When I was younger, I never thought I would get married. The thought of being with someone for the rest of my life really made me shudder. I get bored easily and hate complacency - not a good mix with a lifelong commitment. Fast forward to today - I have been married for eleven years (together 14), and I honestly couldn’t imagine it any other way. My husband is truly my best friend (it’s okay to vomit if you need to, I get it) and I do feel like we finally have it “figured out”. But, let me reassure you, it wasn’t always this way.
For starters, we got together when I was 20 years old. While we fell hard and fast for each other, we were still super young. I had my son one month after my 23rd birthday. And I had always vowed that I would never marry someone for a child, so any of you thinking that’s why we got married – such is not the case here. One year later, we tied the knot and created another memory in our book of life together. Summed up - we were young when we met and we were young parents.
In the beginning of our relationship it was ecstatically blissful and then extremely volatile. In love one day, screaming at each other the next. A lot of intense emotions, but one thing always remained constant - our love for one another.
After Brayden (our son) was about two, we began the phase of our life when we were ready to expand our family to a fourth member. And this phase of our lives now marks the beginning of our road to struggles with infertility. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the struggles of infertility, I will just say, it is an invisible struggle. It is so painful, so heartbreaking and incredibly taxing not only on the partnership, but each individual’s self-worth as well. Isn’t this what we were put here on Earth to do? Procreate? For if you cannot succeed at procreation when you try, then you must be an unworthy being. That is a small example of the confusion we held during those years. In the end, we never ended up being able to conceive another child and after six years of trying we came to terms that it was not meant to be. However, this doesn’t mean it came without a hefty price tag on our marriage.
This is what brings us to our tipping point. The lowest of our low. The point where we simply didn’t know what else we could do to save our marriage. The point where individually, we both were in the worst place we have been. The point where we could only go up or down, but we had to decide which. We decided we would give one last try to go up. And that decision is what leads in nicely to the process I have outlined on how to successfully self-journey while in a partnership.
Recognize there Needs to be a Change
To start, you have to acknowledge the need for change. Either with yourself, your relationship, or both (for us it was both). Sounds simple, right? Duh, if you’re unhappy you would know. You would think, but sometimes unhealthy lives happen so gradually it is hard to recognize that we are unhappy. Below are a few insights to help you recognize if you are consistently unhappy:
You have trouble finding joy in the day to day… consistently
The energy in your body feels “off” – are you often tense, tired, low-energy?
In a relationship - you seem to have the same arguments over and over and over and over and are we still freaking arguing about this??
You are constantly angry - road rage, annoyed at everyone on social media, constantly arguing (either verbally or in your head) with everything that is said to you, sense of entitlement (why can’t everyone just do it like me?)
A looming feeling lays over you like a fog - feeling like a heaviness in knowing that you will never be fulfilled, a longing for more
Communicating that there Needs to be a Change
If you recognize there needs to be a change, the most important thing is to communicate that! Believe it or not, this is actually where many people stop. It’s mind-blowing to think of how many people simply freeze at the thought of communicating that they need change, so they continue to suffer, or worse yet, end the relationship. Communication, especially when seen as conflicting, is uncomfortable. But living the rest of your time here on Earth unhappy and unfulfilled is robbing yourself of life’s greatest gifts. If you truly want to change to live the best version of your life, it will be uncomfortable, but I can tell you right now it will be SO worth it. A fantastic tool to use here counseling. Whether couples or individual - I could not recommend this more.
Note on counseling: I am a HUGE believer in mental health and a trusted therapist as an excellent way to help you through your journey. All too often we think we have to go at life alone, but it is actually a sign of strength to reach out for help.
Tip: Make sure you resonate with this person and it is okay if you don’t. This is a very personal process, so you want to make sure you find the person who is meant for you (both of you, if going as a partnership). There is someone out there for you, I promise.
Additional Tip: If you find someone and it’s not resonating - don’t give up - try someone else.
Be Respectful, but Certain about what you Need.
Often times when we have been living an unfulfilling life for so long, it is hard to even know WHAT you need to be happy. There are ways to figure this out. Definitely easier with the help of a therapist to guide you through this process, but if not, start by honoring yourself with a peaceful brainstorming session. If you were the only person on this planet, what would fulfill you? Write down anything that comes to you. If you are in a relationship - evaluate what is working and what isn’t. While it is impossible to ask your partner to change to make you happy, there also is a lot of give and take in a relationship. Think about a few things that are truly important to you and be able to communicate this with confidence. Often times in relationships we forego our needs for the needs of others. You are your only advocate who knows exactly what you need. Gift yourself that honor of speaking up (respectfully) for what you need in your life.
Start Viewing the Relationship Differently (and/or the Relationship with Yourself)
Whether you are working on your relationship, yourself or both, the viewpoint will definitely change. For our marriage, we were relying solely on the other person to fulfill our happiness. This broke into fights and constantly feeling like we were never enough. Once you begin to view yourself as the only one that can provide your happiness - watch the world shift dramatically in front of you. Begin to view life by focusing on what you can control (your thoughts and your actions) rather than trying focus on what you cannot control (other’s thoughts and actions).
Begin Adapting to the New Relationship Together
Wait a minute, so are you saying our relationship is going to look different? Absolutely. And I am also saying it is not going to be amazing overnight. True transformation takes time, consistency and dedication. The key here is that you keep showing up and choosing this path. At the same time, it is crucial that you are gentle and forgiving with yourself and your partner.
When I was in the habit of demanding things of Jay to fulfill my happiness, it took time (hell, I am still working on it) to change those automatic thoughts and actions. When it happens the way you don’t want it to happen… accept that you are on this journey, honor the progress you have made so far, forgive and move on. No dwelling, just continue to show up and try again. It will get easier with time.
Go with the Ebb and Flow – Balance
As you adapt to your new relationships, your time will look different. For Jay and I, it meant that we both wanted to do things that fulfilled us more individually, so we did less together. Now, while this could sound unhealthy, it actually was the opposite. We used to spend every waking moment together - and this stemmed from my problems with codependency. We were both doing things the other loved, but we hated. So, our time now, looks a lot different. Here is where the ebb and flow comes in.
Your life isn’t going to be perfectly balanced… ever. It’s just not. But the key to health and fulfillment is balance. Frustrated yet? Well, for those of you who like organization and planning - it’s time to soften a bit and view life more holistically. Let me give you an example.
There will be weeks where I personally, have a lot going on - time with friends, classes, my personal fulfillment away from my family. There are times when Jay has a lot going on for himself. We work with this ebb and flow with being okay with what changes, but keep a pulse on when things are seeming to get too out of balance so that we can adjust. The same goes the other way as well. When we have been spending every minute together, we realize we are out of balance again and begin to add in some other areas of fulfillment. With that, it is important to be accepting and flexible with your expectations of each other.
What is the difference between having gratitude and embodying gratitude? Everything. It is super easy and simple to say - okay, I have written in my gratitude journal for today - check that off the list, and move on to the next task. Embracing an embodiment of gratitude means you truly allow yourself to feel deeply and appreciate that which you are grateful for. This is where I was able to “fall back into lust” with my husband. I began to allow myself to feel the insane amount of love and appreciation I have for him. I focused on all of the things he brought into my life rather than all the things that drove me crazy. Do the things that drive me crazy still exist? Absolutely. But that’s not what I choose to focus on. Sure, you talk about things that you really need to if they are consistently bothersome, but for the most part I make it a point to notice and tell him multiple times a day how much I love and appreciate him and all that he brings into our relationship. It’s law-of-attraction - where you focus your energy, more comes. Let the abundance of love and gratitude flow through you.
Continual Effort and Communication
To round it out, it’s the age-old statement, communication is the key to a lasting relationship. They say this for a reason folks, it’s true. And I would add on to that - effort. A relationship isn’t a one-way street. It’s two individuals living their own lives and choosing to share part of their journey with each other. If you don’t have the effort from one side of the street, I don’t know that there is much that can be done. It takes time, consistency and dedication - as does anything worthwhile in our lives. It is constant work, but don’t view it as work. View it as devotion - to living your best life fully.
A few ways adapted proactive communication in our marriage:
Weekly check ins - we proactively set a weekly time in our schedules to have check-ins. It can be a half-hour evening stroll after dinner, or an actual sit-down at the dinner table. The point is, this offers a space where both are expecting to show up and communicate about the pulse of the relationship that week.
Mutual understanding of our deepest needs. Through counseling and our own inner-journey work, we are clear on what our deepest needs are and we have communicated them to each other. These are our most sacred and vulnerable spaces of our souls. We have mutual agreement that we understand and we sincerely respect each other’s deepest needs.
I felt it incredibly important to include this topic as this was one of my biggest fears in embarking on my own self-journey. I never thought that I “successfully” do inner-work without the threat of leaving my family and only listening to my desires. So, I am here to stand up and say, not true. If you have your person and you want to improve yourself at the same time, not only is it possible, but it is amazing. I am undoubtedly happier in my relationship AND with myself than I have ever been.
I would love to hear about your journey and how you have balanced your partnerships with your own personal development. Together as a community, we share, we learn, we connect and we grow. So, thank you, as always, from the deepest place inside of me for your time to join me in space here. Wishing you all things to come to you for your highest and greatest good. Until next time.
Have you read the book: Five Love Languages? Do it! Even if you aren’t in a relationship. It is an excellent resource to uncover the way you give/receive love and the various ways others do as well.