When we are young and we fall in love we believe that everything will work out.
That our love will carry us through. At least that’s what I believed. My parents tried to tell me that ‘marriage was hard.’ Ha! They just didn’t understand my relationship. My husband and I would be different. They just had a negative outlook on life. What did they know?
I first met my husband, Will, in 7th grade. He transferred out to my small, rural school, from a larger school in a neighboring city. It was not love at first sight. The kids that transferred out from the larger school usually came because they got in trouble or were failing. So at first look he was just another kid that would be there for a year or two and then leave or drop out.
We started dating in our junior year. He was funny, charming, cute, and an overall good guy. As college started approaching we had talks about what that would mean. Would we date long distance? He was staying at home, getting a job, and not going to college. He didn’t want to stand in my way if I found someone new. That thought lasted one day and he called me the next day and took it back. He was worried that it was too late and I already found someone new. I think he panicked so much that he forgot what an introvert I am. I had barely talked to anyone that day, let alone found someone to date!
We dated while I was at college getting my nursing degree. He proposed in December 2008. We got married in my childhood Catholic Church the following fall. He never went to college but this didn’t faze me too much since I was an independent woman. Even though my parents mostly had traditional roles, I believed that to be ‘old school.’ This is the 21st Century after all. Women are strong, independent, can have children, and still be the breadwinner of the home. This will not be a problem. I was wrong.
We had our first child three weeks after our first wedding anniversary. We continued to have babies, six in fact, in less than 9 years. No multiples in there. I was tired. I became resentful. After our first born, I realized that in the deepest desires of my heart I wanted to be home with my babies. I was shocked at the grief and sadness that I felt going back to work. Sure, I loved my job, but I felt torn in two. When I was at work, I felt so guilty for not being at home with my kids. When I was at home, I was thinking about the charting I still had to do, the patients I needed to see tomorrow, and the follow up that would need to be done.
This led me to switching jobs. I went from working in a nursing home, to being a hospice nurse. I absolutely loved being a hospice nurse. However, this work can weigh heavy on your heart when you go home for the day. So I switched jobs again and was the Coordinator of Religious Education at our local parish. This in some ways, was more stressful, having to work with parents. So I went back to working as a hospice nurse. I kept thinking that switching my job would solve the problem. If only I found the perfect job, with the perfect hours, then I would be happy and not struggle so much with balancing work and home life. Then I would be able to do it all and not rely on anyone else, including God.
We struggled financially. Will would get part time jobs around my hours. We opted out of daycare, wanting one of us to always be home with our kids. This meant I would work in the day, while Will picked up hours in the evening. I would come home from a long day of work, to dishes, laundry, and the bedtime routine. A lot of days after the kids went to bed, I would finish my charting for the day.
We fought constantly.
After every baby I would cry that I wanted to stay home. Will would state that it couldn’t financially be done. If there was anything talked about deeper than the kids schedule, a show we were watching, or sports, a fight would be inevitable. Will loved playing basketball and softball. I didn’t understand this because every hour I wasn’t working, I felt like it should be spent with the kids. I was already missing so much. He didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to get out of the house and make friends. We fought about religion. We didn’t know how to communicate with each other. This led to him not to tell me about things, and when he did I was mad.
In January 2020, I discovered that my husband had been financially unfaithful. He always collected baseball cards and collectables. I didn’t know the extent of this until a collection letter came in the mail that I ended up signing for. I was devastated. I was angry. All the anger, and frustration that had been building over our marriage erupted. How do you overcome something like this? Did I even want to?
He was 100% responsible for the choices he made. Yet, I am also 100% responsible for the choices I made. Was I always showing up as the wife I wanted to be? No.
This led to me discovering mindset work.
I joined group coaching. I realized the reason I never found the perfect job. It was because my same beliefs followed me to every job I took.
The beliefs that I had to make money in order to be valued.
That I couldn’t ‘waste’ my college education.
That my husband would never make enough to support us.
That I had to do everything on my own.
I had to be the perfect homemaker, the perfect wife, and the perfect mom.
I would always find evidence on how I was failing.
All. The. Time.
I was miserable because I got stuck in all these lies I would tell myself. I didn’t trust my husband. I didn’t trust God. If they really knew me, they wouldn’t want me.
I have worked hard over the past 2 years to undo those lies. I am not perfect.
At times, I struggle.
Now those same things that my parents told me before we got married, have turned out to be true (eye roll, and sigh).
Here is what I’ve learned:
- Dates. The past year we committed to a monthly date. Our priest recently encouraged us to make date night weekly. We are now striving for that. We are reminded that we have fun with each other again.
- Listen. We both try really hard to hear the other person. There is always some truth in what the other person is saying.
- Support. Have a neutral person (like a life coach) who you can talk to. Often our family and friends mean well but end up taking a side (they are human). Coaching has helped me tremendously. When we used to fight my brain wanted to show me all the ways that a divorce was the answer. That’s still it’s go- to move, but I know that is my toddler brain throwing a temper tantrum. So I let my brain whine for a few minutes (or hours), then regroup and move on. Our fights now last hours or days instead of days to weeks. Baby steps.
- Pray. This was repeated so many times during marriage prep, that couples need to pray together. I thought we were above this. Really, what I was saying was I was above God. Now, I want to pray and rely on God instead of thinking I pray when I have failed and need help. I think of God as a loving Father, instead of a cruel judge.
- Self Care. When I appreciate myself, love myself, and know myself, I am better able to appreciate, love, and know others. Self care can be as simple as setting up your coffee the night before so it’s ready in the morning. Wearing fuzzy slippers around the house. Sitting down to eat. Taking a bathroom break. Saying no to work or school commitments.
Healing in marriage is possible.
It does not happen overnight. Love will carry us through. Not the fairy tale love that we once believed, but true love. This is what marriage calls us to.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Nichole Haugen is a wife to Will, mom to six beautiful girls, a nurse, and a life coach for Catholic Women who work in healthcare. She lives in North Dakota with her family, dogs, cat, and chickens.