Pete is sleeping on the couch tonight. I'll explain that in another post about boundaries, but I've been lying awake alone in my bed thinking about an email from a reader, especially in light of today's events.
She said I could share her questions here, I think we all want as much help as we can get, but I think I'll just call her A.H.
"I feel like I have made good progress with myself and my feelings toward my husband. He also is doing good and has made great progress. I feel like I’m ready to start rebuilding our relationship. But after all that has taken place were do you start. I find it hard to even hold a conversation with him. I want to be close to him but yet I’m not sure how. I feel as if we have nothing in common any more. "
Let me just say, I can totally relate. And while we are doing so much better, even today there were moments where I felt confused about us. I will come back to that, but I know that there is an elephant in the room as they say. Hugging your own husband feels awkward, laughing together feels unnatural, it is just uncomfortable and I often feel like we're dating all over again. So I've tried to think about what has helped the most to rebuild a broken relationship and I came up with these four things.
1. Let go of the anger.
The day and night before Mother's Day last year were bad for Pete, and I hardly slept that night. We were out of town visiting family, so it was fake it fake it fake it, and then on Mother's Day we went to church and it was fake it fake it fake it. Then we drove the longest most uncomfortable four hours back to our hometown. I felt so hurt and broken, but occasionally one or the other of us would start up a conversation. But as soon as things started to feel "normal" again I would grasp for my anger. I needed it, I couldn't forgive him yet. Not yet.
Sometimes we sabotage our own efforts to heal our relationship because we are so scared to let go of the hurt. If we let go we feel like we lose our power, our control. But the little inklings of resentment I carried around were just walls that prevented Pete and I from seeing each other again.
2. Create comfortable environments, make new memories.
This is the dating part, and it sounds so cheesy, and at first it felt so FORCED. But doing things that we've always done is so helpful. For us, nothing breaks the ice like a bowl of popcorn. These comfortable environments are great, stirring up old feelings. But I think even more important is making new memories. Start a new tradition, something forward facing. I think there is much to be said for focusing on the future. Interestingly, our new tradition is going to meetings each week. They are about 25 minutes away and it gives us a good chance to talk. On the way there we talk superficial: "How's work? What did you do today?" On the way back we are little more open and we can talk about the heavier stuff.
We also found a tv series we both really like that we can watch together. We make plans, and then do them. If you feel like you have nothing in common or nothing to talk about start with something as simple as a Readers Digest. Read an article together or even just the jokes.
Tell him what you just told me. Tell him you want to be close to him.
Mara has been blogging lately about being vulnerable. When Pete and I fell in love it felt so good to be vulnerable. Then I got hurt. Now I want to be strong and independent. But I've learned that I have to be honest and share my feelings, even if it makes me feel vulnerable. The more I share, the closer I feel to him. I share when I'm worried, I shared when I've had a breakthrough, I share when I discover a new weakness in myself, I try to apologize when I know I'm wrong. It is important to say "This helps, I like this." Or "This is not helping, I don't like this. " And "I need _______." Or "Can we not do __________?" And try to be the person that he can do likewise with you.
I don't know what else to say about this. It will just take time. Be patient with yourself and him.
I mentioned that today I was having some of those old feelings. There was a "slip", there was a confession, and my initial reaction was peaceful and forgiving. But then I started to doubt myself, did I make that too easy? Anger taunted me, called to me. As soon as it did it was like the ground and air was freezing around me, tension, awkwardness. Fortunately I was able to dismiss those feelings before they got the better of me, and it felt good.
I am so hopeful for you, A.H. that there will be very tender moments with your husband, that will lay the foundation for a deeper relationship. You know the bitter now, it is nasty, and when you find the sweet, it will be oh so sweet!
Okay now- everyone else- how do you do it? Where did you start?