2.16.2016

My Marriage is Over {and other thoughts}



I was 19 years old when Lee and I started dating.  That was 19 years ago.   As much as we'd love for you to believe that the happy couple you see on Instagram and Facebook, the version of ourselves that we allow to be posted, was meeting each other's needs and loving each other well for all these years, it's simply not the whole truth.   Don't get me wrong, all those moments are real.  They happened just as you see.  Those happy smiles and cheesy grins are genuine.  But friends, life isn't always postable.  We put our best selves on display, filtering away harsh words and tears and insecurities.  We don't post heartache and anger and resentment.  And for good reason.  We are terrified of being vulnerable. 
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
-Zora Neale Hurston-

2015 was a year of questions.  We found our marriage stretching it's legs.  Not in a "I want a divorce" kind of way...in a "so this is it?" kind of way.  One thing lead to another and what I came to know was it wasn't just one thing, it was ALL THE THINGS.  All the things we had both been letting slide, all the things we had just avoided because silence was better than conflict, all the things that required truth-telling.   Long gone were the days of breathless love and googly eyes.  We were treading water.  We both knew we were right on the precise of one or both of us throwing our hands up and saying, "this is just too hard."  Throwing your hands up while treading water has only one outcome.   It was in that moment that we decided it had to change.

So we decided to change it.  We sought the advice of people with marriages we admired.  We leaned into the uncomfortable conversations and basically took off the skin we had been wearing.  We decided to figure out what his needs were, hold them against mine and see how to love each other again.  We decided to give our marriage to the only One that could save it, our only hope.  You see, Jesus can not heal that which we continue to pretend is not broken.

This weekend we had dinner with my brothers and their wives.  My middle brother has been married almost 4 years and my youngest brother almost 8 months.  Clearly we are all in very different seasons of marriage.  One in the honeymoon stage and one just on the cusp of "busy love" where children and resentment can take over.   The scene seriously looked like something out of a movie.  The six of us enjoying dinner and laughs and drinks and stories at the window table everyone wanted at the new hip restaurant on Main.  It was on the way home that I started thinking.  Wishing really.  

Wishing that someone had cupped my face and said, HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE BEFORE IT NEEDS SAVING.  So here it is.  Lee and I are putting ourselves out there because we love marriage {especially those marriages close to us} and we want you to make it.  Here's me grabbing your face and saying, make some of these things your things.  

 Read together.  In an act of desperation we searched the bookshelves in our home for help.  We needed advice and quick.   We received His Needs, Her Needs as a wedding gift and never read it.   Sadly, it was the only book on marriage we could find. We dusted it off and took it seriously.  We had very frank conversations about what I need and what he needs from me.  My top needs are affection and conversation.  Notice me.  Write me a note.  Affirm me.  Talk to me.  So guess what?  That's how I tend to love people.  I love the way I feel loved.  The problem with this is that Lee's top needs are family commitment and recreational companionship.  Do you see the problem here?   He wants to go hit golf balls together and I need him to leave me a love note on a post-it.    Our needs are completely different so we have to love each other differently.   After reading this book together {something we had NEVER done before} we decided to always be reading something together.  Next up is this book.   The point here is read something together that will point you to Jesus.  


Learn how to fight and fight fairly.  I am a talker.  Lee needs a time out.  I need to resolve issues swiftly, Lee needs time to process.  If I had dialed into this sooner I could have avoided so much heartache because so often I pressed him to "talk things out" when he simply wasn't ready.  Our disagreements often inflated because I went after him like a chihuahua, nipping at his heels, literally following him around the house!  Lee's fault in this was that he would blowup and flee.  While I was still in silent treatment mode he would try to make me laugh {it always worked}, but he never wanted to circle back to handle the actual issue.  So many times I just left it alone for fear of starting the cycle over again.   In terms of fighting fairly, we would bring up past issues and say things like, you never_______ and you always________.  We had to verbalize, when not in the heat of an argument, how we were going to disagree.  Sadly on this one, we both knew what we needed to do, we just failed to honor it.  Now we both get what we need because I give him the time out he asks for and he has promised to always come back to actually talk things over.

 Remove I'm Fine from your vocabulary.  I'm fine is not an appropriate response.  Ever.  I'm fine says,  "I have something to say, but I don't think you want to hear it".  I'm fine is selfish because it doesn't say we.   I used this to shut down conversations when I decided they were over and he used it when he wanted to be done with me.  This never served us well.  Now we say, "Are we fine?"  That open-ended question gives us both the chance to agree that the conversation is over or  that we need to continue talking.

 Kiss passionately for at least 20 seconds a day.  This was Lee's idea and he's so proud.  Some days would pass and we would barely speak much less kiss.  This forces us to stop and look at each other and connects us in a way that is sacred to our marriage.  READ: you shouldn't be kissing your spouse the same way you kiss your granny.    20 seconds doesn't sound like like a long time, but it can be if you're currently only cheek-kissing.  For years I tried to tell him that affection and "physical stuff" were a reciprocal relationship for me.   Affection is the environment of the marriage that I need to want to be physical with him.  

 Date each other.  Lee and I had plans galore.  Plans with family and friends and our kids, but rarely did our plans involve just the two of us.  We failed to be intentional about continuing to court one another.  Even though I am the planner in the relationship, I still want him to plan things and surprise me.  We need to do the things that remind us of "us".  I don't want to get our boys out of the house and look at each other and not remember how to have fun just the two of us.  This can be a trip to Mexico {yes please} or a Netflix binge or the driving range.  We're marking clear boundaries for time that is just for us with conversation that is private and kid-free.

 Buy the flowers.  Lee has not been to the grocery store in the last 6 months without coming home with flowers.  This may not mean anything to some girls, but to me, fresh flowers speak love.  I think of him every time I look at them when he's not home.  Maybe it's not flowers for your spouse, but it's something!  Just the other day we were talking about things you should do when you're married and Jackson piped in with, "So you should buy flowers every time you go to the store like daddy?"  Yes, sweet boy.  Always buy the flowers.


 Pray together.  Talk about being vulnerable.  This is perhaps the hardest one on the list for us, and for many of you I imagine.  Lee and I both had prayer lives separate of each other, but never together.   This one stretched us to an uncomfortable place in the beginning, but we are getting better.  We want a "three cord" marriage.  If you look to your spouse for your every happiness, complete love and belonging, you will always come up short.  That's not God's design for marriage.


Realize that expectations kill relationships.  One of my favorite books is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  This little nugget of truth was hidden near the end of that book and it was just a revelation for me.  So simple a thought, but man it has changed my mindset.  I have said it to most of my close friends in some way or another.  Expectations kill relationships.  When we were first married I had a grand of view of what our life would look like, feel like, even what Lee should say and do in certain situations.  I would play these things out in my mind and when things didn't go exactly like the movie in my head I was disappointed.   Hear me when I say expectations are not all bad.  We should all hold ourselves and our spouses to certain expectations, but when we are so specific about the minute details we will most certainly be disappointed.   I am learning, ever so slowly, that the reaction I can control is mine.  As such, I am the only person who can control my expectations.  I no longer set myself, or Lee, up for failure by expecting things to go a certain way.  I am learning to take things as they come and quit caring so much that my life looks less like a Hallmark movie and more like "we made it another day and nobody died! Yay!!"

Understand that comparison is the thief of joy.  I specifically remember a moment on our HONEYMOON that I looked at Lee and in my head thought, what have I done?  This came after we had words trying to heave my 100lb bag on the airport shuttle and, once on the plane, he demanded the aisle seat so he could, in his words,  "save myself if this thing goes down."  Really?  We'd been married less than 24 hours and already I was in the rubble.  I immediately compared him to other husbands happily tucked in by the windows, prepared to go down with me.   That girl was looking left and right.  What I failed to see was that my husband was just scared to death to be on an airplane.  That it was a true fear that took him years to overcome.   I was looking at other people's marriages, their husbands, their children, looking at who I thought they were and comparing them to what was in front of me.  Know this...somebody in your circle is ALWAYS going to live in a house you can not afford, drive a car you'd love, shop at better stores.  Someone else's husband is going to gush on Facebook about how wonderful their wife is and you will think, why can't _______ be like ________.    This is not a maybe.  This is a guarantee.  In our over-shared and ever connected lives we open the door wide for comparison to steal our joy.  Remember how you only post the good stuff?  They do to.  Don't look around.  Stop looking right and left.  Just look up and start with thank you.

 Start writing your story.  For our 10 year anniversary I bought us a blank journal to replace anniversary cards and birthday cards, etc.  I wanted us to write the sweet words not Hallmark.   Lee and I write letters back and forth to each other constantly. Much to my surprise he has made this a habit and is much more diligent than me.  I find we will write things we may not say in casual conversation and sometimes I just sit and read it over.  It's a record of our lives and nobody can write it like we can.  One of my favorite movie lines of all time is spoken by Susan Sarandon's character in the movie Shall We Dance...  
“We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”  

I titled this post 'My Marriage is Over' because I knew if I did, you would read it.  I knew by the end you would understand that my marriage isn't over, it's actually the polar opposite.  It's said to be fully loved you must be fully known.  For the first time in a long time I feel this way in my marriage.   When you find your marriage in a year that's asking questions, I hope you will hang on until the year that answers.  With God's help, it's coming.  I read this today and thought, that's it.  "Love begins, it breaks down, it begins again.  Where love began is not where it will end.  We will be broken and changed and hopefully over the years, with a lot of grace, we will find ourselves in a marriage that has lasted, defined by a love that have been renewed again and again." {Lisa Leonard}  


9 comments :

  1. I strongly believe in a lot of what you are saying. Some years of a marriage are great and some are tough. As long as both of you are willing to work on it then there is something to fight for. Great post!

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  2. This is so true to more than just your marriage my beautiful sweet cousin. This is about 98% of marriages. I love you guy's more than yall know and if you ever need some advise I may be able to give a little but nothing what you just done for me. I will be praying for you guy's as you guy's please pray for us. If it wasn't for kay and my love for each other I truly believe we would have been done before it had started. We have been through more in our 4 years of marriage than most people will ever endure in their entire life from me being paralyzed to finding out kay had breast cancer to us getting full custody of kayla. Trust me god won't ever leave nor forsake you. I learned that from one couple who was married for year's not exactly sure but granny and papaw taught us a long life lesson of marriage and that was always put god first in your marriage. I love you guys and am always here for you. My number is 423-368-1763 if you ever need to talk.

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  3. This is beautiful! So many people need to hear this! Thank you for being brave enough to put you and your marriage out there and for being real to help others! I knew I admired and respected you but this completely affirmed my feelings! May God continue to bless you and your marriage!

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  4. Oh my friend, if you only knew how timely this post was! Thanks for sharing and here's to another 50 years for you guys!

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  5. By the last line of your post I had tears in my eyes. Beautifully and boldly said. I'm going to share with my dear husband and with others!

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  6. Wow. Just wow. What wisdom in your words Misty! Thank you so very much for sharing!

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  7. My marriage as I knew it is over, too, after 20 years of being together. We've just started the journey of healing ourselves individually and rediscovering what our individual needs are NOW as compared to 20 years ago in order to reshape our relationship and make it stronger. It is a hard row to hoe, but reading your story and the comments afterward have given me a feeling of not being alone. It is so hard to talk about this stage of marriage... Feeling some shame and embarrassment for not succeeding in completing the fairy tale you came up with as a very young and unexperienced woman. Thank you for sharing, misty!! See you at the gym!

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  8. Beautiful and profound. Thank you for sharing this insight that you have been given. I am an imperfect woman who has been married for almost 34 years to an imperfect man, and I'm praying for that many years again. We have made lots of mistakes and we are still making mistakes in loving and respecting and cherishing one another, but I have come to that place in life where I realize that each day is precious, and each day is a chance for change and new beginnings. Those seasons you talk about are real. While we are in a pretty good place and are as affectionate and loving now as we were when we first got married, there were some very long, tough, dry spells in there. My journals are testament to bitterness, frustration, anger, frustration, sorrow, frustration, and sometimes despair. And Facebook the testament to the happy, lighthearted, and playful times. Marriage is hard work, but the family and life we have created together is worth it all. And God gets the glory. :-)

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