We have a couple of spaces in our home that we don’t spend enough time in…yet. When the kids are awake we primarily exist in the playroom. A big open room filled to the brim with toys and chaos, we sit on the floor despite there being a couch in the room and just exist with the boys on their level. But, every now and then when the house gets magically quiet, we find our way into those other spaces and they are heavenly and help me center, contemplate, and appreciate. Right now Owen is napping upstairs, the laundry is folded, the dogs are resting in their beds, and David and Henry are listening to some kid music in the blue room. And I am occupying one of those little spaces: the book nook. Off to the side of the room, nestled in a corner with my feet up and my coffee beside me, I am enjoying this quiet-ish moment and the ability to reflect on some important things we are learning.
Since the big bump of our reproductive divide almost two months ago, things have returned to our normal existence. Life feels easy, loving, and attentive which feels good and in some ways having had that epic divide was important for our marriage. David and I never really had fights or arguments that lasted longer than a fleeting moment and so when our rebound time was so extended and emotional rawness was too real for what seemed too long, we needed to turn in and figure out what were the strategies we could cultivate to make sure that if big life things happened we would be able to address them more readily and get that rebound time back!
No one wants to sit in an emotional funk and our strategies for reconciliation were awesome for the little things we were used to dealing with but it was clear that they were not quite enough for this bigger things. So a tune-up was needed and thankfully David agreed. We headed off to a few sessions of marital counseling and it was really helpful to get to know our individual selves better and to get to know our marriage better by taking a step back. It was clear from the beginning of these sessions that love, trust, respect, and communication were present and healthy in our marriage and it felt good to be reminded of these foundations and to celebrate them together. But we also learned something important. David and I both experience emotional flooding and in those moments we flood differently and therefore need different things. When I flood, my emotional state heightens and like a turkey in the wild I puff up, engage, get louder, and get defensive. In the fight or flight survival dynamic, I “fight.” David though is my opposite, when a confrontation occurs, he acts more like a big cat, he watches the situation, takes a step back, and flights to protect. As you can imagine when the conflict is small this difference between our defaults is small, but when the conflict is big (like this one) then is is hard to get back to a calm place where we both are ready to re-engage, share and work: where we are able to rebound easily.
But, this marriage tune-up was so important because awareness seems to be half the battle, it has brought attention to the small moments when this happens (like when the kids are tantruming and David and I are both feeling overwhelmed) and as a result we are tackling those moments so much more effectively. Our little tension points are so much easier now, because we are both caring for ourselves in those moments that escalate AND are then better able to engage with each other by staying focused on the issue and not using unfair techniques that deepen any of the tensions. We exist more in the moment together in our marriage, we are taking more time for each other and dating, and we are genuinely learning more and more about each other and therefore finding more emotional closeness (which to be honest, I did not think was possible!). I am really glad that all of this happened because it helped us have some really real conversations, got us to the same page for our family future, and has us working together better than before. Things feel fresh, exciting, and playful because we took time to explore some hurts, heal them together, and work together.
So while I sit here and watch Henry and David, I cannot help but think about how much I love this moment, that man, these kids, this life and how taking that step together to tune-up our marriage was so painless, so invigorating, and so important. I truly hope that more couples do it because long-term relationships need us all to reflect, work, and love more authentically and to quiet the busy world around us for a bit in order to dig in, sit down, and to finally occupy those quiet places where the real growing occurs.