Improvement

So, things in my marriage are looking up. We definitely hit bottom for a few days after my husband refused to go to the couples weekend. But then I wrote my husband an email (there never seems to be a good time to talk) and I explained how frustrated I was, and how disappointed I would be if he didn’t read the book and plan our DIY couples retreat weekend. I talked about why I was suspicious it would happen, bringing up his past refusals to read ANY self-help or parenting book I’d ever recommended, and how frustrating it was that he avoided using resources when he was clearly struggling. This is part of what I wrote:

I am realizing that I feel a lot of resentment about that–your refusal to try to learn new skills to better cope with challenges. Parenting Isa has been so hard, and I’ve spent so much time trying to learn new ways of managing her behavior–and my own–and it feels like you’ve never taken one concrete action to feel more capable as a parent. That wouldn’t bother me if we both weren’t struggling so much just to get by, if it weren’t such a common occurrence to get a frustrated, venting text or call in the morning, before or during my work day, if I didn’t feel I had to take the kids out most weekends to give you a break. There have been times when I’ve felt like I needed more support, but didn’t feel I could ask for it because you were already so overwhelmed. And so we created this dynamic where I’m the primary parental figure, and I’m the one who shoulders the burden of managing all of that entails, of orchestrating things behind the scenes, of learning how to best help our children through their unique challenges. That means it’s fallen to me to learn how to best manage all of this stuff, and it’s been a lot of pressure and it’s been really hard for me.

So I sent that. And then I heard nothing, and things between us remained tense. Then, that Sunday night, I was strangely “in the mood,” (this almost never happens, especially not when we’re not getting along) and I decided I would suggest some intimacy before bed. And I did. And he was happy to oblige. And we had some amazing sex. And evidently, it was just what we needed. After that, everything changed.

I still think it’s odd that we never talked specifically about the email (actually at one point we did, and he said he’d respond in writing, but that never happened), but I’ve noticed his attitude and behavior have changed a little bit since he read it. He offers to help me more. He even insisted on coming to a birthday party one weekend afternoon, something he never does. When I’ve said I was overwhelmed at work he offered two concrete times I could get away and grade papers, instead of just mentioning that I should “take a night” like he used to. When I came home from a meeting on Thursday and was clearly stressed and on the verge of losing my shit, he stepped in and took over part of the bedtime routine (even though the night before had been one of my paper grading nights) and when I emerged super late from our daughter’s room after passing out while we snuggled, he just told me he’d make her lunch for the next morning, instead of vaguely suggesting that he could.

Something I wrote clearly struck a cord with him in some way, because he obviously is trying to change. And I’m trying to meet him half way. I ask for help more, and when he offers, I take it. I show gratitude for what he does, but I don’t assume he can’t handle more. I’m sure his attitude change has helped, because he doesn’t seem as overwhelmed as he once was, and when he starts to fall back into that routine, he apologizes and soldiers on.

We’ve mentioned the DIY couples retreat with the resigned humor I was hoping we’d embrace if we went on the real retreat, which makes me hopeful that it will actually happen and might even be productive. The book I wanted him to read was available to listen on Hoopla and he downloaded it. And when I mentioned that I really thought he could benefit from the parenting book I’m reading right now (and loving) he actually asked me what it was called. I suggested he read it this summer when I’m in St. Louis with the kids, I hope he takes me up on it.

This weekend we had some frustrating moments, but we were able to talk about what was bothering us and ended up having some productive conversations. My parents had the kids on Sunday morning and we went to brunch before seeing Capitan America Civil War (so freaking amazing!) and that was fun.

And that’s where we are right now. We haven’t really talked but the way we interact with each other is changing, and I always say that actions speak louder than words, so I’m taking it as a win. I REALLY hope that we keep up this momentum, and that we’re in a good place for our “couples retreat.” My husband has said multiple times that he just can’t understand where I’m coming from on a lot of issues; I’m hoping the book will help him see things in a new light, or at least prompt him to do some exploring of his attitude and assumptions. I know that when I read the book I recognized that I was doing most of the things that pretty much guarantee your marriage will end up in jeopardy. I’ve tried really hard to break those habits and I think it has made a difference. If my husband could do the same we’d really be getting somewhere.

In the meantime, our kids still cycle through trying and less trying attitudes, but over all are not as challenging as they were two months ago. That’s probably helping things as well. In six weeks it will be summer, which is generally a good times for us as a couple, as my break from work (and now our daughter’s break from school) gives us all a break, in a lot of ways.

Thing are improving, and once again, I have hope.

How is your marriage doing these days?

12 Comments

  1. This if scenery news! I swear by the well-written, articulate email to the spouse. So many times, we don’t let the other one finish what they’re saying and the main point is never shared. The conversation ends in frustration and someone is upset. When there is something very important to me, something I really need him to hear me out on… I send email. And it’s very effective. I wish he would do the same. I’m so glad this worked for you and him, that’s awesome!

    We had an argument last night and I was pretty upset because I’d done hours of organizing and purging stuff and although he appreciated it, he minimized my efforts because I didn’t do it when he was trying to organize months ago. I just stood there, amazed, and for the first time ever, told him not to talk to me. Hours later, I actually talked instead of wrote and he listened. But he is being weird today so whatever. We’ll work it out.

    I’m glad things are going better…. And not just a little better, but REALLY BETTER!!!!

    1. It is scenery news! (I love your phone’s weird transcriptions!)

      I have fallen back on the email a lot. My husband doesn’t love it, but he recognizes that I struggle to articulate myself well when I start to get upset. He never gets upset and never struggled to make his point during a heated conversation (which can be kind of infuriating!) so he would much rather talk. Usually I start with an email and later we talk it out, so best of both worlds?

      But things are really better, so that is good. I’m taking it.

  2. The email can be really effective! I tend to get emotional/angry/teary when trying to have these conversations in person, and become incoherent and evasive. In writing, I can be much more articulate and clear. I am really really glad something seemed to sink in for him. You deserve to have a real partner in parenting and managing your home.
    Can you remind me of the book you are going to work through? I think I need to read it…

    1. “I tend to get emotional/angry/teary when trying to have these conversations in person, and become incoherent and evasive. In writing, I can be much more articulate and clear.” <-- THIS! This is exactly why I write emails. I could have written this, word for word. The book we're reading is The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman. I really like his work and have a lot of hope that it can help.

  3. Jumping up and down for you on this end!! Bravo for that email!! I think you found an effective way to communicate because he’s been taking it to heart. That said, though there has been change, push for a time to follow up. This may mean another email from you to him. Because change is hard and without some pressure, falling back into old patterns is very easy.

    Still, you should feel proud of being so clear and taking this step. Of calling him out on what you saw and how you believed it was a cop-out. Instead of bottling it up, you used your frustration to promote change. And that is truly an awesome thing. May this momentum continue.

    1. You’re right that I should push for a time to follow up, even before our DIY Couples Retreat. Maybe at the mid-point between then and now. I’ll definitely do that.

  4. Yay! This is a great first step! I use email sometimes and it is effective- especially when I’m really upset. I agree with pushing for a time to follow up. You could talk about the fact that you are feeling much more supported and figure out how to make these changes permanent!

    1. “You could talk about the fact that you are feeling much more supported and figure out how to make these changes permanent!” <-- That is a great way of initiating the conversation. Thanks for the tip!

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