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.
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.