Stu and I are in a great place right now. I don't think we have been this close in a long time. As I have mentioned, or alluded to, in previous posts, we have battled our share of stress. Stress for us has come in the form of financial troubles, outsiders thinking they are more important than they are, outsiders behaving inappropriately with my husband, and more, but those are the big ones. These stresses have caused a major riff between me and Stu.
I read somewhere that the problem in relationships is "unmet expectations." Everything else (stress, cheating, divorce, fighting, etc.) is a result of unmet expectations. I could not agree more with this. (Read this article, it's fantastic. It'll change the way you look at your problems.) And Stu and I became so disjointed we were never telling the other what our expectations were/are. The lack of communication is like adding fuel to a pile of wood. One little spark and the whole thing goes up. Then a simple problem (the little spark) is now a wildly out of control fire.
Stu and I have been seeing a counselor for several years. It helps me to talk (or yell) about things. It helps us to talk to each other when there is a moderator. A third party was invaluable to us for a long time. We needed someone else to keep us on track in conversations. We needed someone to make sure the other was heard.
For us, I think our biggest issue was that we weren't looking to each other for help. We had almost turned our backs to each other. We spoke to each other during the day only out of pure necessity, like "What's for dinner?" "Where are the kids?" "Take out the trash." We were no longer friends - we were roommates.
It was awful.
Our biggest challenge has been putting each other first. We had to reset our definitions of marriage, of family, of being a spouse. We learned each other's needs and wants. Most importantly, we learned how to talk to each other.
In the beginning, we were forced to spend time together (yes, forced). During our hang out time, we had to avoid anything stressful - no talk of money or whatever the hot button issue was right then. I'll be honest, it was awkward at first. It's like going on a date with someone you aren't sure you even like but who knows a lot about you, has seen you naked and vulnerable.
But it worked. Each time it got less and less difficult to suffer through. Eventually it was enjoyable.
We have made it to a point where we put the other first. Are we perfect? HA! Not even close. But, we are trying.
Our friendship is back intact. We talk all the time now. And because we have made it a point to spend so much time focusing on the good, it is easier to have the hard talks. Those stress topics don't derail us.