Happily Ever After Is Possible, but It Requires an Epic Journey

It’s happened again. Another couple we’ve known and loved announced the big D-Word: Divorce.

As a child raised in a nuclear family around other nuclear families, divorce was a word we heard on TV. It was almost akin to the cuss words my parents muted whilst watching films like “Hook.” Sure, I knew a few kids at school whose parents had split, but that wasn’t close. That wasn’t real.

As an adult, however, my perspective is quite different. Why? Well, frankly, because that ol’ D-Word has come up in conversation with my own spouse. As in, applied to us. As in, “What; do you want a divorce?”

Mature, I know.

Now, divorce is not always a villain. It is often a very good idea. I have a close friend for whom The Split was necessary for the welfare of herself and her children, and that was mostly from an emotionally abusive aspect.

In other cases, however, I can see it for what it is: giving up early.

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My husband and I know this because we chose to fix our relationship. We chose counseling, to try and follow the counseling, and to try to work on us every day. And believe me, it’s not like the movies. If we don’t do our ‘homework,’ the counselor’s advice does not work.

Countless hours and advice and helpful correction has helped enlighten me. I’ve realized that love goes through stages. From my own perspective, they are:

  1. The Honeymoon Stage. When you’re dating, flirting, or first married you don’t have to really try to love. I thought the husband and I didn’t have this going into marriage because we dated a while and knew each other pretty well. Believe me; we still did.
  2. I’m making these up, but I’d call this The First Itch. The wife sees an old friend or a new boss. Husband sees a hot young thing at the office. You’ve still got your good looks and vitality and someone else seems interested. You still love your spouse but the attention is sure flattering. And tempting.
  3. Mid-marriage slump. Remember when I said I didn’t think we had that first stage? I know we did, because we’ve entered this third period with definite feelings of dislike at times. The love that came naturally, the one that simmered in the background all the time -even while we had newlywed fights- is absent. Why? Because we are not trying to feel it.
  4. I’d guess that one or two other stages come next, like Midlife Crisis and Reconnection. I’m not positive since we’re not there yet.
  5. Acceptance and Mature Perspective. I think this is the age we all hope to get to, the one older couples are at. They’ve seen all the warts, moved past all the warts, and decided the warts are not what matters after all. They’re mature and their love is mature.

As the number of divorces climbs to a point of shrugged acceptance, I see patterns of behaviors in those who choose it. Most often the pattern is that one or both parties wants the constant feeling of Stage 1. When love isn’t exciting or doesn’t just happen any more, surely that means they are “out of love.” Surely that means “we just drifted apart” or “we realized we didn’t have much in common after all.”

I know an older couple who raised seven children together and went through a #2 Stage after #3. What happened? She forgave him. He repented, reformed, and is a much different husband to her now. They literally have little in common regarding shared interests but they sit by each other holding hands, each with his own set of headphones, each watching his own show on his own television.

Now that there is love.

C’mon, people. Try harder. Stop looking at Happily Ever After stories as fantasy. They’re not. You just may need to slay a few dragons or journey to find the lost stone before you’ll (again) win that princess.

It’s not easy. It’s not. You both have to work. You both have to know what’s most important. You both have to think a little bit about the future. I mean, do you really want to end up with only a trail of broken relationships to look back on; or do you want to share retirement (and possibly grandchildren) with a sweet, old person who understands you?

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—————

Here’s what I wrote this past week:

Sunday, May 19: My procrastinating son inspired me to write “Special Projects Take a Lot of Time and Mess.”

Monday, May 20: Wrote “A Poem, I Think.

Tuesday, May 21: Shared a quote by James Baldwin.

Wednesday, May 22: Suggested fancifying your food for littles.

Thursday, May 23: “Don’t Forget Your…,” a snippet about my forgetful boys.

Friday, May 24: “Mom, What Can I Do?,” a post about taking a quick hour for your kids.

Saturday, May 25: Shared TwinzerDad‘s tweet about being an example, technically on Sunday.

Sunday, May 26: That’s today!

 

Photo Credits:
Henry Hustava
Hannah Busing
Marisa Howenstine

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

Selfish Selflessness

Being a mother is like being between a rock and a hard place, especially if the rock is a petrified piece of carpet food and the hard place is the mother of all Lego bricks.

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We live a daily life of conflicting messages:

Cuddle your child but don’t smother him.

Teach your children to stick up for themselves but to be kind.

Help them understand that feelings and emotions are healthy, yet don’t psychologically screw them up by being anything but upbeat.

Know where they are so they don’t get mugged; why are you such a helicopter parent?

Spread out the responsibility of the chores but do not demand too much of your offspring.

Maintain a schedule but be a fun mom.

Put the husband, children, house, pets, and community as the first priority; make sure you spend time on you.

We feel the need to be selfless -no!- we are forced into selflessness that very instant the baby is out and cannot even live without minute-by-minute care. The bond of servitude begins forming as the baby does, but is shackled in place upon his birth.

Whether a mother is a good mother or not; she is, henceforth and forever, tied to another soul.

This arrangement wouldn’t be so bad if we were more like other mammals. Horses are full-grown by about age four. The blue whale comes in a bit longer at 10 years old.

We’re not going to talk about the elephants ’cause they have it worse than we do.

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The point is that we maintain this forever selfless connection up till our child is grown and out of the nest. Even then, we stick around to help move furniture or post bail. Understandably, mothers are not able to be more selfish. If we are, we feel guilty for it.

What if your insecure teenage daughter runs away while you’re at a party with adult friends? What if you let your son ride his bike to the theater, only to learn that he crashed and is calling you from the hospital? What if a nosy neighbor calls Child Protective Services because your escaping toddler made it down the block to the park again? And, what if your husband cheats on you with his younger, more fun, unattached coworker while you were swimming in this selfless bubble he helped place you in?

See what I mean? Rock and hard place. They’re not some sort of yin-yang thing, you know.

I wish I had an easy answer for anyone feeling this way, but I don’t. I’ve been able to spend more time on me this past year, but that is primarily due to my children growing older and us having enough money to try counseling services and emotional doctoring.

do have practical steps you can take; the ones I’ve tried for the last two years:

  1. First, I joined a young mother’s group at a local Christian church. They referenced some religious topics but mostly strove to be somewhere for moms to go and be supported.
  2. I also started personal counseling. Not far into it, I started marital counseling with my husband. Both have been vital.
  3. I looked into a few emotional health concerns by trying hormones. A regular doctor advised against continuing with some, but what I learned about vitamins and hormone balance was useful.
  4. Every day for nearly 9 months, I exercised.
  5. I made appointments with people for specific days we would go out to lunch. Sometimes I paid and sometimes they did.
  6. I visited a real, live person at least once a week.
  7. I started a blog, and wrote every day. I started a second blog to discuss what was bugging me (you are reading it).
  8. Through what we’ve learned in counseling, I have asked for what I need and tried not to feel guilty taking it. My husband has toned down his disapproving looks and stepped right up when I ask.
  9. I’ve made life goals and told myself I will achieve them.
  10. I’ve made a list of ten things I did to help combat the impotent feelings of motherhood.

If you are feeling trapped between carpet food and Lego-hood, don’t give up. Things really do get better, as cliché as that sounds. Try my list or make your own. If you can do nothing else, I encourage anyone and everyone to find a good counselor and do what s/he says.

Get out of your rut and take control of the direction of your life, and I will too.

 

Photo Credit:
Aleks Dahlberg
Casey Allen

The Maid

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I always thought I wouldn’t have to clean the house when I grew up.

Not ever doing chores again was pretty much the only plan I had for my future. I also planned on having a prestigious career -that wouldn’t have ANY tedious parts to it.

This may be why motherhood has failed to engage my interests.

I doubt I’m alone, here. Why; just a few months ago, my husband said something similar. He’d really been trying to help around the house after work for a day or so when he had an epiphany. After sitting down on the couch, he turned to me and stated, “I think I know why I don’t really like doing housework. It’s just not that interesting to me.”

How should I have responded?

A. No, duh!
B. What a smart observation, honey! Let me fetch you your pipe and slippers and I’ll do all the housework while you catch up on your newsfeed (as usual).
C. *Laugh* I don’t think anyone enjoys housework. You still need to do it.
D. How right you are! Let’s never do it again and escape to Bermuda!

Your chosen answer is a good indication of your marital relationship. I happen to know that I should have picked E. *Put on authentic, commiserating face; full of love* I hear your concerns. Thank you so much for helping these last few days; It’s really meant a lot to me.

Instead, of course, I picked C. My laugh may have been categorized as sarcastic and derisive, and my rejoinder may have smacked of an insinuation that he was trying to get out of work.

Our interactions are why we’re in marriage counseling.

So…. who’s going to pick up the floor? Me? Him? Children? A maid service?

I tried all of those. We all know how he and I clean, and how effective child labor is. The service was even more disappointing than trying to motivate myself. They charge you at least $20/hr for light cleaning. They will not pick up your clothes, wash your dishes, or remove the crap from the floors before vacuuming. That meant that every other week, I scrambled to clean for the maid.

Unless you can afford full-time staff, a cleaning service should be used in addition to regular tidiness.

Dangit.

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Remember when your parents said you had to pick up your room before you could play? Who knew they were talking about the rest of our lives?

No matter what; life is a never-ending pile of unmatched socks, dirty dishes, dusty furniture, crummy floors, pee-stained toilets, wrinkled beds, messy bedrooms, weedy flower beds, fingerprinted glass, marked walls, stinky garbages, rotting fridges, empty pantry shelves, misplaced lunchbags, and unwashed bodies.

No wonder the rising generation is opting to stop rising and sit back down. I want to join them.

 

unsplash-logoJennifer Burk
unsplash-logoJeremy Perkins