We've been married just 4.5 years. I think. Let me count..Aug .2012-13-14-15-16..Feb 2017. Yes.
When we were first wed, we were working our buns off building a youth ministry from scratch, helping "plant a church," and raising our income through fundraising. I put that in quotes because let's be real: only us church folk use this kind of terminology.
We had it set in our heads and our plans to be in vocational ministry for at least 15 years. At that point, we thought Loren might go to grad school and get a fancy masters degree in something like divinity (what does that even mean?) and become a Bible college professor or something. Or maybe we would become some sort of encouragement to younger leaders, hopping around the country from church to church, rooting on and praying over new church starts and new pastors. Or maybe we would become small group / community group pastors, teaching people how to authentically grow community in their neighborhoods, breaking bread and living life together. These were the things we planned and dreamed about.
But now we are here. And "here" is no where near what we had planned or imagined.
Less than 5 years into marriage and our entire course of career-identity shifted. We walked through undeniable loss of a cherished community, pain and sorrow-filled, as we left a community we built our marriage and relationship around.
We moved just two hours north to a bigger city, suddenly grew by two feet and then two more, and joined a "big stable church." The type of church we were sure we'd never be a part of again, because church plants were the only way.
And yet, it all feels so right for us right here and right now. Funny how once you experience life-shattering things, .your view goes from believing one single thing is the very best for everyone.. to realizing different things are right for different people at different times.
Though life feels right, we are still learning what it means to be married. We are still a couple of messed up humans, broken and fragile, hurting one another too often, but still asking for forgiveness.
We have the privilege of being mama and daddy to two miracles, and that just simply takes up a lot of our time, energy, bandwidth.
It's hard to keep your marriage hot and spicy when you are walking through big identity-shifts that are infused with pain and trauma. It's hard to remember to have more conversations than, "Did you change his diaper? Can you rotate the laundry? Should we eat dinner? I see some cheerios on the ground, that will work right? Did you wipe up the poop up off of their carpet?" It's hard to have sex. It's hard to be intimate, both physically and emotionally, when life is full of good things and real responsibilities and...life.
Marriage is not easy. Marriage is hard. Too many marriages fail. Too many spouses feel disconnected, but don't say anything or say very little, because let's be real: telling your spouse you feel unloved when you know you're both exhausted from life is vulnerable; it is saying "I'm not receiving what I need...I need more from you." What if they scoff? What if they laugh? What if they roll their eyes? What if they get defensive and say how they're trying but you're ungrateful? What if they turn it around and say how you're not meeting their needs or even worse, failing, as a spouse?
I'm all about that marriage counseling.
We Brenners are in a definite time of survival. I say that delicately, because I love this time. But this time is hard. It is very, very hard. My eyes burn. But these are the days, you know?
As I cherish the sweet moments of mama-ing and as I battle the impatience that sleeplessness brings, I was reminded that marriages don't survive (or at least do well) unless you talk and communicate and you know... be more than just roommates going to work and caring for babies.
We've gone on 3, maybe 4?, dates since we brought our firstborn home. Dates aren't really a thing right now.
Marriage counseling has been a form of dating my husband again. Marriage counseling has become a sacred space of togetherness, where we come together with someone who sees things we need seen, and we just talk.
We talk about all the things we never talk about. We talk about ways we felt loved or neglected, ways we felt encouraged or hurt, ways we can do better this week and next. We talk about things we can tangibly change, like fitting designated work/writing hours (without anyone around...at a coffee shop) into our schedule for me so I do not lose my mind. It's a defense-free zone where we are committed to brutal honesty and grace. We are committed to trying to see where the other is coming from, without defense and "buts."
Financially, we are tight and money spreads itself thin over our budget, but counseling is worth it. For us, it has become necessary. If anything, it becomes a sacred safe space to just be together. It's like a date, but better, in my opinion.
Our marriage isn't threatened to end, no one had an affair, we are not sleeping in separate rooms; these are realities for too many marriages and I recognize the privilege that those aren't our story. I consider us to be very privileged to have the means to make it work financially, to go to marriage counseling now, to use it as preventative...like vitamins you know? Or apples.
But we both agree to go, to be honest, to lay down our defenses, to choose to see the other.
I can't talk about the privilege of marriage counseling without touching on the privilege of our community and the people who sacrifice time to be with our boys. Every week that it's on the calendar, I seem to forget until the day of, and we have always had people step in to love them and care for them and baby sit them even at the last minute.
Can we work towards breaking the stigmas of counseling?
There is no shame in counseling. Not even marriage counseling.
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