Part One: Remembering the “We”

Chris and I are going through a rough patch right now.  I’m breaking this post up into a couple separate posts (maybe more?) because it’s easier for me to explain in small chunks.  Thanks for hanging in there while I tell this story and while WE work hard to get ourselves out of the ditch.

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Chris and I are just not jiving these days.  Actually, if I’m honest, it’s been for a lot of days.  Like a few months.  We’ve blamed a spattering of things – kids, money, jobs, etc.  But when it comes down to it, we are just not on the same page these days.  We’re close to the same page sometimes.  Like, sometimes we’re in the same chapter.  But then some days it feels like we are each reading entirely different books!

When Chris and I are in one of these funks, I know it’s something between the two of us because we start fighting about every random thing.  It’s not like we have one issue that keeps popping up.  It’s four or five issues that keep popping up, which means at any given point one or both of us can be mad at the other.  It’s exhausting being mad for that long, and it’s stressful to have someone else mad AT YOU for that long.  Everything else in my life seems harder when Chris and I are fighting.

A few months ago when this started, I kept trying to fix it myself by changing my own behaviors.  I didn’t bring it up with him because I thought it was just a funk that I could just “nice” my way out of.  I started hugging and loving on Chris more.  I tried to have dinner ready every night when he got home.  I made sure to compliment him more than usual.  But all that happened was we continued to fight, only I was getting madder because I was making so much more of an effort than he was, dammit!  Why was he not being nice back to me?!?!?  But in reality, being “nice” wasn’t the problem or the solution, so whether or not my (fake, by the way) niceness was returned to me didn’t matter.  We still weren’t dealing with the issue.  Not to mention, I was really just repressing all the frustration and anger I felt by baking stupid cookies in the shape of hearts and not dealing with the real problem.

Don’t get me wrong.  Doing nice things for your spouse is wonderful.  But doing nice things for your spouse in an effort to try to fix deeper issues that really need fixing is like painting the outside of a boat that has a hole in the side.  You can make it pretty all you want, but there’s still a HOLE in the side of a BOAT.

After the nice thing got old, my mind made the next “logical” step.  Clearly, if I couldn’t fix the problem, then CHRIS needed to fix the problem.  So, I sat back and did nothing about our marriage.  Absolutely nothing.  In my mind, it was his turn.  I had been nice, so now it was his turn to do something.  Only, once again, we hadn’t talked about our marriage and so this was no help at all.  Now what I had done to my nicely painted boat with a hole in the side was hire a captain – only I didn’t tell the guy he was the captain.  I expected him to just KNOW that he was supposed to sail my sinking, pretty ship.  I set Chris up for failure on this one.  Nothing he did was sweet enough, nothing he said was nice enough, nothing he thought was good enough.  It was just never enough for me.  BECAUSE HE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I WAS WAITING FOR SOMETHING.

This past week, I talked to my mom about it.  I don’t talk to my mom often about my marriage for a few reasons:

1.  She always takes Chris’s side.  Always.  That boy can do no wrong in her eyes.

2.  She is a firm believer in not getting involved in other people’s business, so the few times I have talked to her about issues between Chris and me, she just gives me this painful look that screams, “PLEASE DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT THIS!”

This time, though, I think she had sensed that something was up between the two of us because she let me rant and rave for a little while to her about it without saying a word.  And then she made a very simple observation that was incredibly insightful without pointing one finger at either Chris or me.  She said, “I hear you saying ‘I’ a lot, and I hear you saying ‘him’ a lot.  But I don’t hear you saying ‘we’ a lot.  There should be more ‘we.'”

During the conversation, I did what we all do when our mothers give us the absolute perfect advice that we absolutely need to hear.

I ignored her.

And I’m so good at ignoring her that I didn’t even realize the depth of her statement until later that night after I had gotten off the phone with her.  It’s like it went in one ear and out the other, and then circled the atmosphere while I fed the kids dinner and gave them baths, and then it came back to me again while I was laying there in bed that night.

Maybe she was right.  Maybe this wasn’t MY problem or CHRIS’S problem.  Maybe this was OUR problem.  And maybe part of OUR problem was that we had forgotten the WE.  The most important part of any marriage is, of course, remembering that you are married.  Remembering that you don’t have a roommate, but you have a partner.  Remembering that it can’t be anyone’s fault if both of you are accepting responsibility.  Remembering that in a healthy marriage, there are no sides or teams because we are on the same side, playing for the same team.  Maybe we needed to find the “we” again.

Moms are so smart sometimes.

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20 thoughts on “Part One: Remembering the “We”

  1. Abbie

    How true this is. My mom reacts the same way generally with my husband and I. He’s perfect in her eyes. But the longer we’re married she can see my side more easily. My parents have been married 38 years, got married young, pregnant immediately.. just like us. I’ve found myself taking her advice to heart because now I see her words are often a giant diamond of wisdom!

  2. Hilary

    Okay, maybe this has nothing to do with your post or maybe it does. I know you teach middle school language arts (so do I) and often enjoy reading novels that your students are reading. I just finished “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green on the recommendation of several of my students and colleagues. It was amazing with a capital A. It is one of the most beautifully written novels I have read in a long time. Anyway, it made me laugh and cry, and most importantly it reminded me that every second God allows us to experience on this earth is a precious gift. We have no idea when or how He will choose to call us home, but it is up to us to live our lives with open hearts and minds. I can’t wait to get back to school tomorrow to talk about it with my kids!

  3. Wow you have just described the last 2 years of my marriage. I’m staying tuned until the next part…

  4. Jessica

    Wow…I can SO relate. My marriage has been just about the same for way too long. It’s hard..stressful…exhausting. Thank you for being so open and honest about life.

  5. Jessica Cruz

    Love! So so true. We’ve been together 12 years, and still have times like you described, and it’s SO hard. I really admire your honesty.

  6. Sofi

    Hubby and I have been arguing non-stop for about 2 years now…..I know its not good but I just dont know how to fix it =(

  7. Simone

    I absolutely needed this! Thanks so much!!!

  8. katie

    Oh Katie, this post hit so close to home I think it smashed the window. I hope you and Chris find your “we” again. I hope my husband and I can find our way there too. I think seeking a professional is our next step.

  9. Tabs

    Finding the “we”. What a genius way to out it. Thanks for sharing this marriage saga with us. It has already helped me see a few of our issues in a different light. Thank you for the reminder that we are on the same team, working together at this life/family.

    Looking forward to what comes next.

  10. Clair Ashburn

    I read this post by Naptime Diaries a while ago & it has really stuck with me: http://www.naptimediaries.com/2013/07/the-last-40-ode-to-unfinished-marriage.html

    Moving towards “we” as your default takes time. But making steps closer to it is crucial! Thanks for your honesty!

  11. I need to stay tuned to this. My husband and I are definitely hitting a rough patch and have been in one for some time, with it all coming to a head yesterday. My prayers are with you guys…

  12. I think that last paragraph pretty much sums up everything- well said!

  13. HeatherM

    I don’t usually talk to my mom about my marriage issues for the exact same reasons, and also because I don’t want her to worry. Last week my hubby was in a bad car accident, and that has snapped us out of our funk and given us a LOT of perspective very quickly. He is giving me grace because I am pregnant and just exhausted all the time. And I am taking care of him and trying to do as much as I can around here because he is in a lot of pain and groggy from the pain meds. Together we are quite a pair right now- kinda limping along and taking things day by day. I think the day-by-day focus really helps us though. When I start making assumptions about what his actions mean for the BIG PICTURE of our marriage it always puts us in more marital trouble. Praying you guys find your way out of your funk without needing an emergency to change your perspective.

  14. You never cease to be honest and I love it! I know exactly where you are coming from and all of the emotions that go along with it. Wishing you and Chris the best.

  15. Shell

    So do you know what the real issue is or not? Im confused. Have you guys ever considered marital counseling?

  16. hmm, interesting remark that we can probably all bring back to our relationships, whether its in he good or the bad: noticing the “we” instead of the “I” and “you”. Makes sense.

    And if someone, especially my mother, gave me that tid bit of insight, I would have done the exact same ignoring.

  17. Brad and I went through a rough patch after Slade… and after MONTHS of not being on the same page, I finally got him talking about it. We were laying in bed, I’d just written a blog post and I was so depressed about the previous months of stress. Brad quietly said, “I’m going to fix this” and I just started crying. I missed being a ‘we’ so much…. by the end of the night, we were back on the same page. The very next morning, there was a huge fight over an issue that we’d been struggling with for months and we both felt so incredibly defeated. I was driving to work, Brad was trying not to cry at work… and I suddenly realized that the night before was the first time we felt close, so incredibly close, in eight months and that morning I’d never felt so distant from him. John 10:10 popped in my head and it was like this light bulb moment of “who gets the say in this situation”. It was a turning point, for sure.

  18. I LOVE how honest you are and how much you let us into your mind. Posts like this really hit home for me- Can’t tell you how much I’ve taken from what you say about your relationship/parenting for myself. So thank you. I think we all need to remember the ‘we’.

    I do that whole fake nice thing too often… but I’m usually too stubborn to admit it even to myself. I might have to save this post to read in the future when my head is too hard.

  19. Sandra

    Katie, I have never commented (sorry about that, I am guilty of consuming but not giving back), but have been a reader for years. At first I found your site as I was planning my own wedding to my HS sweetheart of 10 years, I now write as a divorcee of almost 3 years. I have no advice to offer but a sincere thanks to give. Your openness and honestly allows all the ladies who have commented here, and many more just like me who have never commented, to feel normal. To feel human. To feel connected. And to not feel so alone. I can say, for whatever it is worth, that you two are on the right track with your mutual respect of each other, no matter if the team gets lost every now and again.

  20. Beanie, Gracie & Tillman's Nana

    1. I didn’t realize you ignore me so much.
    2. I didn’t realize you realized how nervous it makes me when you share “marriage” issues.
    3. The only person that doesn’t want a mother’s advice more than a daughter is her son-in-law.

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