Well, let’s find out together as Christopher D. Connors, an expert on Emotional Intelligence, sits down for a conversation with The Evolving Nest to discuss what an emotionally intelligent marriage looks like in 2020.
Christopher D. Connors is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader and The Value of You. He is a keynote speaker, executive coach and business consultant that works with leaders at Fortune 500 companies, sports organizations, schools and universities. His writing has appeared in CNBC, Quartz, World Economic Forum, Virgin Media, Thrive Global and Medium. Christopher is happily married to his beautiful wife and is the proud father of three amazing, rambunctious baseball-loving boys. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit him: http://chrisdconnors.com
Mr. Connors references a talk that Brené Brown presented on “empathy.” Brené Brown, Ph. D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is known world-wide for her work on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is also a gifted story-teller. There are numerous versions of her talk on empathy available online and due to copyright laws, The Evolving Nest encourages you to search for them on Youtube or on Brené Brown‘s website.
I so hope you enjoy The Evolving Nest’s conversation with Christopher D. Connors,
Lisa hopes to share life’s stories through the ever-changing platform she founded, called The Evolving Nest. She writes and shares insights about her own triumphs and struggles during her 30-year marriage to her husband and best friend. Together they have 3 growing children, two of which live 1,500 miles away most of the year, and an adult son with autism who has the run of the upstairs to himself. Lisa also contributes to Her View From Home, various podcasts, and of course, her own website, The Evolving Nest.
Remember the early days of your relationship with your spouse?
Anticipation around next steps
Long conversations as you got to know each other
Excitement over your potential future
Today, if you are like me, you and your partner are mere versions of your younger selves, focused now on things like:
Raising your children
Meeting financial goals
Addressing health needs
Tackling career aspirations
Taking care of household tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning
Trying to complete those never ending “to do” lists
The reason so many couples find themselves feeling distanced from each other at this stage of life is simple—We all have a tendency to put our romantic relationship on the back burner after marriage because we think all of the other needs and responsibilities are more pressing.
The kids need you. Work needs you. Your aging parents need you. The youth sports teams need you. Your friends need you. Your house needs you.
After all, this is the person you are spending the rest of your life with, so they will always be there beside you. It’s okay to put your relationship on the back burner right now. How exciting will it be to spend your golden years of retirement with them?
What if you never get to enjoy those years? What if you make it to retirement but after spending decades focusing on others, you realize that you no longer know your partner. Worse yet, what if you realize that you no longer like each other? What if something terrible happens and you don’t get to make it to retirement age?
Sure, putting things on the proverbial back burner can work for a little bit. But, what happens if you leave something on the actual back burner? Eventually it dries out, maybe burns, and becomes a failure.
Marriages are the same.
It’s time to take your relationship off the back burner and start nurturing it now, before it’s too late.
Here are 9 ways to reconnect with your spouse and put the focus back on your relationship without compromising your other responsibilities:
1. Date your partner I cannot stress enough the value of dating your partner. While you may not be able to afford to hire a babysitter for at least one night each month, you can certainly find a way to creatively date your partner.
Maybe it means taking a day off from work during the day while kids are at school or at grandmas house so you can be alone. Maybe it means working out together at the gym while the kids are in the child care room. Maybe it means simply shutting off the tv, ignoring the dishes, and having a date at home after the kids go to bed. Maybe it means using your money to pay for a sitter and then having an inexpensive date while you walk around Target together.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, romantic, or cost money. You just need to make time for the two of you.
2. Hold staff meetings You and your partner are essentially running a business. You’re managing a household and that inevitably means there are things like bills, repairs, and maintenance that need to be addressed. If you have children and/or pets, then you also have medical appointments and logistical considerations for others. Let’s not forget about things like laundry, meal prep, shopping, and cleaning.
Would you ever expect a company to run effectively without having some type of formal and consistent check in?
Marriages are the same. Schedule 30-minutes each week to check in with each other on the business aspects of your relationship. This can be a great time to compare calendars, identify breakdowns in communication, plan for next steps, and highlight accomplishments and sources of pride. You can also combine this with a date night — just make sure it’s only a portion of the date!
3. Don’t expect mind reading So often we fall into the trap of expecting our partner to know us so well that they know what we are thinking and what we need. That’s not fair to your partner or to you.
Communicate your needs with your partner. If you come home expecting your partner to have started dinner but you never asked for that to happen, it’s not fair to then be angry or hurt that it didn’t happen.
Don’t let missed opportunities for communicating your needs lead to built up resentment.
4. Learn your love language So often members of a couple feel as though their partner is not showing them love. In reality, though, they aren’t speaking their partner’s love language.
My partner may bring me flowers and little gifts, thinking that I know it means he loves me. But, we have learned that Gift Giving is not one of my love languages. Instead, Acts of Service (things like unloading the dishwasher or making a doctor’s appointment for the kids or taking out the trash) make me feel loved.
Get on the same page with each other by reading Dr. Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts so you not only know how to recognize your partner’s expression of love for you but so that you can also more effectively show love to your partner.
5. Take a couple’s vacations Once you’ve been able to make date nights or date days a priority, the next step is to find a way to take vacations together. This could be a big vacation like a few nights in the Caribbean or traveling through Europe or it could mean you rent an AirBnb or cheap hotel room the next town over for one night.
The location doesn’t matter; what matters is that you have the opportunity to step out of your everyday life just the two of you and reconnect away from the normal routines.
6. Try new things together Remember what it was like going through all the firsts in your relationship? There is something exciting about experiencing something new with your partner and we lose that spark the longer we’ve been together.
Consider taking up new hobbies or trying new things together. The options are limitless- golfing, dance lessons, hiking, reading a new book together, trying a new restaurant together.
The actual thing you do doesn’t matter. The key is for it to be something new for both of you.
7. Do things that your partner enjoys It’s very rare that two members of a partnership enjoy all of the same things. Is there something that your partner enjoys that you find extremely boring? Find a way to try to do some of those things with your partner.
Learn that video game they love to play. Go to the concert of the band they really like. Go to that Indian restaurant even though you don’t like that type of cuisine.
Make them feel valued by showing an interest in the things that make them happy.
8. Physical connections Don’t wait for there to be a natural physical spark between the two of you. With kids and work and responsibilities and pressures and competing schedules, it’s very likely that by the time the two of you reach your bed at the end of the day, the last thing you have the energy for is sex. Those are exactly the times when you need to make a priority though.
What would happen if the next time you found yourself with a fleeting thought of physical connection, you actually pursued it and put sleep or that pile of laundry off for a little bit longer?
What kind of impact would it have on your relationship if your put physical connection a bit higher up on your list of priorities?
9. Lean into each other, not away When things get hard many couples lean away from each other. They complain and vent to their friends when their partner does something hurtful or irritating. They ignore opportunities to communicate directly with each other about concerns, instead leaving their relationship open to built up feelings of resentment and anger.
Lean into each other during those difficult times. Have those challenging and uncomfortable conversations with each other.
It’s what we do in almost all other aspects of our life, right? We have difficult conversations with our children, our friends, our coworkers, other parents on the sidelines at our kids games, and even strangers on social media. So, why won’t we do it with our partners? Is it maybe because we are leaving our relationship on the back burner, assuming we’ll have time to address it in the future?
The time to strengthen your marriage is now and you can find ways to reconnect meaningfully with your partner without taking your attention away from the other important relationships in your life.
Wouldn’t those younger versions of yourselves want you to make your marriage a priority now?
According to numerous studies, and every article I’ve read, or podcast guest I’ve had that shares their expertise on relationships, a happy marriage is a spousal expression of gratitude.
Not so much.
Gratitude is simply measured as the degree to which individuals felt appreciated and valued by their spouse and acknowledged when they did something nice for their spouse.
So, it really goes back to the power of thank you. By simply showing gratitude, couples can overcome negative communication patterns in their relationships that might be a stressor.
Okay, let’s break this down by simply saying, “It’s throwing your spouse/partner a bone”. Doesn’t that sound romantic?
Maybe they mowed the lawn or did the laundry on a day that you really needed it to be done and you didn’t have to ask. Bingo…right there. Just a simple “thank you.”
I certainly pulled the gratitude card from the box one night years ago. Before I even dig into this story, I have to tell you that I married my college sweetheart. It was love at first sight…..or the second kiss….one of those….and we’ve been married for twenty-seven years.
I was gearing up for an event that had taken months and months of planning. And in usual, Amy-fashion, I was the Chairperson of this gala. The performers and entertainment were lined up, the DJ was in place, the emcee had a handle on the financial goal for the event, and we were off.
And for those of you that can relate….we were off and running. From set up in the morning, until getting the sitter arranged for the kids overnight. It was a marathon day.
I had my hair done, my nails done, and my eyebrows waxed, which at that point in my life was the trifecta of self-care. Everything seemed to be aligned as the perfect storm for romance, or was it?
The night went off without a hitch. The auction made more money than previous years, the dance floor was filled to capacity even when the DJ went on the break, the lines to the bars were moving, and the checkout process was running smoothly.
My husband had booked a room at the hotel for the night several months before. This wasn’t my first rodeo running an event, and it wasn’t his first time seeing me try to rock four-inch heels, and by the end of the night, he knew I’d be exhausted. I could almost picture the end of the night, removing the hundred hairpins out of my updo, peeling off my Spanx, followed by the not so graceful plop into bed.
I’m sure when my husband booked the room, he figured he’d be ‘gettin lucky’. A night away…no kids…
This was the perfect night for romance. No kids to worry about. No deadlines to meet. No committees to run, all the details and logistics stress was over. I could come up for air and relax.
During the evening, I flitted around from table to table to make sure that everyone was taken care of, and all of their needs were met. I made sure that the waitstaff had every detail covered and the dessert would be served just as the live auction kicked off.
I can remember my husband grabbing my arm at one point during the night and saying, “Honey, this is amazing.”
I also can remember in that moment, saying a quick, “Thanks,” and then I was off to take care of someone or something else. It wasn’t a look you in the eyes kind of thank you. It was a mere brush-off—of “Yea, thanks.”
As the evening came to a close, and the tables were cleared, the checkout lines were empty, and the committee members had left for the night. I remember having my heels in hand and walking over to my husband, who was patiently waiting for me, sitting at a table filled with empty wine glasses, wilted flowers, and candles burned to the last bit of wax.
I knew if I sat down, I’d never get up and would fall asleep in the chair, so we left the ballroom and headed upstairs to our room for the night. I can remember walking to the elevator with his arm wrapped around me, holding me up.
We got to our floor, and as we opened the door, it wasn’t that wedding night moment of my husband carrying me over the threshold, but two exhausted people, one with his bow tie untied and shirt unbuttoned, and one frantically taking her pins out of her hair and removing her sparkly earrings that felt like weights tugging at her earlobes.
It was almost as if we were in a race to see who could hit the pillow first.
It was at that moment, that exhausted moment of flopping into bed, that I realized my efforts of pleasing everyone at the event and checking every box, paled in comparison to the love and support my husband had given me through the planning and execution of this gala over the course of that past year.
He was the one I hurriedly brushed off when he grabbed my arm to simply say, “You’re doing great.” There were far too many times over the years that I’d taken my husband for granted. He’s seen me on my best days and certainly my share of not so good days.
There wasn’t any hot and heavy romance that night. I curled up next to him and before we could finish a sentence, we were asleep.
Amy Schmidt is an award winning podcaster, best-selling author, public speaker, TEDx Speaker, blogger and founder of the brand, Fearlessly Facing Fifty™. She launched her business and brand six months before turning 50. Her mission is to encourage women over forty to push fear aside and find that hidden treasure of confidence, that may have been pushed aside for awhile and not let this time of life allow them to lose their identity. Amy is committed to challenging the narrative at midlife from crisis to opportunity. Amy’s weekly podcasts have an audience that continues to grow at record speeds reaching thousands every week. Her interviews arm you with insight and value, leave an imprint on your heart, and inspire you to take action. Amy uses her personal storytelling and authentic self to empower women to take charge of their life in the middle, at a time when women can begin to feel invisible. Amy’s podcasts inspire women to step outside their comfort zones, and is as approachable and genuine as what you read in her book. Amy offers a variety of workshops on The Power of Mentorship, Intro to podcasting, and Cannonballing with confidence. She is the real deal. Amy has a trusted following and built a community around inspiring others. Her work has been published in Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy, Today Parents, and many others. She is a regular contributor on numerous syndicated talk shows, and loves sharing her story to inspire others. Amy loves to connect with her followers and encourages emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on socials. Fearlessly Facing Fifty on Facebook, and Instagram: Amy.K.Schmidt
After working with many women and men who’ve had affairs, I have found a common thread that runs throughout their stories…they all had a need that was not being met by their spouse, typically over a long period of time, and it felt good to finally feel fulfilled.
In my experience, maintaining intimacy, both physical or emotional, has been one of the primary needs lacking with couples, and ultimately leaves one or both partners vulnerable to an affair.
Most experts agree, intimacy is not only important, it is essential. Intimacy plays a major role in a person’s emotional connection with their partner.
So, identifying both your partner’s primary needs and your needs will help you both develop a habit of meeting each other’s needs, and that is where my 5 steps come in. They are designed to give you the opportunity to discover each other’s needs and communicate how to fulfill them.
I also recommend reading the book His needs Her needsby Dr. Willard J. Harley and The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. When either spouse’s needs go unmet, over time, it can leave that spouse venerable to the deception of infidelity.
Here is a list of suggestions you can implement to protect your marriage. They will act as a barrier between your marriage and infidelity.
5 Ways to affair-proof your marriage
Communication– Open and honest communication with your partner is an important step in establishing an intimate connection. I recommend setting a goal of spending at least 30 minutes every day, in uninterrupted conversation, with your spouse. Share your struggles and your victories. This will set the atmosphere for intimacy and create a sense of “I’m valued” and you matter to each other.
2. Keep the intimate details of your marriage personal- Don’t confide in the opposite sex about personal struggles in the marriage or even your life in general. This part of your heart should be shared with only your spouse. This will foster friendship, intimacy, and trust.
3. Recognize when you’re starting to have negative thoughts- Don’t let negative self talk about your spouse ruin how you feel about them. Realize he or she isn’t perfect, and mistakes will be made. Allow room for error, and offer mercy and grace when your feelings get hurt. Don’t hold unforgiveness against them—have tools and resources in place to move forward quickly.
4. Date night– It’s important to have time for just the two of you. Try to plan a date night at least twice a month and use this time to reconnect with each other.
5. Keep watch– Keep watch over your heart. If at any time you feel like you are drawn to someone, then ask yourself what you are missing at home? If you’re feeling you have needs that are no longer being met by your spouse, please talk to your spouse about what’s missing in your relationship. Sometimes couples need a marriage therapist to facilitate this. Do not hesitate to find a licensed marriage therapist in your area.
Infidelity is an enemy of marriage, and its only goal is to destroy. It not only harms the marriage but the individuals as well. The good news is that it does not have to wreak havoc in a couple’s life forever—my husband and I are living proof that couples can heal from infidelity.
There is a process of healing, and for committed couples, it works and brings them freedom from the consequences of infidelity.
To find more about healing from infidelity, go to https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com and connect with Stacey Chenevert
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*Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment or consultation with a mental health professional. Please note, The Evolving Nest and Women with Scars Affair Recover do not have an affiliate marketing relationship.
My name is Stacey Chenevert and I’m a relationship coach specializing in Affair Recovery. I’m also the founder of Women with Scars Affair Recovery. https://womenwithscarsaffairrecovery.com Eight years ago I had an affair and it nearly destroyed my life and my marriage. So trust me when I say I know what it is like to suffer in silence, wondering if you’ll ever be able to get over the affair and save your marriage. Looking back now, I can say that the journey to recovery was hard but it was worth the fight. My marriage is fully healed and we thank God for the wisdom he gave us. Now my heart and my mission are to help other women who’ve had an affair find healing for themselves and their marriages without the fear of judgment, as they learn to live beyond the affair.
If you could go back in time to give yourself advice before getting married, what would you say? Chances are, there’s probably a lot that you would tell yourself to do or not to do. I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk much about what to expect in marriage. Everybody knew that when you got older, you’re just supposed to find a job, get married, and then have kids.
A lot easier said than done.
I wish I knew that being married would mean dying to myself every day and putting my spouse first. I wish I knew that being married would be one of the hardest things I experience because I’m tested and tempted each day. I wish I knew being married isn’t about finding the right person but being the right person.
You may not be able to change your thinking from the past, but you have that opportunity to do so now for the future of your marriage and also as you teach your future generations on what this sacred covenant really means.
Whether you need the reminder or are giving advice to a loved one headed for the altar, here are 10 pieces of advice for a happy and healthy marriage.
Work on being a better version of yourself
The key to a better marriage is by being a better you. You are the only person you can control. Become the type of person you want to attract. And while it’s important to find the right person, it’s also just as important to be the right person. You can’t give your best to your future spouse if you aren’t your best.
2. You’re not always right
And it’s okay to be wrong! That’s how you learn and grow. When you want to be right all the time, you’re only allowing yourself to see one possibility instead of seeing all the possibilities together. You don’t win anything being right all the time, it will actually end up doing more damage to your marriage than you think.
3. Master the art of apologizing
Own the mistakes you make and apologize sincerely. We all make mistakes and do stupid things, so take responsibility for your actions and apologize. And sometimes just saying I’m sorry won’t be good enough. Be specific in your apology. Admit your fault, take responsibility for your actions, ask for forgiveness, and then ask what you can do to prevent this from happening again.
4. Learn to actively practice forgiveness
You and your spouse will be apologizing to each other for the rest of your lives. One of the hardest things you’ll need to learn is to become an excellent forgiver. Stop holding grudges and keeping score. When you learn to forgive more often, you release yourself from constantly feeling chained. Forgiveness opens the door for change and growth.
5. Continue to date each other after marriage
Just because you got them, doesn’t mean they’ll stay. By dating each other and continuing to build emotional intimacy, you are building a strong foundation for your marriage. Going on dates creates the memories that you look back on and remember why you fell in love in the first place. It’s okay to schedule your date nights too, it’s all about being intentional.
6. Learn to manage your money
When you get married, you and your spouse’s finances will be combined. There should be no secrets because you will be sharing your debts, bank accounts, and credit. If you don’t learn to manage your money right now, it’ll only get worse after you get married. Your money habits that you have when you’re single will transfer over to become your money habits in marriage. If you have toxic spending patterns, you need to address that and resolve your own money issues before being responsible for someone else’s. Get smart with your money.
7. Don’t bring your childhood baggage into the marriage
The reason why we act and think the way we do is largely because of how we were raised. When you face conflict, look for clues that explain why your significant other acts in the way they do. Did something happen to them as a child to make them feel this way? Your marriage is not the same as your parent’s marriage, whether it was good or bad. Your spouse is innocent from all of that. You must start fresh and new with your spouse.
8. Love and respect yourself
How you treat yourself will determine how you allow others, including your spouse, to treat you. When you love and accept yourself, flaws and all, there’s no chance that anyone else would treat you with disrespect. Know who you are and how much you’re worth.
9. Throw everything you think you know about marriage out the window
You’re going to build your marriage with your spouse. You two get to define what that means and how your relationship will look like. It’s good to learn about marriage by reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching informative videos. But be careful not to idolize a relationship, whether it be fictional or real, and create unrealistic expectations for yourself and your marriage.
10. There’s a time for everything
There’s a reason why you’re still in this season. Learn everything you can from it, and do not be so anxious for tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
*If you’re not connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section.Please note, The Evolving Nest does NOT have an affiliate marketing relationship with DiscoveringWE
My name is Tiffany and I’m the founder of Discoveringwe.com. One of my passions in life is helping wives, specifically newlywed wives, learn to thrive in their marriages. The first few years of marriage can be tough, so I’ve made it a mission of mine to provide resources to inspire hope, healing, and happiness and to help women who need a little encouragement when building their marriage foundation. My marriage, like all marriages, is not perfect but through my own self-discovery, I’ve learned what I need to do as a wife to love and support my husband so we can create the marriage we’ve always wanted. Although my focus has always been on newlywed wives, I’ve received messages from women in all walks of marriage life who have found DiscoveringWE a helpful resource in their marriages. Once you get married, it’s not all about “ME” anymore, it’s about discovering “WE”.
I am having an affair.I should feel very, very guilty … but I don’t. He’s a married father of three. I’m also married with three children. I happen to know his kids very well. In fact, I’ve known his wife my whole life. She is me, I am her. I’m having an affair with my husband.
It’s strangely quiet in our house this week while ALL of our children are gone. Our oldest recently moved south for his first job after college graduation and it’s going well for him. Our second is up in Canada with one of his best buddies visiting his other good friend’s family. Our youngest is at her favorite place in the world, a week-long overnight camp an hour north of us.
We know all of our kids are safe and happy, soooo we can thoroughly enjoy these few days and nights that we have together. ALL BY OURSELVES. Did I mention that we’re ALONE? Good food, great wine, sweet music, and warm candlelight – we’re loving like we mean it.
We often wonder what we’ll talk about when the kids are completely grown up and not one of them is under our roof. If this week is any indication, it’s them. And we wonder, will we like each other? Yes we do. Yes, we most certainly do.
We’re approaching the thirty-first anniversary of the first time I fell for this guy I’m currently romancing. It was at a party about a month before he was leaving for college. We went on a date or two prior to that, but nothing serious. But THAT night, when he walked confidently through the front door of a friend’s home … I loved the way his shorts fit his waist and the look of his strong, tanned wrists. Truly! I’m not kidding!
We started dating exclusively after that fateful gathering, mostly long-distance because we attended universities in different states, but we married six years later on a snowy February afternoon.
We keep several shoeboxes of cards and notes to and from one another, sent during the painful stretches we had to be apart, and still add new love letters to the collection now, even though we’ve been together and sharing the same address for over two and a half decades.
Both my parents and my husband’s, had long-standing, rich marriages and without us even realizing it, modeled to he and I what a healthy, satisfying day to day relationship could look like. That’s a legacy that we prayerfully plan to hand down to future generations, starting with the dear souls that we’ve been raising, and pray that they each, often, have a married “affair” of their own.
I sometimes daydream about them and about our daughter and sons’ futures and who they might marry, then realize that God already has every minute of their days mapped out. Whenever I look at those three, my heart fills with joy and understanding. God knew from the very beginning of time that my love and I were going to belong together and that those precious ones were going to belong to us. He will work out the details, big and small, for them also.
I’m mindful that the tenderness and affection we have in our marriage can be rare and I’m grateful. I know that every day is a gift from God and I’m thankful. Our girl and our boys have grown at the speed of light and all of our lives are constantly changing. I could worry about tomorrow, but why? I’ll enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself.
And tonight, right now, I’ll light the votives, pour two glasses of cabernet, play our favorite album and place dinner on the table…my beloved is almost home.
“My beloved is mine and I am his… ” Song of Songs 2:16
Debbie Prather is a Christ-follower, wife, mother, and freelance writer. She and her husband celebrated thirty years of marriage in February 2020. Debbie is a bible study leader, community volunteer, and loves to connect heart-to-heart with those God places in front of her. She and her husband, Craig, adore their growing family, they’ve gained two daughters-in-law in the past two years, and Debbie shares her reflections on faith, grief, adoption, parenting, marriage, and injustice at https://742iloveyou.com/.
When we stood at the altar 30 years ago, and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later. I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).
When we meet couples who are on their second marriage, sometimes we feel like we can’t relate. After all, what do we have in common with them? But as Allen and I joke, we aren’t only on our second marriage, we are on our third…it just happens to be with the same person. Very different and also somewhat the same.
Our “Three Marriages” have been loosely marked by the decades we’ve been together. This past weekend, questions were posed to us by our Pastor when we were interviewed on stage at our church, “Tell us about the early years of your marriage. What came naturally… and what was a challenge for you? Any Points of Conflict?”
My answer to him was hard for me to say and even harder for me to hear out loud and share with the audience. However, it was worth telling because vulnerability breaks strongholds and provides undeniable freedom. (Sorry. I have kept you in suspense long enough with how I answered, so here goes.)
Our first Marriage was characterized by HIDING. We so longed to be the perfect Christians, the right kind of wife and/or husband, the ones everyone would look at and say, “We wish we could be just like them. They have it all together.” Needless to say, with this kind of pressure to perform, we hid from ourselves, our families, our church and mostly, from each other.
We had lots of manners, not a lot of meaning. Lots of talk, not a lot of truth. Lots of outer, not a lot of inner. During that time, we actually did NOT have a lot of CONFLICT(which probably made my conflict-avoiding, peace-loving husband a happy camper), but we also did NOT have a lot of CLOSENESS. And to be honest, it felt good.
Thank God He didn’t leave us there. It all “hit the fan” at the end of those 10 years.
Our first marriage came to an abrupt end. With the help of some friends, Allen took a huge risk and shared some of his “not-so-perfect” stuff with me. I would love to tell you that I returned his risk with the reward of kindness, understanding and grace. Not so much. His reward was judgment and anger. After all, I liked my perfect, cookie-cutter world, where we were “godly” people and had a picture-perfect marriage and family.
Over the next months, my heart began to slowly change.Allen’s risk affected me. I was free to explore the ways I was hiding, the “not-so-perfect” parts of me. For the first time in our marriage, I felt safe and free to share those things with him. If he wasn’t perfect, then I didn’t have to be either. What a relief!
This was the beginning of our second marriage, one characterized by a lot of HARD WORK. Transparency and authenticity came to the forefront and was mostly met with forgiveness, grace, and compassion, which required long talks and much conflict.
We plunged headlong into books on authenticity, life groups that offered mutual transparency and trust (we have a couples’ group and we each have our own group comprised of just men and just women), and fought for these everywhere in our life: each other, our kids, and our friends.
As that decade came to a close, and our second marriage felt fairly successful, God called us to another, even deeper level in our relationship with Him and with each other. With the help of a very safe and close-knit group of friends who regularly meet together and the decision to go to counseling, we found out that we “married the wrong person,” to quote Pastor Tim Lucas’ book on the subject.
We began a slow undertaking towards HEALING, wholeness (I MEAN SLOW), another marriage, our third. Our small group went on an inner journey together exploring our pasts and how those played into who we are today, for both good and bad.
Counseling revealed to us that we each had core wounds that affect most aspects of our lives and especially each other. That was tough. There was even one very scary night that stands out vividly in my memory.
We were lying in bed, seeing very little light at the end of the tunnel, and asked each other, “Will we make it? Is there any hope for us?” We actually weren’t sure and this made for a very dark time.
We pushed ahead with our group and with counseling. This journey for HEALING seemed endless. One evening during a session, we came right out and asked the question, “Do you see any hope for us? Is this normal, that it gets much worse before it gets better?”
Thankfully, our counselor answered with a resounding, “YES!” to both questions. That gave us the spark we needed to move (albeit slowly) forward.
We have found a few things during this time that have been huge for true HEALING in our marriage.
1. Working on our marriage without recognizing and working on our own individual brokenness is pointless. They go hand-in-hand.
2. Removing blame from each other for our own wounds is huge. Blame produces shame, shame begets blame and the cycle goes round and round (that might just be why our fights kept going in circles).
3. Neither of us is changing the basic core of who we are. We have each had to (and are continuing to) grieve the things about each other that we wish were different. To give you an example, I am just not a physical person and Allen’s highest love language is physical touch. Even if I set alarms on my phone to cuddle and hold his hand, it just doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s really sad for Allen. It might never change, no matter how hard I try. He is grieving what might never be. The hope we cling to is that at the end of the stages of grief lies acceptance and freedom. YAY! We’re slowly getting there. (Believe me, it’s not just one way. I’m grieving too, but not throwing Allen under the bus this time around.)
4. The journey is SLOW. There’s no way around it. It takes lots of time and needs the “long-view” approach. None of us can undo years of damage and bad patterns in days, weeks and even months. The good news is that this perspective calms hearts and gives the much-needed room for long-term growth and change.
5. The process requires struggle. It might be painful. There will probably be some conflict. It won’t be comfortable. On Wednesday, Allen reminded me of the image of a butterfly, my all-time favorite creature. Without the stage of the cocoon, there would be no transformation. Scientists tell us it looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis, kind of like caterpillar soup. Finally, after weeks of this and the butterfly is ready to emerge, it takes hours of struggle to get free and more hours of waiting to fly. The result is sheer beauty.
6. The other person is worth fighting for. Each of us longs to have true intimacy: being fully-known and fully-loved, naked and unashamed, as Genesis defines it. We want it for each other and for ourselves. This is the place where the most transformative healing can happen, inside true transparency and trust. This is the toughest and yet most rewarding path of all!
We wonder if we will have even another marriage, one where HIDING, HARD WORK, AND HEALING are over.
It actually sounds a little bit like HEAVEN to me!
Esther and her husband were interviewed by their pastor about the authenticity and transparency they have in their marriage today. The entire 51-minute video is excellent, (if you love This Is Us-you’ll love it) and the Goetz’s are interviewed at the 26-minute mark and last about 10 minutes. (Click “Here is the link”) HERE IS THE LINK
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Esther is a wife to one and a mom to four grown children (ages 20-28). She was born a missionary kid in war-torn Ethiopia, but has become a potato chip-eating, football-loving American, Christian wife and mom who has a fierce passion for marriage and family. She’s a little snarky, a little sappy, a little strong and hopefully more than a little Spirit-led. She’s been driven to her knees in prayer and to raise her hands in praise. She’s speaks words of hope and wisdom where the heart meets the home and faith touches the family. You can read more of Esther’s beautiful writings at the following: The Dolly Mama Blog, Instagram: Moms of Bigs, Instagram: The Dolly Mama, Facebook: Moms of Bigs, Facebook: The Dolly Mama
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”-Spartan.com
My wife and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, and I am chasing her tail with a renewed sense of vigor.
You see, in the last few months we’ve come to enjoy trail running together, and my wife usually sets the pace, which means her backside is my focal point—kind of like the pacesetting rabbit at the greyhound races.
So why take up an activity like this now? Having both passed the half-century mark, what possessed us to begin running up and down the hilly trails around town? To answer that, we need to go back 15 years…
Like many families, my wife Amy and I were busy with work and raising kids. We pursued an active lifestyle, coaching our kids’ athletic teams, and playing outside as often as we could. Amy and I were both raised in active families and just naturally continued that lifestyle with our children. However, we never had a formal “exercise regimen” as part of our schedule. Life had settled into a routine of sorts.
Then, I received a heart-wrenching phone call. Amy and the kids had gone to spend a couple of days with friends on the coast. Not long after she left she called me, and as I answered the phone she cried out, “We’ve been in a horrible car accident, and Andrew is dead.” Andrew is our oldest son. Within seconds she said, “Oh, he just jumped out of the car and is okay. Gotta go.” And then she just hung up…
It turned out they’d been slowing down on the highway to turn across traffic and were rear-ended, totaling the two cars they were in. Amy and the two younger children were in the first car, and Andrew was in the second. She assumed Andrew couldn’t have survived the accident based on the impact she felt in the lead car.
While our three children, aged 6, 4, and 1, and Amy had no visible injuries, it was clear to the paramedics that Amy was confused and was developing a headache and neck pain. She was transported to the hospital by ambulance, where she was evaluated and diagnosed with a concussion.
While Amy didn’t appear to be injured, she’d suffered a serious head injury, leaving her unable to remember how to use a phone book or even perform simple addition, much less any of her graphic design work. Her headaches were often debilitating, and we eventually discovered she had injured her neck as well, which would require a fusion a few years later.
As Amy struggled to recover, my responsibilities at home increased significantly. Life became simply about survival.
In order to keep up with work and a busy family schedule, we ate a lot of prepared meals and takeout. And exercise? It was non-existent.
Amy tried her best to keep up, but physically demanding activities were too much for her. I tried on multiple occasions to begin an exercise program but could not sustain a routine.
During that timeframe, we had the help of an excellent counselor. He warned us that 80% of marriages where one spouse has suffered a traumatic brain injury, end in divorce. To combat this, he impressed upon us the importance of maintaining good sleep patterns, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.
I can’t say that we really excelled in any of those areas, but Amy did make some major progress in recovery from her brain injury. We also hired a personal trainer and were working out as a family once a week. Plus, I was trying to work out on my own several days a week.
Then, four years ago, I flunked a life insurance physical. I was stunned.
Sure, I was carrying a few extra pounds. And I knew that the stress from work and some related projects was less than healthy. But being told my blood pressure was elevated and my blood sugars were in the diabetic range was a complete surprise.
Now a good diet and exercise regimen wasn’t just a good idea, they were a necessity. Amy helped to overhaul our dietary regimen and worked hard to cook healthy meals while I began rowing a half an hour a day. I lost weight, and my numbers came back down within three months. But I got bored—rowing nowhere fast.
Amy’s father, who has always been an inspiration to us, asked us to do a mud run along the way for fun—which it was. Who knew getting dirty exercising could be so much fun?
Then a year into our lifestyle change, a friend invited me to join a group running in a more competitive obstacle course race. I found this race not only fun but invigorating.
So in 2017, I started searching for my own races to compete in and found a Spartan Race close to home. (Spartan is a brand in the growing sport of obstacle course racing which involves running over varying terrain with obstacles thrown in along the course. Think basic training.)
I signed up for a 4-mile/23 obstacle course race in Portland, Oregon, and ran it in memory of a college roommate who had recently committed suicide. I knew if I wanted to be around for my own family, I needed to improve my own physical health.
I was hooked.
In addition to winning a medal for completing the race, I earned 1/3 of a Spartan Trifecta medal. If I could finish two more Spartan races, their middle distance, and the longer distance called the Beast, I would complete the three-piece medal and earn my place in the ’Spartan Trifecta Tribe.’
Never one to pass up a challenge, and irritated by missing two pieces of the medal, I signed up for two more races, one at Big Bear and one in Sacramento, California. I started training for the obstacles, watching videos, and doing research and apparently talking about it—a lot. My kids accused me of “geeking out” over my new hobby.
I traveled to California twice before the end of the year and raced on my own. With all three pieces of the Trifecta medal, I had joined the Tribe. I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment, but it was also lonely, crossing the finish line without anyone to help celebrate the moment.
So, what does this have to do with marriage in the second half of life? Everything, thanks to my amazing wife.
Amy is smart and intuitive and understood how motivating these races were to me. With our kids about to leave the nest, Amy realized that if this was important to me, she wanted to give it a try as well.
Running up hills, climbing over walls, crawling under barbed wire, carrying buckets of rocks, and throwing a spear didn’t sound like fun to her (well, maybe throwing spears), but she signed up anyway for me, and more importantly, for us.
Our first race together was with a group of friends. The challenge stimulated her competitive nature, and she agreed to go back to Sacramento with me to do the middle distance race, 8 + miles, and 25 + obstacles.
We finished the race together, sharing in the sense of accomplishment and celebrating together at the finish line.
As we were driving home, feeling that good sense of tired and sore, it occurred to me that our weekend spent racing fulfilled another desire that we had — to have a weekend getaway. While the purpose had been to run the race, we had enjoyed the entire weekend together, talking, eating out, and just being together.
In 2019, Amy wanted to take on the challenge of finishing her own Trifecta. So we started working out together at Orange Theory, which we found was a good fit for both of us. After encouraging Amy to actually do some running before tackling the Spartan Beast, a 12+ mile race with over 30 obstacles, we started trail running on Saturdays, slowly building up our mileage.
Initially reluctant, as Amy didn’t think she enjoyed running, she’s found that running together through the trees on the trails around Eugene, Oregon energizing and a lot of fun.
As I write this, we are traveling back from SoCal, where we combined our racing with an opportunity to see our college-age kids. We spent dinner with them on Friday night, and our youngest hung out with them during the day while Amy and I raced, then we all celebrated with dinner. On Sunday morning, we all went to church and then finished with brunch before heading back to Oregon. It was a rich weekend with family.
And even more amazing, Amy finished the third leg of her Trifecta, earning her membership in the “Tribe.”
When you consider where she was 15 years ago, with a traumatic brain injury and a neck injury requiring a fusion, this is an incredible accomplishment, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She said it was the most challenging thing she has ever done, physically, emotionally, and mentally—but well worth the effort.
Our mutual love and respect for each other, and pride in one another’s accomplishments have grown immensely. This is all because Amy was willing to try something new, out of her comfort zone, to spend time with me.
Finding an activity we both enjoy, and competing together, has renewed our passion for one another and has definitely brought us closer together. We are blessed that it has become something we both love to do.
Our goal going forward is to complete at least one Trifecta a year and expand our travel horizons to include international races. Sparta, Greece, is foremost on our bucket list. And hopefully, someday soon you’ll see the two of us up on the winner’s podium for our age group.
In the meantime, my life is so much richer than two years ago when I finished my first Spartan Beast in the dark, surrounded by strangers and feeling oddly alone, without anyone to help celebrate my accomplishment
Having my best friend and partner cross the finish line, holding my hand, makes it infinitely sweeter. And it doesn’t hurt that I get to chase her tail up the hills every week – she even lets me catch her once in a while.
*If you’re not connected to Facebook and you would like to comment, please do so below the Author’s Bio section.Please note, neither the Meyers nor The Evolving Nest has a marketing affiliation with Spartan.com or Orangetheory Fitness.
Mark has been married to his beautiful wife Amy for almost 25 years.They have 3 children, two in college and a sophomore in high school.He is a family physician where he uses his Biology degree daily, but enjoys putting the other half of his double major, a Classics degree, to work with occasional writing.Spartan racing pulls together his love of history with his love of the outdoors.When not running the trails he is liable to be wake surfing, snow skiing or hunting with his family.Or maybe curled up with a good book.
So apparently it’s a thing now. Like, 25% of married couples are WAAY into it.
Even my grandparents, who would now be well over a century old if they were still alive, were into it as young as their 40’s.
I remember discovering their little secret as a newlywed, and after the initial shock wore off, thought to myself…that won’t be us; we’ll never do that.
Well, it turns out my grandparents were ahead of their time, and I’ve to add it to my list of things I swore I’d never do or say, but every so often, ‘find myself doing or saying.’
You see, about every 10th night…I retreat to our guestroom to get a good night’s sleep because occasionally he snores, and I apparently purr; either way, it’s keeping us both up at night.
I hate to admit it, but some nights, I’m downright giddy.
I bid my husband farewell, stroll down the hall and gently shut the guest room door. Nestling into bed, I fluff the pillows just so and leave the bedside lamp on as long as I want- because I can.
Once all comfy, I’ll leisurely alternate between listening to a favorite podcast and scrolling through social media until I drift off; with no worries of the blue glow from my iPhone disturbing my husband’s slumber.
After an evening apart, I feel a little bit like we’ve just channeled Queen Elizabeth and her prince as they sauntered out of their separate bedrooms; she in her silk robe and he in his smoking jacket.
Except, in reality, my prince is already sweaty from his early morning workout and my oh-so-notroyal self is stumbling around in old pj’s trying to find glasses and coffee…and not necessarily in that order. Romantic, it is not.
I wake up refreshed, yet discontent. For me, there’s something lost when we don’t sleep next to each other; something is missing.
I don’t want to just ‘cuddle’ and go our separate ways…
I want to fall asleep next to my husband, reach for his hand to hold in the middle of the night and wake up with him by my side. Sleeping next to each other over the last twenty-seven years has created a bond beyond words, and the less time we sleep near each other, the less emotional intimacy our marriage experiences.
We spend the majority of our working days apart, and sometimes the only chance we get to reconnect is falling asleep…back-to-back.
So, when the demands of the day overwhelm us, or we’re just a little bit irritated with each other…there is nothing like holding his hand in the middle of the night to melt our frustrations away.
My intent is not to debate the pros and cons of couples electing to sleep separately, because I know it’s a reality for many couples to get a good night’s rest. I’m simply pointing out that it’s one part of my aging process,I don’t particularly care for and I’m hoping to reverse the course.
Fortunately, we don’t snore every night…yet.
My grandmother must’ve noticed my surprise all those years ago, because she casually offered, “Honey, your grandad sounds like a freight train, and sometimes a girl just needs a good night’s sleep.”
I pray we have many more decades together, but unlike my grandparents, I don’t want sleeping in separate bedrooms to become more frequent, or even the norm.
So, I’ve decided to make that appointment I’ve been avoiding; the one with the sleep clinic…
I promise I’ll call…first thing in the morning, just as soon as I get a good night’s sleep.
Lisa hopes to share life’s stories through the ever-changing platform she founded, called The Evolving Nest. She writes and shares insights about her own triumphs and struggles during her 30-year marriage to her husband and best friend. Together they have 3 growing children, two of which live 1,500 miles away most of the year, and an adult son with autism who has the run of the upstairs to himself. Lisa also contributes to Her View From Home, various podcasts, and of course, her own website, The Evolving Nest.