Between conversations I’ve had with people lately, statements I’ve heard here & there, and the latest celebrity divorce (Gwyneth Paltrow & Chris Martin – who called it a “conscious uncoupling“)… I had to get this blog post out of my brain and into writing.
So many of the conversations around love, marriage, and relationships revolve around the fact that people think things just weren’t meant to be with someone, or that humans aren’t meant to stay with one person for their entire life. Other people remain closed off from others… shields up… afraid of getting hurt… and then wonder why they haven’t found anyone or felt true love. Other people mention that there aren’t that many good people out there, or that those who ended up with someone just got lucky. Still others that do have love take it for granted, let it get stagnant… get frustrated with their partners and blame them for any unhappiness they have. But the truth is – everyone is capable of love. Each one of us has the ability to give love and be loved. All of us can be happy with ourselves, and in our relationships.
James and I didn’t get lucky.
Over the years we’ve both had a variety of people tell us that we “got lucky” when we found each other. People assume that based on what we post online and how they see us acting in person that we were “just meant to be” and that our marriage works like it does because of some external reasons… That we are happy because we were blessed enough to have fate bring us (and keep us) together.
(As a side note: I do believe we were blessed to find each other… but just because we ended up in the same room on the same night 7 years ago doesn’t mean it was necessarily going to work out for us in the long term. As another side note: You’re all aware that we have had hard days, weeks, months, and seasons over the years… and I’m aware that there are most definitely more to come.)
But we aren’t happily married because we got lucky. We are happily married because both of us choose to be.
We make conscious decisions each minute, hour, day, month, and year – in our thoughts and actions – to be together and to make this work… “Conscious Coupling”, if you will.
All of this is to say that it has been a long road getting to where we are now (and I know we have a long road of struggles and growth ahead)… but we did learn some things along the way… and are still working on each of these things day in and day out.
1) Let your guard down. When we met we had to let our guards down and be completely honest & vulnerable with each other. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the scariest things I’ve done… to completely let someone in, let him really know me, and to be open to the possibility that I could end up hurt if this didn’t work out. But the only way you’re ever going to really know love is to let your guard down and let someone in – fully. Your secrets, your truths, your beliefs, your fears, your hopes, and your dreams…. all of it.
2) Let go of expectations. Oh my gosh am I guilty of this one. When we first got married I had SO MANY expectations for what marriage was supposed to look like. I don’t know why but I really thought because we were married things would change over night because, well, now we were married! And this is what marriage is! (So my expectations told me.) Let go of your expectations and talk about your feelings with your spouse. They can never know what you ‘expected’ if you don’t communicate it. So many fights were started because of expectations not lining up and us not talking about what we were thinking.
3) Put down your boxing gloves. When I first met James I was always ready for a fight. I was ready to raise my voice and yell about anything and everything he wanted to talk about. For some reason whenever he wanted to have a real conversation about something that was bothering him – my first reaction was to back away, get defensive and put on my boxing gloves – ready for a fight. It was the way I thought marriages and relationships functioned because it was what I had seen the majority of my life. But boy was I wrong. Thankfully over the years I’ve learned to (mostly) let this go, thanks to James, who just won’t talk about something if I feel the need to yell about it.
4) Be kind. So often we are kind to strangers, friends, co-workers, and family… but the person we show the least kindness to is the one closest to us in life. I was talking to James about this the other day… how of everybody he has seen the truly ugly sides of me that many people don’t see or even know exist. He sees my frustrations and my anger bubble up like I would never allow anyone to see. He has been on the receiving end of one too many adult temper tantrums for no reason other than he happened to be in the room when something set me off. It is not easy, but I’m doing my best to let go of those behaviors and be the kind of person to James that I would be to the rest of the world.
5) Show gratitude. Oh my gosh does this make the biggest difference in the world! James does so many things that I appreciate, but used to forget to let him know I did! I am truly thankful for all these things – large and small – so I try my best to always let him know. Thank you for running to the store so I could get this blog post done. Thank you for walking the dog so I could make us breakfast. Thank you for picking up my favorite flowers just because. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If you start showing an attitude of thankfulness instead of an attitude of griping about your partner – it is amazing how things will start to change for the better.
6) Check your ego. Whew. This one. I want to be right ALL. THE. TIME. So does James. Clearly that doesn’t work together. Sometimes you have to admit you were wrong. You have to let your ego goooooooo, and admit you might not have known what was best occasionally. Even if it takes you some time away to reflect (which we often do separately to digest what happened), the important part is that you get there.
7) Don’t say “I’m sorry.” This one sounds crazy, but hear me out (and this one is all James, by the way). James HATES when people say “I’m sorry.” He always says, “Don’t say you’re sorry – just don’t do it again.” If we did something that requires an apology, instead of just saying “sorry”… we say… (for example), “I apologize for hurting you, next time I will think before I speak.” The point is, don’t just say you’re sorry and then do the same thing again another day, because clearly you weren’t really sorry if you continue to repeat the behavior. Instead, apologize for the behavior (whatever it was) and make a point to CHANGE so you aren’t apologizing for the same thing again in two days. (Again, as you can expect by now – I have difficulty with this one. It takes me at least 10 apologies for my behaviors to change to the point where I (hopefully) won’t react the same way in the future. Thankfully James is a patient man. haha)
8) Love is an action. Love is not saying you love someone, love is an action. Love is in the things you do and choices you make – every minute of every day – not just on birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. Love is going out of your way to think of someone besides yourself. Love is doing things sometimes that you really would rather not do because it will make your partner happy. Love is saying yes, and not always defaulting to “no.” Love is not always easy, but it is always worth it.
9) Be. Happy. I wrote a post a while back about Choosing Happiness and I still whole heartedly believe in everything I said there. The same is true for marriage and relationships as it is for life in general… Happiness is a Choice. You can choose to let little things get to you, or you can choose to let them go. I could be annoyed every time James eats an avocado and leaves the pit in the sink (because for some reason unknown to me, he refuses to throw the pit of an avocado away!!! haha), or I could just laugh at his crazy avocado whatever it is and throw the darn pit away myself. (Because lord knows I do little things that drive James crazy that he too has learned to let go.)
10) Team spirit. From very early on, and most definitely when we got married, James and I adopted the saying, “Team Tyler.” It was basically code for – I have your back, you have mine. We always stick up for each other, we don’t go around complaining about each other to others (the way sooo many people do about their spouses), and we always remember we are in this together. Knowing we are a team and not battling or fighting our own way makes such a difference in the way we handle each situation that comes our way.
All this is to say that relationships require constant consciousness, and constant pruning. James and I didn’t get lucky – we work at this every day. We choose to make decisions for each other and for our marriage. And most of all – we choose to be happy together above all else.
And trust me when I say it is not easy. Trust me when I say we want to strangle each other now and then (I mean, we are pretty much together 24/7, so come on! haha)! Trust me when I say there are times we are not on the same page, but the important part is that we want to be… we are conscious of it… and we work to get back to the same page day by day, chapter by chapter… and you can too. Whether you’re on page 1 or chapter 20… we are all capable of making today a new day, and living consciously (& happily) within ourselves and our relationships.
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*All photos in post by the amazing Caroline Ghetes.