A friend called to talk to me about some issues she was having with her husband. She told me they were in therapy. Again. They’ve been down this road several times before. According to her, she’s tried everything to save her marriage, and she has: counseling, communicating, crying. But the bottom line is if he’s not willing to work on it, what’s the point? He comes home from the office, hits the couch, and it’s over—there’s no opportunity to talk, let alone work things out!
As soon as I heard the word “couch,” I started to think about my marriage. The exact same scenario was going on at my house. My nine-year-old son had even commented on it! I didn’t want to be a bad listener, so I brought myself back into the conversation with my friend—after all, this wasn’t about me.
She had her reasons for staying in the relationship. I was as supportive as I knew how to be. I was there for her and just listened to what she had to say.
Relationships are constant work, kind of like parenting. You always need to check in.
After we’d finished speaking, I went right back to thinking about my relationship with my husband. I began to ponder what I wasn’t doing in my relationship. I’d spent many years blaming him for what he didn’t do, neglecting to realize that I must be contributing to the problem as well. All of those Zen classes and Buddhist studies did teach me something after all: I was 50% responsible for every relationship in my life. I asked myself, “How am I not showing up in this relationship?” What was I not doing? Did I make any attempt to get him off the couch? Do I wait for him to come home to have dinner or do I choose to eat dinner earlier, with the kids? I’m always doing so much when he gets home—I’m often in bed already, either sleeping or working. So basically I’ve checked out, too! I had no right to be pointing fingers at him.
Although my relationship is in a comfortable state, I still need to check in, I still need to pause, to breathe, to connect with my partner. I want him to know that I’m here for him in the same way I want him to be there for me.
Relationships are constant work, kind of like parenting. You always need to check in. I’ve been down this road before, so you would think I would know better. Life has so many distractions and stimulations. We’re always working, doing, running from one place to the next. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. We forget to stop, to pause, to breathe. We forget what’s important. We forget to look up at the sky to see what color it is. Although my relationship is in a comfortable state, I still need to check in, I still need to pause, to breathe, to connect with my partner. I want him to know that I’m here for him in the same way I want him to be there for me.
Since that day, on most days I’ve been putting into practice what I so often preach, checking in with my husband and spending time just talking with him.
I was glad that my friend shared her story with me. I hope she has also found it in herself to figure out what her contributions to the problem are and where she needs to rewire. I know that, thanks to her, I have.