Relationship struggles can direct us towards healing and transformation when our hearts are open to honest self-assessment.
It has been almost 20 years since my family life became so fragmented that I didn’t think our marriage would survive. At that time, truly, I believed myself to be the best wife and mother: leading, encouraging, and selflessly providing love and support. After a year of prayer, a group marriage program and inner reflection, I began to acknowledge I wasn’t considering the needs of my husband or son (6 years old).
Boundaries keep relationships healthy. I didn’t have any. If there was an opportunity to work or help outside the home, I took it. If there was an opportunity for my son to “experience” something new, I arranged it. My life focused on meeting everyone’s needs and expectations except considering those that mattered most – my husband, son, and often my own. Operating at full speed my goal was to fulfill far too many commitments, perhaps to impress others with all that was being juggled to achieve a feeling of success and importance through busyness. I was actively involved in five church ministries, school fundraiser, women’s bible study outside church, while undergoing a home remodel. Our son participated in all seasonal sports. He also joined golf, karate (3 times a week year round), Boy Scouts, weekly church children’s program and school activities. Simply not enough hours in a day to do it all. I believed we had to be fully engaged to live up to a culturally expected active family life (fallacy!), especially if our “well-rounded” 6-year-old had a chance of getting into a good college. (Really!???) And, it was eating away at our marriage and family life together. When my husband shared his feelings that we do not have the “thriving” marriage or family life he expected, I was shocked, not aware of any issues or problems. The choice came down to divorce or we proactively discuss our family needs, agree on priorities and establish boundaries. It was a long year but eventually the steps we took paved the way for +20 awesome years together and hopefully many, many, more to enjoy.
It was during this struggling time my neighbor shared the following principle, which, is one that continues to direct our priorities today:
Person in Christ; Partner to my Spouse; Parent to my Child; Public Servant (all else)
This principle led to family meetings at predetermined times, so that we could be prepared and well rested. Honestly communicating needs and expectations became the primary goal and the following questions (answer to prayer!) facilitated our time together. And, yes, we most definitely included our 6-year-old son.
- What I love about you…
- What bothers me most…
- If I can suggest a change, this is what it would be…(best to limit one suggestion per meeting)
Discussing these questions with each other took place three times per year for about two years, graduating to New Year’s Eve annual reviews. Responses were recorded and reviewed at each subsequent meeting to celebrate progress.
The result of proactively taking control saved our marriage with a drastically reduced weekly schedule! Our son chose three activities and admitted that all else on his calendar he never really enjoyed. (He is now a 3rd year medical student and doing just fine!!) I narrowed my commitments and exchanged my focus for quality time with my husband and son. Together, we launched Sunday family golf at the course where we played. Healthy balance was beginning to feel great!
Our wedding vows were renewed Summer of 2000. The picture on this blog reflects that precious day celebrating with family and friends. Proverbs 3:5-6 became my scripture verse – Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding, in all ways acknowledge HIM and he will make your paths straight. He did. The Lord made our paths straight and we said, “I DO” again.
There will always be life struggles. Prioritizing needs and consulting with each other while holding steadfast to faith has been our saving grace. I do believe our habits today are our children’s habits tomorrow. Growing up our son was fortunate to experience this process and to understand the importance of boundaries. Someday, he could implement similar meetings with his own family. Any relationship that is struggling can benefit by this life lesson. Begin with an honest assessment of yourself. Then, initiate open communications with positive expectations for the simple life you need and thriving relationships you desire!