We share a lot of our lives online. It’s the shiny, happy, three minutes at a time sort of glimpses of our lives. It’s impossible to know the real us if you are only seeing us singing and dancing in our kitchen. There was a time when our marriage was … fine.
On an average day, we would bicker, make lunches for the kids, argue, talk about how we were going to get two kids to four places at once, laugh a little about the weird comments online, bicker again, go to bed, repeat the next day. It was fine. We weren’t dialing the divorce attorney, but we both knew it could be better. Much better. We missed the “us” we both loved so much.
Changing Our Priorities
We realized we were putting more work into these silly 3 minute videos than we were into our marriage and something had to change. So we did it. We had hard conversations and did the work in counseling to transform our relationship. To make our marriage more than just fine.
Because we are wired to talk very publicly about our lives, we told enough people about our process to build a better marriage. Then, an unexpected byproduct, our friends started asking us for advice. We were sharing these simple communication shifts and “magic words” that helped us create a deeper, more authentic connection. After dozens of these conversations with friends, we realized we could put pen to paper and share everything we learned. We could share it in a big, scary way. We could write a book.
Going All In
Our first issue? We had to make the decision about how much of our true, vulnerable selves we’d include. We worried if we wrote from a real, raw place you may decide you don’t like this version of us. (It sounds silly, I know.) But up until this point, we created this happy, jazz-hand persona online. What happens when you find out our marriage isn’t this carefully choreographed musical number your aunt shared on Facebook? Our marriage is real life.
We made the decision to throw open the doors and expose it all. Sure, there are plenty of hilarious stories, but there are sections of the book that felt more like I was writing in a diary.
I wrote about the first Christmas after my parents’ divorce, my spirals into depression, and helping Penn navigate his parents’ dementia. We wrote about the silly fights that ended in a silent standoff and the screaming matches that could have been resolved in one, impactful sentence.
“My Mom Is Going To Read This!”
But here’s the part I’m overthinking: we tackle many of the issues that plague lasting partnerships, including our sex life. Recently, we recorded the audio book version of the book and that meant (now here comes Captain Obvious) reading the book out loud in front of an audio engineer. You guys, it’s like it never occurred to me that PEOPLE WOULD ACTUALLY READ THIS! I was horrified and embarrassed to sit there and read a chapter and a half on how we navigated issues in the bedroom, in front of this person I had only met moments before.
I had to swivel my chair away from the window that separated our recording booth and the engineer so I could say all the words. The whole time I was thinking, “MY MOM IS GOING TO READ THIS.”
Helping Couples Grow Stronger
After we left the studio, Penn and I had a conversation about how much we should keep in the book and how much we should beg the publishers to cut (after the manuscript is locked it’s pretty tough to make significant changes). We agreed (well, Penn made a good argument and I trust him) that this book won’t help people unless we are honest. Honesty involves true vulnerability.
I’ve had some space to really think about all the words (so many words) we shared about our true selves. I don’t regret going into the diary-level detail of our marriage. If our stories can help even one couple grow closer, all this will be worth it.
We talk more about this and common married fights on our podcast this week with Dr. Christopher Edmonston, our marriage coach who helped change our lives. Listen and tell us what strategies have worked for you.
- Libsyn: https://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/18328220
- iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/money-sex-and-power/id1378725018?i=1000513213032
- Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/35glEIYLAgz4ozfOvAxzZe?si=Qd8dwME6QV2f__NPNjGSrQ
- Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/show/holdermess-the-holderness-family-podcast/episode/money-sex-and-power-82421850
- Pandora: https://pandora.app.link/tqY9Am1FFeb