Hope you had a great V-Day yesterday!
So, my Xmas gift to my husband was a couple's retreat with a marriage therapist couple, on the weekend before Valentine's Day.
I give a lot of credit to my husband to not only graciously accept it, but feel pretty good about going with me (or at least that's what he said. :) I told my husband even if it's not great, at least we have some time to ourselves since his parents kindly agreed to watching the kids.
As the date gets closer, I started to feel more anxiety. What if he doesn't like it? What if we both find it not helpful?
As soon as we met the teachers at the retreat last weekend, I can feel myself relaxing. Richard and Antra Borofsky have been married 49 years and are both couples therapists, and have been practicing what they teach with each other. :) They look at each other with kindness and love, and you can feel they are sharing that love and wisdom with us, a small group of 4 couples.
Antra opened up by saying, their marriage hasn't been all smooth sailing. First she and then her husband fell out of love with each other. And it forced them to really face what happened and try to figure it out. I like how she's so open!
Richard talked about part of the problem is our expectation. Marriage, like life, has positive, negative, and neutral moments. It's important to not get too attached to positives or fear negatives, instead know it's a cycle. We also often have movies in our head about what's happening. There's not a single reality but ours and our partner's. :) And when the movies aren't matching up with each other, it can be jarring for us to accept.
Sure enough Antra gave us a small real-life example as it unfolds. When she was looking into her husband's eyes and thinking they are very much in love, she noticed her husband's eyes narrowing, and his attention elsewhere. She could feel fears, oh he looked a way, maybe he wasn't feeling the love this moment, and she could start telling herself stories, or she could choose to remember that it's natural to have negative moments and trust that positives will come soon enough. Turns out the husband had a random thought he might need to change the battery on something. Who knew!
I really appreciate Antra breaking down step-by-step what's going on in her head, her feelings and thoughts. It made the concept of being aware of our feelings and thoughts much more real. She also modeled for us just how to be vulnerable and trust our partner enough to share feelings and thoughts.
We did mindfulness exercises, breathing exercises, shared our feelings, happy and hurt ones. We cried, we laughed. We even danced with our partner and as a group.
All the couples felt very close and connected with each other. We said things like "haven't felt this close in years" or "found new sources of love that we didn't know exist". It was really an amazing experience, and yes, my husband liked it just as much as me! :)
I'm still processing in my mind why the weekend retreat worked so well, as I would love to know how to connect with my husband more deeply in our daily life. We both thought we got more out of it then the marriage counseling a couple of years ago. A few ideas that I found useful:
1. Being completely focused on each other is an amazing experience, even just a few minutes at a time. I honestly don't remember the last time we've done that... what with our busy lives and just being too tired at the end of the day.
2. Love takes practice - that's the one lesson Richard and Antra want us to walk away with. So taking the time to focus on each other and share our inner feelings on a regular basis. Much like exercising regularly. :)
3. Being kind to each other. My friend asked me what's my biggest lesson. I'm embarrassed to say, I thought the problem with my relationship was my husband (he could be more emotionally aware, he could be more vulnerable and share his feelings.). But now I know it's the unhelpful stories I tell myself about him. There's nothing wrong with him, or me for that matter, we just need to see each other as we are, with kindness and focused attention.
My husband said last night, maybe we could try the mindfulness and breathing exercise and take a few minutes to focus on each other regularly. This is priceless! :-D