Repair Job

My marriage is… okay right now. It’s not great. It’s not awful. It would be easy to stay here, in this okay place, for a long time.

Honestly though, sometimes this okay place scares me. Sometimes I’m not even sure how I feel about my husband, and I’m not sure how he feels about me.

Sometimes I’m not sure if love is even part of our equation anymore. That sounds more dire than it feels, which makes me think I’m imagining it… the possible lack of love. Surely if the love were fading, we would feel it, we would be in crisis mode.

I’m not sure.

There is a couples retreat in a early June, right before my school year ends. It’s expensive, but is a lot cheaper than actual therapy would cost. And while a weekend away is a lot, it’s logistically simpler for us to be gone for two weekend days than it is get coverage for an hour of therapy every week.

I brought it up with my husband about a month ago. He was clearly uncomfortable with the idea. Instead of really sitting down and talking about it, I kept passively aggressively mentioning that we hadn’t talked about it, and reminding him that the price went up in early May.

We finally talked about it. He’s loathe to participate in such an experience, for a number of reasons, all of which I understand (and many of which I share). To be honest, I’m loath to do it as well. But in the end I feel like we need something, and this is available and we can manage it, and it’s easier to just do it than the alternatives.

Of course it’s not easier to do than nothing.

I wonder if I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, if this is just how it feels for two full-time parents to be married with small kids. Maybe if we wait it out, things will be better.

Then again, maybe they won’t.

We’re supposed to make our final decision tonight, but I’m not even sure which way to argue. And I know that if I don’t make a case for it, we won’t go at all.

 

25 Comments

  1. Have you checked on the person/people running the program? How often have they done it? How long has program been around and used? Do you know anyone who went and personally talked to them about the good/bad/ugly? How much participation in each activity is required? Would a different program work better for one or the other of you? Does it need to be marriage focused or just an ‘opening program’ about people…in which case a weekend of improv (or some other thing about being open in communications) might be less threatening and achieve the same goal of connecting. What would your idea of a perfect relationship be? Have you ever known one… not just imagined you saw one with out really knowing.
    Boy, all at once, in one fell swoop, you made my being single feel so much better! Avoiding lots of issues….. but, of course, on the other hand…. about being single……. also a human condition. NO OPINION on what you should do or not do re the program!

    1. These are all really good questions. I had looked into the organization but not as much into the actual retreat, and how long that has been going on. Thanks so much for prompting me to look more into whether or not it would be a high quality retreat–I can’t believe I didn’t think to do that myself!

  2. My hubby and I every few months hit a rough patch and I often have the same thoughts you do, is what we have even considered love or just roommates. These rough patches usually stem from stress related to work or just general busyness like when my hubby is out of town for days on end.
    I’ve decided that being married and having small children and jobs is so taxing and emotionally/physically draining. We aren’t the same people we were before kids, and I guess the decision is to either grow together or grow apart. Very tough stuff for sure. It’s not that I would even want to date or move on, more that sometimes I am just tired of putting in the work, having the same conversations that never change anything, etc.
    No advice, just wanted to say that I am there too. Good luck on your decision.

    1. I feel like you describe us well here… Things are great and then there’s a bump that startles us both and makes us ask questions. We both put the work in, but at different times, so one of us usually feels like we’re doing it all.

    2. I feel like my husband and I really have changed in so many ways, and I don’t know if we’re growing together. One of his big issues is how little we have in common these days–we don’t even like most of the same TV shows! This is very distressing to him. I feel like we can’t even talk to each other these days. And that is why I want to go to this, so we can learn how to feel closer to each other.

      1. We have been having the same discussions, specifically my husband really gets annoyed that I won’t want the same shows he is into at night when the kids are in bed. I think this plays into the “growing apart” thing he feels. We like to unwind at night in different ways, and that can feel unsettling. I am also one who prefers to be alone then with friends, and my hubby is opposite. I am more an introvert than him and that causes problems too. SIGH

  3. Saw what H posted. Sometimes I find living with me is not perfect too, doldrums, dull, task focused, not a party, stuck-in-a-rut……. And for you at the end of the school year as well…… making it through the day actually is worth celebrating.
    One of my grands has a nanny who at 22 is feeling she hasn’t found her passion and maybe she is too late for college, and she broke up with her boyfriend and what now, and All the Angst.I keep telling her I am hoping when I get to 94 some decades off that I will have the answers………but I surely do not yet.

  4. I work, The Hubs, who made the decision to be a stay at home Dad while looking for a job, have these heated debates. Kids add stress. Money (oh does Money add more stress!), life, family, job, household duties, etc. You’re not alone. We for the moment, are coasting. Things are not great but things aren’t horrible and things haven’t reached the point where we’re just roommates where love is no longer in the equation.

    My only tidbit to you is, go with your gut. If you both are feeling this dreadful notion before you even go, maybe this program isn’t the right one…but there are several out there. Being that we can’t afford a lot & down one income, I looked into a marriage retreat at a local church. We’re not church going people, so we’re looking into what makes us both comfortable. So far, we’ve found a few. Now we just need to get the timing right. Good luck!

    1. Coasting is a good way to describe it. It’s honestly not that bad, but I worry that if prolonged there will be subtle, but lasting, damage. I don’t know though, maybe I’m being dramatic.

      It does help to know that we’re not alone. And yet I know every couple is different. It’s hard to know what to do…

  5. Agreeing with Melissa. And also in a similar boat. Grey and I fight more now than ever before and 90% of it is fueled by stress from parenting 2 small children, money and job stress. Grey’s been doing some reading and reminds me nightly that we are far from alone in this. And you are far from alone.

    Years ago, Grey and I attended a weekend retreat for mandatory pre-marriage counseling (required to be married in the Catholic Church). We went in dreading the weekend and came out so happy we went. But I agree that it depends both on the program and having a common goal. Also, given its at the end of the school year for you, it could be an additional level of stress you don’t need. So do go with your gut.

    And again, you’re not alone.

    1. “We went in dreading the weekend and came out so happy we went.” <-- This is kind of what I expect would happen to us. I mean, who wants to sit around with other couples and do exercises that feel awkward and forced, with other couples sitting all around!? But I think we'd learn a lot, and I honestly think we need to learn some communication skills, and how to effectively show affection, because we're in a real rut with both of those.

  6. I definitely relate to what H said above. I think its more uncommon than not to have rough patches during the early kids phase (especially when said kids are challenging). There just is little to no energy left at the end of the day to give each other, and that has to take a toll. Remember how much energy you gave each other when dating? Now its barely a fraction of that, and the string tying you together seems very tenuous.
    But I also relate to what you said about not having a true frame of reference for what is “normal”—what is a “good” relationship, really? Not the vague generalities (mutual respect, communication, blah blah) but the specifics of how that actually plays out on a day to day level. Is what I want actually realistic? Am I expecting too much, and is that the cause of our problems? Or am I expecting too little and no wonder I’m not happy?
    The retreat: I think if you have to literally DRAG him to it, it may not be as beneficial as you would hope. Would he actually participate, or just sulk and clam up? Or would his bad humor stress you out to where you wouldn’t absorb anything. Would he hold it against you if it was terrible? If you can change his mind about it, and he seems agreeable, or at least promises to give it a chance, then it may be worthwhile.

    1. I also lack a solid frame of reference, especially since I’ve never been in any other relationship before. I wonder if I’m expecting too much, or if I’m not ever registering what I actually have. That doubt makes it hard to know what path I should take. I definitely agree with you that pressuring him into it would NOT be productive. I won’t be doing that. I don’t want to go enough myself to drag him. 😉 I hope we can have an honest conversation about it tonight, and come to a decision we both agree with. We shall see…

  7. would you be able to make progress with your own retreat – ie, maybe a secluded weekend away in a location in nature, to talk and be together? would he be more willing to do something like that?
    i agree with above that if he is really reluctant that might be a problem. if it’s partially just isolated focused time you need, you could do that without a formalized program (which might be great, but might not)

    1. He would definitely be willing to do a retreat with just me, but I honestly don’t think it would be that productive. We aren’t that great at connecting even when we have the opportunity these days, which is part of why things aren’t so awesome. I really think we need someone to be leading us through some effective exercises, because otherwise we just hang out almost in parallel, like toddlers on a play date who don’t know how to interact effectively yet. So while I think we’d have fun on a two day getaway, I don’t think it would do much for us in the long run.

  8. It’s funny, I read a gal who has what has always sounded like a great relationship with her spouse. All of a sudden (not really!), they have a newborn and they fight and pick at each other like they’ve never done before. She wonders if it’s because of the baby and I always say, “young kids suck the life out of both of you. Hang on, it gets better.”. We are finally out of the fog of young young kids and still fight, still shut down, and still treat each other poorly sometimes. But it’s less than it was 6 months ago and way less than it was a year ago. I am a firm believer that for most couples, if you do the time and make efforts to stay connected once in a while, that it will get better. These young kids are rough. They can break the strongest of adults!

    I am curious to hear how the talk goes tonight. There are lots of great thoughts in the comments today… Very helpful!

    1. Things are definitely A LOT better than they were a year ago–both because our kids are easier and because we’re better able to manage the challenges. That said, I feel like our “re-charge and reconnect” time is less and less effective–we spend a lot of that time just recharging ourselves and there isn’t a ton of reconnecting going on. I think that is what is bothering me lately, that even when we have opportunities to really talk to each other and connect, we choose to read or play on our phones. That is why I want something to force us to actually talk to each other, and to give us skills to keep connecting, even when we’re tired or stressed out.

      I’m also curious to hear how tonight goes. I’ll keep you all updated.

      1. There are many nights when we could connect and talk, and in my head, I say to him, “please just let me be. Please don’t expect anything from me right now. I just want to sit.”. Often times, I choose to recharge myself over recharge us. It’s true!

        1. “please just let me be. Please don’t expect anything from me right now. I just want to sit.” Often times, I choose to recharge myself over recharge us.

          Seconding this, hard!

  9. I have to say, my husband I recently started marriage therapy and so far it is wonderful. We have been coasting along for years now, mostly pleasant, but separately frustrated about things about each other and having the same fights
    we’ve literally had since we were in our 20s. Our kids are 7 and 5 and we both work and life is busy. And some day to day bickering that I thought was livable, but I now really realize wasn’t. We had a massive blowout over the winter though and decided to go.

    Anyhow, we’ve been a few times and already I think our relationship is massively improved. We still have a lot to work through and a lot to address about ourselves, but I feel connected to my husband in a way that I haven’t for years and I feel happy about my marriage in a way I haven’t in a long time. I’ve realized that we really did start taking each other for granted and stopped putting in any true effort besides just showing up because life was a lot, and I regret that.

    We did the Engaged Encounter weekend as pre-Cana 10 + years ago and it was a nice weekend, but the therapy has been way more effective because she is teaching us better interpersonal communication skills and how to be open, but set boundaries, stop controlling things while holding the other accountable and use positive approaches to finding compromise. I just wanted to offer my experience because I used the little kids are hard excuse for a long time too.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your therapy sounds amazing. It actually doesn’t sound much like my experiences in couples therapy, during which we just kind of rehashed old issues but didn’t learn how to handle them differently. In fact, that is why I was less interested in doing therapy, because I worried it would get us entrenched in past hurts and not help us move forward with new skills, but maybe I was wrong about that… I’ll have to look at it again. Thank you for sharing what has worked for you. I really appreciate it.

      1. I think we’re both open to it, which is really what can make or break it. I had suggested it for years, but my husband wasn’t into it and would begrudgingly agree. So, I had him make the appointment, because I wasn’t going to drag him there.

        It’s definitely not all roses and I cry a lot, but he’s beginning to see how he reacts to me is completely dismissive and unproductive and that avoiding issues doesn’t actually make them go away. And I am learning a lot about myself (the focus has seemed to fall initially on me first) and that my people-pleasing, perfectionist tendencies are actually not assets, and that I kind of define myself by others, which is hard to realize, but I’m embracing it. We still argue and there are issues that we really need her help to navigate (inlaws), but I think we are learning how to be kinder and more accepting and how to back off and give each other space which is something we never did before. It feels good to be doing something productive instead of arguing the same argument about nothing and everything again.

  10. I hope if it’s not this one, then you’ll find a good retreat that helps you connect again. My husband and I went through a period like this before human kids, and we needed something like a year and a half or so of difficult conversations, sometimes fighting, sometimes silence, and much frustration before we found a new groove. Not an easy time at all.

    Now that we’ve added a new human to the family, the communication tools we learned and compromises we made to respect each other’s needs during that period has been instrumental to surviving new babyhood without taking our frustrations out on each other.

    I hope for the same for you. I know it’s not easy.

  11. I had an unexpected breakthrough in my interaction with my husband the other day.
    We are overall very good friends/roommates/coparents and like a lot of the same things (movies, books, TV shows); we are also well aligned in terms of how we want to spend money, leisure time, how we want to raise kids, etc. But we both need our space, and I need more and more of mine as I get older; I might be becoming a dude.
    We have been facing some issues with intimacy, and I came to a sudden realization that he’s bugging me with trying to romance/seduce me; it turns out I find it irritating, as yet another person who needs my emotional energy. However, I am happy to have sex as long as he’s not all makey-lovey about it; I am happy to fu*k, if we can skip the stupid cuddling (not stupid in general, but stupid to me, right now); it turns out, he’s happy to oblige, and if he weren’t going after the stereotypes that women always want more snuggling/cuddling/intimacy and was chasing me for the same, he would not have been increasingly getting on my nerves.

    It was a real breakthrough. As a result, we are now happy raising kids, indulging our individual hobbies, sharing entertainment, and having frisky sex. Less focus on forcing intimacy/getting connected turned out to be better — who knew?

    1. This is me. I told Brian the other day, “good god, it doesn’t have to last forever. Right now, all I want is a good quickie!”. He was stunned… And happy!

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