6 Things My Husband and I Did to Save Our Marriage

Save your marriageMiraculously, my husband Matt and I have been married for 26 years.  We are raising the last of our 4 kids together and our marriage has survived some significant hits through the years.

In our early years, there was a physical injury that resulted in the loss of Matt’s career and financial calamity, we lost a baby due to a second trimester miscarriage, we have both lost our fathers in their old age and we have faced the disease of addiction as it insidiously wound its way through our family unit.

Dealing with our daughter’s addiction was by far the most difficult and the most painful thing we have had to navigate together as a couple. In our early years, we were both sort of shell shocked and in my mind I can see the two of us just standing there with our mouths open, asking each other, “What just happened?”  It was not good. Neither one of us could believe that one of our kids, to whom we had devoted our adult lives, would have, or could have, headed off in this direction.  We lived in denial for a long time.

There was a lot of frantic hand wringing and tears, as we tried to figure out what to do.  What was normal experimentation and what was really a problem? Our biggest obstacle was that we were not in agreement on how to handle anything. I was devastated and showed it through my endless crying and obsessing. Matt was trying to calm me down so I wasn’t a hindrance to the process of trying to figure out how big of a problem this really was and how we should proceed.

Eventually, after several years and many Al-anon meetings, we were able to build a cohesive team who can now face, at least on most days, the challenges that life brings to us in a healthier and more constructive fashion.

Here are some of the things we learned:

1.) Accept Each Other. We have to learn how to accept each other as we are. This means understanding that we are doing the very best we know how to do, and most of all, that our goals are the same and we have different ways of coping — to keep our daughter alive long enough to find a healthy recovery. It set us both free to process our thoughts with each other without the fear of criticism or verbal attack. After we accepted each other, we began to acknowledge that we are a team and no one on earth has our child’s best interest at heart the way the two of us do.

2.) Communicate Honestly. Being able to speak freely and honestly about our fears, our questions, our joys helped to balance each other out when one of us got going too far in one direction or another – this was crucial in saving our marriage. We don’t keep information from each other. Each of us is entitled to know the full situation we are dealing with so we can make appropriate decisions. Hiding information and not sharing the full story chips away at the very foundation of what we are building together….and we need our foundation to be strong to weather this storm. It is important to try to understand where our partner is coming from before responding. Ask questions, touch, listen, and know that its ok to not have an answer. Either one of us can’t fix this. But we can walk together so we aren’t alone. We can listen without judgment and without formulating a plan in our heads, as one of us pours out his/her heartbreak and fear to the other.

3.) Spend Quality Time Together. Life goes on at full speed ahead, no matter what. Choosing to spend time together, even if it was just a cup of coffee shared in the back yard that wasn’t centered on solving a problem, but rather just being together is important. Sometimes we are so tired we just sit together and that is enough.

4.) Seek Help When You Need It. Sometimes things come up that are just too much to handle alone. Get help! Find someone who can help you develop a plan of survival. Know that your marriage is a priority. If it falls apart your child has just lost what may be one of the last sturdy things that he/she can plant his/her feet on. Take good care of yourselves and don’t try to do it alone. Counseling and Alanon are indispensable my life. Matt participated as much as he was comfortable with and I had to let that be enough. He applied what he learned beautifully, but his comfort was not in Alanon or seeing our counselor the way it was for me.  We will each do this differently and that is ok.

5.) Forgive Each Other. Either one of us is not perfect. Understanding that mistakes will be made, words said that we wish we could take back,  trying to control things that aren’t ours to control, bulldozing through thinking we have an answer to all that ails us…when those things happen, we both try to ask where are those actions coming from? In our case, it’s usually fear driven. Be gentle with each other. Know that we each are doing the best we can in a really difficult situation. Let go of resentments and choose to forgive. Allowing bitterness to take root poisons our spirit and hinders us from making the progress we need to make as an individuals and as a team.

6.) Pray. We pray for each other everyday, and we put each of our children, especially our daughter who struggles in life so much, into our Higher Power’s hands and we trust that He can do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

Dealing with the addiction of one of our children has been one of the hardest and saddest things we have ever had to make our way through, but it also has forced us to work together in a healthier manner than we have ever done before. Good can come from heartbreak. I do not want our lives together to be just another casualty of addiction.

Related Links:
Moving Away From Enabling
Alanon Helped Me Deal with My Addicted Child
Where There Is Life, There Is Hope