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5 Steps That Won't Help YOUR Marriage

This essay on marriage can't help YOUR marriage. No article or book or well meaning advice from a friend can. But the good news iscan.
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This essay on marriage can't help YOUR marriage. No article or book or well meaning advice from a friend can. But the good news is YOU can. Like most important things in my life I have learned this the hard way. Every article on relationships I perused didn't cut it for me. "Five Ways To Fix Your Marriage" the title beckoned, but it just doesn't work that easily in reality. An article can't put in hard work and honesty and tears. "You need more date nights" many suggested -- so we tried that. We sat there at a restaurant opposite each other like strangers. Besides our children, we didn't know what to talk about anymore. Our problem wasn't due to a lack of quality time spent together, it was caused by fissures in communication and intimacy.

As the years passed we grew further apart. Our upbringing caused us to speak two very different languages and both of us were left feeling unseen and misunderstood. Finally four months ago we made a tough choice to begin marriage counseling. Both of our precious boys have autism and many assume that this is was caused the break down in our marriage. That is not the case for us -- our communication and intimacy problems have been here since the beginning. The truth is, I don't think most marriages disintegrate over ONE big thing, but instead over many little hurts compiled and pushed aside day after day.

Here we are on our wedding day.

Through hard work, a willingness to try and counseling, we are working to connect with the things that made us fall in love and get married in the first place. It's taken me a long time to realize that my marriage is a living breathing thing and it needs attention and upkeep. Like children,no two relationships are the same and what works for one may not work for another. Here are a few things that so far have worked for me.

1. Express your feelings in the moment.
"How often do you and Michael fight?" Our counselor asked me. "About once a week," I told her. "How often do you get mad at him?" She asked, rephrasing the question. "Oh, probably every day" I replied. I'm a lover -- not a fighter. I really HATE fighting -- so when I get angry, I stuff it down inside and file it away for later use. Once a week or so, something makes me mad, like really mad which sets me off and a week of his misdemeanors all come flying out at once. "But I'd rather fight once a week instead of every day," I told our counselor. "Why does it have to be a fight in the first place?" she asked. Hmmmmpfff. Good point. I am working on expressing my feelings in the moment instead of bottling them up. I am also working on using words more specific than angry/pissed/mad. Anger is usually born from sadness, disappointment, frustration and fear -- so we are using those truer labels instead.

2. Do not have serious conversations after 6:00 p.m.
Just do not. I CAN NOT. After a long day with our 5- and 3-year-old, my mind is FRIED in the evening. My brain is amazing at watching BRAVO TV then, but it does NOT function on serious life topics. I can easily see myself bursting into tears while trying to decide between ketchup and BBQ sauce after 6:00 p.m. At night, KEEP IT SIMPLE. A friend told me that her and her husband ask first "Is this a good time to talk?" before having any serious discussions -- and if the other person says "no," you aren't allowed to push it. If there are things to be discussed, make sure you do it at a time that works for both of you. Go grab a latte on the weekend, keep an open mind and talk.

3. Ask for what you need.
This is one is tough. I am much better at doing it ALL by myself while getting more and more pissed off at him for just sitting there. "I want him to want to do the dishes!" If you don't know what quote I am referring to you HAVE to watch this clip. Please! I've never been more serious about anything. (But I want you to WANT to watch it. Don't just do it because I just begged you).

You see, many men are just NOT wired this way. Sometimes I feel like I do everything. Why can't HE see that the kids need to be fed or that the floor needs to be vacuumed or the dishwasher needs to be emptied? Why do I have to ASK him to do these things for OUR family? BECAUSE I DO. BECAUSE I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY. It's just part of the gig. I can do them ALL myself and stay pissed -- or I can ask for his help. It's also important to note: When he helps -- I am NOT ALLOWED to correct him, redo it or tell him that he's doing it wrong (a.k.a., not doing it MY way). If I ask for his help, I've got to accept the help that he offers.

4. Make sure to take care of you.
One person can't be your everything. That is too much responsibility for another person and leaves too much empty inside you. You are in charge of you -- and here's the thing -- you are not a burden. You are a life. You are an adventure. You must have other outlets and friends and hobbies that give you the things that you need to be the person you want to be. You were your own complete person before you met your spouse and it's important that you don't ever let that person slip away. The more robust your life, the happier you are. The happier you are, the better your relationship will be.

My husband Michael and I before our weekly counseling session. It's exhausting and the hardest yet most important part of my week.

5. Hire professionals,
If your toilet broke you'd go to a plumber. If you were sick, you'd go to a doctor. So when your marriage is hurting, go to counseling. We don't know it all and sometimes we can't do it on our own. Don't wait until you're beyond angry and frustrated. You deserve a happy and healthy relationship and chances are you've tried everything you could yet it still isn't better. Going to relationship counseling isn't a declaration that your relationship is doomed, it simply shows that it is worth working on. It isn't something to be ashamed over. Be proud and remember your pledge to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

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