In 2021, my husband and I separated. We spent six months apart, going to therapy and working on ourselves. In 2022 we reconciled, and since then we have focused our energy on establishing healthy patterns that will make our marriage successful and joyful. The list is always growing, but here are some things we’ve come up with so far.
1. We forgave the past and left it there.
We are both different people now, and we deserve a clean slate. Some things are hard to recover from, and forgiveness takes time. It’s not that we pretend the past didn’t exist. We just do our best to work on healing from it, and try not to let it impact our current relationship.
2. We made date nights a requirement at least once a week.
We have a standing appointment with a babysitter on Saturday nights and we are committed to reserving that night for us. If the babysitter can’t make it, or if money is tight, we have dinner and a movie at home together. We both have jobs and of course the house to keep up and the children to raise. It’s easy to disconnect. Being intentional about at least one date night a week has helped us stay intimate and connected.
3. We changed our dinner time to AFTER the kids are in bed.
The kids have their own dinner time, and we have ours after they’re asleep. When they’re a bit older, we’ll go back to family dinners. I look forward to it, actually! Some of my best memories are from sitting around the table with my parents at the end of the day. But for now, trying to have dinner at the same time as the kids just disrupts our peace. We hang out with them while they eat, but save our dinner until after bedtime.
4. We educated ourselves about each other’s neurodivergencies.
My husband has ADHD and I have some issues with sensory processing disorder. Charlie’s executive dysfunction used to cause a lot of friction in our marriage because I just didn’t understand it. In the same way, my moodiness and frustration from being overstimulated by noise always led to arguments that could have been avoided if Charlie understood it. We took time to educate ourselves about each other’s neurodivergencies, and now we can hold space and provide compassion for each other in the moments that our neurodivergencies take hold.
5. We let go of “we are one” ideologies and embraced our individual needs.
Listen, anyone who ascribes to the Christian belief that married couples are one is perfectly valid. But for us that ideology became toxic. Freedom and peace came when we began to embrace our individual needs and natures, and came to celebrate our uniqueness instead of focusing on our oneness. Now, we just see ourselves as a team. And that works well for us.
6. We stated our core needs to each other and committed to meeting them.
The first step was differentiating between our core needs and our tertiary needs. Core needs are those that are foundational to our happiness as individuals. They are the things we simply must have in order to operate at our fullest potential. The tertiary needs — the things that we like to have met, but that we can live without — have less priority. Working to meet each other’s core needs makes us feel whole and fulfilled, and serves as a reminder of how much we love each other.
7. We keep our mental health in check through therapy and personal development.
I will always advocate for everyone to go to therapy if it is accessible to them. Therapy not only saved our marriage — it keeps saving it over and over again. We both work on our own personal growth and development, working to self-actualize to our highest versions of ourselves, and pushing the other to do the same.