Laura Doyle Certified Relationship Coach
I knew in my mind I wanted a passionate and loving marriage but my heart just didn’t know how to make it happen…
Tatianna Solibun’s Surrendering Story
Like every little girl, I dreamt of the day where I would be swept off my feet someday by prince charming but reality hit hard when I saw my own parents go through a messy divorce. My mother single-handedly raised the four of us (I have three older brothers) and like in many traditional Asian homes, the girl in the family was expected to run the home—from laundry to cooking and cleaning, although I was the youngest, I was running a household of three teenage boys at the tender age of 11. These experiences made mature much faster than many girls my age but also made me resent the male species in general. At a young age, I grew up thinking that men cannot be trusted and that they always needed a woman to pick up after them.
As you can see by now, these self-sabotaging thoughts that I thought would protect me from being hurt by men only pushed them farther away. How I got married to my high-school sweetheart that I had pretty much strike of my ‘list’? That’s another story altogether
Happily even after?
I knew in my mind I wanted a passionate and loving marriage but my heart just didn’t know how to make it happen. After our quarrels, although I was left with a terrible after-taste of throwing dagger words at my husband, I would find consolation in rationalising my behaviour (mostly by reasoning “I was just trying to help” or “If only he would just do things the way I told him to”..etc). My heart struggles didn’t seem real especially when I met couples that seemed to have it all together and made it like a natural thing, like they were just made for each other. This didn’t help; it made me feel like I had married the wrong man! I was convinced that the problem was our incompatibility.
Since our early years of marriage, I had gotten a number of promotions and climbed the corporate ladder rather rapidly. It came to a point my husband was changing jobs every now and then and I was earning a lot more than him. And because of this I became arrogant and disrespectful towards him. I was condescending in my tone and said the meanest things that would even emasculate Samson.
One day on my lunch break, I had casually picked up “The Surrendered Wife” book out of curiosity and bought it without thinking much. I caught a glimpse of myself in the pages but because of my pride at that time I didn’t see a need to change; Or rather it was too scary for me. Deep down I wondered if “Happily ever after” possible for everyone or only for the Lucky Ones who chose the ‘right man’, I wondered if I was doomed to have the same fate as my parents. However as it turns out, I DO have a good man (he wasn’t in any of the three categories described in Laura’s book)…so what could possibly be missing?!
I band-aided my misery with constant work performance and achievements, and suppressed my need for change. All these however resurfaced when I was forced to slow down at work during my maternity leave. In those 6 months, I had re read the book and thought that I’d give it a try but my marriage seemed even colder and my husband distancing further by the day. Desperate to have a warm and intimate marriage again, I tried ‘practicing’ the principles not knowing it didn’t mean I was being responsible for my own actions, it was only in order to produce a certain outcome from my husband. I recognise now at that time it was much easier to focus on his shortcomings rather than facing the pain of dealing with my own. I had preferred to believe that I was on top of things and had ‘everything under control’ (which was pretty much where most our quarrels started in the first place, me trying to have my way!)
When I had to return to work, my company was going through a major restructuring and I was required to put in longer hours. I felt the urge to control even more and as embarrassing as it is to admit, I became a tyrant. I didn’t know how to switch hats when I got home. It was also around that time my nanny’s contract had ended and I found rebalancing both family and work life immensely stressful. I knew inside then that something’s got to give, yet I struggled on… Until one morning, I was hit hard with scripture, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labour under the sun.”(Ecclesiastes 9:9 NIV) I remember running into the room that very morning asking my husband if he really enjoyed life with me, as his wife– Needless to say I handed in my resignation that same morning, determined to work on my marriage, beginning with ME.
Learning the intimacy skills was one of the most valuable self-improvement projects I had undertook. I came to realise, like many women around the world, I was lonely and resentful from trying to do everything myself. But when I learned to stop controlling the way my husband did things, practiced gratitude and focused on self-care, the atmosphere at home changed. We were laughing and holding hands like newly-weds, marriage was what I once dreamt of as a little girl again! I learnt what it means to be my best-self, not demanding that my marriage should change but the fact that it provides just the environment where intimacy can be nurtured and thrive.
Also journeying with a group of like-minded women gave me the insights and provided me with the support that I needed for the courage to change– to be accountable for my own happiness. It wasn’t an easy shift for me, but with their constant encouragement and our trainings it was far less painful. They have also helped me to hold my vision and learn to stay true to my desires. I was less tempted to give up in the process than when I had attempted doing it on my own.
Once on a home improvement project, my husband had given away my precious maternity clothes to charity without running by me. I was hurt because those items were not only sentimental to me but I also went to think that he had decided not have any more children. Instead of expressing the hurt I was feeling inside, I went into my default mode of anger and threw the bag of cereal I had in my hand at him and ran into the room to cry. Although it certainly was not the most dignified and feminine manner to react the ladies in the SW group were so compassionate that I was motivated to try better the next time.
I didn’t have to wait long when the next opportunity presented itself. The following week I wanted to redecorate our spare room and remembered that I had brand new curtains — only to discover that my husband had again given them away without my knowledge. I was so tempted to lash out in anger again, but this time I let myself feel the hurt inside. I didn’t say a word but could feel tears welling up in my eyes …and I let it go, it was so healing because it had been a long time since I cried (in silence, without accusations) in front of him. It also certainly felt more dignified than having to throw something at him of course. To my surprise the very next day, I found the curtains on the table. It really was the last thing on my mind to have them back, but nevertheless it sure turned him into my hero.
Choosing to be My Best Self
I remembered the very first time I attempted to apologise for being disrespectful to my husband, the words felt so foreign and to hear them coming out of my mouth itself was breakthrough for me. One evening I called him at work and told him that he needed to leave and get the kids from day care as soon as possible because it was about to rain heavily. Instead of trusting that he will handle it just fine, I started to give him a long lecture of what will happen if the kids got caught in the rain, how he should wrap us his work etc. Needless to say he came home real mad and grumpy. He didn’t talk to me throughout dinner. The thought of apologising left me with a lump in my throat as I went to bed that night. I reluctantly apologised the next morning, and I was surprised that we were joking and talking like normal again. In the past, incidents like this would leave us not talking to each other for days! Looking back I now recognise not only I was disrespectful in telling him what to do but I also tried to control the situation out of my very own irrational fear that the kids would get sick. If only then I had learnt to focus on what I was feeling then, I would’ve said “I miss you!”
One of the other intimacy skills that helped me make a BIG shift in my relationship is gratitude. There is a common saying “What you focus on expands”—So guess what happened when I chose to laser focus on what my husband did or didn’t do? Everything he did was’ wrong’, not the way I liked it or wanted it! And I gave up hope that he could ever make me happy. Worse still, that was how my husband saw himself in his wife-mirror: someone who was unable to satisfy or make her happy, that nothing he did was ever ‘good enough’, and “why bother” because every attempt would go unappreciated anyway. In order to avoid that rejection, he (almost even) stops trying and I in return got upset over his lack of initiative. A vicious cycle of spouse-fulfilling prophecy pursued, where I actually believed that “my husband doesn’t care to please me”. I reasoned that while the other men I heard from Laura’s experience may feel that their wives happiness is paramount, “my husband is the exception, it’s no big deal to him anyway”. I felt miserable and hopeless, and the pain certainly robbed me of the peace in our marriage.
When we were assigned to list down the things that we were grateful to our husbands for, my hen-pecking mode magically shifted. My experience of this simple yet powerful exercise was as if a veil was lifted for my eyes, I started to see him in a different light– where I saw lack of initiative before was efforts of him still trying to please me. However small or routine (like taking out the trash), I made it intentional to let him know I noticed and affirmed him by thanking him. I used to resent that I had to do all the housework and complain that he spends too much time at work. I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face the morning I thanked him for going to work and working hard to provide for our family. Although he was very much speechless his response was so tender and not defensive like before, even my grudges melted away!
The Best is yet to Come
On top of the many responsibilities I juggle at home and as certified relationship coach, I constantly remind myself the reason behind what I‘m doing– For one, I know what it’s like growing up in a broken home. It breaks my heart every time I hear of divorces, wondering if they could have been completely preventable in the first place. I believe the intimacy skills are the very tools that women need to prevent divorce and create fulfilling relationships. Ironically with the rapid advancement of technology and vast communication tools that supposedly makes the world closer in this modern life, marriages and relationships are fast becoming a casualty. Hence there is even a greater urgency to spread the awareness for the intimacy skills less it be a lost art. And that’s why I coach, dreaming of a world that stamps out divorce, one at a time.
Mastery of intimacy skills is a lifelong process. I was a curious onlooker, once convinced to give it a go and now convicted that these are essential skills that every hot-blooded woman needs to have. I love getting ‘my note-to-self’ every time I share my journey with other women whether it’s in the community workshops I conduct, thru Skype with women in other parts of the world or even just over a cup of coffee in my living room.
It seemed so simple once I learned the skills.
Laura and I want to help you have the same kind of intimacy, passion and peace in your relationship. To learn how, apply for a Discovery Session here