Many years ago I met a woman, Kim, and she was deliriously happy-in-love with her husband.
My husband, Russ, and I loved being with this couple because they were focused. Generous. Kind. Loving. And they laughed a lot.
Over the years that changed. Kim started getting frustrated with her husband. She let that frustration be felt, seen and heard by all those around her.
Russ and I no longer loved being around them; it was almost like the air around them had changed. Everything was tense. It felt horrible.
One time when just Kim and I were together, I probed and prodded her a bit about her marriage. Every word out of her mouth was a complaint.
She was bitter and angry that her man wasn’t doing more, being more, becoming more. She felt stuck with a man that was content to come home after work and crash in front of a screen for five hours while drinking beer.
She wanted more. How did she handle the situation? She pulled away from the marriage. She focused on their kids. That was as good as it was going to get, she told me.
As the kids grew and needed her less, she made the decision to work more. Her husband was someone she lived with. Barely.
Watching their marriage dissolve was painful. We were not that close of friends, but still, it was difficult to see, even from afar.
Imagine my surprise, when years later, we reconnected with this couple and they had completely changed.
They were back to the good ol’ days. They were totally and crazily smitten with each other.
Kim actually FLIRTED with her husband. They looked each other in the eye. They touched casually and often. They laughed and joked and well, I know this sounds odd, but it felt like they were ONE PERSON.
It was stunning.
My curiosity got the best of me; I finally pulled Kim aside and said, “What happened? Your marriage is so different now. What changed?”
Kim looked at me, shrugged, and said, “I realized that for years I had a lot of unmet expectations in my heart and soul. I wanted a lot and was receiving nothing that I wanted. I finally pulled back and assessed my life. I was clearly unhappy. I had signed up for marriage knowing it would be hard. But I didn’t know about the annoying and the frustrating parts. I ended up withholding a part of myself in our relationship because I felt like I had a long list of Things He Could Do Better and he wasn’t changing. I had to finally ask myself this huge question: could I love my husband exactly as he was?”
I watched her face. She was thoughtful.
She continued, “It really was a decision, Lori. I knew my husband wasn’t going to change. I had to decide to love him just where he was, unconditionally.”
I asked him how she did that, specifically.
“Many people love my husband. They see only his good points. I decided to do the same. When I look at him now I only focus on his good points.”
“Has that been hard?” I truly wanted to know.
She laughed, “Oh my gosh. If I would have known that it would have created this big of a change in my own life and in our marriage, I would have done this much earlier.”
I wanted to know what kind of changes she implemented. I mean, after all, she had been kinda b*tchy for many years. How does one change that kind of a thing?
She said she didn’t do much at first, she just started complimenting him. She started smiling at him, touching his arm casually.
And he instantly responded. Men are people, too. They feed off of love, just like we do.
Kim told me that they are still a work in progress, but that they are going on more dates. They are working on their relationship; she feels safe telling him some of her feelings. He is responding in amazing ways.
She felt happier than she had in years.
We sauntered back to our men; she smiled at her husband and he reached around and brought her close to him. Their joy in each other was almost palatable.
I was in total shock, yes, but also in awe.
I’ve been thinking about their relationship for months now. They had been incredibly unhappy and it had to do with unmet expectations. Once Kim released her husband from what she Deemed Life Should Look Like, and she started opening her heart and soul back up to him, their love sprang back to life.
It was almost like their marriage was a neglected plant stuck in the darkest corner of the house. No one watered it. It didn’t get any light. No wonder it was dying.
It took one spouse to say, “I need to spend some time on this. I need to tend to our marriage. I gotta water and fertilize and focus.”
It wasn’t that hard, Kim said, once she knew that the power was in her hands. And it brought forth life, real life. That life felt GREAT to be around.
So, if you have time and some free space in your head and heart, I invite you to sit back and reflect just a moment on your marriage.
I mean, if you and I actually want to Create a Beautiful Family Culture, we should probably spend some time on this most important relationship, right?
Some questions that I have been pondering:
I know that’s a lot to think about and it can be kind of overwhelming, especially as we think about all of the THINGS we have to do in our lives. After all, there are children to feed and water and bathe. We have laundry, shopping, school activities and church commitments. And more laundry.
But let’s stop being a slave to our busy. There is real beauty in the spousal relationship. Or there can be.
Are you with me? Wanna reconnect with your spouse?
Okay, so, how?
Father Sean Kilcawley, an amazing priest from Lincoln, Nebraska, was the speaker at The Night of Romance. (What is that? Well, it's a cool evening designed to help support marriages. It's sponsored every year by the Office of Marriage and Family Life in the Wichita diocese.)
Fr. Kilcawley gave some great advice to us; among other things, he encouraged us to get back to the awe and wonder of our married relationships.
Daily: 10 minute walk or mini-date with spouse
Weekly: 1 hour coffee date
Monthly: Proper date night.
Yearly: a weekend get-away
Wait. What are you supposed to do on those dates? Well, talk about what you talked about before you were married! Just go have fun. Rekindle the wonder.
Russ and I recently did this. We went on a proper date to Yia Yia’s Bistro. We set the parameters: No work talk, no kid talk. Whewee. It was funny to hear us. We kept mentioning a story about this or that child. And then we’d laugh. We finally just stopped thinking about the kids. We looked at each other. And remembered. Oh, you. Hello, you.
It was truly enjoyable.
So if you are at a good place in your marriage, begin implementing Father’s suggestions.
If you are at a harder stage, if your marriage looks more like a dead plant, I wanted to showcase Kim’s story to let you know that you CAN breathe new life back into married relationship.
What she did:
And it changed everything.
When we cease having expectations, we get everything.
Go enjoy your man. Look at him today. See him. Compliment him. Smile. Have some fun. Flirt. Yep, bring that girl back to the relationship. I double dog dare you.
On Thursday we will look at your “AT LAST” story.