Today, the pastor who has invested in us…fought for us when we weren’t fighting for us…believed in us…hurt with us…rejoiced with us…is following God’s call on his family and moving out of state.
When we first found out, I cried. I got quiet. I stopped scheduling appointments. My husband would have to ask me 3 or 4 times before I would schedule another one. Because that’s what I do when I know someone is leaving. I isolate. I try to put distance between us. I try to outrun the hurt.
When he told us the actual, this is really happening, date, and what his next couple of weeks would look like, asking us to keep his family in our prayers, I immediately wished we had spent more time with him. Worried who would take his place, because, really, no one can take his place. No one else will have the history we have with him. The trust we have built. The safety we felt with him. All of this will have to be built again.
He is an amazing man of God, with an equally amazing wife and family. Their hearts for others is really unmatched. I know they will be a blessing in their new neighborhood… church…community.
I also know how selfish I am, wanting to keep them here until…idk…until what? We don’t need marriage counseling anymore? Sometimes I feel like we will always need someone to help us work on our marriage…other times I think we have all the tools we need, we just have to remember to use them.
We were so blessed to have the gift of an invested pastor/counselor for the last few years. He has forever impacted our family in more ways than I could count.
In honor of his new journey, today’s Favorite Five Friday is things I learned from him. Things I hope I always remember. Advice I think couples who have been married for 40+ years would write on the advice pages at a shower…
In no particular order of importance…
1) Take divorce off the table. Before you get married. Before you get engaged. Before you start dating. If you think of marriage as something you can always try again if you don’t get the first one right…you’re not likely to get the first one right…or the fifth one.
When divorce is on the table, whether it’s while you’re dating, engaged, first year of marriage or 20th year of marriage, it changes your relationship. When there is always the option of leaving – or being left – something is different inside you.
2) Go to bed at the same time. This is one of the first changes we made after Rob got sober. He gets up around 4:30 in the morning (Y’all. I have to do that every once in a while because of traveling for work. No one wants to be around me by 2:00 that day. Not even me.) so he goes to bed at a crazy early hour. Like 8:30. I’m more of an 11:00 bedtime girl. So we rarely went to bed at the same time. Once we got this advice, I started making an effort to go to bed when he does. It’s not every night (have you seen Jen Hatmker’s new show on HGTV? http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2014/07/31/one-week-until-our-show-dead-on-floor-and-a-sneak-peek-at-a-fit-i-threw — Y’all. My marriage is not going to fall apart because I stay up late on Thursdays while this is airing!) but it’s most nights. Sometimes I get back up after he’s asleep if I can’t sleep or need to work or whatever, but we go to bed together more often than not. And. It. Matters.
***Side note – we are super fortunate that our girls go to bed crazy early – we all like our sleep – and during the summer they stay up half the night without me needing to take care of them – but I remember the years of baby/toddler Isleepwhenshesleeps days…the point is. Whenever you can. Go to bed at the same time. Even if one of you gets back up after the other one falls asleep. Even if it’s only a couple of nights a week. It’s good for your marriage. In so many ways – wink wink 😉
3) Sit next to each other/Hold hands when you’re walking. This isn’t rocket science, but seriously. I like my husband. I think he’s awesome. I like hanging out with him. If I had a choice between going out without him or with him, I’m taking him! I see so many couples who sit apart when they’re out together. I’ve heard them say, I see enough of him at home. Oh y’all. Sit next to your husband. Guys – sit next to your wife! Seriously, when we’re at church, sitting in a Sunday School class and I see couples choosing to sit across the room from each other instead of together, I see where Rob and I were a few years ago and it makes me sad.
Yes, you need friends and time with just the girls (or guys). Find time for that. Without sacrificing time with your spouse. If Rob stopped sitting next to me at Celebrate Recovery or Sunday School or church, I’d…Well… First… I’d cry. Seriously. But I would know something was wrong between us because we have both made a choice to sit together. We consciously choose each other over others. It’s one small but very significant way we show that we value the other’s company. I had no idea how impactful it would be until we started doing it. Now it would just be weird if we stopped. I would feel incomplete.
We’re still working on the holding hands thing. We try. #workinprogress
4) Communicate. We aren’t great at this. Yet. We text each other all day. At night, we’re not so great at the talking thing. We’re trying. Our first step was not making decisions on our own that impacted each other or our girls. If you think that was easy or happened overnight, it wasn’t. It isn’t. After 18 years of me making most of the decisions, sometimes telling him, but basically deciding everything from finances, to moves, to the girls…it’s a huge effort to include him and an even bigger effort to defer to him or listen to a decision he wants to make without trying to persuade him my way is better. Not that I do that…much… But because we are really trying to talk to each other, communicate our wants, needs, opinions, feelings…it’s getting easier and easier to work things out together…as a team… This is probably one of the biggest struggles right now in our marriage, because we’re so new at it. But it’s important. I probably fail at it daily. That doesn’t keep me from trying.
***Disclaimer – we were actually advised to stop texting so much, because maybe we would have more to talk about when we’re together. Also, because there isn’t an emotion font to tell the other in what context/tone we are typing our words, maybe sometimes we get our wires crossed and end up mad/hurt/sad/whatever because we couldn’t “hear” the tone of the text…Don’t look at my text messages. Seriously. Did you get the part in the beginning where I said he’s given us the tools we need, we just have to use them? Yeah. Insert that right here. Right next to the ridiculous number of texts between me and the husband. Daily. Just make sure you subtract the ones where we say “I love you” or “Just wanted to say I was thinking of you” or “I miss you”…because y’all. I don’t need an emotion font for those 😉
5) Negotiate, don’t compromise. This is a newish one for us. I’m all about compromise, not the best at negotiating. And by compromise I mean, I will let you make the decision even if I am totally against it if that means there is no conflict. I’m a people pleasing co-dependent…in recovery…progress, not perfection. Recently we “compromised” on a pretty major decision that honestly I didn’t agree with at all. So in our counseling session as we were talking about it, when Rob said we agreed, I corrected him (oops, yeah, let’s not dwell on that one right this minute) and said, actually, we compromised. Which meant, I explained, that we completely disagreed, but he felt more strongly about it than I did and I wasn’t willing to make it an issue, so I agreed to do what he wanted.
This wasn’t a small, what’s for dinner thing. It was a big deal. People get divorced over stuff like this y’all. So in my mind, letting him have his way, rather than fighting about it and getting mad, was the right thing to do.
Which is the whole problem with compromising. There’s no buy in. I didn’t really believe it was the right thing to do. But I love him so much that I’m willing to give in and I promise I don’t resent the choice he made completely against my….Oh…Yeah. There’s that.
Negotiate. I am obviously not an expert in this area, so all I can tell you is what I’ve done wrong so far and hope you learn from my mistakes. Ask someone who’s been married a really long time. Push past the Happy Wife, Happy Life… Ask them how they got through a tough decision…a life changing decision…that they disagreed on.
This stuff really isn’t rocket science. But I had to be taught. Rob had to be taught. We had the privilege of being taught how to love each other by someone who loves fiercely.
One more thing. Say I love you. I miss you. I’m thinking of you. Often. Mean it. Say it in person, say it on the phone, it’s even ok to text it… Say I’m sorry. In person. (Not in a text) While you’re hugging. Then go to bed. Together.
I remember the first time I sat in Pastor Steve’s office. Alone. I remember the times we had to cancel because Rob “couldn’t” make it. I remember the time Rob went without me when he first stopped drinking and I was so mad at everyone. I remember the first time I felt like our marriage had a chance of being something more. I remember the first time I felt that Rob actually loved me. I remember Pastor Steve continuously telling us he believed in us. I remember the love and compassion and challenge in his voice, his commitment to us, his investment in us.
I always want to remember how it started. How hard it was. How far we’ve come. Because I always want to remember how much better it’s going to keep getting.