We just made it through our second “seven year itch” and he still doesn’t make me happy. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem here. Around the time of our 7th year of marriage, Tom and I each had a friend who was suddenly getting a divorce.
When we found out about each of them getting divorced, we were shocked. When we had spent time with them, they seemed happy and got along well. We didn’t think they were any different from us. Neither of our friends came to us for advice. Neither of them let us know that there was anything wrong in their marriages.
In both of these situations, the wives said their husbands didn’t make them happy any more.
Tom and I went through marriage prep in the Catholic Church. That was one difference between us and our friends. We met 6 times with a married sponsor couple and then attended a weekend retreat to prepare us for marriage. We were “prepared” for marriage. Were we really prepared for our life together?
When we got married, we were like a new car – newly-weds with nothing but a smooth ride ahead. We were low on mileage and had no scratches or dents. We hadn’t even hit any bumps in the road.
What happens after marriage prep? What happens after you drive off the lot in that new car? Your car is now worth significantly less.
From experience, I can tell you that discussing and planning for marriage – getting prepared – is a lot different than living the married life. If you’re married, you know planning for the wedding is different than living in marriage. Even though we went through marriage preparation, after 7 years of marriage, we found ourselves growing apart.
We had promised each other we would go back and review the materials we kept from our marriage preparation, each year on our anniversary. I was in Iraq during our first anniversary. The next anniversaries came and went without much thought of reviewing those old notes. As the years started passing by, we lost that new car smell. We started getting used to seeing a few scratches. We even missed some regular maintenance.
Tom and I didn’t want to end up like our friends. What could we do to avoid what our friends went through? Marriage counseling? That was pretty much the only thing we had heard of up to that point. All that we could see offered to married couples were responses to conflict – a therapist or a divorce attorney.
After 7 years, Tom wasn’t making me happy. We needed to do something, right? I did some digging and learned that there is more out there for marriages.
We took our not-so-new-anymore car for a long overdue visit to the mechanic. We found a World Wide Marriage Encounter weekend. It is a time-free weekend away from all of life’s distractions to focus only on each other.
That weekend opened up my eyes in our marriage. I’m the optimist in our relationship. I learned that our relationship was not as good as I thought. It wasn’t that we did not get along. It was that we had allowed parts of us to be hidden from each other. We allowed ourselves to grow apart and become roommates, roommates with benefits.
It is hard to believe the tears and emotions we shared that weekend. We had years of built-up heartache and pain. At the same time, we grew closer together intimately than we had ever been before. We were open and honest in a safe environment.
I learned that Tom had feelings. He learned that I am real too. Now, I’m not sure why he didn’t think I was real before – I have plenty of faults and imperfections, believe me! We learned how to communicate in a more intimate way which has allowed our relationship to flourish.
We were fortunate that we had a wake-up call when our friends divorced. I’m telling you today that you don’t have to have a wake-up call to decide to place your marriage as a priority.
According to the Heritage Foundation, federal and state governments spend $150 billion per year to subsidize and sustain single-parent families. Only $150 million is spent to strengthen marriage. To put that into perspective, for every $1,000 spent to deal with the effects of Family disintegration, only $1 is spent to prevent that disintegration.
If you are married, speak positively about your spouse enough that he or she hears how much you actually like them from a third party. Encourage your friends who are married. Don’t let your friends speak negatively about their spouses – certainly do not encourage it. You don’t know the whole story.
It’s better to get regular oil-changes and check-ups on your car than to neglect maintenance and hope it will last for 200,000 miles. It’s no different in your marriage.
The result of Tom and I attending one weekend marriage retreat together is that our marriage is a priority. We are not a statistic. Tom and I were inspired to begin the Celebrate Marriage program at our church to give married couples a supportive community. Celebrate Marriage gives couples the opportunity for Christ-centered marriage enrichment through large group, small group, and individual couple experiences.
Marriage enrichment programs are becoming more common. The government statistics do not show that they are in the business of supporting existing families before they are broken. We, however, can take a stand and do our small part in giving hope for marriages in the future.
Tom is not responsible for my happiness. I am. He cannot make me happy any more than he can make me change my mind about my favorite kind of chocolate. I learned how to take charge of my own happiness and not put the responsibility on Tom. Tom can make me happy, but he is not in charge of my happiness.
It is true, my husband doesn’t always make me happy and I’m okay with that.