Distilled Marriage Saving Advice

I wrote this over on the Recovery a Marriage Facebook page and it seems to be helpful there so I best tuck it in here. Shortest post on the blog!

“This kept me on the journey to marriage restoration so I’ll share it with you.

I thought of my spouse as being unwell. He had been healthy for years, but now he was sick. I had given him some of those germs. My role was to be as healthy as possible myself and purge the germs. From that foundation I could trust God to give me whatever was needed to keep engaged in the healing power of love for my husband. It’s been the hardest thing I have ever done and possibly the most worthwhile.”

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Tips For Dating Your Spouse . . . . When Separated

So you think things are already way too crazy? Get ready for a crash course in Courtship Craziness!
First of all, it’s not courtship initially. Your spouse is likely to be considering a date or two as due diligence before pulling the pin on the marriage. They have to prove to others that they did their very best to see if there was anything there to resurrect.

Your spouse is far from coming through whatever crisis it is they’re in. They are still shredded inside yet acting all confident and sure of themselves on the outside. They feel disproportionately wounded by all the hurtful things you’ve done to them cumulatively over the years of your marriage. I’ve written about that in previous blog posts. You represent Pain!
You’ve been watching, listening and reading. Deep within YOU there is a growing confidence and surety. You are the calm for yourself and your spouse. Make an effort in your appearance, ask your closest confidants to pray, but do not tremble inside. You must be alert and strong because your spouse will still be quite hurtful in their actions and words. The date is not going to be enjoyable as far as they’re concerned.
Especially be steeled mentally for the things you may hear that are your soft spots. One of those for me was hearing my spouse brag about what he was cooking at his apartment and how easy it was. That could nearly take me out so I had to be ready to hear that and have ‘canned responses’ in my mental repertoire. In their MLC state they have some kind of twisted need to devalue you. Don’t bite the bait!

You have prayed that this day would come and now it all feels so confusing, maddening, bewildering, sad, and scary.

It’s not at all like when you first were dating, but that’s the feeling they’re likely looking for and thereby judging the experience. They don’t think it’s possible to have that excited and fresh love feeling with you anymore.
They will say things that will make you want to strangle them. Strangely enough, they may talk to you openly at times about what they are feeling and thinking. Actively listen yet say little.

They may have bouts of road rage. That’s quite troubling to endure and gives indication to the pressure keg they’re in. Use your own transportation to meet up if possible. Meeting them on your own also alleviates being dropped off after at home which in my opinion is deplorable. I’d slump on the floor and cry my eyes out from the grief of that. A scenario to be avoided by all means as it clouds the whole experience and your perspective.

When our dating started to heat up and we were going away on the weekends and he was staying the night several times a week I found that to be another level of confusion and sadness. I could not get my head wrapped around the concept of waiting for him to return home. Empty that apartment and throw away the key already!!! It was one girlfriend in particular who kept me steady during those weeks. She kept reminding me that he would return home if and when he was ready. It had to be his decision and not something he was doing for my sake.

Dating with benefits? Well I had a pretty clear idea about how and when that was going to happen if it was to happen for us again. I had to hear and see certain things. Sometimes I felt like overturning those boundaries and jumping him.😉 At other times I had to redirect his hand . . . as I said, it’s all very confusing. God knew exactly when and how that bridge would be crossed and it turned out to be quite humorous and beautiful. For us that was a positive turning point.

I think the biggest tip I’d like to share with you is to get yourself into a place where you can kind of disengage from all the heaps of emotions and enjoy the experience of being on a date. Surprise yourself. Maybe even surprise your spouse with how much fun it is to be together. Go on hike or back country snowshoe adventure. Meet up at a well rated cafe in a part of town you usually don’t frequent. Order a new type of cocktail and that pricier blackened halibut or rack of lamb at a nice restaurant! Go ahead and be a bit lavish even if that’s out of character for you. Remember, they’re spending good money on living apart from you so let them buy you a nice dinner or two. Relish the flavours, look at your spouse as the person they were before all the drama. Okay, so that last one is impossible, but pretend for a few minutes (or seconds) at a time.
A marriage recovery is made up of one good memory building onto another. Sometimes the BIG dealmaker for your spouse is a look you give them, a response to a question, the way you tackled an adventure . . . . or even something as nebulous as a small sliver of hope that they can’t quite quantify or describe even to themselves. What they may not account for is that you too are testing the relationship. When you go back home write down all the positives that  you can think of in regards to the date. You’ll need to reread those in the coming weeks. The closer he comes to you the harder it is. I don’t know exactly why it’s like this but it is. Read others accounts too and you’ll see the pattern. I think a big part of is that you may not hear a ‘sorry’ in a direct fashion or anytime soon. This will come over the coming years in increments and in ways you couldn’t anticipate so keep setting aside this expectation. Marriage recovery entails mutual forgiveness and this too is a long process.

Here is an article itemizing some other points to consider when starting to date your estranged spouse.

Go in Peace!

P.S. My husband is so effusive about my cooking, even more so than before all the mess. But you wanna know something – when I saw that crock pot on top of a box of stuff he moved back home . . . . I swiftly gave it away. It was just a thing, but that ‘thing’ represented some serious pain for me. It was outta here!

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Staying the Course

I find myself with an unexpected open morning! I’ve been able to work in my visual journal and it was SO good. That of course brings me to think about you, the readers who stumble on this site with all your gobs of pain and frustration.

Collaging, stamping, brush strokes . . . . whatever you find works for you in the realm of visual journaling can be so beneficial. I’ve shared an image here from my journal. The white page was done in May of 2012 and then worked into my newly acquired visual journal several months later. Fall of 2013 I was invited to join a group of women who meet monthly to work on their journals. We collaborate on the themes for the year and even teach each other new techniques and share materials. I’m deeply grateful to be part of this.

FullSizeRender (1)

What I create is nothing particularly special in terms of art, but each page represents significant learning for me. I have found that the gathering of materials, the actual process and then the time of reflection afterwards are in large part why I am still in this marriage. I know that’s a big statement to make!
This creative work is tantamount to an inflatable life vest when tossed into yet another emotional whirlpool. The sitting in quietness, gentle music on the stereo, finding words in print that say exactly what my heart is feeling, working with artistic materials . . .  tears fall . . . . wisdom penetrates . . . . understanding follows . . . . I am comforted and prepared.  When I rise from that chair my steps are steadier and I am able to walk forward in hope. Even if it’s just a drop of hope. These days much of what I create is done in thanks to God for His faithfulness. I’m even moving into new material as the pain of our crisis heals one memory at a time. Who knew there would be new material!:)

I commend this activity to you. A blank page, a newspaper, a magazine, a pair of scissors, a pen and a glue stick. That’s all you need to get started. Rage, fear, sorrow, horror . . . it’s all there for you to find and glue down. Know and be known.

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Decision Made. Decision Owned.

When you’re on the other side of the crisis there are still these persistent recordings that want to keep playing in your headspace. Any outcome, even the wonderful outcomes can be fraught with ‘what if’, ‘why’, ‘what for’, ‘when’  . . . .  and your thinking and decisions made around those questions.

An example from my own experience. There were some deeply concerning things going when my husband decided to ‘pull the plug’ and leave me. I discovered a scary banking decision he’d made. I won’t go into all my processing of that, but the outcome was such that I felt the need to prove to him that I wasn’t going to be out for his money on this roller coaster ride. Talk about crazy! I had to face reality and see this for what it was. I wanted to go under his financial radar as much as possible so I made some decisions around that and sold some things that were precious to me. I didn’t get what I had hoped for them, but it was enough to get me out of town for 3 weeks to clear my head. I’d resigned from pretty much every responsibility to see about saving this marriage so any personal income was minimal. This wasn’t ideal from a financial standpoint, but I took the decision that I had to do all I could to stay healthy, make necessary changes and be available for marriage saving initiatives. I still think this way and am slowly getting to a point where I once again contribute financially. There is no pressure from my spouse. He exudes gratitude at every turn. I think he knows, deep within his pneuma, that my pneuma needs time to be rejuvenated. I’ve taken the decision to not be in a hurry, keep balanced, be restored.

So, in the stories you find yourself in, the crazy circumstances that you could never have imagined yourself in . . . make your decisions carefully and then live in peace with them.
I found it hard to be thinking in ways I’d never expected to be flung into and I’d get stuck in that horror for awhile. Eventually though, I had to take steps . . .  keep moving. Do things that I thought were called for in that space and time.
Fact – when you hope to rebuild something there is going to be collateral damage.

Some of your decisions may not feel or appear like they’re working out very well. Pray for grace to endure or for mercy to fall.Or both.Seriously.
Grace and mercy came. Still coming.

I toss issues like this into the ‘I own my own emotions’ basket which is a helpful tool I picked up from the Boundaries in Marriage book I’ve mentioned a couple times already.

My husband and money now? Generous with a splash of lavish towards me which is lovely and oh so warm BUT, when I see it shown towards others! I am astounded and something deep within wells up with pure gratitude for this miracle of love reborn.

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Quotes That Resonate

I’m going to add quotes to this post from time to time. Quotes that helped me in my darkest days and quotes that I’m finding now that speak to this particular journey.

I’ll start with one I read a few weeks ago that’s been looping around my brain a lot. “The impossible often has a kind of integrity which the merely improbable lacks.” by Douglas Adams.
As improbable as it felt for my husband to return home to me in those dark days, it also felt impossible to consider that he would forever leave our marriage. And sometimes since, an improbable can feel very real on my side of things, but the impossible gently surfaces with full integrity once I give it time and attention.

April 22, 2015
On the topic of kindness in marriage from the article Masters of Love.

“A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it’s executed poorly. So appreciate the intent”  John Gottman

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Distance Education

Course: My Spouse
Teacher: Student Led
Time: Anytime, for as long as it takes
Location: Anywhere
Description: In-depth research into your spouse, past/present/future as you seek to understand them as fully as humanly possible. Required reading will be become apparent as the course proceeds. Online, public libraries, friends bookshelves, used and new bookstores will all be sources.

In one of my soul searching times of prayer the thought came to me that I needed to embark on a detailed study of my husband. Our lives had been intricately entwined for most of our lives and now we were inexplicably estranged. What had changed? When did it change? Why us? As I’ve written before, you’re raw and exposed already. Stay in the season, there are no short cuts.
I felt like God was holding my hand as I embarked on learning to renew my mind in ways I had not previously considered. I was out to prove what the will of God was in our marriage, what would be good, acceptable and perfect in God’s eyes. I wanted to make Romans 12:2 personal and applicable to this severe and unexpected crisis. No guarantee of outcome.

So what did I know so far about him, about us? Lots actually and I journaled this and did collage work, both of which helped me immensely. I could and would not share my learnings with my husband. He had already moved on to a place of living his life without me, even while still living with me. Eventually of course . . . he quite literally voted with his feet. He left.
I was piecing together his thinking via things he’d say about what he was reading, listening to, watching, hearing from colleagues . . . . most of it quite alarming. I had to discipline myself to listen calmly, non reactionary. I often wanted to remind him of a phrase he’d long regarded, ‘don’t put your ladder against the wrong wall’.
Zipped lips!

Could I care about him enough to swim through all this manure and search for the pearls? I didn’t know, but I was willing to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I also knew that presently, I probably knew him better than he knew himself. I also knew that he needed me because I was the very one who knew him the best. I had to consider myself as a journalist on ‘foreign assignment’. This, combined with targeted reading would help me better understand what we were both going through.

I asked myself lots of questions about my own childhood and what I knew about my husbands childhood. What pieces of our backgrounds were most prominently coming to bear in this crisis? Of course my culpability was featuring largely as I took a good hard look at who I really am and what it’s like to live with me.

What is my husbands job really like for him? How does the responsibility, earning power, and sheer scope of his accountabilities affect his capacity (or, as I like to call it, discretionary time commitments), his confidence, possibly his sense of autonomy or independence. Was his work ethic (possibly workaholism) creating a desire to live alone? If he wanted a new spouse for the last half of his life what would she be like? Why don’t you go find that woman, ‘go ahead and fill your boots’. :) Had I truly respected the amount of work it took to get to the echelon he’d achieved? These were some of my questions, and of course yours may be quite different.
All of this hurts quite a bit as the answers you come up inevitably make you feel worse. Please note: not all your answers call for changes in you! It’s good to study him though, and know what makes him tick right now. My conclusions were that he was being quite wrong headed in a number of ways. When I’d hear him say things that confirmed this conclusion it was helpful to have done this background thinking because I could let it go. Let him hear himself talk. I didn’t have to grab the bait or react in any way.
In the worst of this I learned, there is a period of time where they seem to want you to be the one to call it quits, be the fall guy, the one who can’t ‘hack it’. Please see this for what it is, and do your best to ignore it. They are moving fast in the wrong direction with their sack of pain, looking to get rid of it, but you are not in that sack! They have to open the sack and look at the contents for themselves. You carry on!
There were definitely things though that I had been insensitive about, and had not adjusted to as his career and life interests had grown.
I was being a student of him like never before at a time when it all felt like ‘too little too late’.

I’m pretty sure that he was noticing some subtle changes in me as I secretly studied him, but I don’t think he trusted them to be lasting. He carried on with his ‘she makes me unhappy’ thought processes. It made me absolutely livid when I thought of changing for someone who could think like that. I would not! What I did do was ask God to show me how to love him.
A good portion of what I was learning was simply to know and ponder, but some identified need for change. Some of that change was on my side of the equation. That’s all I could put under the microscope and consider.

Running parallel to these months of distance education I was in a study group with other women. First was the book of James and second was Psalms 120-135 alongside Eugene Peterson’s book, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”. These studies helped to shape my questions and clarify my answers. I can’t recommend them enough!
Now I find myself working with Scriptures using the Lectio Divina method – slowing it down so I can listen to God ever so carefully. I don’t want to lose my footing as I heal and seek to enter fully into the joy of a renewed and renewing marriage.

As I end this post I want to reiterate again that I am so sorry you are here reading this. I trust that in some way my experience will give you hope and guidance.

An important quote said by my spouse this past weekend. A difficult memory had been triggered just by a simple drive by . . . . he said,
“I just want to forget that time”. I concurred with him, reached for his hand and reassured us both that forgetting takes time.

I don’t think I’ll post for awhile now, except for a quote or something that would encourage you along, and I’ll occasionally update you on how we’re doing. I’ve passed along some good resources which was/is my goal. If you read or listen to nothing else, I beg you to do these ones: Boundaries in Marriage and videos from the Gottman Institute.
I know it’s difficult to find a way to contact me. I like being mysterious.:) Seriously though, if you need to contact me please find me over at Facebook as Recovering a Marriage. I can be messaged from there.

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Dust Settles and Fog Lifts

There are no shortage of metaphors/analogies/idioms used in describing marital crisis. Dust clouds, dense fog, a maze of tunnels, wandering the desert . . . to name a few.

For me, I think the rejection was the hardest to bear, but a close second was all the confusion. Everything he said and everything he did was so very confusing. After awhile you get so that you expect the next thing to be confusing which makes it somewhat easier to deal with – you uneasily place each item on a mental shelf labelled, ‘something is not right’, and carry on with what you need to do to be well.
By the way, the first story below was what I now indicate as the marker point for the Mr. Mean personality to come into full bloom! His truth was now out there and he was free to express himself honestly. To clarify his words and actions he often said, “I didn’t get to this point quickly . . .”, variations of we were likely done, and “you just don’t get it”.
Tummy flips again, just in writing that . . .  even after all this time.  BUT, it’s worth it if my story helps you in some way. That’s the reason I’m here.

If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll better understand these stories significance to me. New memories washing over former memories. God’s grace to both of us. We’re building trust moment by moment. John Gottman’s short, good word on how to build trust.

Story #1 .We recently returned from a business /slash/ pleasure trip. We were both ‘up front’ on the way there but on the return my husband was in business class and I was in economy. This was how it was for our trip to the other side of the world in 2012 when I learned that he was unhappy in our marriage, etc., etc., the bombshell stuff. On that return trip he came back to my economy seat a couple times to see how I was doing.  I wanted to wail a thousand wails but sat still, so still and sad.  It felt to me like I was the family pet on the way to the dog pound and my owner was checking to make sure my basic needs were looked after.

Then there was our return three days ago. Ditto many hours of flying. Ditto seating arrangement. Ditto his coming back to check on me. That’s where the ditto ends. Very warm, romantic and genuine exchange between us. In that moment the previous memory came back to both of us. (!!!) Two sets of teary eyes, and his words  . . . . “I’m sorry”, “I love you so much”, “Thank you for loving me” . . . . . both of us warm all over!

Story #2. Two evenings now we’ve been watching ‘Call the Midwife’. We’ve watched 4 episodes altogether. Historical, intelligent, . . . . just plain great TV with heart.
Last year for us was about ‘MadMen’, ‘House of Cards’, and ‘Suits’. I found them interesting and certainly ‘MadMen’ was good for us in that it helped me better understand my husbands background – same age, same general area of the world but completely different worlds. He often said, “that was my life”.
I enjoyed watching these shows. It was way more TV and way different TV than I was accustomed to watching so I can’t explain it other than to say that it was good to be together.
To find that we are both enjoying ‘Call the Midwife’ happily surprises me. Juxtaposed TV seasons or what!

One friend calls these kind of stories, “full circle moments”.

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