How have you and your wife been doing?
Let’s be honest here… if you asked me ten times and I always said “we’re great!” I’d be a no-good filthy liar.
What’s more true is that my relationship is like a roller-coaster. Some days my wife and I are madly in love, having mind-blowing sex and can’t believe how lucky we were to have found each other. Other days we can’t even be in the same room and we wonder why we’re even together. Sometimes that all happens within the span of a few hours.
So how do I really answer the question “how have you and your wife been doing?” It’s like asking someone to sum up the weather over the course of a month. Sometimes it’s sunny, and sometimes it’s not. Isn’t that what’s true for relationships? Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s not.
Here’s the thing that most people miss. These ups and downs don’t have to mean anything about our relationship, who we are, or our chances of staying together. They are a natural part of life. Just as the weather changes, so does our mood.
Lately I’ve been choosing to speak more honestly about my relationship, no matter who asks, and it’s led me to discover a big reason why people are so stressed out in their relationships…
We live under the illusion that everyone else is always happy.
If we believe people when they say, “everything is great!” or get lost in what people post on Facebook (a.k.a. their relationship highlight reel) we might start to think that we’re the only ones who aren’t floating through cloud nine on magic carpets, feeding our partners strawberries while singing love songs in perfect harmony.
When our image of everyone else is that they are happy all the time and we’re not, it’s like watching an incredible party through a window, but you can’t go in. When you think you’re the only person that struggles, it’s a lonely place to be. It’s hard to speak up, since you assume no one else can relate to what you’re going through.
The truth is we all experience life’s ups and downs, especially when we’re in a deep relationship. When we only speak about the ups and we leave out the downs, it leaves our conversations and our connections shallow and insubstantial. We find rich connections with each other through our humanity, the full experience of life, not just by sharing joy and happiness. When I share what’s been most challenging for me in my marriage, people pay attention, because chances are they have gone through the same thing.
I don’t want us to become Debbie Downers and only share stories of woe and misery, but I do want us to be honest and authentic. I want us to share the whole spectrum.
How are you really feeling? How is your relationship? Is it challenging? Is it scary? Is it incredible? Is it a complete mystery? I bet that whatever you share is something I can relate to. We’re all humans, and we all have fears, insecurities, challenges and moments of relief.
The greatest moment of relief is in understanding that this ebb and flow is simply the nature of existence. Like the weather, the seasons and the tides, you are no exception. Just as rain passes, so do our emotions. Just as clouds move through the sky, so do thoughts move through our mind.
When we see that constant change is our nature, we don’t feel as afraid to report our feelings honestly, to share our experience with another.
What Happened When I Shared Honestly
If you asked me today how my relationship is going, I might say, “we have ups and down, but lately it’s been really nice, we had a great morning together” or I might say “we had a great couple days and today we got pissed at each other so we decided to spend the day reconnecting with ourselves”.
When I share honestly my conversations get more interesting, and people actually listen. People want to relate to me, and by speaking what’s true for me even if I’m a little embarrassed, I get closer to the people I talk to, and it helps heal the massive amount of suffering that comes from the thought… “no one else feels the way I do”.
One of the greatest gifts we can give anyone is helping them realize they aren’t alone in their suffering, and sharing honesty is our doorway to that.
This is part 1 of a 4-part collection entitled The Roller Coaster Ride of Marriage. Written with help from my beautiful wife.