learning to love with re-engage | April Noelle

Re-Learning to Love

When I started Re-Engage with my husband, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew they spoke about learning to love, but I wasn’t sure what that meant.

First of all, I didn’t think there was much wrong with our marriage.

I knew it wasn’t perfect. What is?

I knew that there was room to improve. Who doesn’t need a little improvement?

At our first meeting, we encountered a question. I can’t recall exactly what it was, but the point was “confess to your spouse your sins so that you may be forgiven”.

I’ll say it, I was uncomfortable with having to confess “old stuff” to him. Why does he need to know things that happened in the past that I never intend on mentioning or bringing up again and that I will go to my grave keeping in my mind and heart.

Him, on the other, had something else planned. He had something that was sitting on the tip of his tongue and by the next day was questioning when we would chat. His anxiousness to complete this assignment did not put me at ease. I felt my “sins” were “no harm-no foul” so we could talk about them whenever. He wanted to “get it over with” and that scared me… a lot.

Once we found the time to sit quietly with each other, after the children went to sleep, he started the conversation with his confession. It ended with me confused and in tears. I didn’t doubt his love or his commitment, but I felt like his confession was out of left field and knocked the wind out of me.

At that time, I didn’t think I wanted to even continue. What else could he say to me?

Was this class the beginning of the end? Was it the end of something that I thought was maybe a bit shaky, but not at all crumbling?

Thankfully, it was not.

We started this journey at the end of 2015 and I’ve already learned so much, not only about myself but about me as a wife and mother.

First, we covered love. You know that thing that princesses find and live happily ever after? Have you ever wondered why the story never continues after the wedding? I’m sure no one wants to see the baggage that both spouses brought and what they expected their spouse to do with it.

In the class, we looked at the expectations of “love” that we imposed on our spouses, the quiet and unspoken ones from television, family or friends. You know the parents that have been married for 30 years and keep saying that the key to marriage is serving your husband dinner every night? Or the ones on television where the husband is a bumbling fool and the wife has to control everything in order to keep any order in the house? Have you ever thought that re-learning to love was in the cards after you got married?

I thought my expectations were minimal. Love, respect and come home at a decent hour every night. My husband came through with flying colors. For me, I found that I had such low expectations for success that peace was enough for me. Never mind that we rarely spoke about the issues that we had and especially never fixed them.

With our personalities, we were both content. Not angry enough to fight, not sad enough to discuss it, we were both just “ok”. Quite frankly, had we not taken this step, I’m not sure that we would’ve ever gotten to discuss our real issues.

I found that I had many, many more expectations that I thought were a given. The problem was that they weren’t and he didn’t do them. I was confronted with them and even worse (or better) I had to talk to him about them.

During our second session, we were challenged to look for our own baggage and how it’s had an effect on our marriage. Now here, I know I come in with a LOT of baggage. I’m what Iyanla Vanzant calls a “Fatherless Daughter”. I have a father, but he’s not in my life. I had a step-father who was absolutely wonderful until he had a child of his own.

I’ve never felt that I’ve had a positive male role model in my life and most certainly not one who would slay dragons for me.

On the mother side, she was there… but for the most part, she was just there. She had her own things going on and often they trumped whatever was going on in my life. I know she loves me, but I can’t say that I’ve always felt it.

Then there’s the rest of the family…

So, in our classes, we break down our feelings. Not to blame or sulk in the pain, but to see how those feelings relate to the person who lays next to us every night.

All of that was only the first two official classes. Whew!

See you next time.

If you are looking for marriage help or just want to find out more about this program, check out Re-Engage.

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The Step that Will Change Our Marriage

Every year, I make goals.

Every year, I’m successful at some and not so successful with others.

This year is a bit different, letting you into my methods to be successful. One such goal is to have a better marriage. Let me give you a little background.

Growing up, I was not surrounded by happily married couples.

My parents seemed happy on the outside, but on the inside, they were distant. My mother content clicking away on the computer keyboard in her office while my dad, well, he was kinda just there. Even at a young age, I realized they weren’t right for each other. I couldn’t say that there was any fundamental flaw with either one of them, just that the other wasn’t a complement. Their quiet bickering in their room only affirmed my belief and so did their eventual divorce.

Most of my extended family never married. Single motherhood was, and still is, the norm. For the few that had taken the plunge, abuse was rampant, the impressions apparent on my generation.

There were a couple of married couples that seemed to survive, but as I aged, I found out they were at best dealing with each other.

When my proposal came, I was excited, but I also had very low expectations. In all honesty, if I could avoid Aggression, Abuse and Adultery, I would be able to make it last forever.

Changing Our Marriage

So we married… and a lot of things occurred: financial ruin, death of a child, strained familial relationships, but none of the three As. We made it to the other side, relatively unscathed.

Or so I thought.

I thought we were happy. I thought we were a great couple.

We are, but we aren’t.

In our desire to keep a peaceful relationship, we skip the argument and turn it into animosity and resentment. We wish the other did things. Occasionally, we’d discuss it, but we rarely resolved it.

What do you do about non-issues? I tried to figure out how it would go in therapy:

Therapist: What brought you in today?

Us: We don’t argue, but somethings wrong.

Therapist: What?

Us: *shoulder shrug*

Sadly, we’d be telling the truth. We didn’t know what was wrong, just that something was.

When our church announced that they started a ministry called Re|Engage for married couples, I was eager to sign up. They introduced it as a ministry that will bring a marriage back from the brink of death and/or improve the best of marriages. Sounds like we couldn’t go wrong.

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I told my husband about it. As usual, he had little reaction to the news.

Until last December, when he heard about it at church. Well, when he processed the announcement from church, he decided it was something we should do together.

We went to our first meeting, of course, right before the winter break. Three weeks went by. But we started right back up again in 2016.

Their format requires that you attend weekly meetings, initially being placed into an Open Group, then eventually Closed Group. In order for this process to work, you have to be comfortable sharing and laying your flaws on the table. Until you are comfortable, you stay in an Open Group. The Open Group changes weekly, as couples come and go. Once you’re ready to really dig deeper, you can request to join a Closed Group.

A Closed Group is several couples who promise to keep the session confidential, so that everyone can freely speak without rejection or judgment. When you reach the Closed Group, you work through the workbook, chapter by chapter, diving deeper into yourself, your heart and your soul.

After four short weeks, we have made it into a Closed Group. Now, I can truly share our journey and what we are getting from the sessions. Please join me through the process.

So, to finish this week’s sentence: “I’m thankful for…”

  • I’m thankful that my husband not only wants a decent marriage, but wants a great one.
  • I’m thankful that he opted to come because I would not have pushed.
  • I’m thankful that our church offered a solution, an alternative to traditional therapy.
  • I’m thankful that he’s excited to go.
  • I’m thankful that we’ve started praying together.
  • I’m thankful that the church offers childcare so that we can go weekly, without the need of a babysitter.
  • I’m thankful that it’s at a time that is convenient.
  • I’m thankful for the couples that we’ve met.
  • I’m thankful for the leaders of the ministry for their time.

Most of all,

  • I’m thankful that we, as a couple, are on the same page, as we embark on 2016 to make our marriage stronger.

Finish the Sentence Friday is a link-up where writers and bloggers come together to share their themselves with a particular sentence. If you’d like to stay ahead of future sentences and participate, join our Facebook group.  Link up your sentence prompts below!

This, dear ones, is a glorious-most-wonderful mash-up of Finish the Sentence Friday and Ten Things of Thankful joining forces for one WONDERFUL weekend.

If you want to join in, the starter sentence is “I’m thankful…”

Feel free to answer it any way you wish.

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The Saboteur ~ Relationships #InTheRaw

Relationships in the Raw is a series that I created to discuss difficult relationships. When I was dealing with family issues, I felt there was no one to talk to help me through and see the other side. I hope this series finds those who feel alone. This is the third installment with many more to come! 

 

Relationships in the Raw

Is it back?

I don’t know yet, but am watching, waiting, to see whether the proverbial bad penny is back in my life for another round.

And I’m scared.

Each time he says “I feel down.” “I’m not in a good humour.” “I just want to curl up in a ball.” “I’d rather not be here.” I get that sickening, nagging dread in the pit of my stomach – that awful feeling of a hangover that hasn’t quite gone, and it makes me want to reach for a drink to start numbing the looming threat of ‘Maybe’s which are building on the horizon.

Maybe The Saboteur has returned.

Maybe it hasn’t.

Maybe this is the start of the next bout.

Maybe it will be better than last time.

Maybe it will be worse.

Maybe our marriage won’t survive.

Maybe Husby will try to kill himself again.

We’ve had six months of respite. Six, precious months of peace when things have been on a reasonably even keel and we haven’t been battling for diagnoses, fighting the Saboteur on a daily basis, grieving for our lost children, mourning our infertility (now as confirmed as it’s ever going to be), or struggling to survive in spite of severe financial hardship.

The even keel has only been ‘ish’, but it’s been bloody marvellous compared to the hell we endured for the first three and a half years of marriage. The Saboteur ruled every day, causing Husby to not want to live to the end of many of them; making him question, constantly, whether it was all worth it; turning his thoughts into dark, twisted logic where I was better off without him, and he’d be doing us all a favour if he took himself out of the equation.

The Saboteur started fights. He made us both vicious; stirring up trouble then standing back to watch us wound one another, with a smirk on his face. He dragged Husby deep into an ocean of nihilism and despair, and in trying to save the man I loved, I nearly got sucked under, too.

Because once he’s in, there’s no rescuing allowed. And the victims of the Saboteur can only save themselves if they somehow become convinced it’s worth their while to do so. It doesn’t matter what love or logic is applied, the Saboteur twists the words into incomprehensible jargon and doesn’t let them understand.

“I love you” becomes meaningless.

“I want you to live” becomes an unbearable trap.

“I don’t want anyone else” elicits a hollow laugh of incredulity.

But perhaps the hollow laugh is allowable, because admittedly, in those times, I don’t want him. Not with the Saboteur so intrinsically tangled into every cell of his body and every fibre of his mind – his whole being clouded and buffeted by the storms of self-hatred, disillusionment, disappointment and futility.

“What if it happens again? I’m worried about that”, he tells me.

I’m worried too, love. In fact, I’m bloody terrified, because we barely made it through the last round, and I’m not sure I’ve been in the corner for long enough to recover and make it through the next.

I’m not sure I’ll ever recover.

When you’ve gotten to such a dark place that if your husband kills himself, you only don’t want him to make a mess;

When you feel so rejected that you don’t care if, whilst out jogging, you get caught and accosted because at least that would mean someone found you an attractive prospect;

When you find yourself wishing you’d never met. Never said yes. Never stayed. And you know that your soul is inexorably linked, in love, to a man with whom ‘til death will you stay, and you don’t know whether you hope it will be sooner or later, and that thought plays over and over and over and over;

When those ‘maybe’ clouds loom so close and so menacingly that the world takes on a dark tinge, even in sunlight, because if the Saboteur takes him again, you don’t know what you’ll do;

When those patterns of thinking are engrained like dirt into the fingernails you hang onto your sanity with, and each day becomes an epic, uphill struggle, just to make it to bedtime;

When you find yourself escaping more than engaging;

When you live in fear, each time you leave, that it could be the last time you see him;

When you live in anger, each time you return, that he’s still there – still depressed – not fighting it, but letting it break him into pieces;

When he sits, quite calmly across from you and tells you that your love isn’t enough to make him want to stay alive;

When you aren’t enough to combat it;

No. You don’t recover.

You just desperately, fervently hope that you don’t get pitched back into the ring.

You cry. You beg. You plead. You pray. You hope.

You gather your friends around you and you try to focus on the good things. Try to help him focus on the good things. You hope.

You try to help him remember the strategies he learned in counselling. You suggest he goes back to the doctor. You go the extra mile and try to take the pressure off. You hope.

And in the meantime, you suck in your tummy, stick out your chest and do your best to ignore that gnawing, agonising, sick feeling. Because you think that probably, maybe, for now, you might make it through and have another period of respite when you can pretend to yourself that it’s not going to cycle back to the beginning, and you’re not going to have to endure it again.

You live life in Silver Linings; because as long as they keep coming, you have hope.

Have you lived through this? What did you do to hold things together? *Did* you hold it together? What do you do when love no longer seems enough?

 

Today’s author is a Seeker of Good, Teller of Truths and Wender of Words, living life in Silver Linings. This story originally shared at http://sisterwivesspeak.com/2014/07/14/the-saboteur/!

Do you have a story to tell? Please email me at spiritedlife @ gmail.com.

 

 

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A Day in My Life ~ #AAF with Jenessa {Mothering in Real Life}

A couple of weeks have passed since my last #AskAwayFriday. This school year has been great for my son, but taxing on me. My son is now in school 2-3 days a week from 8:45 to 5:00. He’s in a several clubs after school, so I have the two LOs all day. Having my son around means that I can get a break as he entertains both of the girls. I haven’t had that, since he has chores after school, then dinner, then bedtime. The process for putting my daughters to sleep starts at 9, but often doesn’t end until 10. Quite honestly, after all of that, the last thing I want to do is blog. Feel free to leave me any comments on how to cope with this schedule, it would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, and I have an AWESOME giveaway going on… Mommy Needs a Vacay! It’s a free vacation… check out the details HERE!

I have also completed a 30 Day Fitness Devotional. I have not put together an entire post, but if you’d like to review it for me, and give me your honest feedback, from what you get out of it to changes or clarifications, please click HERE and fill out the form.

…on to #AskAwayFriday…

What is #AskAwayFriday? Well…
#AskAwayFriday was created by the amazing Penny from Real Housewife of Caroline County as a way to connect with other bloggers with a great Q & A session of 10 questions and 10 answers! By offering a wonderful opportunity to get to know others while allowing others to get to know you and of course there is also the added bonus of making great friends along the way which is one of the best parts of this online world! Now to welcome our wonderful #AskAwayFriday hosts… NEWAskAwayFridayHost550

Tamara from Tamara Like Camera, Tiffany from Mrs. Tee Love Life Laughter, Christy from Uplifting Families, Stacey from This Momma’s Ramblings and Amber from Bold Fit Mom
So…grab the brand, new button, follow our amazing hosts and co-host, hop through the great link ups and make some amazing new friends!

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This week, Jenessa from Mothering {in Real Life} hits me with some hard questions. As a wife and mother of three, she has a lot of experience where I’m just learning. She delves into detail about her children, her marriage and her bouts of depression. She keeps things real. Make sure you check out her responses to my questions.

Jenessa AAF

1) Tell me some random facts about yourself, that you haven’t shared on the blog before. I’m right-handed. I don’t like mushy foods like peas or bananas. I loved school, but hated taking tests, even though I would get an A on most of them. Does three constitute some?

2) What are each of your children’s favorite: movie, tv show, food, book, color, article of clothing. Bad mommy! I have no idea for most of these. I know Bee loves Frozen, Cinderella AND Ariel. Her favorite color is blue. Her favorite article of clothing is the Cinderella dress I bought her from Costco. I know Bunny loves to draw and Minecraft. His favorite color is green. He loves Geronimo Stilton and Thea Stilton books. Butterfly is too young for any favorites yet.
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3) What fall season premieres or new shows are you looking forward to? So many! This fall lineup looks awesome! Thursday nights will be dedicated to ABC with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. I’m looking forward to the Gotham, Black-ish, Forever, Gracepoint, Stalkers, Madam Secretary, The Mindy Project. Seriously, I can go on! I’m a bit of a TV-aholic!
4) What advice would you give to someone starting on a weight loss journey? Take it slow. Find something you know you can conquer. Those small victories will encourage you to keep going. If you’re addicted to soda, but you’re sure you can kick it, do it! You’ll feel great when it you conquer the first thing, then move on to the next! And remember, you didn’t gain the weight over night (at least most of us), don’t expect to take it off overnight. Two pounds per week is reasonable, and that’s likely still faster than you put it on.
5) You have been through some rough times in your life. What is something that helps you get through those hard times? God, my husband and my kids. A church service, a bible study or self-study can really put things into perspective. A hug from my family really can change my mood. A drink or two is helpful too!
6) Name 5 things you love about your husband and 5 quirks he has that drive you crazy. Five? Oh goodness.
LOVE His:
  • Kindness,
  • Willingness to accept me as I am,
  • Willingness to clean if I haven’t,
  • Strength, and
  • Love for his kids.

Drive me crazy, his:

  • Ability to only think about him,
  • One-track mind,
  • Indecisiveness,
  • Lack of desire to change, and
  • Lack of willingness to break the speed limit.
7) I dare you to post a picture of the messiest room in your house – without cleaning it up first! I don’t really have messy rooms. I have messy areas. This is my side of my bedroom. The rest of the room is clean.
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8) What are your favorite blog resources or websites? SITS Girls, Blogelina
9) Describe a typical day at your house. Right now, it mainly consists of me trying to figure out how to put down Butterfly long enough to get anything done without screams and fits of tears.
We wake up (all in my bed because my bed seems to be everyone’s favorite spot). I spend about 20 minutes trying to wake up, because I’ve been awake for an hour or two in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Then I feed the girls breakfast, which Butterfly promptly refuses to eat, and sits in her chair screaming as I try to make Bee the rest of her breakfast. Then I turn on some educational television, of which Butterfly enjoys on my lap and Bee watches while she eats. Then, lately, I’ve been trying a more educational approach all around, so we are learning the calendar, how to write, numbers from 11-20, and sight words. Around 10, I try to put Butterfly down for her nap by nursing her to sleep, just to have Bee wake her up as soon as I put her in her bed. Then, an hour to two of fussing, whining and crying until lunch, which Butterfly WILL eat on her own. Then, I nurse her to sleep for her nap, which she can sleep up to two hours, if Bee doesn’t also wake her up from that nap. I play games with Bee, until Butterfly wakes up. Snack time for both girls, then movie/fun tv time ~ normally Netflix or something on Demand. If I can get Butterfly to play, I’ll start dinner. Otherwise, I wait until I get my son. He comes home, plays the piano, does his chore, then he’ll watch the girls while I start dinner. THANK GOD for no homework!
Hubby comes home around 6:30 or 7, then we eat, he bathes the kids, and then the bedtime ritual begins. Read a book, Butterfly nurses, Bee is patted on the back on my husband’s lap. Butterfly lays down in her bed, and it’s normally about 9-9:30. I’m exhausted, enjoy a glass of wine, watch something on the DVR, go to sleep and start all over again!
10) Tell a funny story from your childhood. If any friends or family read this, feel free to pipe up, because I can’t think of one. My childhood wasn’t fun or funny.
That’s it for this week’s #AskAwayFriday… check out the other posts, and of course, Jenessa’s!
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Ask, Don’t Assume

How many times in your marriage have you assumed your spouse knows what you want? Even after seven years of marriage, I still assume my husband knows my wants and needs, but that’s just not the case.

As much as we wish our spouses were mind-readers, often, they are clueless to our internal struggles. We wish they would just say “I know you’re hurting” but really they are wondering “I wonder what’s wrong with them.”

Sometimes, we have to open our mouths and say something in order to make sure that know.

Find more about what I think on the subject over at Marriage, Motherhood and Missions.

Don't Assume

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