My husband and I were not well off at the beginning of our marriage. We each lived with our parents before we married, and after a series of events that left us again without jobs, we moved in with my mother after our wedding. We were immensely grateful for the support we received, and sought to work hard to eventually move out on our own.
We were a team: applying for jobs and making plans together. It was a challenging time, yes, but my husband and I were in it together. Yet, we began bickering and getting frustrated about money management and even the division of chores. We were also growing anxious about our lack of employment and taking it out on one another.
At first, I feared that maybe our relationship couldn’t take this kind of stress. Were we not clear about our wants and needs? Were we not as compatible as we thought? After finding out I was pregnant, the fear grew, and I knew I had to get to the bottom of what was going on.
What I needed was encouragement during this tough time, so I turned to those I was close to for support. But some of them made matters worse by feeding my fears.
One day, I went outside for a breath of fresh air to ease my morning sickness. As I relaxed, a family member came outside to chat with me. He made it clear that he heavily disliked how my husband and I handled our finances, and told me upfront that he thought little of my decision to eventually stay home and run the household.
To say that I was distressed would be an understatement. I completely lost confidence in myself and in my marriage. I was outright ashamed of my personal decisions. More importantly, I felt embarrassed about my husband.
My husband and I tended to absorb negative criticisms like this and allowed resentment to grow between us. I immediately thought of all the arguments I had with my husband and how they related to these feelings created after such questioning.
After the conversation was over, I felt furious. Who was he or anyone else to criticize my husband like that? Why did they all continually question decisions we made as a couple, decisions we thought over carefully as equals?
At that moment, I knew that the people I initially looked to for acceptance were not the people I needed to encourage the marriage my husband and I wanted. These people were close to us and cared deeply for us, but they simply were not on the same page when it came to goals for our lives. We knew we needed advice and help for our young marriage, but we felt like our relationship was being undermined.
I realized that I needed to create boundaries to protect my marriage, including taking the really difficult step of cutting ties with some people. I told everyone that if they had a question about our welfare, to direct it to both my husband and me—together—so that no one was talked about behind their back. I also made it clear that there were some questions I would not answer in detail, if at all.
I also sought some new relationships to help us in our marriage. These new relationships with positive mentors took time to establish, and I can happily say that they were worth it.
My husband and I moved in with family again recently. After a large out-of-state move with two small children, accumulating moving costs, and long hours working overtime afterward, we both found ourselves having large blow ups and arguments again. This time, however, I had positive mentors on my side.
After a heated moment with my husband, I could text or chat with these people about how I felt and how I wanted to help my spouse despite everything that happened. One friend gave sage advice in reminding me to take time to simply be with my husband and give him affection. Another told me to always be clear about how I am feeling, but to also give my husband a moment to reflect on his emotions without judgment. And when I was open about our financial state, there was no judgment, only encouragement: Friends gave us tips on where to save on groceries, or where to go for a cheap or free family outing. They have made it clear they are on the side of our marriage and its success.
After a few tense months, things eventually smoothed out. My husband and I are back to our old selves and have learned a few things along the way. I personally link this success to the positive support I established years ago to replace the negative support from before. It was hard at first, but cutting out negative support, and replacing it with positive reinforcement in our new friendships allowed us to protect our marriage and help it grow in love.