My fourth anniversary was on Thanksgiving this year. I hadn’t known that was possible because I thought Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday of the month, and my anniversary, November 22nd, is more than seven days from the end of the month.
We All Have Problems
Last year on Thanksgiving I decided I would ignore all my marriage problems for the next year to see if they went away because maybe they were in my head.
My husband had been deployed to Afghanistan when his dad died at the end of November. He came home on the first of December. At the end of the trip to lay his father to rest, I cried in the Tulsa airport. The problems weren’t in my head, but it wasn’t the time to try to fix anything, dealing with a death and preparing for a baby.
Let me go ahead and say I love my husband, he’s awesome, marriage is hard, marriage is nuanced, blah,blah, blah. This is about me, not him.
Once my child arrived, I saw my husband step into a role as natural as sunlight, being a father. Bossy as he was, he took care of our newborn and me. I was satisfied with our relationship for the time being because my new immediate needs were being met.
As I prepared to return to work, I started to find ways to get out of the life I knew I would hate: being drained from taking back to back Customer Service calls until 7 pm, rushing around but getting nothing done, and not being with my child.
I searched the internet for options. Thanks to Youtube and it’s algorithm, I was introduced to The Secret and the Law of Attraction.
No, I didn’t change my life by making vision boards and wanting success really badly. I latched on to the idea I can actually control the quality and trajectory of my life by going for “it.”
I used to believe I would need some sort of big break to get to where I had envisioned myself. I used to fantasize about being on Ellen from going viral and asking the nation for a job instead of accepting the $10,000.
Instead of waiting on someone or something else, I decided I was going to take action starting with quitting my job at the end of the summer.
Focusing on Me
I made that choice without putting the most weight on how it would impact my husband’s quality of life. This was step one. Of course I respect my husband and don’t make life decisions without him, but until that moment most decisions I made put his interests in front of mine, and that wasn’t working for me.
I began my journey of taking control of my life. I started to understand how I had been looking to my husband to validate me, save me, and show me my worth.
I could never make him happy as happy as I wanted. I could never get the response I wanted from him no matter what I did.
Imagine I’m putting on a one woman show with fire, acrobatics, exotic animals– okay, so it’s a circus. Imagine I’m putting on a circus, and my audience shows no awe, barely smiles, texts most of the time, and lamely claps. That’s how I felt as a wife.
I wanted to be as a wife what I couldn’t be as a career person. Why can’t I have a career I love? I didn’t pick a good degree, it’s hard to find a good job in this Army town, I am terrible at resumes, Lousiana State University screwed me over on my masters program, I’m too analytical for customer service, I don’t really want to work for someone else. Pick one of those.
This is co-dependency. I made my happiness and self-worth dependent on my husband’s happiness and validation. For the record, my husband has never said he was unhappy with me besides my being messy.
Seven months later the way I describe this lesson is that my husband couldn’t save me from what I was really fighting against— mediocrity, self doubt. No one can save you but you.
“You are responsible for your life. If you’re sitting around waiting on somebody to save you, to fix you, to even help you, you are wasting your time. Only you have the power to move your life forward.” -Oprah Winfrey, Master Class
I had heard from a lot of people, but hearing Oprah say this affirmed what I had been thinking. It was up to me and I didn’t need permission.
I am convinced my unhappiness in my relationship was tied to lack of purpose because once I started pursuing fulfillment over status quo, I stopped resenting my husband for not acknowledging me. And I stopped the performance I had been perfecting for him.
Saving Our Marriage
My marriage problems weren’t in my head and they didn’t go away after I “saved” myself. So in October I started dragging my husband to marriage counseling.
I was done convincing myself I didn’t deserve the things I want, and I was done accepting the same outcomes over and over. I knew my marriage could be greater than what it was, just as I knew I could be greater than what I am. I didn’t wait for my husband to validate my opinion, I did what was best for me and made the first appointment.
I had thought counseling would basically be someone refereeing all our arguments and telling me I’m right, making my husband apologize. Instead it has been a process of realizing the impact of the baggage we show up with at marriage coming from two completely different backgrounds and life experiences. The bulk of the work has been finding the meeting ground.
When I see someone frustrated at their spouse for not changing, not treating them the way they think they should be treated, not making marriage what they expected it to be, I see myself in that.
When I start spending time concentrating on the ways marriage isn’t what I want it to be, I know I’m not as focused on my goals as I should be. Sometimes I’m not resilient enough to stay focused, sometimes I need my helpmate for that, which is why we are still working on our marriage. I still need my husband to make up what I lack and to save me from myself when I’m in the sunken place.
Our ability to be married is still a work in progress and is a priority, but since I have delineated where my disappointment actually lies, I don’t feel desperate.
This relationship isn’t the pinnacle of my existence. Sorry. I had been socialized as a Christian to believe it should be, as much as I pushed back on that idea in college. My husband was definitely not raised to believe that. He never wanted to be married, until he met me of course.
This is my story and obviously true for me. I can see other people caught up in the same hamster wheel with their marriages and think they are focusing on the wrong person. But I also understand not self-actualizing as individuals isn’t the cause of every person’s marriage problems. Some people actually have bad situations. That wasn’t me.
To anyone, married or not, I hope you consider that the little voice in your head making you think your life can be more is the one you should be listening to. Ultimately, there is no one to give you permission to be who you want to be. No one can save you but you.
Check Out My Other Anniversary Posts