How Marriage Counseling Changed My Relationship With My Husband
Our Marital Backstory
I'm writing this post with a different attitude toward my husband and marriage than I would have had back in May. So much has happened this past summer between my husband Christopher and I. For those of you who don't know we have endured an off and on long distance marriage since day one of marriage! For the past three years we have lived in 3 different places, NYC, on a boat in Europe, and now Los Angeles and Chris and worked continuously on out of town on musical theatre shows. We have gone through so many changes after getting married at such a young age. I married Chris when I was 22; the summer after I graduated college. We fell in love so deeply and I might go as far to say it was love at first sight. But like all marriages ours had it's struggles.
Some people experience turmoil 10-15 years down the road but for us it was early in marriage. Not to say we won't still go through our hardships but this summer we learned where our missteps were, how to communicate effectively, our core fears in our relationship, and how "control" has been the biggest common thread on why we have conflict. Phew! I know that's a lot. But I think there's a stigma about newlyweds/young married couples. The stigma being that everything must be bliss and perfect because your newlyweds. Umm...NOT TRUE! We definitely felt happy but loneliness and feeling like we couldn’t connect with other couples about our problems was discouraging.
One of my our dear married couple friends recently said they felt very alone, feeling like the only young married couple with issues and I felt so sad at this because I know first hand what that feels like. We WERE that couple. You don't know how many friendships we have made with couples whom we felt couldn't be transparent or relatable, that they had everything together. IT'S A MYTH! Not that I wish for them to have issues but every relationship goes through things and I think it's time more young married couples felt like they had a space to talk about this stage in marriage, the good things/the hard things, all of it in a REAL way.
Continued...keep reading below to find out what got us in marriage counseling.
How Did We End Up in Therapy?
Chris and I have been together since I was 19 years old. I'm now 25. We have essentially grown up together in a way. A lot of my formative years as a young adult were spent depending on someone else for emotional stability and more. He became my rock, the steadfast person in my life, the strength in my wings. Looking back that was a lot to put on a person. But that was our dynamic.
Fast forward to this year! Year three of marriage in 2018. We started this year off in two different states about to go into the longest long distance we have done yet; 6 months. Chris had a long musical theatre gig in Oregon while I resided in LA auditioning and acting. Essentially we both were setting up life and community in two separate places and with that we both started to feel alone, distant, and (in some ways) single.
I was doing so well in LA; so incredibly fulfilled and happy for the first time in a long time (without a man being the sole reason for that happiness) and that felt freeing. We both started to feel this emotional distance and with that came blame. We started getting nervous about the long distance decision and what it was doing to our mental state that instead of coming closer (booking more flights to see each other more) we started drifting a part. We found ourselves fighting often because one of us was hurt by the other. The seed of hurt was planted long before the long distance but the distance uncovered it. I'll speak for myself; I hid how much I enjoyed being around my guy friends. That was a big struggle for me and a recipe for hurt. Chris and I both started to feel this way around the separate communities we built in our residing places.
We were in a place I never thought we would be and it seemed like we got there at a rapid speed but we didn't. It was a slow burn that took years of small secrets, lies, and hurt feelings that got ignored. When you get to a place of such desperateness you must humble yourself. We loved each other deeply but suddenly we knew the gravity of where we were and that we couldn't keep it all together without outside help. Beginning in June this summer we sought out marriage counseling from Audrey and Bob Meisner. They are strong christian marriage counselors that have a story of their own full of redpemtion, hope, and a ministry that has changed the lives of thousands. They were celebrity marriage counselors in their own right but to us they quickly became family. We started Skype sessions of an hour at a time with the Meisners and began talking through our struggles. After a few sessions the Meisners felt strongly that we should come out to Phonix for a three day intensive so we did. And those three days provided the materials to change our marriage forever.
What Did We Learn from Our Three Day Counseling Session?
So much!!! But to break down the important things here's a list of what we learned and what were now applying.
1) Communication! We learned that there are holes in our communication. There are four major things people need their relationships with others. 1) To be liked 2) To be in control 3) to be safe 4) to be right. Chris and I had different variations of this list from most important to least important but we found out that "to be in control" was a very important one to both of us hence our conflict. There it was right there! We were trying to control each other but for different reasons. The lightbulb moment of this was powerful! It was so obvious yet we would never had put it into words.
2) We learned that your core fears in life are formed from experiences. Our core fears that affected the way we both interact/our actions with people were based on experiences that shaped us from our past. Whether that be childhood or even young adult memories that taught us react or perceive things in a certain way. We learned that we cannot operate from a place of FEAR but instead from a place of WISDOM. This was a huge! We learned we could do the same action but instead of it being motivated from a place of fear it should be motivated from a place of wisdom. We prayed over memories from our pasts that kept a strong hold on us. We prayed and asked Jesus to enter into these memories, to hold us, take over, and leave that memory with hope and healing that we didn't have before. This step took hours some days. Our counselors were so patient with us as we recounted these memories, cried, and ultimately healed from the new presence of Jesus in them. I'd say for both of us this was one of the biggest factors of our healing process!
3) We mapped out our love dance and our fear dance! What's a love and fear dance? It's basically how we interact on a worst day and how we interact on our best day. In a nutshell, what our fights and our resolution looks like. We mapped our fear dance by creating a circle of specific weapons we use to hurt the other when there's conflict. For instance: rejection, shutting down, raising one's voice with logic. All of these are tactics/tools to hurt the other person whether you know it or not. Then we mapped out our love dance and it was specific to us! What action does your spouse need from you in order to help meet them where they are and make them feel heard. Ex) to affirm one's feelings, to step out of the room with the promise of returning, to comfort, to appreciate and the list goes on and on. Now we have our fear dance and our love dance mapped out. But how do we break the fear dance when we smack dab in the middle of a arguement? We bring the right action from our love dance into our fear dance and break the cycle! Either one of us can do it at anytime but it's specific to us as people. THIS STEP WAS EVERYTHING FOR US!!!! I can't tell you how sad I was in our session when we literally mapped out our fear dance with our therapist, it was so honest and vulnerable and reminded me of every fight but at the end of this session we had HOPE. Hope from the tools that we could use to bring this dance to an end and to change our motive from fear to wisdom. Continued....below.
Our relationship is completely different now. We were transformed by a renewal of heart and mind due to the Lord's love for us and for bringing the Meisner’s into our lives. We are far more patient with each other, slow to anger, more forgiving, at peace, restored love, communication tools, and past wrongs were healed and forgiven. All of these things deeply affected the way we navigate our relationship and I will say that we are not the same couple we were 3 months ago. We still have arguments but they are not as often in any way and the heart behind them is different. We are softer and look for the best in each other versus assuming the worst. We are more in love than we have ever been and I have hope that our love will only continue to grow.
Information on Audrey and Bob Meisner
We learned so much from our three days with the Meisner’s. If you have a relationship with Jesus and want to improve your marriage, whether you and your spouse are in a dark place like Chris and I or you just want a good tune up I couldn't recommend the Meisner's more. This isn't an ad for them! I believe in what they teach because I've seen in first hand in my own marriage and I will say if you are humble, willing to learn, and want a different relationship it's absolutely possible. Chris and I communicate so differently now and our hurting hearts have healed and will continue to heal because of the power and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Visit Bob and Audrey's website! This fall their newlyweds course comes out! They also have an amazing podcast you can subscribe and listen too that’s full of their heart for the Lord and of course their marriage consulting and intensives.
I hope my story can bring some hope to anyone who feels alone in their marriage or who is in a hard place right now as a young married couple. YOU ARE NOT ALONE and yet you love your spouse and want the ultimate love story. The ultimate love story is written by our creator himself. Jesus died on the cross from us to be in communion with God, pure and holy in his eyes. And that’s how he sees YOU and your spouse! HE can change and transform your relationship with newfound hope, love, and grace for yourself and your spouse. My marriage is a testament to that. It takes hard work and a humility to look at your own life and allow Jesus to take the reins.
Lauren and Chris Fordinal