed an outlet for our frustration with each other. We needed a reason to just let it all out. And, yes, to yell.

The Great Fight of 2013 ended with Chris storming off to work, and me storming off to take it out on the dishes in the kitchen sink. While he was gone, I called my sister (isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you fight with your husband?), who validated how I felt like a good sister should, but then who prompted me to share some deeper things with Chris. Like, about how I felt like he was angry at me all the time, and how I was tired of feeling guilty and not even knowing what I felt guilty for. And she said I needed to give him a hug. I started laughing, but she stayed completely serious.

“You need to hug him for at least 30 seconds. And then you need to sit down and fix this. It will be awkward. It will feel forced and uncomfortable, but that’s what you need to do. Because you need to remember that you’re fighting because you love each other, and you’re working through it because you love each other even more.”

She’s a smart cookie.

So, I did what I do best and I wrote some things down. I made a list of the things that I thought were wrong with us. Some of them were things that I thought I had done wrong and some were things that I thought Chris had done wrong. Some were things that we needed to work out together. And I made a list of the three things I could sacrifice in order to make our marriage more of a priority again.

And then I put the list in my bedside table drawer, and haven’t looked at it since.

I thought about getting it out and sharing it with Chris. I’m sure that’s what a good marriage counselor would tell me to do. But the truth is that I’d rather TALK TO him than WRITE AT him. The writing just helped me get my talking thoughts together. And so when Chris came home from work that night, I gave him a 30 second hug like Ginny suggested (freaked him out and I think pissed him off…), but then we sat down and talked.

And that talk was harder than the fighting. Fighting is easy and weak because you can say whatever you want in the heat of battle. You aren’t prepared or planned, your ideas aren’t courteous or polite. You just push it all out there all ugly-like. And I do believe there is a place for that in a marriage. But if you’re going to fight it out, you’ve also got to be willing to take the next step, and that is talking it out.

Fighting it out involves lots of “you” statement. “You never do this…” or “You always do that…” But talking involves thought and planning. It involves lots of “I” statement, “I hear what you are saying, but…” and “I will try to do better.” Talking is about your actions and how you can change. And that’s really when a marriage moves ahead.

So, that’s what we did. And it was hard for Chris. When I first started talking, I explained how I felt and then asked him what he was so angry about. I must have asked 5,000 times in a variety of ways, and the response was always the same, “There isn’t anything. I’m not angry about anything.”

Which made me want to punch him in the face. Really. How the heck was I supposed to fix a problem if he wouldn’t tell me what the problem was????

But then I realized that I needed to LISTEN. I needed to hear what he was telling me. I was waiting for an ADMISSION from him, but that isn’t the same as listening. Listening is hearing what you haven’t planned to hear. And what I hadn’t planned to hear was that Chris wasn’t mad at me. I hadn’t planned to hear that the problem was not me. Chris was having a hard time with something else, and it was coming out as anger and frustration directed at me. I had created a problem in my head, become angry about that problem, reacted to that problem, only to discover that that wasn’t actually the problem at all.

We talked about how Chris can get better at dealing with this issue. We talked about how I need to stop making everything personal and about me. Mostly, though, we talked about how we could both work to make our home a place where we wanted to be. A place where God, our marriage, and our family were the top priorities. We set some new guidelines and rules (i.e. no house guests without warning, no purchases over $100 without planning, etc.) and we put our family in time out.

This weekend, we are in family time out. We aren’t allowed to leave, to travel, to make plans – nothing. We are in lock down until we get ourselves stable again. We can’t grow our marriage if we’re always on the go. Sometimes we need to stop and reset. So, that’s what we are doing this weekend. And in the next few months, we are wrangling in our obligations. I’m not committing to anything else, we’re not traveling anywhere, Chris isn’t hiding behind house projects to avoid having to hang out with me. We are here at home, and we are together.


Marriages aren’t built in the land of unicorns and good lighting and perfect parenting. Good, solid marriages are built in the land of “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!” and runny noses and never quite making it to church on time (or at all…). Because good, solid marriage are not about where they are built. You can build good, solid marriages in whatever surroundings you have. All you need is a willing spirit, a whole lot of patience, a determined attitude, and more love for your spouse than you think you have inside of you.

I mean, how hard is that?


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29 Thoughts to “Rough Patch”

  1. This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing this with us. We all have these hard times, and it takes a lot to get through them. Glad you two are working it out. And I had to laugh, because I always say, “WE’RE GONNA BE HAPPY, DAMMIT!” whenever we are going through a hard time!

  2. So beautiful. I’m reminded of the verse, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Admitting all the ugly stuff makes the beautiful stuff come through. You guys really have something special, and I’m so grateful you share it with us.

  3. Wow. I honestly don’t know what to say other than that. Thanks for your courage to be so vulnerable to invisible friends. I’m writing a post right now about the bumps my marriage has taken since Baby #2 came along… it surprised both Brad and I, and it hasn’t been easy. Have a great time in time out this weekend ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Thank you for posts like these! It is always SO weird to me that my BF and I (25 & 26, not married yet or anything) seem to follow the ups and downs (that you post anyways) you and Chris have almost to a T! And you always have a great perspective on it that helps me out ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad I found such a wise internet friend to follow!

  5. Thank you THANK YOU for this post, and, as always, for being so transparent. Lots of love to you!

  6. JenniferLO

    Oh Katie! This is why I love your blog. I love how real you are with us, your imaginary friends! You’re all in my prayers!

  7. mae

    I love this post! It’s so real and honest! Thank you for sharing and giving tips on marriae and communication.

  8. Emily

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I needed this tonight. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing exactly what I needed to hear. I had just been considering the costs/benefits of storming out of my house and driving to a different state, but I think I’ll stick around ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Amy

    I adore how real you are. And I think you should move to WI to be my friend. Thanks for sharing so much and being an inspiration!

  10. Margaret

    Well gosh darnit, Katie. My husband and I have Master’s degrees in counseling and I still find I get to the “letter writing” part of this and get stuck. For a while. I’m just glad that it seems like as the years tick by we get to the awkward conversation faster. Even if it’s still slow. Thank you for doing what you do, and for writing it all down for the rest of us to learn from.

  11. I love this so much and it was well needed! I love how you are so real about things – it helps me be real about them too. I have a bad habit of doing the same thing you did – making up things and getting mad about them in my head instead of getting the facts first. I think my husband and I should try a “time-out” too! Thanks!

  12. I so appreciate when you share things like this! No marriage is easier are perfect and it is refreshing to hear someone be honest!

  13. Em

    Hi Katie! I just googled “Married to a workaholic” and stumbled on your blog! I love it – love your voice, your commitment to your marriage and your willingness to fight the good fight. That’s what we do. I had to laugh when I read how Chris told you not to make everything about you. That is definitely my MO as well! I also like how you wrote three things you could sacrifice to make your marriage better. My husband and I also just had a classic blow-up – can’t remember the last time we did. He tends to shut down and will not talk. As in, sits silently on the couch and falls asleep!! During a HUGE fight!! I’ve had to be creative to get him to communicate. I actually left and started texting him. Very effective. I will enjoy checking in with your blog. (By the way… I’ve been married 31 years. Happily, but … well, you know already!)

  14. kk

    My hubby and I are the same just that he would blow up all of a sudden but most of the time it’s my fault for not listening to him..marriage is hard work but all worth it in the end ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Paula S.

    Yep, this post is why I continue to read and enjoy your site…and why I vote for you to get awards whenever you let us know you are up for something. Kudos to you and Chris for doing the hard stuff. Now, on to the good blessings and a great weekend!

  16. Rachel

    This is exactly what I needed to hear/read today. My husband and I are stuck in a similar rough patch right now, just getting bogged down with everyday life (money, two kids under three, illnesses, travel, extended family drama…) and we stopped making our marriage a priority. It’s scary to realize how quickly damage can be done and how much work (and love, vulnerability, humility, honesty, dedication, perseverance, selflessness…) it takes to repair that damage. It really brings home the realization of how so many divorces come about. It’s not a lack of love, in so many cases, it’s not knowing how or being willing to repair the damage done. I think my husband is due for a long, uncomfortable hug when he gets home tonight…and a big thank you for him always being willing to “do the work” with me, even when it seems easier not to. Thanks for being willing to put this out there. It really brought things into sharp focus for me today.

  17. Becky

    @10)Margaret- Ditto your last sentence!
    “Thank you for doing what you do, and for writing it all down for the rest of us to learn from.”

    Makes me embarassed to be a sulking 45-year old sometimes ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Kari

    Katie, thanks for being so open and sharing bits of your marriage with us. I totally get it. Communication is SO hard sometimes. It’s hard not to get our feelings hurt. It’s hard to bring things up. It’s easier to avoid sometimes. But avoidance often leads to trouble. A lack of communication lead to my husband having an affair and nearly ended my marriage last year . We will never go back to that place again of communication/conflict avoidance, but we do still struggle with effective commnication. We are working hard on it (with the help of a counselor), but it is hard work. I just have to remind myself that we are not alone in this struggle and all we can do is learn and practice as we go!

  19. awesome and very honest relationship post. Fighting is weak and the talking is sometimes very awkward, but worth it in the end.

    Thank you!

  20. Kat

    You ever read something online and go, is this happening online or in my head? No? Yeah me either.

  21. I always get upset when you guys fight! lol Thanks for always working it out! You please my inner child much!!

  22. Peggy

    Marriage is always a work in progress and it ain’t made for sissies!

  23. shawny

    When hubby and I fight it usually because were not having enough time together ,or I dont feel listened to and the biggest is his horrid mother(that lives with us now because she cant take care of herself anymore) We try one step at a time and he trys to get me away from his horrid mother on trips.Communication is key along with compromise,being a team. Our time outs are not at home but away from our biggest problem.Until she dies we have to be in this situation there is no other option for now anayway.Marriage is work and we have been workin it for 28 years.I love my hubby and we will make it another 28 years +.

  24. Aileen

    Thanks Katie, for being so authentic and genuine about marriage. I’m in my fourth year of marriage, and it’s the hardest but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done (so far). Thank you for this blog in general, I learn so much from you, my imaginary friend!

  25. Love you. Love this. Thanks for your honesty.

  26. I love when you write posts like this. They are honest & helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Kim

    Married 11 years, been through more stuff than most couples, yet we’re still going mostly strong. Dave Ramsey is all I have to say: look into taking his Financial Peace course, it changes everything.

  28. Doesn’t being a grown up just suck sometimes?

  29. There must me something in the air because I just emerged from the same situation with my spouse. I appreciate your candor, it will help so many people, myself included. Marriage is hard. I think rough patches are a sign of loving one another, instead of signs of trouble. Thank you for this.

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