Here, an excerpt from the Interviews section.
Giselle is a forty-year-old mother of two. She has been married for seventeen years.
Mollie: Can you remember a time when your marriage felt extremely difficult? What was the problem and how did it begin?
Giselle: I remember it like it was yesterday. It was when our second kid was born. At that time, we were both very successful in our careers and lived in a beautiful new home, with nice cars and basically all you could ask for. The problem for us was that we didn’t really respect each other. We hadn’t learned how to have a productive disagreement and talk through things. Being two very stubborn individuals, we thought we could change each other into the molds we wanted by not backing down in a fight. Ever.
The second child’s birth really brought this all to light. Having all we could ask for just wasn’t enough anymore. We decided that we were either going to live separate lives or work for it and that’s when we reached out for help. Honestly, at that time, while he wanted us to survive, I thought we didn’t have a chance and was prepared to move on. I just couldn’t take that step, though, partly due to my faith.
So, we tried a year’s worth of counseling. It helped. But, what really helped was just maturity and learning that we fell in love for a reason and it all can be fixed as long as we’re both willing to at least try. Now, we know that fighting is just a big waste of time and actually listening to each other is way more effective, no matter the outcome.
If I’d only known then what I know now. When couples think they’re doomed, I want to scream “It’s fixable!” and “I was there.”
Mollie: What was one specific argument that you had that showed the lack of respect and ability to communicate?
Giselle: To be totally transparent, what sticks out in my head at the moment is when I called him to tell him I was pregnant with baby number two and his response was, “What the fuck!” That wasn’t fun.
Mollie: Tell me more about that.
Giselle: Okay. Let me set the stage. We were living in my husband’s hometown at the time and had been for about seven years. By then, we had made good friends, but they were more like the kind of friends that were fun to party with and we never really opened up to them for help and support with our marriage (or with any intimate feelings for that matter). It’s a habit for both of us to not be vulnerable anyway.
When I told my husband about being pregnant with baby number two and he responded badly, I just retreated further and never really talked about my feelings to him or anyone else. Instead, we fought a lot about other stupid things and never really dealt with our real feelings. I was really hurt at the time and felt alone but never said that to anyone. At this point, we were so distant from each other we basically were just co-existing.
When the new baby was a year and a half old we moved back to my hometown to be closer to my family. At that time, I thought either we’d get divorced and it’d be better for me to have my family around, or we’d work it out and it’d still be better to shake things up and have a stronger support system. We started counseling there, too.
It took a while, and things still aren’t perfect but definitely worth the move and surrounding ourselves with supportive people. We communicate much better now and know how, when in an argument, to listen to each other more and to do our best to at least hear what the other person is saying.
Since then (the past eight years or so) I’m so grateful we didn’t give up on us. We both love our kids and learned so much along the way. We actually like each other and love each other now.
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