Over the holidays, my family of five relocated from a suburb in Saint Louis, Missouri, to a small town just outside Fort Myers, Florida. Why move 1,138 miles? The surface level answer is easy: my parents. But, if I’m being honest, the real answer goes deeper and requires a thorough explanation.
You see, 2019 was filled with positive and negative memories. I am pretty optimistic, so I tend to accentuate the uplifting news and leave negative for another time.
Nonetheless, struggles are an inherent part of life. Here’s a personal struggle from last year … my marriage.
Our Strained Marriage
My husband Bryan and I started last year in counseling. We argued constantly and couldn’t seem to get on the same page. Our fights erupted in front of those we cared about most: our children. Although Bryan was outwardly successful in his new career, I hated being the one who had to carry all the other pieces. He worked overtime every week and was rarely present. I felt so lonely, putting blame upon blame upon blame on him. I nitpicked and criticized nearly every action he took.
To numb the pain he was feeling at home, Bryan resorted to more frequent and longer happy hours with coworkers. He became even more distant. Nearly every word I said pushed him further away.
Contempt is met with contempt. Cynicism is met with cynicism. Harsh words lead to defensiveness.
Bryan and I muddled through and celebrated our 12-year wedding anniversary in May. My cousin’s wedding gave us newfound hope. I prayed that God would save my marriage.
Summer offered a slightly slower pace for Bryan from a work perspective. We bickered less and offered a more united front at home with our boys.
Despite this progress, I still felt like something was missing in our family life. Ever since my mother’s health issues arose in 2017, I yearned to be closer to my mom and dad in Florida. My mom and I had a very special relationship, and it pained me to be far away from her. The few times a year we saw each other in person were not enough. He knew this but was resistant to the idea of relocation since he was born and raised in Missouri.
Nonetheless, we persisted. We had a “come to Jesus” moment in August during a family vacation. I said we could not continue like this. The boys and I felt like second fiddle to Bryan’s job. His absence negatively impacted our boys, too. Discipline issues were more frequent than we cared to admit.
Fortunately, Bryan chose our family… and the relocation.
The Risk Paid Off
We found a special community in Florida where we can be great parents and succeed professionally. Regularly scheduled events bring neighbors together. Kids run around freely on weekends and get to know each other better at the community school during the week. They ride bikes or walk to friends’ homes.
The project-based learning environment and unconventional seating at the school is fantastic for our energetic boys who want to move around the classroom and who best learn through doing, rather than simply listening to a lecture. I’m able to work from a nice co-working space that is just down the street from the school. Running trails add to the wonderful aura of the community, presenting opportunities to stay physically fit even in the winter. We’ve found a little slice of heaven on earth and couldn’t be happier.
Preparing for the move brought me and Bryan closer together than ever before. We had a common, shared goal. Communication had to happen on a daily basis—whether discussing the logistics of our Missouri home sale, Florida home purchase, school transfer, or the many other small decisions we faced in the transition.
Although not completely settled, the boys and I already feel at home in this new community. Bryan and I are on the same team again and are each other’s “fan club” presidents. We offer words of appreciation and gratitude. His work stress is still there, but he isn’t consumed by it. He integrates professional and personal goals in a beneficial way.
Nevertheless, our family is a work-in-progress. There is no endpoint where we can be completely rid of conflict. The boys still push our buttons on occasion, and Bryan and I sometimes disagree on the best course of action.
I felt like a fraud last year, having published a book on purposeful living. I may have faked it well, but now I’m actually living in accordance with my values. And it feels so good!
If you’re in a season of struggle—especially marital—do not give up hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It may take sacrifice, but it’s worth it. Here are four suggestions on overcoming challenges in your marriage (read here about effectively managing financial challenges):
Here are four suggestions on overcoming challenges in your marriage (read here about effectively managing financial challenges):
1. Start small.
Carve out time together for date nights. Additionally, be super-cognizant of your communication style, especially when little ears are listening. Watch your tone of voice and choose positive comments over belittling ones.
Starting small also means focusing on your habits. My friend, Anthony, says there are really effective ways to “Break the Twitch” and build better, more intentional habits—and it starts with owning your attention.
2. Seek outside help.
Maybe the “small steps” are simply not enough. Do not be embarrassed to enlist the help of an outside, qualified professional. You may get some of this support for free! If you or your spouse works for a larger employer, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are common. Our counseling sessions were paid through the EAP, so we had no out-of-pocket costs. We were limited in the number of free sessions but had the option to receive additional sessions at a reasonable cost.
Remember that it is okay to interview a few therapists before you decide on one. You may feel comfortable with a particular counselor, but your spouse may feel uncomfortable. Work with a counselor who meets the needs of you and your spouse.
3. Give it to God.
As a Christian, I’ve learned that I cannot carry the burdens of life alone. I have learned to surrender. It is extremely hard for me to surrender my concerns as a recovering perfectionist. I feel like I should be able to handle all that life throws at me. But God didn’t wire us this way. He equipped us with unique talents and gifts, but He did not promise an easy life. The struggles make us stronger because we must rely on Him. When we do so, we will find that His power carries us.
4. Be patient.
Getting to a healthy place takes time. Remember that you are in a marathon, not a sprint. Marriages do not heal overnight. Don’t be discouraged. Rather, appreciate and celebrate the strides you are making as a couple. Thumbing through your wedding album or watching a video of your wedding day will bring back fond memories and remind you of the promise you previously made—in sickness and in health, from this day forward.
Divorce carries enormous emotional and financial costs. Kids thrive when their parents model love. They also thrive when happy memories outpace sad ones. When you are in a healthy place in your marriage, redefine what it means to be wealthy.
For more articles on marriage and relationship advice for women, start here:
Are You Fighting for Your Marriage? These Resources Can Help
Ask Dr. Zoe – Dealing With a Disconnected Husband
10 Things I Learned in a Decade of Wifing
If Your Man Didn’t Propose (But Should Have) Read This
Why You Should Just Have That Hard Conversation (And How to Do It)
I Might Be a Good Mom, Can That Make Me Be a Bad Wife?
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