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Surviving Your Marriage

Shawna Kitchin

I'm not here to tell you how to handle your marriage, this isn't what this post is about. What I am here to tell you, is how I handled mine in the worst time of my life. 

Craig and I got married young. And I mean we were babies. It didn't seem like it at the time, but we were. I was 19 and he was 22. He proposed in February and we were married in July. In that time I finished up my first (and only) year of college and planned for a move across the states. We lived in Indiana, and at the time, Craig was stationed in Alaska, so hello new adventure! That was our first challenge in our marriage. We moved 3,000 miles away from anyone we had ever known, and didn't have any family close by. So a lot of things we had to figure out on our own and deal with together. Which probably is what helped us be so strong all the time. From the moment we had started dating, things were different for us. When Craig first told me he was joining the Army, I swore up and down that I would never put myself through that kind of relationship. But when he told me, it was different with him. It's always been different with him. This was something I would do for him, and I'm so glad I did. 

Craig has always been my rock. From the very beginning. He is the most caring, strong, loving, supportive human being i've ever met in my life. I thank his parents for that. He's incredibly stubborn too. It's hard to read what's on his mind or even to know, because he will never tell you. He's a locked box and I think he lost the key or something because I really can never open him. 

Enough gushing over my husband, I guess I can get down to the nitty gritty. We've always been alone as a couple. Not in the sense that we've never had anyone, we just deal with our problems separately and quietly. Most of the time, you don't know there is ever a problem in our marriage. And I think that is a good thing. Not everything needs aired on social media. Our relationship is private. We're homebodies. We love staying in and watching movies. We go on dates probably once a week, either out to eat or to the movies. It's just who we've always been. But being alone as a couple has really taken it's toll on us, but made us stronger in the long run. 

We lost our son Jaxton in April of 2016. Do you know how hard it is as first time parents to be so excited for something, just to have it ripped from your fingertips? It's not just hard, it's devastating. Soul crushing to say the least. From the day we lost Jaxton, I always said I didn't want to be one of those cliche couples that gets divorced because they lost our child. No matter what, I wanted to fight for our marriage. I said that over and over and over again. And that's what we did. We fought like hell. Through the good days and the bad days, we fought. We never lost sight of each other and we always said we were stronger. Until we weren't.

Things started to feel as if we were just roommates. Sleeping in the same bed, but we had lost our connection somehow. We didn't really ever fight. We still to this day don't 'fight', just bicker and annoy the shit out of each other. I have terrible anxiety and that's what causes a lot of problems for us. I get in my head and make up crazy scenarios and I mean crazy. But this day wasn't a scenario, it had happened and it was real. I don't want to go into details, because it is something very hard to talk about and we got past it as a couple, but just know that it hurt me. Around July, I was coming downstairs in our house and Craig quickly put his phone away. Didn't think much of it, thought that we were going to watch a movie and hang out. Our phones became our centers, and we were constantly on them. So thinking of the one on one time was nice. Something in my mind didn't want to let it go. Hours later I brought it up. Before I go any further, NO. Craig was not cheating, messaging, flirting, etc. He has been faithful since the moment we got together and I don't question that. But he was doing something that really bothers me, and that was lying directly to my face. Point blank, lie. I asked him the same question later and he finally gave me an honest answer, and my heart sank to my stomach and I just left the room. All this lead to questions that I think had been on both our minds since we lost Jaxton and the infamous D word came up. Divorce. 

Guys, we had been married for 3 years, and we were sitting here deciding if we should get a divorce. I was trying to decide if I should move home for a bit, take some space, go to counseling, or what we should do. To hear your husband say "I don't know" when you ask him if we should get a divorce, was heartbreaking. I came from a divorced family. I'm not new to the idea. But I didn't think it would ever happen to me. I was in this for the long run, but if that's what he wanted and there was no budging, then that's that. I'm not going to fight for something that I can't ever get back. I begged him to think about it because once again I didn't want to be a cliche couple that gets a divorce because of the loss of their child. I know Jaxton didn't want that either. The next day we hardly spoke. He had to work, and I was at home in my thoughts all day. He came home and it was just so different. So uncomfortable, I didn't know what to do. We both just sat on the couch and stared at the walls. I asked him what he wanted to do, and he still didn't know. We talked about counseling. We talked about me moving home. We weighed all the options, but didn't know what to do. Finally, we decided divorce wasn't an option. I don't remember the logistics of it all, but we knew we wanted to fight. But the lying had to stop. And it did for a while. The same thing happened again, caused another bump and we got through it.

We never went to counseling. We talked about it and actually said we were going to, but didn't. And honestly, I don't know if I want to even now. Maybe just to get Craig to open up about some things, but we're pretty good at communication. Better now than we were I should say. If you know me, you know I can't stop talking half the time, so having me open up really isn't an issue. I also go to counseling once a month so that has helped me with my communication with Craig. We can actually sit down and have a conversation like adults and talk through things. 

I'm sure this hasn't been anything like you were expecting to read, but I also haven't publicly talked about some of our bumps and bruises since they've happened. I guess a little backstory sometimes helps just to see we aren't the super strong couple everyone thinks. We have our faults, and we have our moments. Everyone does. No marriage is perfect. Even if you think it is. We aren't here to please everyone with our relationship, we are here to focus on us and what works for us. No relationship is the same, so what works for one couple might not work for you. I'll list some things that helped us or that we do, to help remain stronger and what helps build our relationship up instead of down. 

+ Make time for each other. This is huge. Whether it is going to the movies, dinner, vacation, or even just sitting on the couch together watching a movie, make time. I know it's hard especially with full time jobs and kids, but you have to make time. If you want your marriage to work, it's essential. Watch a tv show after the kids are down. Put the kids down together. Do the dishes together. Get a babysitter. Cook dinner together. Sit on the patio and drink some wine. Take a shower together. Whatever you enjoy doing, do it together. It makes it 100% better to do the thing you love with your bestfriend. 

+ Communicate! This is a no brainer. If you aren't talking, you're not listening. And if you aren't listening, how do you know what the other is feeling. Talk about your day when you get home. Ask your spouse how their day is. Tell them something exciting that happened, even if it's just the fact that you made it through the Chick-fil-A drive thru in under a minute. Share the joy in your life with them. Talk about your future and where you want to end up. Nothing is too small to talk about. Never bottle things up. I know this from experience, because it'll just eat you alive and you'll be miserable. 

+ The 'S' Word. Sorry mom... HAVE SEX. Seriously. I plan to still be having sex with my husband when I'm 80. Key word, plan. This back might have a different plan. Yes I know that things change in our bodies as we grow older and we aren't our 18 year old selves anymore (I sound like I'm already 80, what is wrong with me). But seriously, just finding the time somehow to bang one our does wonders for our self esteem. To know someone still wants you even after being together for so long, feels incredible. I wish I still had the libido of my 18 year old self, but this pregnancy is kicking my ass. And getting back into the swing of things after losing a child will take time. One day it'll just happen again and it'll be a new feeling. I know it's a stress reliever for us sometimes, so it does the body good. Send a dirty text, sleep naked, grab each others' butts in the grocery store. Do what makes you feel happy and sexy and loved. 

+ Talk about your children. This goes for anyone who is struggling in their marriage that has lost a child. Whether it is still new, or happened 20 years ago. Never let their memory die. We constantly talk about Jaxton. Even make jokes about some things he did in the hospital that weren't really funny at the time, but it's our way of coping with it. Always share their story, and never let anyone tell you can't. Talk about them with each other. Share your favorite memories. They are a part of you both, and being able to talk about it, helps you grow as a couple. 

+ Share what you love. I'm constantly showing Craig my new creations or telling him about my new ideas I have for the store. He's always telling me about the new video game he wants to get, or ideas for the house he has. I think not losing sight of the things that make you both who you are, is really important. If you give up those things to please others, I don't think that will make the relationship last. It'll end in resentment. We all need to have our own things we like to do, for times we do just need to be alone. It's okay to want to be alone, especially after going through a trauma. Just remember to share those things with your spouse and help them see who you are and what you love. 

+ Be present. Put your phone away. Put it away at the dinner table, put it away while you're cuddling on the couch. Just put it away. We live in a time where we can't stop staring at our screens for more than 5 seconds. I'm guilty of it. I run a business on social media. I have to be on my phone sometimes. But I know when to stop. It got to the point where we would be out to dinner and both glued to our phones I don't think we said one word to each other. That is not healthy. PUT THE PHONES DOWN and talk to each other. 

If you have any other things that have helped your relationship work, I'd love to hear about them. Put them in the comments below and together we can help someone who may need it. 

I keep thinking I should be the next Dr. Phil, but honestly, I just love helping people who need it, that just might be afraid to reach out. So if you're reading this and struggling somewhere, know that you aren't alone. No one is perfect. No marriage is perfect. It's a daily struggle that we all have to work at to make it work. 

 

Until Next Time,

XOXO 

Shawna


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