There were moments I remember where I was like a hurricane of distress inside and a sunny, beautiful day on the outside. If my wife Kate and I were a metaphorical house, then this dichotomy was like a slowly growing crack in our foundation.
As forces in life, some of our own making and some from the outside put pressure on our shared world view of life and marriage, it was interesting that many other couples came to us for advice with words like, “How do you do it? You seem so happy.”
If they only knew the truth.
We both brought an optimism and faith to life in general and marriage specifically. What we found out is that when you have two newlyweds who are embracing faith, intentionally wearing rose-colored glasses, full of optimism, and whose parents were both divorced, you have some resilience that will not really accept another, less rosy view of things. It laid a foundation of “determined, optimistic, happiness”. There were times when we really were happy of course, and other times where we faked it, or turned a blind eye and ‘made it work’.
We dug deeper, perhaps mistaking faith and positivity for identity and purpose. If you would have asked us during that time, we might have said we “chose to be happily married.”
A distance was forming, an avoidance of conflict that was leading to near disaster. Like a carnival toy of Chinese finger traps, the more we avoided pressing into the conflict, the tighter the noose became. We felt stuck and worst yet, stuck with a façade built on shared optimism. Something we both applauded, even took pride in.
It is incredibly hard to be lovingly bold and courageous when you have lied to yourself and others. And make no mistake about it, it takes courage to press in to a relationship that you want more than anything not to fail, but… it is failing.
It takes courage and resolve to face what you fear to find what is truly worth fighting for.
I’d love to say we recognized this and then slowly walked into more communication, more vulnerability, and honesty and found each other again. Unfortunately that is not what happened.
We would act, react and counteract with stone cold effort and stubbornness to make it work, perhaps accepting faults that we both knew to be wrong and ultimately building on a false pretense. We would still say it, fake it, still want to believe it but in reality, have trouble truly feeling it or following through.
Once the façade began to crack it was easy to call each other a fraud, because we were. It was like accusing a shady politician who you have been behind the scenes with of scheming, of course they had. As we were faced with the truth of what we had become, we slowly abandoned our posts as spouses and friends to one another.
We were lost.
The strangest part was that there was this mild, faint, unspoken theme music in the background that loomed in both our hearts…”I thought we were trying to avoid this…”
There were real mistakes and pain that need pressed into, and we avoided it. And while waiting and hiding, we caused even more.
I remember a series of moments specifically where I began to see through the fog of my own deception. One thing I realized is that I had a false sense of expectation or what things were ‘supposed to be like’ and I was deeply afraid of getting it wrong and not attaining it. It was almost like the relationship I strived for didn’t exist except in a fantasy. So, one moment of clarity was when I realized I had caused distress by chasing a dream. I think there is a part of me that despised the new reality because it didn’t line up with the made up vision.
As I let go and embraced the broken, messy, complicated nature of myself and Kate, I found a realness that I can only describe as… “lovely”.
Contrary to the way we had lead our first 30 plus years of life, we didn’t get better by being optimistic or by re-arranging the pieces, or changing the rules of the game.
We admitted we were broken and that we needed help. We went to therapy, found new identities in the honest integrity of building from scratch and in the process, we slowly found each other again. Not the polished up versions. We found the weak versions, the scared versions.
We also found courage. Partly in our faith in God, but also in just our ability to use our wills in an authentic way.
We found common ground in the truth that broken things can be fixed if you admit it... Beauty can come from ashes and absolutely anything can be redeemed.
This is our tale, as you reflect, are there broken things worth being fixed in your life? How has your own optimism contributed to the breaking? What is a less than favorable view you could take of yourself that might cause some short term distress, yet yield long term benefit?
Please comment with any thoughts or send us an email, we are excited to start this journey.
So, as we start our business together, we find ourselves offering some peculiar advice. Avoid distress by running toward it.