While waiting for my Pad Thai at one of the Thai restaurants in town that I was reviewing, my friend and I sat there talking about marriage and the troubles we've been through. This was during the time that Bill was away for business in Europe and we were trying to get back on track after a rough couple of months. My friend had shared that she and her husband went through a period of separation and made the comment that every relationship goes through winter, or something like that.
That analogy struck a cord with me.
I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but I am an observer of patterns. I often talk about the "pendulum" pattern: when good times turn bad, it will always become good again at some point. Nothing stays the same, there's a yin and yang to every part of life, ebb and flow, even in relationships and especially marriage. A season of winter made so much sense.
The turbulent months that we had gone through, mostly from about October/November to the end of January, wasn't because of something that someone was doing or not doing, it wasn't due to a lack of honesty (frankly, those months were the most honest in almost all of our marriage), it wasn't due to crisis. In fact, we had been in crisis mode for years, trying to survive during financial hardships, lawsuits, job changes and in-law problems. While life may not always be peachy keen, it's the best it's ever been and we aren't in crisis mode any longer. It's been an adjustment. We made a good team when confronted with the problems life threw at us, but when in calm waters, we had almost nothing in common. Bill made the comment that he wished we were broke again or facing some kind of traumatic life change, because those were the moments we really supported one another. Those were the times we connected.
This right now was winter.
Our relationship was dull, dead, gray and cold. There was no passion, no excitement, nothing. I had many aspects in my life that gave me a sense of self and purpose; I had MOMS Club, personal training, writing group, my work as a food writer, nights out with my friends and taking care of the boys. My life was full of a variety of interests and activities, always packed with fun and excitement, but none of it included Bill. He had work and a dying interest in disc golf. He was lost and being so made it even harder for us to find each other in his fog. However, there was still that deep soul-binding connection that wouldn't let us give up (as much as we told each other that we didn't know what to do) and to try as hard as we could to figure out a way to last until Spring.
We had a marriage counseling session before Bill left for his long business trip. I expressed my deepest fear of that when Bill was on his own halfway around the world for so long, he would realize life was better without "us" and would want a divorce. We had talked about this together prior to the session, and he assured me then in that room, as he did during our conversations at home, that he wouldn't do that. He was in this for the long haul and would do anything to get us back to a better place.
Our counselor reassured me that Bill has tried and continues to try harder than any husband she's worked with before. She also reminded us that despite how we felt, we were in a very lucky spot - trying to improve our relationship to make it amazing rather than healing from trauma. Now that we weren't trying to figure our way out of a problem, we were in the fortunate position to think about fun things to do, together and as a family, that we could find a common interest in - vacations, activities, things we've always wanted to do but were never able to do in the past. It was suggested that Bill come up with a bucket list and find things that he would love to do individually, activities that would give him a sense of self and spark his passions in life.
It was the day before Bill left on his trip that we both felt that change for the better. We had been working on communication and rekindling that spark. The timing of his trip was terrible because we wanted so desperately to keep on this without an almost 20 day break. However, that break only made us want to work on our marriage even harder.
It was an eye-opening experience for both of us. That trip ended up being similar to a separation, showing us for a brief moment what life would be like without each other, how much the kids would be effected, and really, how much love we had for one another. Our relationship was completely different upon his return.
It was Spring.
He's been back for only a few weeks and the honeymoon phase has passed, but we are still on good ground. He's sent me flowers from work, we email loves notes to one another and both make an effort to support each other's individual passions. He's been more supportive in my food writing endeavors, attending event dinners that he'd rather not, and buying me books to hone my skills. I've been open to him taking a few hours for himself every week this summer to try out fly fishing and a few weekend camping trips with his friends. We have even thought about trying Krav Maga together as a shared interest (we've yet to sign up). We are working to find that balance of family, marriage and self for each other.
We spent a night in Denver away from the kids, the first night we've ever had to ourselves since we've been parents (this totally merits it own post). On our drive home after a wild and crazy night on the town, it was re-confirmed that Bill is my best friend in the entire world. No matter what insanity we go through, he's there with me picking up the pieces and assures me that there's "no harm done" despite my stupid antics. I understood why I try so hard in our marriage to keep this relationship. It's so easy for me to cast someone in my life to the side or abandon them altogether (whatever the reason may be), but Bill is the only person I've ever fought tooth and nail for, tried with all my might and soul. My love for him is so deep.
It's important for me to remember this season of winter we lived through, to understand that at some point we will go through summer and autumn and find ourselves cycled in the cold and darkness of winter again. Life is never perfect and it always changes. For everything there is a season.