This post is part of "Life on the Inside", which is a series that gives a glimpse into our adoptive family's daily life. Please read this series with a discerning attitude that is quick to listen and slow to speak.
Due to the sensitive nature of this series, comments have been disabled. However, you can always email me at [email protected].
Note: As with all of my posts, this was written with the encouraging support of my husband PJ. It is very personal, but our hope is to encourage any of you who may be enduring a difficult time in marriage.
We've recently celebrated our seventh anniversary! For the first time, I feel like we're crossing over from "newly-ish married" to "not-so-newly married and starting to get a clue".
Up until this last year, our marriage rocked along without anything resembling a "rough patch", praise the Lord. The challenges in other parts of life have been numerous and stressful, but marriage itself has been sweet. 6+ years is a pretty good streak! 2014 was the first year to see unsettling times in our relationship. Ugh.
First off, our days with the kids are intense. A really good article sums up the day-to-day:
What's different about parenting a hurt child is the sheer number of distancing behaviors. Whether or not they realize it, attachment-challenged kids are terrified of connection. This fear leads them to avoid or sabotage moments of connection over and over again, sometimes dozens of times in an hour. By the end of the day, even the most well-intentioned, educated momma feels battle fatigue—because in the midst of all that opposition, we're there reaching out and nurturing and loving anyway. Loving a resistant kid is a hugely draining proposition. In fact, post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real diagnosis for many folks parenting kids with attachment issues.
Apart from any parenting stress, seminary was very time-consuming. PJ worked overly long hours on classwork, and I worked overly long hours at home with the kids. Money was tight, but time was tighter. This took a toll on our relationship, though I didn't realize how much until I flew to Texas with the kids while PJ went to Baltimore for a mission trip and a conference. After days of falling apart, I wrote this email to a friend late at night.
I'm so, so mad(?) or resentful(?) or—I don't even know—at PJ right now. This week has been pure emotional hell while he is on that Baltimore trip. I see tweets all day from great lecturers, and I'm jealous that he gets to sit and soak that up for hours. He has afternoons off, and all afternoon I'm mad that I can't remember the last time I had a break, let alone hours off every single day. His blogs come in, and I read that he got to spend his evenings focused, unburdened in sharing Jesus. And man alive, I am struggling knowing that he's teamed up with a girl who gets to do this with my husband every day this week. I so, so desperately wish it were me beside him in this work…Thanks for listening. I feel a huge weight lifted in just telling someone what I've been so ashamed to admit: I'm mad at my husband for being on a mission trip.
Note: PJ was actually on an eight-person team, and there was absolutely no wrongdoing—nor even a suspicion of wrongdoing; I was upset about my state in life, not his actions.
Well, it doesn't take a degree in marriage counseling to figure out that we had hit a "rough patch." Months of working too hard at our own pursuits had let some issues spring up that needed attention. Thankfully, just spending time together and talking through the things I had written in that email were hugely helpful. We established some short-term and long-term steps that we could take to get back on the same page.
In the short-term, we took full advantage of all the family babysitters in Texas to go on dates, established a date night swap with friends in North Carolina, and cut unnecessary activities out of our schedule. Also, we have been blessed with several "couple friends" that we really enjoy spending time with. Long-term wise, we set some post-seminary goals for giving me more time to write, relax apart from the kids, and get involved in ministry and mission trips. The short-term solutions really helped, and we're just getting started implementing the long-term ones now that PJ has graduated. Planning to relocate to Waco, where we have immense family support, is another proactive step for our marriage.
Parenting challenging kids adds an extra dimension of stress to our marriage, for sure. Even in our adoption training, couples were warned to guard their marriage. However, with Christ as the center of our marriage and our home, we are safe in the arms of our Savior. God has blessed us by strengthening our marriage through these trials; we are closer now than we ever were before. PJ and I look forward to many wonderful years of marriage.
If you are going through a rocky point in marriage, we'd love to hear from you, encourage you, and get you connected with other helpful people and resources.