As I have alluded to (I think?) in this blog, my marriage reached a critical point this year. The problems were related to the black hole of higher education sucking the life and time out of us. In addition, we had our former friend known as “poor communication” pop in for an extended visit. You may be scratching your head thinking, “how do you have communication issues and maintain an open marriage?” Well, you don’t, quite honestly. The closed sign has been up for a while.
Other factors also contributed but rather than dwell on what has gone wrong, my focus is now on what is going right.
We are in a much better place now than we were even a week ago. I think the key to it all, is doing it together. That sounds like a “duh”…obvious solution, but when you are in a cloud of badness, you tend to take a very selfish approach. “Well, it’s her fault because this, this and this so I’m going to do (or not do) this, this and that.” Soon you get in to a cycle of blame and anger and you don’t even know why or how you got there. (And when I say “you” I really mean “me”).
We got third party assistance in the form of a marriage counselor. In this case, not so much to intervene and resolve conflict but to keep us on task and slice through some of the silly stuff that builds up in your head. Funny story – Session #2 we touch on sex. Later that evening my wife gets a call from him who is asking her a bunch of questions. Turns out that 20+ years ago they briefly dated. I nearly went catatonic from laughter…it was like a Seinfeld episode.
So as things have progressed, the light turned on for me as we sat in the park last night. While the kids played we had some “check in” time while we sat and talked. We are at our best when we work together. After dinner two of us tackled dishes and clean up. This seems so simple but it is really an important metaphor for how we need to function. When we work together on an issue it is no longer me against her, or her against me, or I did this, or she did this, or it’s just too much. “We did this” takes the “me” out of the equation. So now we have to apply this more in how we function on a household & relationship level. For example, she needs help in addressing her fitness needs. In the past, I would be in my head thinking…”I don’t know how to help you with that.” Now, I have to remember my outside voice – “How do I help you with that.” She gave me some ideas. Now it’s no longer my wife trying to improve her fitness. It’s Us improving her fitness. Just like the dishes we are more efficient as a unit than we are as separate entities.
Again, this seems so obvious when you write it out. But when you put it into context of two fiercely independent introverts that have been getting by in a crappy lifestyle, I’m amazed things did not blow up sooner. We still have our homework to do. We’re working through a book called the “anger trap” to develop some tools to manage anger and frustration like grown ups instead of like my 6 year old who just shuts down. I’m also learning more about my introvert tendencies and how that affects communication. I easily get my internal and external dialogues confused. We have to figure out a new household schedule. We’re finding that our positive results from this is motivating us to getting back to being “open” and exploring the fun things that we enjoy. It’s just who we are and I’m beyond lucky to have found someone who is as much like minded as I am.