secrets to a long and happy marriage

 

I shared with you the story of how I met my husband. When we exchanged vows, we expected our marriage to be a long and happy one. Like all true stories, happily ever after does not exist.  My husband and I have endured many bumps along the road, and there were times I honestly wasn’t sure if we were going to make it. 

It’s Okay to Admit That Marriage Is Really Hard

I think the best piece of advice I ever got was from my husband’s grandma (who passed away in March due to COVID).  When I asked her what the secret is to a long and happy marriage, she told me to remember that the first ten years of marriage are the hardest. I remember laughing in my head at the time.  I had heard that the first couple of years were rough, but ten? Really?! The joke was on me because she was right.

Learning to blend two very different people together is no easy task. In fact, the things I love most about Matt are also the things that drive me absolutely crazy (and vice versa). At the beginning, everything is new and exciting, and it is easy to overlook things. Once the honeymoon phase ends and life sifts in, it is a whole new ballgame. Juggling life’s responsibilities, raising a child, and encountering hardships can often tear people apart.

There are many things I wish I knew at the beginning of our marriage that could have saved us both a lot of anger, tears, and heartache. Here are some words of advice for a long and happy marriage:

8 Secrets To A Long and Happy Marriage

what does it mean to be happily married

1. Pick your battles, pick your battles, pick your battles. Have I mentioned you should pick your battles? I am a stubborn, strong woman, and my husband is even more stubborn than me. We see many things differently. If we bicker every time we disagree about something, well, we’d bicker constantly (which we did). I have learned (as has he) that it’s simply not worth sweating the small stuff. If he leaves his clothes next to the hamper instead of inside the hamper, reminding him each time is just going to annoy him. This will make him act snippy, which will cause me to get snippy.  I’d rather put his clothes in the hamper and play the “please do this” card when it is more important.

2. Know your spouse’s love language and know yours as well. What you feel are signs of love and affection may not even register on your spouse’s radar. This leaves you feeling unappreciated, and he feels that he’s not getting the type of affection he needs. Nobody wins. My love languages are acts of service (primary) and words of affirmation(secondary), and his love languages are physical touch (primary) and words of affirmation (secondary).

Most of our marriage I did the things for him that were my primary love language, but he couldn’t care less about those things. In turn, he would go over and hold my hand and hug me (which is his primary love language), and I didn’t feel appreciated at all. Now I know that giving him a massage or rubbing his arm makes him feel loved, and I try hard to voice my appreciation for all he does for our family. He in turn tries to show me now that he loves me by doing things such as mowing the backyard or doing the dishes.

3. Establish boundaries. Matt struggles with bringing things up when they happen. As a result, he’d bury his feelings until he’d finally explode and start yelling about all the things that upset him.  Our solution was to discuss our requests and requirements that we want from one another. It is up to each of us to hold ourselves accountable for honoring our own boundaries as well as the other person’s.

4. Don’t expect the other person to save/fix you or to change. This is a huge one for both of us. I grew up having a codependent relationship with my mother, which turned into a codependent relationship with Matt. I was unhappy and experienced a lot of trauma in my life, and I wanted my marriage to give me the feeling of wholeness and happiness that I was missing. That is A LOT of pressure to put on someone else.

Matt thought it was my job to take care of him. As a result, our dynamic became one more resembling of a mother and son than a husband and wife. I had to nag him to do things, and he resented me for it. He didn’t want to take responsibility for his choices, and I felt it was my job to convince him to do so.

I have come to learn that it is my job to save myself, and he has learned that he is responsible for his actions. I love and support him, but his choices are his alone. This gives him the space to be the man he is capable of being, and I spend my energy on working on myself instead of trying to convince him to work on himself.

5. There is no weakness in forgiveness.  We are imperfect and will make mistakes and hurt each other along the way. It is inevitable that we will say and do things that we will regret. Showing compassion to ourselves and to one another is necessary to have a happy marriage. There are some things that are unforgiveable, and that is where boundaries come in, but try not to hold grudges.

6. Try to have fun together. These are exceedingly difficult times. It is easy to get consumed with all the stress and hardships.  Take the time to enjoy one another’s company, and not just talk about kids or responsibilities.

7. Take a break.  This is an important tip in parenting and marriage. If you’re really upset, you are likely to react instead of responding or listening to what your partner is saying. Take time to cool off before you speak to your partner.  If things get incredibly tense during the conversation, put a pause in it. Give yourself and one another the space to calm down. It’s hard to walk away in the moment, but with effort and practice it is possible.

8. Respect one another’s feelings.  You don’t have to agree with your partner, but there is no right or wrong way to feel. If your partner is hurt or upset, it is never okay to dismiss or minimize his/her feelings because you don’t share the same sentiment.  It is important to acknowledge another person’s feelings while having your own.  Debating over who is right and how to feel usually leaves everyone a loser and unhappy.

Marriage is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

long and lasting marriage

The picture many of us had in our heads about what life and marriage would look like is usually not the case.  Instead of putting expectations on yourself and your partner, try to remember that marriage isn’t a sprint. Learning to navigate the murky water of marriage takes time, effort, and lots of trial and error.

Love isn’t always enough, but we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other along the way. I honor that journey because it is a great reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we are willing to travel together.

lessons i learned

I think if I had to sum up 2020 in one word, it would be “suffering”. It has been a year of various types of suffering, whether it be emotional, psychological, financial, or physical. It has also been a year where I learned several important lessons.

The world we live in is a world that I never imagined in my wildest dreams. I used to watch apocalyptic shows with my husband and roll my eyes at the outlandish plot…. a deadly virus wipes out everyone- ha! Who knew that would somewhat resemble our reality? 

There is nothing I could write about that would make this pandemic any easier, so I won’t even try to do so. What I will discuss, however, is that this year has made me truly reflect on life in a way that I had never done before. It is in that spirit that I will discuss the lessons that I’ve taken away from this year: 

The Biggest Lesson I Learned in 2020 

don't take the ones you love for granted

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate the people I have in my life. We are all overwhelmed with responsibilities and struggling to make it through the day. As a result, it is perfectly understandable that we sometimes take the ones we love for granted. That is, until we don’t have them anymore…

My husband’s grandmother unexpectedly passed away due to COVID, and both of my in-laws still struggle with their health daily since contracting the virus 9 months ago. These terrible circumstances forced me to realize a hard truth- the people we have today may not be there tomorrow.  

It is easy to forget that what matters most are the people we carry in our hearts. So often we say, “If only I would have known _____, I would have done________ differently.” There are times when we mean to call but get distracted, where we could have said “I love you” one more time, but didn’t, where we could have reached out to check on a friend or loved one to see how they were feeling, but forgot. Life gets in the way; it happens to all of us.  

This year is different though. We now have a constant reminder that time is fleeting. We cannot turn on a computer or watch the news without seeing the latest death count. The clock is ticking, and now, more than ever, we need to seize the moment so we don’t look back and wish we had done things differently. 

Moving into 2021, I am going to try to remember to focus my attention on prioritizing the people in my life over my to-do list. I will leave the dishes in the sink a little longer, go a few days extra without doing the laundry, and even let my husband get away with not putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. 

At the end of the day, my clean house is not what matters. I still have responsibilities that I need to fulfill as a grown-up, but I want to spend as much of my time as I can on having no regrets. What matters most is my daughter’s infectious laugh, my husband’s embrace, and the people that I love.   

Putting Yourself First: Finding Worth and Validation Inside

validating myself

Although somewhat pandemic related, this lesson I learned is more related to my unique circumstances.  

I started this blog only five months ago. I had no idea what to expect when I first started putting my stories out there. The initial outburst of support was unexpected and meant the world to me. Knowing that my words were helping others warmed my heart and gave me a new purpose besides being a Stay-at-Home-Mom, homeschool teacher, and a wife (all roles which I treasure).  

Things moved more rapidly than I expected, and then came to a halt. Facebook deactivated my profile, which was a huge source of my traffic. My other sources of traffic weren’t consistent and the comments and feedback I was getting weren’t nearly as frequent as they were at the beginning.  

I started a new website hoping that creating better optimization would increase my traffic. It didn’t. Instead, I received a notification that someone unsubscribed. It was like a slap in the face. 

I felt defeated. People no longer cared. I was old news. My content must stink. I guess I’m not a good writer after all. I’m not helping anyone. I put my heart and soul into this, and it was for nothing. My blog is a failure. I’m a failure 

Despite the number of well-known publications that have featured my writing, all I could see were my failures. With each subsequent low traffic post, my self-esteem lowered with it. I had a few more people unsubscribe. This only confirmed the stories I was now telling myself, not only about my blog, but about what it reflected about me as a person. 

It is not easy to write personal, gut wrenching posts and not get the feedback you hope you’d receive. However, this situation taught me a very valuable lesson. 

I spent most of my life relying on others to feel good about myself.  On the flip side, if someone said or did something that I found hurtful, didn’t want to be my friend, or didn’t validate my feelings, I felt worthless. My feelings and my opinion of myself only had merit if others validated them. 

I thought I had improved my codependent ways, and I have made huge strides. However, this blog caused a huge relapse, and I realized that I was relying on this blog to feel valued. My blog was no longer just about helping people; it was about proving to myself that I was good enough as a person and a writer. 

I had two choices: The first was to stop writing the blog and throw in the towel. The other option was to keep writing from my heart and be proud of my hard work, content, and writing no matter what others said or did. I decided to go with option number 2. 

I learned that readers are fleeting, subscribers are fleeting, people’s opinions of me are fleeting. What should never be fleeting is what matters most- my belief in myself. I need to give myself the validation that I was seeking from others. 

No matter the viewers or feedback, my biggest fan always needs to be me. If others like what I’m writing, that is icing on the cake. I can’t convince others to read my words. What I can do is have faith in myself and stand by my words. Everything else is out of my hands. 

I think this is a lesson that we can all apply to our lives. We may not get the validation we seek from others, whether it be from our boss, our family, or our friends. That can cause us to feel that we aren’t good enough in those roles. Parenting is often a thankless job.  Our spouse may not verbalize appreciation for our hard work and effort; the list goes on and on. We can spiral down the rabbit hole of despair and insecurity, or we can remind ourselves that we will never feel good about ourselves if we outsource our feelings of self-worth.  

A painful lesson I learned from 2020 is that we cannot rely on other people to validate our roles and feelings.  It is our job to give that to ourselves.

The Importance Of Self-love and Self-care 

self care bingo

I do not know how to do something halfway. Anything I do, I do to the best of my ability, and I give it my all. Sometimes this can take on a life of its own, and it comes at a cost to myself. 

Blogging is a great example of my extremist mentality. Writing a blog while homeschooling and caring for a child full-time is challenging, to put it mildly. There are only so many hours in a day. Putting out constant content and taking care of a child that needs constant monitoring took a toll on me. My husband also has been working overtime, so I’ve needed take care of my daughter by myself into the night. I was exhausted physically, but also emotionally and psychologically from the topics I write about. Half the night I would stay up rewriting my posts so I could devote the other hours to homeschooling and spending time with Brielle. I also didn’t want the blog to take away time from spending time with my husband after Brielle goes to sleep.

It wasn’t a shock when I became run down. I’ve had cold symptoms on and off for the last month that I kept ignoring. I finally had a telemedicine appointment and was told I have a bad sinus infection and had to take antibiotics. I was running around with a fever and feeling crappy, but still didn’t slow down.  

The first lesson I learned that I discussed in this post was recognizing what is most important in your life. To me, that is the people I love, and that includes myself. I write posts about self-care and self-love, but I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I’ve allowed my mental and physical well-being to fall by the wayside. 

Doing my best means recognizing when to stop. There is only so much I can give and I can do. No matter the circumstances, I must prioritize myself.  

I will continue to blog but will limit the amount of time I do so. Posts are now put out twice a week instead of three times a week. I will incorporate blogging into my daily routine so I’m not up at all hours of the night writing. My self-care rituals will resume, and I will remember that loving and caring for myself cannot be taken for granted. 

 

 

Life is a series of compromises. 2020 is a great indicator of learning when to hold them and when to fold them. Others’ opinions of me and the dirt on the floor- not so much of a priority. Cherishing the ones I love and valuing myself? That is a non-negotiable. I hold the lessons I learned this year close to my heart and will take them with me into the new year.

social media conundrum

I vaguely remember the days when there was no social media. It seems like it was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Truthfully, there was once a time when we weren’t all glued to our cell phones, tablets, iPhones, or computers.

the power of connection with social media

In some ways, social media is great. It is a means of reconnecting with people with whom you’ve lost touch. It is also a way of connecting with someone you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise.

I have been able to speak with relatives I didn’t even know existed through Facebook. I’ve been able to see family pictures of people I knew 30+ years ago. No matter where you live, or how many times you’ve moved, social media allows you to remain in the lives of people. This is more crucial than ever due to the inability to connect in person because of the pandemic. 

Social media also offers opportunities to network and market yourself. LinkedIn and Twitter are great forums for connecting with people and expanding career horizons. Social media is instrumental for every blogger.  However, with every click on the internet, there is a downside. 

the downside of social media obsession

social media obsession

What was meant as a forum to reach out to the ones we love, now has become a means of comparison. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others have their lives together because of what we see on people’s accounts.

Every click of a button shows smiling families, exotic trips, and expensive merchandise. It is impossible to turn away from the happiness and joy that explodes from the profiles of each person. Social media has become a forum for perfection that makes the rest of us feel empty and lacking.

People spend countless hours scrolling through social media to the point where it has become an obsession. Men, women, teenagers, even children have accounts. They spend their time looking at other people’s lives instead of living their own. As much as we try to love and guide our children, one look at social media makes us feel like we are lacking as parents.

We live in a world filled with fear, anxiety, and isolation due to the pandemic. Now, more than ever, it is easy to look at our lives and feel loneliness and despair. There has never been a more imperative time to find means of connection. Unfortunately, the internet often makes the walls between us even higher.

People who are already struggling with depression and financial concerns fall into the trap of social media. Many rely on it as an escape from reality, but once on it we forget that it is an illusion. Social media often becomes a painful reminder of what we are trying to escape from in the first place. We fall down the rabbit hole of further pain and self-loathing instead of recognizing that Instagram and Facebook are mere glimpses of reality.

the dangers that lurk on the internet

internet dangers

Another danger is catfishing. It has become such a phenomenon that there is a movie and TV series about it. People start relationships on social media, only to realize that they are not talking to the person whose picture is on the profile. Sadly, a person can simply create an account, put up a fake picture, and claim to be anyone in the world.

Stalking has taken on a new shape due to social media. The personal details we reveal make us easy targets, allowing others to fixate on us and invade every aspect of our life. Social media has also become a vehicle for harassment and postings meant to destroy people’s characters and reputations.

Even worse, social media has become another platform to engage in acts of bullying. There is nowhere to escape when people can attack you within the four walls of your room. Kids now feel a sense of power and protection from behind a computer screen. It has become far too easy to belittle, attack, tease, degrade, and destroy through the internet.

the blurred walls of safety for children

As parents, we do our best to protect our children from the outside world, but what do we do when the walls between the outside and inside start to blur? What happens when social media becomes the gateway to danger?

Just as internet bullying has become a harsh reality, a whole new world exists where predators are able to access our children while in the comfort of their homes. What appears to be a sweet 13-year-old girl talking to your daughter may be a 45-year-old man.  There is literally nowhere that is safe anymore.

I do not allow others to post pictures of my daughter on their social media accounts. There also aren’t any pictures of Brielle on my blog.  I try to keep my child safe, but social media makes it harder than ever to do so.

As much as I appreciate the benefits of social media, there are tremendous risks that it poses to our mental health and safety.  I think we must be mindful of the great dangers that comes from simply putting a profile on social media.  Therefore, I believe that social media is both a friend and a foe.

sustain a healthy marriage

At the beginning of the pandemic, I heard jokes about how the birth rate would be at an all-time high. For many couples, this was an opportunity to spend time together that normally wasn’t afforded to us. What was fun and roses at first soon turned into annoyance and a deep desire to jump out the window to get some space. The walls seemed to get narrower with each passing day. I still think that there will be an increased birth rate- for people without children. For those of us with children, the coronavirus has truly tested the bonds of matrimony. A healthy marriage takes effort from both husband and wife. The pandemic has made that more difficult.

a healthy marriage needs love and work

Relationships need love and work to continue to flourish. The pandemic has put an increased strain on all of us. This strain cannot help but seep into your marriage. Having your children around you 24/7 with nowhere to go will make even the sanest of people go a little crazy. Having to take care of children and put work into your marriage while quarantined together? That’s a whole new ballgame.

I am happy to say that my husband and I have managed to not kill each other thus far. There are several reasons why we have each stayed sane during this time:

tips and strategies to survive marriage

1- You may not be able to go far, but you can still get some space. My husband started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, as I’m sure many of you have done as well. Even though he is home, he doesn’t have to be around me all the time. He has an office where he stays during the day, so we aren’t together all the time. It’s nice to know that he is there if I need him, but Brielle and I typically keep to ourselves. Being around each other 24/7 isn’t healthy, and there is such a thing as too much time together!

2- Divide responsibilities and take time for yourself! Whether you are a Stay-at-Home-Mom or a Working-at-Home Mom, the dynamics have changed because the kids are at home during the day. Take turns watching your kids with your spouse so that each of you can get your work done (whether that means job responsibilities or household responsibilities). At night, split up evening duties so you can each take a break. With all of us being in such close quarters, it is essential that we have time to ourselves. You can exercise, journal, meditate, or read a few pages of a book. Do something that is just for you. It will do wonders for your well-being to discuss with your spouse how you can each take a breather.

communicate your emotions and spend time together

date night

3- Have date nights. Remember those? With kids around, we often forget that before we had our children, it was just the two of us. Just because you can’t go to a movie or go bowling doesn’t mean that your marriage goes by the wayside. Plan a date night at home! Every Saturday evening, my husband and I rotate planning a date. One date was listening to music and relaxing, one time we did a logic puzzle together (yes, that is our idea of a good time-don’t judge). One night where we watched a movie together and snuggled on the couch. On another date night we used Alexa and did an Escape the Room Challenge . Think outside the box, and come up with ways to keep the romance alive.

4- Talk! Now you might think this one is ridiculous because you’re around each other a lot more than usual, so of course you are talking. You might be talking about bills, work, and adult responsibilities, but are you talking about your feelings? Lean on each other during this stressful time. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner if you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, or stressed. Keeping those feelings to yourself will cause resentment and tension in your marriage. Be honest with each other about how you are feeling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (aka strategy #2).

Just as you need to talk about negative emotions, it is equally important that you talk about positive emotions. Acknowledge your partner’s efforts and vocalize your love and appreciation. Talk about lighter subjects too. Tell your spouse about the funny thing your kid did (or annoying thing, which is more probable under these circumstances). If you aren’t around each other all the time (aka strategy #1), there will always be things to share.

be your partner’s best friend and teammate

5- A healthy marriage requires friendship. Even with kids around, you can spend time together cooking dinner. Share common interests (such as a board game you both enjoy) as well as supporting each other’s hobbies (listen to your spouse’s favorite band).

keep the spark alive 6- Keep the spark alive. I understand that during a pandemic most of us are living in sweatpants and haven’t put on makeup in months (or is that just me?). Just as you need to continue to have date nights, you need to put in the effort to bring sexy back. Wear a cute outfit, put on some music and slow dance, or take a few seconds to give your spouse a quick kiss in between wrangling your children. Just as friendship is essential for marriage, so is intimacy.

7- Remember you are both on the same team! Children are great at manipulating their parents. Remember that you need to work together like a well-oiled machine to make life together work. Raising children is HARD. Life is HARD. Marriage is HARD. You need to work together to parent your kids. Being on the same page is important during a pandemic, as well as throughout your marriage. With tensions so high, it is easy for you to turn on one another. At the end of the day, remember that a win for either you or your spouse is a win for both of you. Talk through difficult issues (aka strategy #4), and try to understand and support each other through this stressful time. Conflict is inevitable, but how you resolve conflict can make all the difference.

a healthy marriage requires forgiveness

8- Forgiveness. This is something that is necessary in all relationships, but especially in your marriage. Stressful times can bring out the worst in all of us. We may say and do things that we regret. We need to have compassion for ourselves and each other during this pandemic. Remember you are a team (aka strategy #7), and that marriage is being there for one another during the best and worst of times.

Keeping your marriage healthy is a challenge under normal circumstances. Now, more than ever, we need to appreciate and support the ones we love. This is essential in any relationship. Implement these suggestions, and there is hope that couples can come out of this pandemic with newfound love and respect for one another.

five love languages
Do you remember how it feels when you first fall in love? That feeling is one of pure euphoria. It gives you more spring in your step, it always feels like the sun is shining, and you walk around with a ridiculous grin everywhere you go. The “newlywed” phase of any relationship is one of obsession. You are smitten with each other. You wake up and fall asleep thinking about that person, and you are positive nothing can ever tear the two of you apart…
 
Eventually that phase ends and reality takes its place. The blinders are off, and you do not like what you see. What was once endearing to you is now annoying beyond belief. The person who made you feel happy and loved is now the person who makes you feel unappreciated and angry.
 
Love used to be enough, until it isn’t.

how love languages can help improve your relationship

love languages can improve relationships

The idea of love languages was invented by a therapist named Gary Chapman. His book, The 5 love Languages- The Secret to Love That Lasts, explains that all of us have a love language. Just as a relationship won’t work if you can’t communicate because of a language barrier, how can a relationship work if each of you speak a different love language?

Now I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes. We’ve already read enough about men being from Mars and women from Venus, so now we’re being told that we don’t know how to love properly? Don’t we do enough?! I know I’ve bent myself in so many directions that I feel like a human pretzel.
 
The truth is that your efforts are unrecognized because you aren’t speaking your partner’s love language. If you are going to put effort into a relationship, don’t you want to do it in a way that matters to the other person? If not, what is the point of trying?

my husband and i were speaking different love languages in our relationship

I know I was a skeptic when I first heard about love languages. I tried so hard, but my husband and I were still bickering all the time. No matter what I said or did, I felt like he wasn’t listening and didn’t care. I felt like I wasn’t appreciated at all.
 

Some change had to come from ending our codependent behavior, but a huge part of the problem was that both of us felt like we weren’t respected or valued by our partner. There was a huge disconnect, and that was because we were speaking completely different love languages.

Just as you need to focus on your own well-being so you can take care of others, you need to make sure your “love tank” is full. What often happens is that your partner thinks that what is being done or said is filling your love tank. Unfortunately, your love tank is still empty because you speak a different love language. Likewise, you believe you are showing your love for your partner, but they don’t feel loved or appreciated at all.
 

Children also need to have a full love tank, and it is important that we speak their love language as well. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell wrote the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children. There is a quiz in the book to discover your child’s primary love language.

For purposes of this article, I am going to concentrate on the importance of the love languages in romantic relationships.

these are dr. chapman’s five love languages

love languages decoded

(This is a brief overview of the five love languages. In the book, each love language has a chapter explaining it in depth, and Chapman also gives specific suggestions on how to implement each love language.)

words of affirmation

· You feel loved and valued when your partner tells you those words.

· You like to hear kind words and compliments from your partner to feel that your love tank is full.

· It is crucial for partners to recognize that people who need words of affirmation are extra sensitive when a partner verbalizes displeasure.

· Partners should be mindful that you should try to recognize and compliment the other’s efforts and speak encouraging words as much as possible. This keeps your partner’s love tank full.

· According to Chapman, “Verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words.”

quality time

· For some people, what matters most is getting their partner’s undivided attention. They feel prioritized and valued when they are spending quality time with their loved one.

· Quality time is not watching TV together. It is time where you both put away distractions and focus on one another.

· Time together can be conversing after the kids are asleep, eating a meal together, taking a hike, doing an activity together, or playing a game together.

· Unlike words of affirmation, which focuses on what the person is saying, quality time is about what the person is hearing.

· Asking questions, showing empathy, and being genuinely interested in what the other one is saying is how you speak the love language of quality time.

receiving gifts

· “Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others”- Gary Chapman

· These gifts do not have to be costly. It is the thought that counts. Some examples include giving a card (or making one), bringing flowers, or giving a small memento.

· Having something tangible makes the person feel loved. It can be found, made, or bought.

· Don’t wait for special occasions to give to the person whose primary love language is receiving gifts. Anything you give will be considered tokens of love.

acts of service

· If this is your primary love language, you feel actions speak louder than words.

· Having your partner do things makes you feel loved.

· The amount of time is not what matters, it involves actions that you know your partner wants you to do.

· Showing thoughtfulness through actions and doing these actions without complaining is speaking the love language of acts of service.

physical touch

· Being held, holding hands, or getting a massage are all examples of physical touch.

· Every person has different areas that are felt as pleasurable, so the preferable areas of touch will vary.

· A man might assume that physical touch is his primary love language for sexual reasons, but if he is having sex regularly and still feels unloved, then it is probably not his primary love language. Biological needs should not be confused for love languages.

what is your love language and the language of your partner?

what is your love language

At the end of his book there are two quizzes (one for each of you) to find out your primary love language. The test consists of 30 paired statements. You select the statement that is the most truthful for you, and then tally your results and see your primary love language.
 
People often have more than one love language, but usually there is one that is the highest. That is your primary love language.
 
My primary love language is acts of service, and my husband’s primary language is physical touch. Previously, instead of speaking the love language that the other one needed, we were giving each other the type of love we wanted. We felt unappreciated because we weren’t giving the other person the love language necessary to fill our love tank.
 
I now will take my husband’s hand or rub his shoulders to fill his love tank, and he does things around the house without bickering (most of the time 😉).
 
Just as it is important to respect someone’s feelings even if they are different from yours, there is no right or wrong love language. It is important to give your partner the type of love they need. When people feel appreciated and loved, it is much easier to work through obstacles and work together as a team.
 
Do I miss the days when I heard the birds singing and I felt like I was floating on a cloud? Sure. The honeymoon phase of a relationship is fleeting. Speaking each other’s love language is a love that lasts a lifetime. I choose that kind of love any day.
our love story - how i met my husband

This past August my husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary.  We have been together for 13 years. There is a lot I know now that I wish I knew back then. Before I get into that, I want to take a step back and tell you a love story….

had to kiss a lot of frogs before my love story began

I was single for about two years prior to meeting Matt and using a Jewish dating service called Jdate to meet men. In my master’s degree program, there were only women. I went on dates, LOTS of them. I basically dated everyone in the tri-state area. Sometimes I went on one or two dates with some of the men before deciding we weren’t a good match, and others I dated for about a month. None of them amounted to anything substantial. After I reached my quota of bad dates, I would go off Jdate for months at a time.

I was contemplating going off Jdate when a man sent me a message. His profile picture was in poor lighting, and he was wearing a multicolored striped shirt with a very loud tie. I had dated online long enough to know that if a guy is hiding in his picture, it’s never a good sign. On top of that, he kept bragging about how wonderful he was and how he was waiting for the perfect woman. Bad profile picture + arrogant= loud warning bells.

I had a rule that I would only meet men on my turf (Brooklyn) for the first date. I once had a guy drive for two hours to meet me. This guy told me he worked in Manhattan, and if I wanted to meet, I’d have to travel to him.

I don’t know how this conversation turned into me consenting to take the bus and train to Manhattan to meet him. It is one of the great mysteries in my life. Was it divine intervention or did I have temporary insanity? One will never know for sure.

my love story: how i met my husband

our love story how i met my husband

All I know is that on October 25, 2007 at approximately 6pm, I stood in front of an H&M waiting to meet this guy. I remember cursing myself out in my head for agreeing to this until I saw a man walking towards me with a smile and my love story began.

The best way to explain it is that I felt like time stopped at that moment. It was a feeling I had never experienced. I think I stopped breathing as I looked at this guy and knew instantly that my life was about to change forever.

He gave me a hug, and we went to a restaurant to eat. The food was terrible, but the conversation more than made up for it. He was extremely attractive, but more importantly, he was smart, funny, witty, and down to earth; nothing like how he came across in his messages.

i knew i WOULD MARRY HIM

I excused myself, and I joked with him that if I didn’t come back in ten minutes, that I had probably climbed out the bathroom window. Then I walked to the bathroom, took out my phone, and told my mom that I was going to marry this man I had just met named Matthew.

He suggested that we go bowling, but the bowling alley was only taking reservations. We decided to go to Central Park instead, and we walked over to the Belvedere Castle. It was where we had our first kiss. Afterwards we sat on a park bench and talked for hours.

It was getting late, so he hailed me a cab. He told me to text him when I got home to ensure I arrived safely. I was in a haze the entire ride home.

We were pretty much inseparable after our first date, and it was only three weeks later that he told me he loved me.  As silly as it might seem, I felt that way too. Our love story was just beginning.

OUR FIRST VACATION WAS FILLED WITH MONO

sick

Within a few months we planned a weekend getaway upstate.  The evening that we arrived at the hotel, Matt started feeling unwell. By the next morning he had a high fever and we immediately returned home. Bloodwork was drawn, and the tests revealed that he had mono.  We were told that adults who get mono can get very severe symptoms, and Matt proved to be no exception.

The poor guy was so weak that he could barely move.  He was unable to work and had to go on short term disability. Subsequent symptoms included a severe case of strep throat, fatigue, and nausea. I remember one day when we had to rush him to the emergency room because he broke out in hives all over his legs. They informed him it that he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics he was taking.

When we got back to his apartment, I put calamine lotion on his legs to help with the itchiness. He then stood up and asked me to dance. He put on David Gray’s “This Year’s “Love”, which became our song. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, we were together, so we were happy.

mono sleep

Although I technically lived in Brooklyn, I was constantly taking the train back to Manhattan to take care of Matt. He couldn’t take care of himself and lived alone, and so I became his caregiver. I cooked, cleaned, and tried to make him as comfortable as possible.

After a month of taking care of him (and only a few months into our relationship), we decided that it made sense for me to officially live with him since I was there all the time anyway. I think it was the first case of a person getting Mono speeding up a relationship.

fate brought us together and love has kept us together

After a year of dating, Matt took me to our favorite Italian restaurant and ordered some wine. I am not a big drinker, so I was tipsy by the second glass. It was a beautiful night, so I suggested going to Central Park which was nearby. He then took me to the spot at the castle where we had our first kiss, played our song, and asked me to dance. He then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was magical. It was so magical that we almost forgot that I spent the entire walk there talking about the high divorce rate. I don’t know how that topic even came up, and I blame it all on the alcohol.

fate brought us together and love kept us together

We were married on August 2, 2012. We had planned an outdoor wedding, but to my horror the skies opened up that morning and didn’t stop. Although the wedding didn’t go as I planned, the sun did come out during the reception, and we were able to go outside. Despite the anger I felt about the rain, our wedding was magical and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Our wedding was very symbolic of marriage. Whatever your dreams of marriage might be, life will inevitably get in the way. I learned that although our love story is beautiful, what makes our love memorable is that we navigate life’s roadblocks together. 

It still amazes me that somehow, against all odds, a guy I never would have met under any normal circumstances became the man I now call my husband.   That’s the beauty of life. It may throw curveballs (as well as mono and rainstorms) at you, but sometimes it also throws you a home run.

Jdate (a Jewish online dating site) is full of success stories. I’m a Jdate success story, after all. That said, I had to meet many-a-frog before I met my handsome prince. I felt it was only right to share with you my greatest online dating flops so you could get a full picture of what I went through to meet Matt. It is also worth noting that I was the first person that Matt met on Jdate. He had no idea what I went through to meet him, but he does now…

evan and little evan – a psychologist’s dream

Don’t worry, it’s not that kind of story (get your minds out of the gutter!).

Evan was the first guy I met on Jdate that I actually liked. He came to my house to pick me up and say hello to my parents (I would never get into a guy’s car that I didn’t know without having my parents meet him first). My mom didn’t like that he wore a pink shirt (I thought he pulled it off quite well). He was charming, attractive, and seemed to have his act together. He was only 24 and had his own apartment in Brooklyn Heights. I don’t recall what he did for a living, but I believe it was something in finance.

evan and little evan

Our first few dates went quite well. He informed me that his last girlfriend was very attractive, but not the brightest bulb in the box. What concerned me was that he said that was the type of girl he typically dated. I’m no Albert Einstein, but I’d like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person.

After several weeks of dating we went to his apartment to watch a movie. We actually did watch the movie, for what it’s worth. Afterwards, he started talking about himself, his life, and what makes him happy. It started off fine, but somewhere it took a turn to Crazyville.

He started explaining that it was his job to make Little Evan happy. I admit I’m a complete hypocrite because my mind went exactly where I told you not to go. He explained that Little Evan is his inner child. He then said he asks Little Evan what he should do all the time. For example, if Evan wanted a sandwich, he needed to first consult with Little Evan to find out what kind of sandwich. If he wanted to watch a movie, he’d check in with Little Evan.

This monologue went on for about 5 minutes, most of which I spent trying to hold in my laughter. I’m all for taking care of your inner child, but hearing someone refer to themselves and their inner child in third person regarding every decision under the sun was more information than I cared to know.

After he finished his speech Evan and Little Evan got me a cab. I was told that next time I came over he’d get some sour pickles because he knew how much I loved them. I’m unsure which Evan relayed that information, but I never heard from either one again. I do send both Evans well wishes.

the online dating therapy session

the therapy session

I agreed to meet a guy in Sheepshead Bay (for those of you that have no idea where that is, it’s an area in Brooklyn). He seemed fairly nice based on the few exchanges we’d had. I stood outside the train station at our agreed upon location and waited. A few minutes later a guy started towards me. I am a firm believer that the kind of person you are is far more important than your looks, but the guy in front of me bore no resemblance whatsoever to his profile picture.

We agreed to walk around the bay because it was such a lovely day. Some guys are shy at first. That most certainly was not this guy. He immediately started talking. Normally I would say that was a good thing. I want to get to know the guy I date, after all. However, his topic of conversation was not one I expected to hear mere minutes after meeting him.

He started telling me that he just went through a breakup. Before I could even respond, he started telling me all about their relationship. He spoke of how long they dated, what she looked like, how much he loved her, and how much he missed her. Next thing I knew he was crying on the sidewalk with people staring at us quite strangely. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I gave him a tissue and patted him on his back while he continued to blubber about his misfortunes.

Each time I would try to intercede, he would talk over me. I spent 45 minutes listening to his life, his woes, his failures, and mostly about his ex. I wanted to put in earplugs, but I didn’t have any on me. Lesson learned.

When he came up for air I told him that it was getting late, and I should probably head home. I told him how sorry I was about his breakup. To my utter amazement he asked me if we could go out again. The only explanation I could fathom was that he was looking for another free therapy session. I was tempted to tell him he owed me money; instead I told him that I got the impression that he wasn’t over his ex ,and he should probably hold off dating anyone until he was able to move on. He looked at me quite perplexed as if he had no recollection of his emotional breakdown. I wished him the best of luck and ran away quickly before he could confide in me about anything else.

the psoriasis, racist guy

I know this one sounds like quite the catch.

I met this gem of a man at a local diner after receiving an instant messaging from him through the online dating site. He seemed nice enough at first, and he told me he liked my pedicure. Most guys don’t even know what a pedicure is, let alone notice one, but I thought it was nice that he paid attention to detail. I thanked him and we sat down.

I had become a pro at small talk from the unimaginable number of online dates I had gone on. We talked about ourselves and had some friendly banter. I soon noticed that when he shook or moved his head, white stuff fell out. I tried not to stare, but it was quite the scene. As he told me about his hobbies I pretended to listen. What I was actually doing was stare at the pile of flakes that were on his shirt as well as the table.

It was too big to be lice or dandruff. I had no idea what was falling out from this guy’s hair, and frankly it was started to freak me out. He noticed I was staring (I’m sorry, but it had landed in clumps on the table!), and he told me that he had psoriasis. I asked him if it was painful, and he said that it was mostly itchy and uncomfortable, but not painful. Mystery solved.

Our food was taking awhile to arrive, and he was getting noticeably upset. He started complaining to me that obviously this place was run by minorities, because white people would be smart enough to have their act together. If he saw my look of disgust, it clearly was not a deterrent. He then complained that he couldn’t stand fat people, and they probably were probably responsible for the delay as well.

I told him that his comments were offensive and terrible, and I was taking my food to go. I walked out the door, and luckily never saw him again. Psoriasis was one thing, but ignorance and prejudice are always deal breakers.

the silent, creepy guy

I met this man at a coffee shop. Again, he stole someone else’s profile picture, but by this point I would have been shocked if someone actually looked like their picture. We sat down and began to talk.

To be more accurate, I should say that I began to talk. He simply looked at me as if I was speaking another language. When I asked questions, he gave one-word answers. I was a Jdate veteran, but even I didn’t know how to have a one-person conversation.

What baffled me the most was that he wasn’t giving off the shy vibe. Not only was he not talking, but as I spoke he kept staring me up and down. Frankly, he was giving me the creeps. When I didn’t speak the staring intensified. I felt like a deer about to get pounced on by a lion.

Warning bells went off in my head. I basically threw the coffee down my throat and told him that I should be getting home.

He texted me later that evening that he really enjoyed our conversation (say what?!) and that he’d love to take me to his place next time. I felt like responding, “Over my dead body”, but I feared that might be what he had in mind.

last but not least, the mental patient

the mental patient

I decided to save my best one for last.

Scott was a guy who lived in New Jersey about 2 hours from where I lived in Brooklyn. He was very outgoing and offered to drive the 2 hours to meet me in my area.

On our first date we had a seamless conversation. He was a good listener, had a good sense of humor, and seemed very sweet. The only caveat was that he had recently gotten out of a relationship.

I already had my share of encounters with guys who hadn’t gotten over their ex-girlfriends (Guy #2, Guy #2!), so I was cautiously optimistic about him. He had a job, but still lived with his parents, which was understandable given that he was only in his early 20s. No red flags yet.

After about a month of dating, we discussed going on a trip together. In retrospect, I probably should have gotten to know him longer before making travel plans with him. My rationalization was that we spoke on the phone for hours everyday, and he already had told me he loved me. That was probably a red flag, but I optimistically told myself that perhaps I was just that loveable.

I payed for half of the trip, and he payed for the other half. Everything was booked, set and ready to go. That is, until I received a phone call. Scott informed me that he had done some thinking and realized he needed to get intensive professional help. He still was thinking about his ex as well as a lot of other things, and he wanted me to wait for him until he was ready to date again. To quote a line from Sex and the City, “I wanted a guy that would commit, not a guy that was committed.”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to him. Besides the mention of his ex on the first date, he never brought her up again. I told him that I had paid for half of a trip and that If he wanted to back out of the trip, I deserved to get reimbursed for my half.

There was radio silence for four months until he reached out to ask me out again. I told him to contact me when he had my half of the money. Shockingly I never heard from him again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My dear readers, you now have gotten a mere glimpse of the awful, the terrible, and the very, very painful online dates I endured. Some I’ve actually blocked out of my mind because they were so horrible. Many I wish I could block out, but alas, I cannot.

To anyone who is dating online, I wish you the very best as you go into battle. Some dates will make you want to run and hide under the covers. Others will make you question if putting yourself through the first circle of hell is worth it. Others may offer glimpses of hope, only to have the door slammed in your face (or in my case, the door of an outpatient psychiatric hospital).

Online dating is not for the faint of heart. It is frustrating, annoying and exhausting. That said, I would do it all over again because it led me to Matt. I wouldn’t wish those kind of dates on anyone else (except maybe my husband so he could experience the horrors that I endured), but all in all, everything worked out in the end. If you are willing to persevere, you too will be able to look back and laugh (and cry) at all you went through to find the person you love.

how to overcome codependency

In case you missed my story of how I worked on my own codependent tendencies, you can read about it here. I also suggest reading the book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.

Codependency is not your fault. The good news is that the things we learned as children do not have to be repeated in adulthood. We can stop being codependent and practice a healthier way of having relationships.

The first step is to take a step back from anything that is out of your control. Whether it is your mom, your sibling, your friend, your spouse, or even your child, there are certain things that are simply not within our power (or are right) to fix. This is difficult, but crucial.

create healthy boundaries and become responsible for your own well-being

Establish clear boundaries so that you can be supportive, loving, and encouraging, but not at the expense of your well-being or happiness. Others are entitled to make their own choices, regardless of whether you agree with those choices are not. Likewise, you get to take control of your happiness and make your own choices.

Getting your power back and claiming responsibility for your well-being is not an easy task. It is something that is very much ingrained in our way of thinking and acting. I have to remind myself often that my husband’s sobriety is his responsibility. I am grateful that he has been sober for the last four years, but his sobriety is a choice that he has to make each day.

Healthy relationships require boundaries, which is foreign to many of us. Boundaries are essential so that you can stay in your lane, while clearly expressing what you need for your relationship. You are the only one that can determine which boundaries are needed for your well-being.

Make a list of boundaries, and decide which ones are requests and which ones are non-negotiable. Have an open and honest conversation about your boundaries and allow others to do the same. After all, boundaries are a two-way street.

If a boundary is crossed, then it’s your decision whether to discuss and reinstate the boundary, or if you need to walk away. You cannot force others to respect and provide what you need in a relationship, but you can respect yourself. It is also crucial to understand that you cannot save others, but you can save yourself.

practice self-care and focus on your needs

self care for codependency

Next, focus on what you want and need to feel good about yourself, completely separate from anyone else. What brings YOU joy? What are YOUR hobbies? Who are YOU as a person? For me, starting this blog has been incredibly healing because it is something that I do that is separate from being a wife and a mom. It is something I am passionate about, and I feel good knowing that I am trying to help others and give support, without trying to change or fix anyone.

It’s a good idea to take time to write down your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal gives you an opportunity to focus on your feelings and brainstorm ideas. Speak to a therapist and read books about codependency to help you on your healing journey. Discover your own identity.

I cannot stress enough that Rome was not built in a day. It will take time to learn new patterns of behavior. It is important to show yourself love and compassion as you navigate foreign territory.

Just as codependency is not healthy, the polar opposite isn’t either. Being completely independent doesn’t translate into having genuine relationships. If you aren’t allowing yourself to be vulnerable, then your relationships will lack true intimacy. It is important to have your own identity separate from the ones you love; however, putting up walls and not letting anyone in is the same wolf in sheep’s clothing. Love is about sharing the deepest parts of yourself with another, but not expecting someone to save you.

create interdependence and stop being codependent in your relationships

growth is always good

Interdependence is the goal of any healthy relationship. It allows us to love and support each other, while not expecting the other one to make us feel whole or to change who they are.

My husband and I are each whole on our own, and we have the choice to grow individually and as a couple. That means that if I am feeling sad and hurt, I first try to comfort myself and give myself what I need before I share my feelings with him. I give him the space to try to understand my perspective without forcing him to say or do anything.

Remember that your happiness is up to you. Just as you can’t save or change anyone, it isn’t anyone’s responsibility to save or fix you. Work on yourself and allow others the opportunity to do the same. Remember to establish clear boundaries so that others get to choose their own path and make their own choices, but you have control over what you do with that choice. You also get to choose your own path and healing journey.

Show love and kindness to yourself and your feelings. Your feelings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are important and have value because they are yours. Respect and honor them even if others do not.

Interdependence is a foreign concept for many, but a way of living that is possible for all of us. Change can be scary, and there will be many hiccups along the way. The good news? You can learn to stop being codependent and get to be the hero of your own story.

How I Broke the Cycle of Codependency

Codependency is a huge buzzword nowadays. Everywhere you turn there are people preaching about overcoming the cycle of codependency.

I agree that codependency isn’t healthy; I also understand why it is so easy to fall into that cycle, and why it is so difficult to overcome.

For many, codependency was normal for us growing up. If you had a parent or adult in your life that you took care of (as opposed to the other way around), you learned that your happiness and safety were dependent on the other person’s happiness. There were no boundaries and your feelings were ignored or not even verbalized. You learned that your well-being and safety was completely contingent on the well-being of someone else. When that person was happy, you felt loved and needed. By default, if the adult was upset, sick (mentally or physically), or unavailable to you, you felt worthless and unsafe.

caught in a cycle of codependency

I grew up having the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I listened to her marital and life problems, tried to cheer her up, and felt good about myself when I felt she needed me. When she had nothing to do with me, I felt like a complete failure as a daughter and as a person. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I made myself completely available to her. I was so available that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm her down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay.

She relied on me to comfort her and be there for her, and I relied on her positive opinion of me to feel valued and loved. We were the definition of codependency.

Based on a belief system that was engrained into many of us, as adults we believe that our partner’s well-being and happiness is our responsibility. After all, that is all we know and were taught from a young age. It was only natural that my cycle of codependency with my mother translated into a codependent relationship with my spouse.

MY SPOUSE AND I WERE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER

Spouse and I were mutually dependent on one another

When my husband started heavily drinking and then taking pills, I felt like it was my job to make him sober. I believed that it was up to me to figure out how to make him stop. When my efforts failed, I felt like a complete failure. Taking care of my husband and making him get clean was my responsibility. I believed I was a terrible wife unless he stopped.

My value as a person was completely defined by the well-being of those I loved. I thought it was my role as a wife and mother to completely devote myself and my happiness to them. This way of thinking made it so that other people were responsible for my own feelings of security and safety. This helped to perpetuate my cycle of codependency in my relationships. When the roller coaster of addiction took me for a ride, my feelings of self-worth plummeted or soared with it. It became my obsession to save my husband, which in turn, would save myself.

At a certain point I reached my own rock bottom. I saw how vicious the emotional cycle was of trying to make him better/save him. I realized that focusing all my efforts on him was a distraction so that I didn’t have to heal my own wounds and trauma. If I was focusing on someone/something that was out of my control, I didn’t have to fix what I had control over- myself.

breaking my cycle of codependency

I finally realized that my happiness was my responsibility, and I learned a lot about codependency. It was both terrifying and empowering to know that my happiness was my job, just as others are responsible for their own well-being and happiness. The book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie was extremely helpful and enlightening.

It was up to my husband to get clean, and I couldn’t make him do that. I could support him and love him, but I could not fix him. It was important to start taking care of myself and my own well-being.

I also established clear boundaries with my daughter. I’ve instilled in her that her job is to learn from her mistakes and take responsibility for her actions. I do not want her to feel responsible for others. My daughter knows that the decisions my husband and I make are our responsibility. It is our job to take care of her, not the other way around.

Another thing that I reinforced is that it is imperative and healthy to feel and share your feelings with those you love and trust. I remind her that I can give suggestions on what she can do to feel better. Ultimately, she controls how she feels. I am open with her about my feelings and model tools that I use to feel better, but I don’t tell her about my adult problems.

When my daughter tries to get involved and tell me and my husband what to do, I remind her that she has control over her actions and not others. I explain that she should focus on being the best version of herself, as it is also each of our individual responsibility to do so.

being interdependent instead of codependent

Interdependent Instead of Codependent What I now strive for is interdependency. It is empowering to not allow others to make me feel whole and valued. I can be vulnerable and supportive with my husband, but ultimately, I control and am responsible for how I feel. My relationships are still valued, but I also value myself separately from my role as a wife and a mother.

The biggest hurdle for me was giving myself the space I needed to feel whatever I was feeling. I felt that I had to justify my feelings to my husband in order for my feelings to be valid. It is a work-in-progress to accept that my feelings are valid regardless of what he or anyone else thinks.

It took a lot of trial and error for me to apply my interdependence into all aspects of my marriage. I remind myself everyday to focus on myself and give myself the love and care that I craved so desperately from others.

self-growth and mutual support is the key to happiness

I have learned the importance of each of us being responsible for our own growth, while supporting and encouraging each other. Sure, there are things that I wish my husband would do differently. It is not my job to change him or to fix him. He is not a project or a little boy. He deserves to be treated as a man who can make his own choices. I have set clear boundaries of what I cannot except. My husband is aware of my boundaries. My choices are to accept and love him as he is or walk away if any issue is a deal breaker.

I am the happiest I have been in a long time because I am now the source of my well-being. I am not a princess waiting to be rescued, nor am I a martyr trying to save everyone to the detriment of myself. Instead, I am focused on working on myself, and looking inward for love and compassion. That, in turn, allows me to be the best wife, mother, and person I can be.

my story of living with an addict

Surviving a Loved One’s Addiction

The serenity prayer is a crucial part of recovery meetings. It is of equal importance to those of us that love someone who is an addict. To watch a loved one destroy themselves and their life is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced. My husband, Matt, bravely shared his story about addiction on my blog. It is important to understand that addiction doesn’t just affect the life of an addict; it affects the ones who love the addict just as much.

My husband always liked to drink. I was never a big drinker, and I’m a lightweight. One drink for me, and I get tipsy. It was amazing to see how much my husband was capable of drinking at one time. I love to dance, and when we were dating, we would go to clubs (ah, the memories of once being young). I knew Matt was part of a fraternity in college, so when my friends noticed how much he drank and inquired about it, I just chalked it up to him having a high tolerance for it. He got drunk on our wedding day, but so did most of the guests there. It was a celebration, after all.

Coping with a Loved One’s Addiction

Fast forward to us finding out I was pregnant. We were on cloud nine. I knew Matt was afraid of me having a miscarriage (we knew many couples who sadly went through that), but I reassured him that I was okay, and the baby was okay. I thought everything was fine until one day I saw him pouring alcohol into an iced tea bottle. Warning bells started going off in my head. I was three months pregnant and knew that behavior like that wasn’t okay. I told him that he needed to stop. He said he would stop, and then a few weeks later he got drunk again. He wandered to my father’s house, and my dad had to take him home. This time I put my foot down. I said if I ever caught him drinking again, he would have to leave. There was a child being brought into the world, and it wasn’t safe for a baby to be around that. I thought that was the end of the story. Little did I know, it was just the beginning.
 
I have severe insomnia, and I take medication to help me sleep. There was only one prescription I could take that wouldn’t hurt the baby. All of a sudden, I noticed those pills were missing. I asked my husband about it. The first time I asked he said he accidentally dropped the pills in a sewer on the way home. Once he said the pharmacy must have not given me enough pills. My favorite lie was when we flew to New York; he told me that airport security must have taken them, and it is quite common for them to do so. I knew nothing about addiction besides what I had seen on TV, and we had a baby on the way. I wanted more than anything to believe that he was telling the truth.

lies and deception are the hallmarks of addiction

lies and deception are the hallmarks of addiction

On August 3, 2012 we gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. It should have been a magical time in our lives. It was anything but. Matt was always sleeping through Brielle’s cries, he was not hands-on with her, and I was taking care of our baby all on my own. By this point I had actually caught him with pills, and I knew that he had a problem. Here I was, a new mom with a little baby, and my husband was getting high. Each time he would say he would stop, but it always started up again.
 
This went on for more years than I care to admit. When he stopped taking my pills, he started using others that he obtained on his own. I tried to reach out to loved ones for help, but nobody wanted to see him as an addict. Their denial made me feel helpless and completely alone. He was so convincing that sometimes I questioned if I was losing my mind, and the problem was me. I had no support and I prayed there was something I could do to make him see the light. I tried talking, I tired yelling, I tried crying, I tried pleading. Nothing I said or did made a difference, and I was the only one fighting for him to get well.
 
My husband had seen several therapists during this time, at my request, and he convinced each therapist that there was nothing wrong. I remember one time that some pills went missing, and Matt swore up, down, and sideways that he had nothing to do with it. I requested Matt’s permission to accompany him to his next session, and I was shocked that his therapist said that he believed him. My husband was a great manipulator (as most addicts are), and he was incredibly convincing. Years later, he admitted that of course he had taken those pills, and he lied to me and the therapist. He was able to fool almost everyone, but he couldn’t fool me.

acceptance and ending codependency

acceptance and ending codependency

My daughter was getting older, and I didn’t want her exposed to this. I had two choices: (1)- I could accept that this was what he was going to do, and I had to find a way to live with that (2)- I couldn’t accept that and I had to walk away. As much as I loved my husband, I knew this wasn’t the kind of life I could accept for my child. I made an appointment with a marriage counselor who specialized in addiction. Since he wasn’t listening to me, and nobody else had backed me up, I hoped that a stranger could make him see that he needed help. I made it clear to her that I was prepared to leave him if speaking to her didn’t work.
 
That fateful day we met with this therapist, and for the first time, someone backed me up. I felt a combination of relief and fear. Relief that I wasn’t crazy to believe that he had a problem, and terrified that it was actually the truth. The therapist did something only I had done. She listened to him tell his story, told him that he was full of baloney, and that I was prepared to leave him if he didn’t get help. I’ll never forget the look on Matt’s face. It was the first time that someone besides me had told him that he needed help. He had everyone else convinced that he was fine, including himself. Now he had two people holding up mirrors in front of his face, and there was nowhere for him to hide.

The Journey to recovery

the journey to recovery

My husband agreed to go to an outpatient center. He went three evenings a week for three hours each time for four months. Matt hadn’t been active at all in my daughter’s life because of his addiction, and now he was not physically there as well. My then three-year-old daughter kept asking me where her Daddy was. I told her that he was sick, and he was going somewhere to get better.
 
There were nights that the outpatient program allowed family members to attend. I went to those meetings and took notes. There was so much about addiction that I didn’t know. I learned that the brain of an addict sends signals that their addiction is necessary for survival. Just as he needed food and water, his brain made him think he needed those pills. I had never understood why he wasn’t able to just stop. I now understood that addiction was a disease, and one that couldn’t just be turned on and off.
 
My daughter and I were there the day he graduated from his outpatient program. She didn’t know any specifics, but I told her that her Daddy was trying really hard to get well. She and I both applauded for him as he got his completion certificate. My dad accompanied us there so he could take Brielle out of the room when Matt gave his speech. I couldn’t be prouder of his hard work and determination to stay sober.
 
I don’t know what it feels like to have an addiction, but I have tried to educate myself about it as much as possible so that I could support Matt on his journey to stay sober. The biggest lesson I learned was that you can’t force someone to get clean. You also can’t force someone to stay clean. This is a choice that my husband makes every single day, and it’s a choice that I never take for granted.

Sobriety is a choice 

I am so proud of my husband for accepting that he is an addict, but I am not responsible for his sobriety. It is incredibly difficult to not try to “help” someone stay clean. There have been times where time has lapsed between him attending meetings, and as much as I want to tell him to go to one, I know that it needs to come from him. An addict can’t stay sober because you want them to. They have to do that for themselves.
 
Loving an addict means that sobriety is never a certainty. Matt knows that I am always here to listen and support him, but I can’t make him stay clean. Only he can do that. It is a scary road for a loved one of an addict. The harsh reality is that at any point the rug can be pulled out from under me. It is very terrifying and heartbreaking to not have control over that.
 
The biggest piece of advice I can give to someone who loves an addict is that as much as the addict loves you, he or she will always choose their addiction over you until they reach rock bottom. Addiction is a disease that messes with an addict’s mind. You can’t make choices for an addict, but you do have the power to make your own choice; you can choose to stay with that person as they are or you can choose to walk away. As much as you love that person, you can’t make them stop their addiction. Sometimes walking away will be the rock bottom necessary to get help. Sometimes it isn’t.
 
I can’t control the choices Matt makes, but I can control what I expose to my child and to myself. Take care of yourself and your children. Give love and encouragement to the person who is trying to stay sober, but don’t try to force sobriety. You will never win that battle.
 
Loving an addict is not easy, and we often don’t get recognition or support. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Just as there are support groups for addiction, there are support groups for loved ones of addicts (Al-Anon). Speak to a therapist, educate yourself, and work on yourself. Use the serenity prayer to help you on your journey through loving an addict.