I have never been one to air dirty laundry on my blog. Most bloggers I know don't. Our blogs are a place where our lives tend to be a little more glossy sheen than chaos. Occassionally people will write about a frustration or two, but I usually will not write about arguments or difficulties. One, it is not something I wish my blog to focus on, and two, it is out of respect for the relationships I do have. That being said, this particular entry is one I have wanted to write for awhile, and everything I mention here has been something my husband and I have both said we are comfortable disclosing.
We agreed years ago, back when we were newlyweds, if one of us (did not matter which one) ever wanted counseling then we would go... no questions asked, no stalling. We had one time a year or so ago where one of us mentioned it and we looked in to going, but then we managed to regain our footing and never actually went. Or so we thought. The past year or so have been hard for us. Last year Ryan came back from Afghanistan and we jumped right into the holidays. Immediately after that we went out our trip to Europe and as soon as we returned my aunt passed away and I flew to New Jersey. The day after I returned from her funeral I was thrown in rehearsals for a show I had been cast in. So we went from living apart with the deployment, to reintigration that never really had a chance to take and by the time we were both on normal schedules again it was summer practically and Ryan was putting in for his SDA. Then I had another show as Ryan started school for his SDA.... and we both just realized we were fighting a lot and were both pretty unhappy overall. After a particularly large (amd stupid) fight over something insignificant we decided we wanted to go to counseling.
Ryan instantly made a phone call to Military OneSource. Military OneSource offers active duty, reservists on active status, and National Guard members and their families twelve free, non medical, face-to-face counseling sessions with a professional in your area. We had an appointment with a counselor for the next day with that one call. Even making the appointment we felt better and had what felt like our first real discussion in a long time. That was when we realized we both were unhappy... not unhappy that we were married or together, but overall the general feeling of this could be better. This has been better.
We went in to our first session with a little bit of unease, but our counselor got us to talk. Then we had one of our small fights. And he let us. We were on opposite ends of the couch going back and forth jumping from topic to topic when our counselor said something that seems so incredibly obvious, but until we heard it, it never occurred for a moment.
"Is this how you speak to someone you love?"
No. No it isn't.
When we had those stupid arguments, and lord knows we had them a lot, we were both just trying to be heard. It wasn't about the sweet potato or the volume on the tv (seriously), it was wanting our spouse to hear us. We always were the type to bicker, both our parents independently nicknamed us "the Bickersons", but lately it had been so much more than that.
Once we heard that, we began to make a more conscious effort to really hear one another, and talk to each other the way we wanted to be talked to. It sounds so simple when I type it, but it was something that in our frustrations we were missing. We both were overly frustrated to the point where we felt like we weren't being heard and all we did was make our voices louder and louder with effort to be heard. But when someone yells usually the knee jerk response is to stop listening anyway... it is a vicious cycle we were stuck in for sure.
If we are arguing it becomes about winning... and in order for one of us to win one of us has to lose. And marriage shouldn't be about winning and losing. We are on the same team. If one of us loses then we both lose.
Our counselor told us around the five year mark is where a lot of marriages will stumble or falter... it is totally normal. He told us that we both drive cars and every 3,000 or 5,000 miles we need an oil change, right? Well, this is our oil change. We hit so many miles in our marriage and just needed a tune up. We needed to hear some things we had forgotten. After many years together it is easy to fall into a rut or a bad routine or habit, and sometimes you just need someone to nudge you onto the right track again.
After a little more than six or seven sessions there was a remarkable improvement. Heck, after our first session there was improvement! Our counselor recommended a certain book for us, and I am kind of embarassed to say we had a copy already and once we started reading it, it helped. Seriously. We have had more meaningful, real conversations in the past two months than in the whole last year combined probably. We were making the effort to really hear one another again. In our last session, before Ryan started his SDA, we watched a DVD our counselor recommended. During the DVD Ryan had his arm around me and I held his hand. We all noticed how different it was from our first session when we were as far apart as possible on opposite ends of the couch.
Even though it hasn't been long, we are so much happier already. We communicate better... we hear each other more... and we have slowly started eliminating bad habits we formed together. We take responsiblity for our own actions and behaviors, we try and help each other when we have bad days, and we both love each other enough to fight for our marriage. We were never on the verge of divorce or anything, but we knew that our marriage could be better because it had been before. Once the newlywed glow fades and time goes on it is easy to forget you have to check in with one another. This SDA is not going to be easy, and we knew that going in to it, so we both felt very relieved that we were able to reconnect on this level before it started. We plan on going back for another session when his first training cycle is over, but just to check in. We already know we are on a better path at this point and have the tools to keep moving forward.
This isn't a quick fix. Your car still will always need an oil change after so many miles, but at least now we have the tools to do it ourselves next time. And if we keep up the regular maintenance, we will have less problems later.
If you are in a similar situation and a military couple, I highly recommend using these sessions from Military OneSource. Even if you aren't military, some insurances cover counseling for a certain amount of sessions. I am glad we did. And if blogging about it helps anyone else, than the point of writing this has been achieved. I blog to chronicle our lives, sure, but also to help other military spouses who find my blog randomly or who are even regular readers. So there you go... someone else who has been there in some capacity. Every couple has issues and every couple needs a tune up now and then. Go for it. As always, feel free to comment or email me if you have any other questions that I may be able to help with.
Thanks for reading.
PS - This is a non sponsored post and all opinions are my own. Military OneSource is a great resource that we happily used, but they are in no way responsible for the content of this post. Same with the book review on amazon, purely my own opinion.