I’ve rewritten this blog post many times in the past because I don’t even know how or where to begin without it being a lengthy novel. Marriages are hard, they are messy and complicated. And for some women marriage is the one thing they have been looking forward to all their lives. NOT ME! I never grew up playing house with my Barbie dolls or dreaming of what my perfect family would look like. I don’t know if it was because of my immigrant Filipino upbringing or just I didn’t “have the genes” for it, but I just didn’t. When I was younger I never imagine myself as a mother.
Jon and I got married young. I was 25 years old. Airis just turned 4 years old at the time we got married and even during our vows I thought, WOW here I am settling down, officially. When I found out I was pregnant with Airis, I didn’t want to get married right away, not because I didn’t think Jon was the one, but because we were complicating our young adult lives by having a baby before we got our own shit together. I guess in some way we both knew that we wanted to make sure that parenthood didn’t completely change the relationship we built together.
Fast forward to fall of 2015…life got messy! The fitness journey I started in 2013 began to evolve into a separate job on top of the full-time job I had at VSCO. My personal plate became really full between juggling my time between all the responsibilities I had: working at VSCO, our photography business, the friendships, and Bay Area Fitness community I was cultivating and growing, and of course family life! Between all of that my husband and I failed to communicate the needs of our marriage to one another.
We grew resentful of one another in a lot of different ways. My husband saw all of these things that I was finally pulling into my life and he didn’t want to acknowledge that he missed me dearly and missed bits and pieces of our old life pre fitness. We began to argue nearly non stop about the same things over and over again, it was getting old. For those of you who have been married for some time you know the feeling. We started marriage counseling at the beginning of 2016 and I won’t lie there were moments when we walked out of our sessions holding hands and other times when I wanted to take an Uber home. There were days I would go to work and cry early in the morning and cry in the dark before anyone would get into the office. After nearly 8 years of marriage, I thought, WTF…why haven’t we figured our shit out? Why does it still feel like we’re running in circles? After months of opening up the floodgates of what was driving our marriage to the brink of divorce, I had enough!
I left for my first speaking engagement, Nine Retreat, and at that time I thought to myself, how can I show up to these women and share my story when I’m totally broken in my marriage on the inside. This fitness journey that I embarked that I felt was supposed to help put my life together felt like a complete lie at the time. It was at Nine Retreat when I had opened up to other women about my marriage. It was like the veil of shame I had felt was being slowly lifted off with every conversation I had. There was no judgment, no expectation of being a perfect woman or wife, and it was everything I needed to start finding the answers to help our marriage. I came back home from Nine Retreat, a new woman realizing that if I wanted to save our marriage I needed to put in some work and to be open, honest, and authentic about my feelings.
ADMIT THE MISERY
Oooohhhh…yes, I went there. Admit the misery. It’s a hard one to face, but when your marriage or relationship is facing some hard times the first thing you need to do is admit that it’s happening.
Counseling allowed us to acknowledge the reasons why we were here facing this fork in the road. We stopped spending time with one another. The stresses of life were chipping away at the meaningful connection we had. We chose to focus on the busy-ness of our lives instead of seeing what was causing each other pain. We stopped talking with each other and only spoke to each other. Yes, we talked about our day to day, but it was merely for exchanging information rather than exchanging thoughts, dreams, and passions.
When I got back home from Nine Retreat, I wanted to talk to Jon immediately and without a glass of wine. When we started to talk about our marriage the first thing that I said was, “Look I know we’ve had a really rough year and we’re both open to the idea of separation and working on our marriage, but I think we both need to make a decision on whether or not we’re going to work on it or get a divorce.” This was the starting point of really taking action. We each had to acknowledge our part in the misery and pain we were causing one another.
RECOGNIZE THE RELATIONSHIP IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR
We knew we loved each other, but we just didn’t know how to live together anymore. Years of parenting, owning a business, and just the everyday busy-ness of adult life made it really hard for us to maintain that young love we once had. I never wanted to stay married just because we became parents, it’s not my style nor my belief. I wanted to be married to someone because they were my life partner. After we took some time to admit the misery of our marriage we were able to see and recognize that the relationship was worth fighting for.
OPEN AND HONEST COMMUNICATION
Although this seems like a no-brainer this is probably the hardest and most important lesson to learn and to practice in any relationship. It takes a lot of work, vulnerability, and courage. We had to learn to speak our truth without fear of judgment from the other person, and this was new territory for us as a couple.
First and foremost we began to learn how to open up the messy conversations we were about to have with one another by stating things like “Babe…you may not like what I have to say and in no way am I trying to hurt your feelings, but (insert messy conversation and truth here).” And it took practice for both of us to not only hear what the other person was saying but to also let our guards down so we can accept and embrace that the words were coming from a place of love.
BE PROACTIVE IN SAYING SORRY
Showing remorse can be so hard when you’re hurt especially in a relationship that has endured so much pain and neglect. It’s easier to deflect the pain towards someone else and point the finger in an argument rather than letting your own guard down and say “I’m sorry.” But saying sorry is more than just expressing remorse. It’s about admitting responsibility for your actions and behaviors. This act of acknowledging what you did is the greatest sign of empathy and moving forward.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORT
Having marital or relationship issues can feel extremely shameful. As a culture marriage is seen as that badge of honor of adulthood. It’s that mark of success of “figuring out” the life you’ve spent years trying to piece together. So it comes as no surprise that the moment you experience rough patches in your marriage, it feels very lonely. Despite knowing and hearing that everyone goes through it, it still feels isolating even in your group of friends.
Find the handful of people who are there to support you as a couple, as a unit. So many friends are willing to be there to support you as a person, but how many people can support you two as a couple. I found that having friends that were cheering us on as a couple was as important as admitting the misery. We needed friends who saw us as two people fighting for their marriage, not just one person trying to figure this whole relationship thing out.
REBUILD, RECREATE, AND RE-ESTABLISH
As things improved in our marriage we had to revisit what our relationship stood for, what our values were, and re-establish a new foundation of how we wanted to show up for our relationship. We decided that LOVE IS A CHOICE, NOT A COMMITMENT. Each day we have the choice to show up in our marriage, to be courageous and choose to love with honesty, integrity, and empathy. Just like everything in life the moment you understand and accept that no one can make you fall in and out love, just like no one can make you be healthy or unhealthy; the power is yours to create the type of love you want to thrive in.