Tomorrow is my parents’ wedding anniversary. 35 glorious years, eh mum and dad? It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. They’re had their bumps in the road, but most marriages do. In fact, I’m starting to believe that you don’t truly know the strength of a relationship until it’s been tested.
Mine certainly was. For people who’ve been following this blog from the beginning (and paying attention) you’ll know that the catalyst to start writing was my marriage breaking down. This was my secret place, my sanctuary to help me cope with my thoughts and feelings in a safe environment.
It seems only appropriate then, that I should write about our efforts to reconcile. We’ve been apart for two years and we’ve had our fair share of rocky patches, but we’ve also stayed close. We always agreed that we would keep our separation amicable, for the sake of our children and as a mark of respect for our former relationship. We’ve continued to spend time together, as a family and most importantly – we’ve talked. We talked about us, where we went wrong, how we’ve changed, what we’ve learnt. It hasn’t always been easy. It hasn’t always been pleasant. But it was worth it. I’m not really going to say much more about the circumstances of our reconciliation. Some things are not for public consumption. However, I am hoping this will be the start of a much more positive time here on “A Mess In A Dress”.
I know there are a lot of people who don’t understand how we could try to rebuild something that was so broken for a while. For me, there really wasn’t another option and I never doubted that we should try. We’ve been together over ten years, a third of my life. We have so many memories, so much history. We have two beautiful children. We share so much and it’s impossible to cast that aside as if it means nothing. I honestly believe that if we can make this marriage work then that will be the best thing for all of us. I owe it to myself, to my husband and my girls to do everything I can to bring our little family back together, hopefully for good this time.
I started to list some of the things that I love about my husband. I could write about how he’s my best friend, a wonderful father, how much me makes me laugh, all of which are true. But then I realised I don’t have to explain my reasons for wanting my marriage to continue. It’s enough that I do. It’s enough that I’ve lived, alone, for two years and been miserable and anxious and lonely and now, I’m not. Of course he has made mistakes, but then so have I. Neither of us are perfect and part of our reconciliation is learning how to live with each other’s imperfections.
I’m no expert on relationships and I would never presume to tell other people that I know how to “save” a marriage. Indeed, I think it’s probably a little different for every couple, depending on circumstances. However, if you are in a position where you want to try and repair your relationship and you don’t know where to start, this is what I’ve learnt so far.
Communicate. I really can’t stress this enough. A couple HAS to talk. Frequently, about everything and nothing. You have to be open with each other, to the point of brutal honesty, because if you don’t really let each other see how who you truly are, then it’s probably doomed from the start. Hidden thoughts and feeling start rifts and resentments and nobody can truly keep up a pretence for that long anyway. Sometimes you might hear things you don’t like, but I’ve come to learn that you can’t fight a problem that you don’t know exists. And if you do have a problem or issue which is insurmountable, then it’s better to learn about it sooner rather than later.
Give each other space We may have taken this a little too far, with my husband moving to a different house and us living apart for the best part of two years, but I still think it’s important to acknowledge that everyone needs space. When you live in close quarters for a long time it can become suffocating and that feeling just gets worse if you have a fight or a disagreement. Sometimes you just need a bit of space to clear your head and think about what you really want and feel, without someone watching over your shoulder.
Seek help if necessaryThis is probably a ridiculous thing for me to say, as I am literally the worst person in the world when it comes to asking for help. I’m just too darn independent and stubborn and I like to think I can handle everything myself. However, the fact remains that nobody can do everything by themselves, and there is no shame in asking for help. During my breakup I became a firm follower of Andrew Marshall’s work and relied very heavily on his “I love to but I’m not in love with you’ to help me deal with where my marriage had gone wrong and how I might fix it. There are also wonderful organisations like Relate who are experts at supporting people with relationship problems. It can be really useful to get an objective, impersonal view point on your relationship, so if you think you’d benefit from their advice, check out their website for more information.
Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, it’s a massive cliche, but a relationship is not healed overnight. If you’re anything like me, there were a multitude of reasons why your marriage failed. Those reasons will, no doubt, rear their ugly little heads again at inopportune moments and you’ll probably feel like you’re rehashing old arguments. You may even panic that you’re just stuck in a loop and the relationship is doomed. The real progress is in how you deal with the old arguments. Try to look at them from both sides, understand how the other person is feeling and try to react differently. And if you get it wrong, take a deep breath and try again later.
Most importantly of all, listen to yourself. Not just your heart, or your head, but a good mixture of the two. Only you know what you really want from a relationship and how much you value the one you’re trying to save. Only you truly know if you think it’s worth it and if you’re prepared to put in the effort to rebuild. If you are, then you might just end up with something incredibly special. A relationship that has been tested and survived and come out even stronger than before.
I don’t have a clue what the future holds for me and my marriage. I’m well aware that there are no guarantees in life and no-one knows what is around the corner. However, I do know that I’m happier now than I have been for a long time, even before my marriage fell apart. And I’m more hopeful than ever that I may have actually made the right decision and am looking forward to a future filled with love, happiness and many more beautiful memories.
I suppose only time will really tell. Happy anniversary Mum and Dad. Thanks for being an example of a marriage surviving through adversity and for supporting me when I needed it the most. Hopefully I’ll one day be writing a post celebrating my own 35 year anniversary.