A Thin Line Between Love and Hate: Navigating Marriage

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A couple talking on the couch.My last article on finding love after divorce had me thinking about my current marriage and navigating the ups and downs of marriage. Like many in their second marriages, I feel that my thoughts can be applied to a first marriage or even a third, and any relationship for that matter.

After talking with many of my girlfriends, I noticed most of us are in the same boat. Ups and downs are most definitely the norm in navigating marriage these days, and what I have found is that there seems to be a fine line between love and hate.

Compared to a convenient traditional arrangement, I attribute this to higher expectations, with couples wanting to be emotionally supported and viewed as equals. I view the high expectations as a positive thing.

Everyone deserves to have the love they want.

There are days when I feel unwavering love for my husband. He could do no wrong in my eyes. He’s my real-life hero, a wonderful provider, an amazing father, and an all-around good guy. He coaches my sons’ little league teams, asks me daily how my day was, wants to genuinely know the best part of my day, and often tells me that he wants to make me happy.

And then there are days where he wants to sleep in until 10 a.m. on a Saturday when we have a million things to do. The laundry and dishes are piled up, and the kids are climbing me at 6 a.m. When he shuffles out of the bedroom all sleepy-eyed, I can’t help but feel angry. What I once thought was adorable bed-head now puts me on the defensive. “Ya know, I would have loved to sleep in, too!”

And then it creeps in—the resentment. I kept a score of who was doing what and who needed to catch up on their sleep more. I’m amazed at how I can feel such love and how it can morph into something not quite as lovely in seconds.

I always joke with my friends that, “There’s no in-between with me and Hubby. I either love him or hate him.” Do I seriously mean this? No, of course not. I often joke and play around and am very light-hearted regarding our competitive battles on who should get a 20-minute cat nap if possible. But there are days when marriage is just tough, and sometimes you want to embrace it all, and sometimes you want to bury your head in a pillow and scream.

So how does one navigate a marriage or a healthy relationship, especially one with multiple children, misaligned schedules, and demanding careers? I learned from my first go at it and have taken what I learned and tried to use it.

1. Communicate.

Even if you’re tired or mad, check-in. It doesn’t have to always be when everyone is exhausted at the end of the night. It could be throughout the day. It could be over breakfast. Texting, calls, emails, notes, whatever works. Sometimes, all someone needs is to know you’re thinking about them.

2. Don’t always focus only on the kids.

Remember who you both were before you had your munchkins. What brought you both together? What are some things you can still do together?

3. Respect boundaries.

Admittedly, this is a hard one for me! If your spouse needs space to think, give it to them. I learned that not everyone can talk fast, openly, and comfortably in the moment and may need a place to think about what they want to say first. Writing it down works well, too!

4. Set goals.

Set priorities for your relationship and make time for each other. Start small and work your way up to more time.

I wish I could say I always took my own advice, but it can be challenging when feeling slighted, stressed, or angry. I found that the only thing that worked 90% of the time was to talk things out without interruptions or distractions. You have to be willing to bend and compromise, and being stubborn isn’t going to do anyone any favors.

I learned that I could not try to have a serious chat with my kids around, or else I’d be fetching snacks and playing with dinosaurs while trying to give my relationship some serious catch-up time, and it just didn’t work.

Are the ups and downs normal for everyone? I want to think so! Do most couples go through periods of intense love and intense rage? Again, I think some won’t admit to it, but I’ve always believed in being honest with myself and my husband, even when it’s uncomfortable. I think it’s always served us well so far to be open and honest, even when it’s hard to hear.

What are your thoughts? What are your tips for navigating marriage?

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