May 5, 2011 note: Today I went to the tag agency and while I was waiting on my requests to be processed I heard a man next to me provide his home address to the clerk. I was surprised to hear he lived on “Clover Glen,” the street where Mick and lived in our first home. This has been a week of weird coincidences, so I decided perhaps there was more at stake than just coincidence. Therefore, I’m reposting this entry I wrote almost a year ago in preparation for another I’ve been writing for three days. I’ve been writing, and thinking about, and researching, and writing more about the process of falling in, out, and perhaps…back in love again.
The gentleman at the tag agency ended up being a resident of the house you see in this photo on the left – he would have been our neighbor to the south. He said he still gets mail for our former neighbors, and they’ve been gone over 20 years. See you here tomorrow – Red Dirt Kelly
The setting was a cold February, 1986.
My husband and I had been married about six months when the bottom of the oil bust hit Oklahoma. Thousands of homes in Edmond were being vacated after the interest rates within a group of “negative amortization” loans began to skyrocket as the oil jobs started drying up.
For newlyweds living in a tiny apartment like us with adequate income, the housing market was a real opportunity. We purchased our first home from builders who had been paying interest on it for over a year. They were desperate and we felt lucky. We closed on the deal very quickly. Continue reading Live Oak Equals Our Living Marriage→
Calling all couples who are past the DTR talk and are now considering long term commitment such as engagement, marriage or an alternative long-term relationship: this essay is for YOU.
You now have more choices than ever before in terms of taking smart, educational and healthy steps in a “prevention” way to invest in “relationship insurance,” so to speak. Regardless of what you call it, taking the time to get your relationship fine-tuned is one of the biggest gifts you can give each other.
Research shows that depending upon the program you choose, preventative education or premarital counseling can help your relationship stay together, on average, 3-8 years longer than couples who did nothing. This finding isn’t saying that your relationship is simply going to break down at a later date; it means that you’ve helped your relationship beat the divorce or break-up odds by taking 8-12 hours of time together – to think through plans, skills, and meanings of what you’re getting ready to begin. In other words, the odds will be even MORE in your favor than before.
In other-other words? Premarital or pre-commitment preparation is a no-brainer. A hard core, serious, bona fide NO-BRAINER!
In today’s society where phrases like “fear of commitment” and “starter marriage” are all too normative, I am inspired by married couples who have persevered through difficult circumstances or otherwise made the deliberate decision to be committed to their spouse and their family.
As you may know, my days are spent overseeing relationship education services and supports to couples and individuals through The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. As a part of that project, we partner with Oklahoma Publishing Company to make a commitment of our own….to recognize couples across Oklahoma who have beat the odds by sticking together for better and worse.
Last year, we searched for Oklahoma’s most inspiring couples through a statewide nomination process and produced an amazing calendar honoring these couples. Now, we are actively seeking nominations for 2011’s most inspiring couples.
Do you know a couple who exhibits extraordinary traits such as team work, commitment, or has lived a life of infectious fun? Perhaps they have impacted their family, neighborhood or community in an exceptional way or have braved sickness or other hardships as a team?
Please nominate these couples so their stories can be shared! In addition to the calendar, The Oklahoman will publish feature stories on the couples throughout the year.
To nominate, simply submit 250 words about the couple, sharing why you feel they deserve to be recognized, along with a picture. You can do this quickly and easily at www.newsok.com/inspiringcouples or by mail:
Oklahoma’s Most Inspiring Couples
P.O. Box 25125
Oklahoma City, OK 73125
You may also view pictures, stories and video of last year’s Inspiring Couples on the nomination site.
Reading through the nominations was truly the highlight of my last year and I look forward to again hearing about the wonderful couples across our great state! Nominations are due soon, November 22nd, so please submit your nominations now! We will notify selected couples the first part of December and move forward with capturing their stories and producing the calendar.
On the day you were born I looked down into your tiny pappoose face, your three inches of thick black hair pointing every direction possible within a 180 degree range, and thought about you on your wedding day. Who would you be? What would you look like? Who might you marry? How would you meet him? What would he see in you that would make him fall in love? What would make you know that he was the one?
I had these thoughts because your dad was holding you, and when I watched him get up to walk you around the hospital room, he and I had only been married for one year and nine months. We were still newlyweds ourselves. But we’ve recently celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and we have changed a great deal over that quarter-century. A friend used to say, “I’ve been married to seven different men during my lifetime, and all of them were the same person.” Well, I think your dad and I are at least on person number three or four in our own marriage.
However, you and he are on your first. So I thought I’d share in the best way I can my memories, thoughts, lessons and wisdom from our marriage for your upcoming life together. This is all I’ve got, sweetheart, except the fact that we’ll be there if you two need us along your own journey together.
Years one and two
At this present point in my life, all I can conjure up in my head from our first year together is that we did a lot of running around, said “We’re married!” quite a bit, wrote lots of thank you notes for the gifts we’re STILL using, and learned quite a bit about each other’s families. By the way, if you get a few things you could stand to go without, I recommend trading them in for one good set of culinary knives. You’ll use them every day.
I think we also had to work out the “self-imposed weirdness” regarding the unspoken assumption that we were having sex. Seriously, the first time we went to the lake with your Roberts’ grandparents and spent the night in one bedroom together, we couldn’t even look people in the face at breakfast the next morning. Not that anything happened; I feel quite certain I wore three extra layers of clothing during that trip and felt mortified that your dad’s family was walking around in their robes drinking coffee and reading the paper. We were shy, awkward, and probably were much more uncomfortable than anyone else at the cabin. So, perhaps the lesson from year one is: Enjoy the newly wed high, and work out the weirdness…as best you can. We’ve already talked about the essential premarital preparation, so I won’t harp on that. You’ve made your appointments, right?!
Years three through five
For us, these were our hardest years. Your father began working nights six months after we got married – stressor #1. I began a sales and marketing job with a good deal of travel-related requirements – stressor #2. We had you – blessing, but in reality the addition of children to a family are also stressors, #3. We internalized our feelings, didn’t communicate, began distancing from each other and really considered splitting up, results of stressors #s 1-3, plus we didn’t know how to handle conflict or much of what it took to manage distance and conflicting schedules – stressors #s…well, a whole bunch of them.But, our friends, our family, our leaders at work, and a therapist didn’t give up on us when we were giving up on ourselves.
So what’s the lesson from us to you for years 3-5? Use your support system, ask for help or get it if you need it, and when you find yourself turning inward – then that’s the key time to begin reaching out to each other.
Years six through fifteen
These were our regrouping years, our managing years, our family life years, and our time together where we really began to learn how to be a family. We got involved in your school, we had your sister, we downsized to a smaller house so I could spend more time with you and your sister (among other reasons)…in a sense, we started our second marriage. We began learning how to parent, how to co-parent, how to trust each other better and how to manage all the responsibilities that came with a young family. In other words, we were getting to the place that I wish we had been in years 3-5, but it just didn’t happen that way.
What’s the lesson here? Well, mostly it’s that if you begin a family, you will always be considering your actions, your goals and your decisions based upon not just you, or even the “us” in your marriage, but the “we” as an entire family. You may give a little more than you expected at this point in your life, but the entire family gains. We were worn out, broke, and sometimes at our wits’ end with parenting demands, but those were really, really good years.
Years fifteen through twenty
At some point in your family life, there will be a juncture where you don’t have to drag around baby paraphernalia, you’ll be able to sit down and eat entire dinners together as a family and enjoy the conversation with everyone there…you’ll be able to sit back and take a breath as a parent. This was during years 15-20 for us.
Wow, it took a great deal of energy to get there, but – wow again, it was such a good feeling to be able to allow you and your sister to: Go to your friends’ houses and spend the night, take a short vacation with just Mick and I, and allow you to drive to places we had always shuttled you to before this time. You became more autonomous, and we began enjoying that change.
The lesson? I hate to write this phrase because it has sort of been captured by the bullying community now, but it holds true in marriages as well… “it gets better.” When you pour your love, your energy and all you have together into child rearing, family development and professional development – eventually, it DOES get better. To have enough money to eat dinner out occasionally, to sit back and watch you and your sis go to prom and then to college – – what a rewarding and blessed time those years were for us!
Years twenty through twenty-five
I think of these years as the time where your dad and I got to shift a few resources from you and sis and begin redeveloping ourselves. Your father began to really enjoy golf again, he began to get tickets to sporting events and take a few trips with men from church. I went back to school and began really working at my career in a more in-depth way than before. I’ve worked on developing a few ideas I’ve always wanted to do. In other words, we got to help you begin your own journey, then begin enhancing our own.
The lesson of this time in our life? I think for one thing, you WILL be able to change your role as parenting/overseer to parent/mentor and encourager. You’ll be able to sit back and offer guidance to your children when they ask, but enjoy watching them manage their own lives as they can. You’ll be able to rediscover the desires of your own heart and take more than two or three-day vacations with your husband. And, you’ll be able to go to dinner with your children – oh, say – at a restaurant in south Oklahoma City, where they tell you, “Mams, Paps…we’re getting married.” And, you’ll be able to celebrate with them, because you’ll know they are as ready as they can be at this special time in their life.
Dear sweetheart – when you and your fiancée are in the middle of a stressful time somewhere in your future life, just let us or his parents know…and we’ll do our best to help you get through the wrinkle. The main point of this letter, though, is that you CAN. There will be struggles, you can get through them, and to have a husband you can grow with over the next twenty-five years and beyond…well, it’s a blessing that I could never had comprehended.
Your dad and I love you very much, sweetheart, and we love your chosen man too. May your first twenty-five years together be all you could hope, and may our Lord richly bless you and he over the next few months as you get ready to begin your life together.
A small farm town is great for overhearing comments like these: “Oh, he has heart trouble? Better not let him out on that tractor during harvest. You won’t know if he’s had any chest pains until he gets every last acre of that crop in!” Then everyone around bursts into laughter, nods their heads, and asks to hear more about Farmer Brown’s cardiac condition. However…
It’s a human law of nature, isn’t it? We laugh the loudest at that which rings the greatest truths?
Over the last ten years or so, I’ve studied one area about relationships more than others, and it’s because I know so many “Farmer Browns” in Oklahoma: the phenomenon of seeking help. Some of the reasons I began researching this topic are personal. My own husband and I struggled with seeking outside assistance when we were having marital issues around the third year of our marriage. When we finally DID access couples therapy services, however, it only took two sessions for both of us to realize that our marriage was much greater than the two of us sitting in the room. It took longer for our emotions toward each other to repair, but once we made the decision to stick out our relationship we looked at all our other decisions in a very different way. And, recently celebrating our 25th anniversary felt really great.
Another reason I’ve spent so much time researching this topic is because it’s such a pervasive problem. I’ve only found one paper over the years by an anthropologist who wrote specifically about Oklahomans’ inability to ask for help when they need it, but through my own research and that of my colleagues, I’ve found out a little more. Here’s what I know about folks in Red Dirt Country (AND for the rest of the US…I have national data sets as well).:
1) It’s easier for people to tell their friends to go get help than it is for them to go themselves. A full 95% of respondents from one of my surveys stated that they would “encourage their friends to seek premarital or marital education,” or “therapy.” However, around 60-70% of most populations said they thought they might try it themselves – many of that population responded “only when it’s the last option.” It’s easier to suggest to others than take our own advice, it seems.
2) The number one constraint to seeking marital education OR therapy services among Oklahomans in 2003 was the concern about “getting the other person in the relationship to agree to the idea.” In other words, it wasn’t the individual’s attitude or belief about seeking help as much as it was their fear or anxiety about bringing up the discussion, or anticipating how their partner might respond to their request. So it seems that sometimes what we think about others, or how they might react, is even more powerful than what we believe for ourselves.
3) On a better note, however, a greater majority of people were more willing to get couples counseling, attend marriage or relationship education, or other type of couples service (retreat, take an inventory, etc), than they were to seek individual help or education for themselves. So, they are thinking of others or their relationship over themselves, for the most part. This is important information – knowing that someone might make a decision for the sake of another over themselves is valuable when we’re talking about relationships.
These are just a few tiny bits of data out of a very large amount of information but I think they might be useful for a couple of reasons. First of all, what this information tells us is that it’s NORMAL to feel conflicted, worried or resistant to opening up our relationship to outside help. Some even feel that going to an educational workshop over relationship skills will “make things worse;” that if they just ignore the issue and keep the boat steady, maybe things will blow over.
Others feel ill-equipped to know where to begin when asking their partner to go with them. This is NORMAL too! If you’ve been arguing or the two of you readily step into “blaming mode,” then it’s easy to see how something well-intended could turn sour quickly. The very best way to bring up a topic like this is to make sure to “own your own wishes” (say, “I’d really like for you to go with me. Here’s what we can learn. Would you please think about this?”) and resist the urge to blame or to criticize, or make things personal (for example, “Maybe this will keep us from arguing about the dogs.”) If you talk about what you can GAIN, and avoid bringing up what is WRONG, chances are the conversation will go better.
Telling your partner about skills the two of you can learn is a much clearer message than telling them what’s been wrong. They already know what’s gone wrong; reiteration isn’t needed in a committed relationship. You know each other very well.
Finally, if you happen to be the one who is thinking about inviting your partner to begin therapy or attend a relationship education workshop, having the information handy is also important. Don’t know where to start? I’ve got four links for you I’ll share at the end of this article – you can look up the information right now!
So, what have we learned? Seeking help is hard. People are scared to ask their partners to go with them. People are willing to do something for others over themselves. How does this work together? Well, the fact that “people are willing to do something for others” actually increases the chances that your partner will accept an invitation from you. Now, all you have to do is ask. Good luck…and let us know if you need extra support.