The first time I heard this quote, I felt a great sense of relief! My husband and I had been married for just over seven years and we were experiencing what you call a ‘rough patch’. No, I don’t buy into the so-called ‘seven year itch’. It is my belief, and experience that there are several times throughout a marriage when you find yourself scratching! I believe the key is to see it for what it is and know that it’s not only normal, but it’s also OK!
Like a lot of young girls with a perfect mom, a perfect dad living in a perfect house on a quiet street, I grew up with this idealized version of marriage that didn’t really serve me. Two years after graduating from college and one month after my 21st birthday my fiance and I tied-the-knot in a lovely summer evening ceremony.
It was sweltering hot that day! I remember thinking to myself on the way to the church how I would much rather spend the evening in shorts, a tank top and flip flops, instead of this long sleeved puffy dress that made me feel nothing like myself. Why did I choose a long-sleeved poofy sleeved dress for my summer wedding? Well, I ask that question knowing full well why! My mom loved that dress. She didn’t agree with the fact that I would have much rather worn a white pantsuit than a girly girl wedding dress!
It wasn’t long before the idealization of our dream life together started to show signs of stress at the seams. Our first year of marriage was one continuous yelling matches followed by periods of silence and then intense make-up sex that smoothed out the patches…until the next time. We were like two kids pretending to be all grown up adults who happened to be in love and sharing an apartment together.
I had never even lived on my own before, yet I was going from this perfect life at home where dinners were made for me and every other need or desire from laundry to decision-making was handled with precision. I went from utopia to being the other half of a partnership where looking after bills, making dinners and working to pay rent all of a sudden became a harsh reality; one I was certainly not prepared for by any stretch of the imagination.
We struggled immensely in those first two years or so, trying to find our way through the muck and the mire of intense feelings of ‘what the hell did we do?” to “I love you more than anything” emotions that newlyweds experience when trying to find their way.
What I realized looking back years later after counseling, therapy and thousands of dollars in self-help seminars and books, is that the patterns, the nuances, and the hills and valleys and most of the discontent in our marriage, was a direct result of two things; the need to control and my expectations.
After a lot of self-reflection and examination of several relationships in my life, it dawned on me that if someone didn’t fit into my ideal version of who I thought they should be, I would try to change them! I didn’t ask for their permission and I didn’t think about how this would affect them. After all it was all about me, right?
My only concern at the time was that this person fit into the mold of who I wanted them to be, to satisfy my needs and my desires. If trying to control my partner’s behaviour wasn’t enough, I brought a little sprinkle of expectation into the mix! Not only did I try to change them, I expected them to be what I wanted them to be and if things didn’t go my way, I got angry and shut them out. Is this insidious or what?
I share this vulnerable part of my past because I know it’s exactly where someone reading this is right now in their own relationship. There is no such thing as ‘one’ of us experiencing something. You’ve heard the adage that we are all one? Well it’s true! What one of us experiences, many of us are going through. We are much more likely to share the feel good stuff than this vulnerable ass-kicking kind of truth because many times we feel ‘less than’ and ‘not enough’ for having the feelings in the first place!
When we begin to realize that the only person we can control is ourselves, and the only person who can live up to our expectations is the one staring back at us in the mirror, our lives and more importantly our relationships begin to change. Not only is there a sense of dread that is lifted, there is a huge sense of relief when we just allow people to be as they are.
The beauty of all of this, is that in most cases, unless you’ve done work as a couple with a therapist, a counselor or relationship coach, you can navigate through this new awareness on your own. You don’t even have to express your new found freedom to your partner (unless of course it involves an apology in which case I would encourage this for sure!). All you have to do is acknowledge your new way of ‘thinking’ with the Universe and begin to live into your new way of ‘being’ right here and right now in this moment.
The Universe or God or whatever you call that inexplicable and omnipotent energy force that has a hand in all creation, is the only energy you need to communicate with to express your new desire for change! It’s really cool when you truly grasp this! You just have to change and the world around you will change. Sometimes it happens in a split second and you will be blown away by the result and other times the Universe works on ‘divine timing’ which isn’t your timing, however it’s all for the greater good!
As I bring this back to the quote at the beginning; “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times with the same person”, know that no matter what circumstances you and your partner experience on your journey through marriage, you are always in control of how you see things, how you choose to look at it and more importantly what you plan to do about it.
My husband and I have been married for over thirty-seven years. Although we have driven through some very rocky valleys together, there have been many blissful times when we enjoyed some smooth sailing on calm seas. We have stuck by one another always remembering that we don’t have to be ‘in love’ with each other every moment of the day to know that we still love and respect each other and have one another’s back in all situations. Knowing this, we have been able to navigate every day knowing that the future looks bright even when we are looking at it from under the covers with one eye peeking through the sheets.
Rev. Mandi Neiser