Ok, where do I start? Before my husband and I got married or were even a couple we were close friends. As a matter of fact, our friendship meant so much to us it almost kept us from getting together. We were afraid if we took our relationship to the next level and it didn’t work out we’d lose the friendship that meant so much to us. We would spend hours talking about anything and everything and even though we didn’t always see eye to eye we listened to each other’s point of view out of respect. I found him to be intelligent, charming and challenging.

We all have hardships and go through tough times, but my husband has had to deal with more than the average person. For our friendship, that meant a lot of the time I was helping him deal with the emotional aftermath of it all and that was fine with me. It made me feel needed and like I was making a difference. The more he let me in the more we connected and eventually I knew I could no longer be just friends. He felt the same way and we became an official couple in August 1995 while visiting San Francisco with my mom.

Through unforseen circumstances we ended up living alone together, something I would’ve never chosen and don’t recommend. But that’s what happened and through the daily stresses of life and the nagging feeling that we had taken things in the wrong direction our relationship started to break down. The mutual respect eroded away and instead of being the close friend he could go to for support I became the one who took the brunt of his frustrations. What was once a life that felt perfect and almost magical became a mentally painful and unhealthy existence. But I was committed to him and making it work. I couldn’t handle the thought of losing him and the friendship we once shared.

Looking back, I have no doubt that a regular person would’ve left many times over and moved on, but because I grew up in an abusive home I had learned to put up with more than anyone should. I can’t blame him for the state of our relationship, either, because we teach others how to treat us. If I had stood up for myself and made it clear that some things were unacceptable, things would’ve been different. He either would’ve respected me more or ended it, but I didn’t. I became less and less the person who had overcome her childhood and more and more a doormat who was losing her identity all because I was afraid to lose him.

At this point, you may be thinking that he’s a horrible person. I hate to portray him that way, but the truth is that he did do some horrible things. He never hurt me physically, but he caused a lot of emotional pain. That’s what happens when two people with  lot of unresolved issues get together and become each other’s world. Being so young and living together was like putting our relationship in a pressure cooker and neither of us held up under the stress. There were times when I hated him and I’m sure he felt the same about me, but I never stopped loving him deep down. Many times we almost ended it, but decided to stay together despite everything. It was like a crazy roller coaster ride that I didn’t know how to get off and didn’t really want to. I just kept believing that somehow we’d work through it and get back to the way things used to be.

Despite all the red flags, we ended up getting married in July 1998. I hoped that making that commitment would allow things to settle down. We left California and headed for Oregon for a new beginning. But old habits don’t stay behind. We moved in with family by marriage on my husband’s side, but things continued to be the same. There were bright spots. There always were. Just enough to keep my hope for a happy life together alive. Then I found out I was pregnant. For most, that news would’ve brought joy and excitement. For us, not so much. The added stress almost ended our marriage, but again we decided to stay together and try to make it work. We moved out on our own and it was tough. A new baby in a healthy relationship can be difficult, but for us…well, I’m sure you can imagine. Eventually I lost count of all the times we almost split up.

That sweet little baby brought a new sense of purpose to our lives, though, and slowly we began to figure things out. Just when we started to gain some momentum in the right direction I found out I was pregnant again despite our best efforts to keep that from happening. When he was born I fell in love all over again, but the stress of providing for our growing family was driving a wedge between us again. Our relationship was nowhere near a place that could handle more strain and we ended up separating. We had both had enough and as much as it killed me to let go of the hope I had for us I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I can’t even tell you now exactly what it was that made us decide to go to counselling and get back together. I’m sure it had to do with the kids and not wanting them to grow up with divorced parents like both of us had. And despite everything I still loved him. We didn’t stay in counselling as long as we should have and so even though we were making some progress there were many times when it felt like we’d move one step forward  then two steps back. Then I was introduced to a book that gave me the tools I needed to make some changes that finally pushed us out of that rut. That book was The Love Dare. When I started it my husband wasn’t even speaking to me and for what seemed like the thousandth time I was sure our marriage was over. But I took it seriously and by the second week not only was he speaking to me again, but he was buying me flowers for no reason. Things were starting to feel a tiny bit magical again.

I wish I could say that I’ve continued to do everything I learned from that book everyday since I read it, but old habits are hard to break. As much blame as I can lay on him for the problems in our relationship, I have to accept responsibility, too. Our friendship, the foundation of our relationship, was broken down from both sides. Along the way, I stopped listening to him and trying to see things from his point of view. I started feeling like I already knew what he was going to say and would cut him off before he could finish his thought. That made him feel like there was no point in talking to me so the two people who once shared anything and everything suffered a complete breakdown in communication.

With the help of my wonderful, supportive friends I realized that I couldn’t continue to be a doormat and expect our relationship to heal. I had to start respecting myself if I wanted him to respect me. Going back to work played a huge part in that as I felt like I was contributing not only to our family, but to the businesses I worked for. I was able to start lovingly, but firmly communicate to him what was unacceptable and what I needed from him even though sometimes I felt like I was talking to a wall. Then I discovered Turbo Jam and Chalene Johnson. Her outlook on life has pushed my “recovery” to a whole new level and my life has completely transformed.

So what does all this have to do with staying in bed with my husband until 3-something in the afternoon on a day he should’ve been at a job fair giving his resume to potential employers from all around the country? Well, despite my new outlook on life and the vast improvements to our marriage we’ve never found our way back to the friendship we once had. Of course, after all the years of trials and heartache I know it will never be exactly the same as it was, but I believe in some ways it can be even better if we can rebuild it. One of the most frustrating things has been that I’m learning how to be happy and successful and even though I’ve been able to share that knowledge with my friends I haven’t been able to with him, the person I care about the most who needs it the most.

The alarm went off when it was supposed to, but neither of us got up. Then it went off again with the same results. Finally, it was time to get the kids up and off to school so I got up and took care of that. He still wasn’t up despite much nagging and pleading from me. Taking into consideration that he normally only gets 3-5 hours of sleep on  weekdays and that we had stayed up until 4:30am getting everything ready for the job fair, I wasn’t at all surprised that he wasn’t getting up. I climbed back in bed and quickly fell back asleep next to him. The next thing I knew we were both waking up and it was after 1:00. So much for the job fair.  

Out of nowhere he started to ask me some pretty odd questions saying he just needed me to answer even though it didn’t really make sense. I went along and that led to a conversation about why he does what he does…including skipping the job fair even though we spent all night preparing for it.  A real conversation. Both of us taking turns talking and listening. He was opening up and asking for my help and I finally had answers for him. It was amazing…dare I say, magical. The conversation even turned to me when he asked what kinds of things I was dealing with. I realized that I couldn’t remember that last time he had shown that kind of interest in my well-being and it took me off guard. I’ve spent lots of time talking with friends about my issues, but in that moment I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I found a way to open up to him and trust him with my vulnerability. I think he sees me differently now, in a better light because he’s realizing again that we’re in this together and need to lean on each other the way we used to all those years ago.

At one point, he started to say something and I felt like I knew what he was going to say so I cut him off. Instead of shutting down, he pointed it out and asked if he could finish. When he stopped talking I asked if I could respond and he said no. He could see it was killing me and explained that that’s how he feels when I don’t let him talk. It was the most vivid “a-ha moment” I’ve had in a very long time. I felt such remorse for making him feel that way for all these years that saying I was sorry didn’t feel like enough. Over the years, I’ve apologized for many things that I ended up doing again and again so I know the words probably didn’t mean much to him. But the point hit my with such clarity that I can’t imagine doing that to him again. Not that the temptation won’t arise, but the understanding I have now will always make me think twice before I open my mouth and close my ears.

Yes, he missed the job fair, but it worked out for the best. We had a major breakthrough in our relationship which to me is more valuable than all the money in the world. There will be other opportunities and I know he’ll end up where he’s supposed to. The important thing is that we’ll be there together, happier than we would’ve been if things had gone as we planned, and for that I am eternally thankful.

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