Monday, March 29, 2010

Ask Lola. Bad news from the marriage counselor.

Anonymous said...

My marriage has never been easy and I recently received...let’s call it bad reviews from my bishop and marriage counselor on my husband’s attitude, behavior, and ability to change to better the marriage. In the past years I feel I have lost myself, who I am, and been consumed by "raising" my husband and taking care of almost every responsibility in our marriage. How can I keep hold of who I am?


Okay, so this is a tough one. Eeesh! I can really ONLY tell you what I would do based on my limited understanding of your entire situation…I can only say what I (think I) would do if I found myself in your shoes… so here goes!

First, if your marriage counselor is saying “Wow, I don’t think he’s on board with the whole ‘let’s do everything we can to build a wonderful life together’ thing.” I would take that pretty seriously. Marriage counselors (from what little I know or understand about them) are there to do everything they can to help your marriage succeed, but they have to have two willing participants. If your counselor is admitting that he/she sees little hope, then that should be something to consider. I don't think they take giving that sort of a "report" lightly.

Second, do you have kids? I know that some people don’t think it should make a difference, but for me personally, it would. If I had no children and received that type of “report” from my marriage counselor, I would probably tell my husband (once and for all) that we needed to make drastic changes, or we needed to start divorce proceedings. And then I would follow through. Life is just too short to waste another second of it giving “your all” to someone who has decided that he’s perfectly content to make you to struggle, and beg, and crawl on hands and knees ALL the way over to his side of the field (where he’s decided to smugly plant himself) instead of meeting you somewhere in the middle like MOST spouses do. (I mean, it’s only fair to ask him to meet you halfway, right?)

Your situation will only get harder with children. Like, by a lot. If he doesn’t make you feel special and supported NOW, just add crazy hormones, illness, sleep deprivation, and more mental and emotional stress (and yes, joy…oh the beautiful baby joy…) than you ever thought you were capable of experiencing (or surviving) and see how quickly what’s left of your marriage disintegrates.

Sure, maybe once in every blue moon a crummy husband is suddenly transformed into a better husband and father when his first child arrives, but that is a way bigger gamble than I would ever want to make. There’s also a pretty awesome chance that he’ll just be an even bigger turd…and then you’ll officially be tied to that turd for the rest of your life (which is okay too – I have lots of great friends who make this work, and they would NEVER EVER trade their kids for anything – in fact, they’d go through that trying, heartbreaking, ugly relationship all over again just to bring those sweet, perfect little spirits into their lives, (and, having met their darling children, I can’t say I’d blame them).
But, you know, since you will love your children no matter who the father is…you might as well choose to create them with someone who will be a proactive and supportive and positive (and any other lovely “-ive” you can dream up) father and husband. Don’t waste the pretty. And if you’re anything like me, or thousands of other women out there, you also want to make sure you’re not wasting the good ovaries! Those may “go” well before “the pretty” and you will have wasted your best, most fertile years with someone you couldn’t trust to be the father of your unborn children. Boo.

Life is just too short. I’d rather be with a cheater who is sorry and dedicated to making my marriage work than with a husband who has decided to be an immature, self-centered turd with no end in sight. And that’s saying a lot since I would actually kick men that fit either of those “categories” straight to the curb… but if I HAD to choose one, (you know, cause there was a gun to my head or something) I would pick the guy who is willing to TRY any day of the week. I don’t know your husband, or the extent of how bad it is (or isn’t)… so I really can’t tell you WHAT to do…only what I would do. I WOULD RUN if my husband said (through his actions or otherwise) “I don’t love you enough to try to be the man that you need me to be.” I wouldn’t even think twice and here’s why: There are thousands of great guys out there who WOULD love me enough to want to make me happy. And then I would be so happy that I would really, really want to make him happy. And we would spend the rest of our lives making each other really, really happy. And that would be so great. And you deserve to have that!

But since I don’t know your hubs, you are the only one who can ever know when it’s time to throw in the towel. It’s a big decision and a lot of responsibility, but it’s yours and yours alone. No one can lift it from your shoulders. (Even though I’m sure there are a lot of people who love you and wish that they could.)

Third, you DO have kids? Then try, try, try, (like 3 times harder than I would suggest you try if you were childless) and if he still decides that none of you are worth working for…then I would still peace out. There are so many amazing guys out there waiting to love a good woman, and her flipping cute kids, and their yappy dog, and their smelly hamster, and…trust that. Have faith in that. It’s really true. And even if it wasn’t, I would rather live by myself, free to create the life of my dreams and try every new thing I've ever wanted to try, than with someone who held me back, and made me sort of miserable, and was a bad father/example to my children. (That’s just me though…)

Fourth, if you have no intention of leaving him, and you just want to know how to “keep from losing yourself” here are my suggestions:
(Should we switch to letters for some variety? Yes, let’s!)

A. Forget everything I said in the above 3 items, and refer to them only when you’ve decided that you’ve officially had enough.

B. Nurture relationships with good friends. A good girlfriend (or a whole gaggle of them) can be the most amazing, healing, uplifting support system in a woman’s life. Don’t sit home with someone who isn’t interested in growing a relationship with you, get out! Go to dinner. Go bowling. Go to someone’s house and watch “Beaches” and eat chocolate and popcorn and have yourself a really good cry. Good girlfriends are key. So go get some, and spend more time with them.

C. Pursue your talents. Or something you’ve always wanted to try (even if you might stink at it). I took up painting (yes, painting, like with a canvas, and easel, and the whole sha-bang) when the hubs and I lived in Hawaii, (yes, just so darn inspired by the loveliness of the ocean outside my window…) and I was absolutely no good. (Okay, even that is still probably being too nice.) But man, did I love it. I still love it. Painting (and creating pretty much anything, really) is relaxing, and inspiring, and just an amazing outlet. “Art Therapy” is called that for a reason. It really is therapeutic! But I’m not just talking about art. Take piano or voice lessons. Start an acting class. Take a community photography class. Or karate. Or gymnastics. Or bicycling. Or hiking. You may never be an Olympian, but there is a lot of power and joy in trying something that you’ve always wanted to try. It’s never too late. Start a blog. Write a book. I don’t know, become a birdwatcher! The sky is the limit.

D. Go back to school. In the event that this relationship continues to “not work” there is comfort in knowing that you are building a future for YOURSELF (that may or may not include him). You will also garner a network of friends and associates who inspire you, support you, and will distract you from the parts of your life that are currently lacking.

In closing, I want to really stress that I don’t take marriage lightly. Not at all. Not even close. I think that it is the most sacred covenant that two people will ever make in their lives, and it shouldn’t be thrown away at the first sign of struggle or disagreement.

It is no light thing that I am saying that I would leave a husband who refused to work on our relationship, but that assertion goes right along with how deeply I feel about the marriage covenant. When you take those vows, you swear to honor the other person, and to commit your very life to that person. You vow to put their needs BEFORE your own (and they vow to do the same). You vow to love them and cherish them, and if one of the members in the relationship decides to cast aside all of the promises he or she made in that covenant, then, in my opinion (which REALLY is just my opinion) there is no more covenant.

A covenant is a promise, and when it is broken, it is no longer a promise...and therefore no longer a covenant. Yes, you can mend broken promises (and you absolutely should if you can). But if the commitment to “working on it” or "mending what is broken" is no longer there, then neither is that covenant…and I’m all about the covenant.

Nurture relationships with great friends (or find some good friends, and then nurture those relationships), take a leap and do the things you’ve always wanted to do…even if you think you can’t, and don’t waste the pretty (or awesome ovaries, as the case may be) on someone who is happy to live the rest of his life in a pointless, and continued state of “Me, me, me, me, me!” and “Covenant Shmovenant!”

Marriage is one of life's GREATEST opportunities for growth, and if your spouse refuses to grow, it can often drastically hinder your growth as a by-product, and I think that is in in direct contrast to the POINT of being married.

For me, marriage is about believing in and supporting the other person even (and especially) when no one else will. It's about becoming a dream team that enables its (two) members to become the best people they can be. It's about having an eternal, unbreakable support system through which life, and all of its trials and intricacies, may be better endured, and even conquered in the end.

That (for me) is the point, and for one of the members of a sacred union to turn it into the greatest trial (rather than the greatest joy) of their significant other's life...well then, that is just WRONG to the umpteenth degree.

I'm not saying that there isn't hope. People can change. People can grow. I still learn/find that I am wrong, or have flawed thinking, or behave crappily on a WEEKLY basis. And I have to admit it, and then work to correct it. It's what all of us have to do if we desire to build a future that is better than our past.

If we can't (or won't) change, and grow, and fix things, then what's the point of even being here?
As for whether or not your hubs is capable of drastically changing (you know, in time to NOT have wasted MOST of the good years of your lives) that's for you (and only you) to decide, and I wish you ALL the very, very best.


Barbaloot said...

These questions are intense. It's great that you're willing to put so much effort in to answering them the best you can!

And they make me fake (very fake) glad that I'm still single:)

Ashley Koz said...

Great answer Laura, I totally agree with you. Anyone who is not willing to try should get kicked to the curb. All marriages take a lot of work (no matter how great they seem on the outside) if a person is not willing to put in the work, they should not be married, like ever.

Anonymous said...

I do disagree with one of your suggestions. Being the child of a parents who dragged out a crappy marriage, don't stay in it for the kids. Even when my parents tried to keep their arguments private, it still affected the spirit of the home. Their shared hatred for each other often overpowered their love for us.
My advice to this woman is that if it isn't working and he's not making any positive changes, get out FOR the sake of the kids. Let two happier, healthier, healing individuals raise the children in different households rather than attempting to make believe that you have a happy family.
Trust me. My parents' volatile marriage still affects me as a twenty-something year old.

the Lola Letters said...

I totally agree. It wasn't my intention to imply that people should stay together for the sake of the children "no matter what." I really don't suggest that at all.

I am saying that if you are fighting over something petty, and there is a chance that you can heal your relationship and turn it into something great - you should. I do think that divorce can be incredibly hard on children, and if it can be avoided - it should be, but not at the expense of a happy or civil home environment. Children deserve to have healthy, loving examples of how a marital relationship should be - not a screaming, fighting, non-stop mess where both parents are so miserable they can't even see straight.

I have friends who have expressed the same sentiment. They say that the day their parents signed divorce papers and split up, was the best day of their lives. So, I can TOTALLY see where you're coming from! Can't argue with that!