This post is part of my cornerstone content, written many years ago, updated for today, and still inspiring wisdom and deep understanding.
This is the story of my first spiritual awakening, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
I was married once before.
My first husband and I were always looking for some way to make the other feel small. (Especially if there was someone else around to try to impress.) Communication between us was sarcastic, contemptuous, and cynical, and usually ended up with one or both of us sulking, at best.
Fortunately, we divorced after only being married for a year. It was the longest year of my life and the smartest money I ever spent!
A fresh start
A couple of years later, I moved from California to Michigan with my boyfriend (now my darling husband Blake) after dating for only a few months. We hadn’t lived together until the move, so it was nice to start our new chapter with a clean slate.
Little did I know, I still had some ugly baggage leftover from husband number one.
I remember very clearly Blake and I shopping for roller-blades at Play-it-Again sports. I hadn’t found anything I liked, so I was ready to leave, but Blake was still wandering through the store. The clerk (a nice looking twenty-something young man) asked if I needed anything else, and I said, “No, just my boyfriend,” and then I barked loudly across the store, “HEY BLAKE, LET’S GO!!!”
Blake came around the corner, walked to the door, and held it open for me, steaming mad.
As I came out the door, he calmly looked me in the eye and said “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again.”
I was stunned.
He didn’t say anything else, just got into the car and waited for me.
I got into the passenger’s side, sat down and quietly apologized.
We didn’t say much else after that.
That was the pivotal moment when I realized I need to change the way I speak to him or risk another unhealthy, miserable relationship.
I recognized my words carry weight. Even though I didn’t say anything specifically hurtful, it was the way I spoke to him that mattered.
I had treated him like an asshole because some 20-year old kid worked behind a counter whom I thought I could impress by bossing around my tall, handsome boyfriend. (Looking back now, I realize I was a stupid, stupid girl) The ugly pattern I had with husband number one came racing back to bite me in the ass.
I realized that if I wanted him to treat me with love and respect, I had to earn his trust. I had to focus on breaking my old patterns and actively try to speak kindly, even when it was hard—especially when he was gone on business for a long time, and I felt stuck.
The first year was tough.
I failed a lot.
He traveled about 75% of the time that first year, learning the ropes for his new position. He didn’t always like coming home because I’d whine and complain about his being gone all the time.
Eventually, I realized my bitching only made both of us miserable. I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but sometime during that first year together, I learned to focus on making myself happy and appreciating him while he was home. I made friends in the neighborhood, got a part-time job, worked on gardening and art projects to keep myself occupied. When he was home, instead of complaining about his next trip, I focused on being kind to him, showing interest in where he was going and what he was doing.
That has made all the difference in our lives together.
Now, 20+ years later, I’m glad to say we’re still very happily married. Despite his diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 2011, we stay focused on the love we have for each other, keeping our family’s ship on a stable course.
Still to this day, we talk to each other with kindness and respect, creating a solid foundation for our lives together and showing our son what a happy marriage looks like. Even when life throws a curveball, the answer to “How am I supposed to get through this?!” is love. Pure, simple, and eternal.
What does this story bring up for you, my friendly blog reader?
I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.