The week after our daughter’s first birthday, my husband and I unexpectedly fell into a rough financial patch. Overnight, our once comfortable lifestyle turned into a struggle to make ends meet. As months turned into the better part of a year, we found ourselves faced with re-evaluating our budgets, career dreams, and the future we’d always imagined for ourselves. Our identities went from being a happily married couple with a cute baby, to frustrated and inexperienced parents who disagreed on how to parent a strong-willed toddler.
Our conversations turned into accusations. Our fights were left unresolved. We slowly lost the ability to communicate effectively, so instead of looking deep inside and discussing our issues, we interacted on a surface level, discussing only the most shallow and mundane necessities of the day in order to not trigger an argument. We behaved more like roommates who shared a bed and a kid, rather than the life partners of a married couple.
I knew we needed help.
But I had no idea how to convince my husband to get counseling, and I definitely had no idea how we were supposed to get counseling when we had no money to afford it. I felt completely stuck.
I’d heard that many churches and religious communities offered free counseling services to its members. But at that time, my husband and I were not regular members anywhere and I didn’t even know who I could call at a church to ask for help.
I found a couple free websites online, but I was afraid that free services = inferior services. I’d known people who’d gone to marriage counseling only to be encouraged that divorce would be their best solution; I was terrified of choosing the “wrong” program and our marriage succumbing to the same fate.
I ended up finding a website, OurRelationship.com, that offered Target gift cards in exchange for study volunteers to try their online marriage course. Without any other real option, I stepped out on a limb and trusted that this could work for us. I mustered up the courage to approach my husband with the idea of trying the program, even if only for the desperately needed free gift cards, and surprisingly, though hesitantly, he agreed.
We worked through the program over the next few weeks, first our individual sections, then a guided discussion together. It wasn’t a magic solution and there were no huge immediate changes. But, it gave us some tools how to approach our conversations without attacking each other. It was a very small start, but it was a very good beginning.
It was during this time that I also realized how important it was to find a community of other strong and committed marriages. All marriages have their own individual struggles, and the marriages that stay together are those that have found a way to make things work out no matter what. We’re all a FREE wealth of knowledge to other married couples if only we ask or share guidance from each other! It’s my hope now, in looking back, that my husband and I can be an encouragement to others around us in difficult places in their marriages too.
It’s been a couple years since we did the free online marriage program. Slowly but surely, my husband and I dug ourselves out of the depths of our marriage rut and are now at a much better place in our marriage. It hasn’t been easy and though we’ve taken many steps back, we’ve also taken more steps forward, and that’s what matters most. We didn’t need money to save our marriage, we just needed to take that first step in the right direction…and then keep going.
Flickr/Wayne S. Grazio