This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Friday, September 13, 2013

How we keep our marriage strong!

Hubby and I have been married almost 20 years.  I had a rough childhood (not horrible, but not easy) and knew I had some pretty big men issues when I got married.  Hubby helped me through them and so I felt he would be an amazing dad to attachment challenged kids (not that that we knew that's what we were getting!) - surprisingly it didn't work out that way.  Early on in our marriage, I felt Hubby was suffering from depression, but he's an intensely private person and hates taking meds so he would never see a therapist or doctor.  I basically "tricked" him into seeing a therapist, by having him come with me to support me (I was seeing a therapist to deal with my depression and anxiety - I now know I have mild bipolar disorder.)  That helped a little, but obviously couldn't be very intense or he'd have figured it out! ;)

I think we have a very strong marriage now, because he stuck with me through the early years and now I trust him.  We do still struggle with my issues somewhat, but he's super supportive.  A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with an adult attachment disorder, which really surprised me.  This is NOT the type of attachment disorder that my children have.  One thing that I found helped a LOT was learning each other's love language and speaking it!  This is a lot easier when your "love tank" is full.  Which is one reason I find this post about Finding the Joy to be so important.

I want to comment on the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus that I read early on in our relationship.  This book almost ended my marriage!  Not because it didn't have a lot of basic truths in it, but because I implemented them without communicating with Hubby.  A basic premise of the book is that women solve problems by talking them through with others (very true of me), and men solve problems by going in their cave, only coming out when they have a solution (right or wrong).  This perfectly described Hubby (who was slightly depressed).  So, feeling guilty for chasing him around and forcing him to talk to me about what is bothering him, I backed off and let Hubby have his space to work through his troubles.  Problem was, I forgot to tell Hubby (whose primary love language is Quality Time), and he thought I didn't love him anymore!!

***

Seven years ago, when the kids came to live with us, we didn't know anything about attachment disorders (and weren't told the kids had RAD - or bipolar or pretty much anything else!).  The kids, especially my son, targeted me, but hid it from Hubby who they were afraid of (just because he's big and tends to speak firmly - he's really a teddy bear).  It took some pointing out that if Hubby didn't back me up, I felt he thought I was lying and overreacting, but we did eventually get to the point where he believed me, even though he didn't really see it happening.  The kids quickly learned we were a united front (even if we disagreed behind closed doors) and the triangulating almost disappeared.  Hubby also took over a lot of the discipline which removed a LOT of the stress for me.

We have had some marriage counseling in recent years, but it tends to be more focused on helping us understand the kids better so we can be on the same page (we don't always agree on what is a child's disability, and therefore out of his or her control, and what is manipulation - I tend to see manipulation in Bear and he tends to see it in Kitty).

I think the biggest things that keep our marriage strong are:
1. RESPECT - we both respect each other and make it a priority not to hurt each other.  Hubby tells the kids they need to respect me because I'm his wife and enforces it!
2.  Speaking each other's love language!!! HUGE!
3.  Making each other a priority.  We schedule date nights and time alone!  Remember that the kids won't live at home forever.    Eventually (hopefully) the kids will move out and it will be just the two of us for as long as we live.
4.  Support each other.  We step in and give each other breaks (tag team!), and try to prioritize making sure that the other gets what they need.
5.  Don't depend on each other to get your needs met.  I know that I need a lot of support and validation, especially when I'm stressed.  I try to get a lot of that from multiple sources (including the internet and blogging), so the burden isn't entirely on my husband.

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