by Linda Walker
The way we were
Duane and I have shared our story many times. We are open about how bad things were for the first 15 years of our marriage. We don’t hold back, because we want people to understand we’ve been where you are. But we also share how we’re still married after 34 years. We want to give you hope.
Those first 15 years were rough. We were in dire financial straits. Duane never followed through. I don’t have ADHD, so I picked up the slack for everything Duane couldn’t do. And there was a lot he couldn’t do. (Sometimes I was sure it was stuff he wouldn’t do!) We were both under a lot of stress and that puts strain on a relationship. We fought all the time!
People think it was Duane getting help for his ADHD that changed our relationship. They think once he was “fixed,” it was smooth sailing. Of course, when Duane got help, it reduced a lot of stress on our relationship. But even that wouldn’t have saved our marriage. We needed one more thing. Luckily, we discovered the missing ingredient. And it turned our hellish marriage into wedded bliss.
What’s that secret ingredient?
Empathy was missing from our relationship. We discovered we weren’t listening to each other. Neither of us understood how much we had in common. We both felt lonely and wounded. It was only once we began to “listen” that we were able to see each other’s point of view. Once we were able to see our partner’s point of view we were able to mend the relationship.
Empathy is the ability to see things from another person’s point of view. We often say “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” Seeing the world from their perspective is the only way to understand what’s happening. During our many fights, (actually shouting matches) we spewed our anger and pain at each other.
We weren’t listening to each other because we were too busy trying to be right. When you listen, listen to understand. Don’t listen only to prepare your comeback. That’s “empathy.” Is it the missing ingredient in YOUR relationship?