Our marriage was not the average beginning, nor is it average in the middle, or in the present as I am writing. We started out by becoming an instant family. My wife had been married before, and she had a daughter with her first husband. To say I was prepared for such a life would be a huge understatement. I thought that because I was such a good uncle, I would be a great dad. Not so. We struggled with parenting. We struggled with income, I was not able to get any substantial occupation to pay for a family of three at the young age I was, and I had no direction in life. Wow, how did we get through all this? I feel, even now looking back, that I was blind. Walking blindly through life just hoping that things would work out.
How did we get it all to work out?
Things became a whole lot worse before they got better. I joined the Navy, struggled through that for six years. Once done with the Navy I found myself jobless and once more blind to the gravity of our situation. I now had four kids and one on the way. We found ourselves growing apart in our marriage, criticizing and condemning each other became the norm, and we often became flooded with emotions that kept us from being able to communicate. John M. Gottman Ph.D. would probably have looked at our marriage and said, "No way they will make it." All of that happened five years ago, and we are still together. Not suffering through it, but truly in love and enjoying life, for the most part.
So, how did we make it through and get to the light, loving, fun side of marriage? I had to put down my defenses. We had to get on the same path.
There is a story in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ; It talks about a people that converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were once a blood thirsty, idolatrous, and wicked nation, but when missionaries came and taught them the gospel of peace, forgiveness, and love, they changed completely. They buried their weapons deep in the earth and with that, they made a covenant with God that if he would forgive them of their murders and evil ways, they would never take up their weapons of war again. Soon thereafter, all of the blood thirsty nation that had not been converted, were angry and declared war on this now righteous people, called the anti-Nephi-Lehis. So with a covenant to never fight again, they found themselves at war. When the battle commenced the now converted, anti-nephi-lehis, bowed themselves down to the earth and prayed to their God, while their brethren, their family members who had not been converted, ran them through with their swords and weapons. This did not last long, after killing many innocent people, who were in the act of praying to God, they found themselves remorseful. They had killed their own family. This caused them to repent and more people joined the converted anti-nephi-lehis that day than were killed.
So, what does this have to do with marriage? After hearing about this story, I went home to a hurt, angry wife, who was ready to attack me with weapons of words. She knew my weaknesses better than any other person on earth, and we had been throwing hurtful words at each other for months by this point. I had decided to put down those weapons of words myself. I had had a change of heart and was willing to allow my wife to run me through with the hurtful words that I had so valiantly defended myself against. I knelt by her side as she lay in bed, and I let her say all the horrible things I was doing to her and our kids. I did not defend myself, I sat and prayed to my God, and let the swords of contempt and criticism run me through. After a time, and not long, she too softened, and perhaps began to feel remorseful for the pain she had been causing. That day we became united once more, on the same team moving forward.
We dived into self help books after that. We paid for multiple mentors who helped us learn and grow together. We keep moving forward together. Being on the same team has allowed us to find true joy in our marriage. To say times are now easy would be a lie. Life is still life, and we are going through all the challenges that life throughs at us, but we are facing these challenges together. Burying our weapons and putting down our defenses is where we started, and it has made a huge difference.
Chris Parker CHT (Clinical HypnoTherapist)
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