(This post was originally published 5-22-09).
This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.
Day Six: Love believes the best. For today’s dare, get two sheets of paper. On the first one, spend a few minutes writing out positive things about your spouse. Then do the same with negative things on the second sheet. Place both sheets in a secret place for another day. There is a different purpose and plan for each. At some point during the remainder of the day, pick a positive attribute from the first list and thank your spouse for having this characteristic.
From The Love Dare book:
¤¤¤ In the deep and private corridors of your heart, there is a room. It’s called the Appreciation Room. It’s where your thoughts go when you encounter positive and encouraging things about your spouse. And every so often, you enjoy visiting this special place.
On the walls are written kind words and phrases describing the good attributes of your mate. These may include characteristics like “honest” and “intelligent,” or phrases like “diligent worker,” “wonderful cook,” or “beautiful eyes.” They are things you’ve discovered about your husband or wife that have embedded themselves in your memory. When you think about these things, your appreciation for your spouse begins to increase. In fact, the more time you spend meditating on these positive attributes, the more grateful you are for your mate.
Most things in the Appreciation Room were likely written in the intial stages of your relationship. You could summarize them as things you liked and respected about your loved one. They were true, honorable, and good. And you spent a great deal of time dwelling on them in this room … before you were married. But you may have found that you don’t visit this special room as often as you once did. That’s because there is another competing room nearby: the Depreciation Room.
This room is lined with the weaknesses and failures of your husband or wife. Their bad habits, hurtful words, and poor decisions are written in large letters that cover the walls from one end to the other. If you stay in this room for long enough, you get depressed and start expressing things like, “My wife is selfish,” or “My husband can be such a jerk.” Or maybe, “I think I married the wrong person.”
Some people write very hateful things in this room, where tell-off statements are rehearsed for the next argument. Emotional injuries fester here, adding more scathing remarks to the walls. It’s where ammunition is kept for the next big fight and bitterness is allowed to spread like a disease. People fall out of love here.
Spending time in the Depreciation Room kills marriages. The more time you spend in this place, the more your heart devalues your spouse.
It’s time to move into the Appreciation Room, to settle down and make it your home. As you choose to mediate on the positives, you will learn that many more wonderful character qualities could be written across these walls. Your spouse is a living, breathing, endless book to read.
Develop the habit of reining in your negative thoughts and focusing on the positive attributes of your mate. This is a crucial step as you learn to lead your heart to truly love your spouse. It is a decision that you make, whether they deserve it or not.¤¤¤
Ah, I remember the Depreciation room. I don’t visit it very often any more, but I do take the occasional peek every now and again.
I used to virtually LIVE in that room. EVERYTHING my husband did irritated me. Even the good stuff – either it wasn’t done right, I questioned his motives for doing it, or it simply wasn’t good ENOUGH.
I lost sight of myself in that room. I turned into this ugly shrew while I lived in that room. That room changed me so much, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.
It got to the point where I couldn’t stand being around myself, let alone being around other people.
The Depreciation room has always held a certain appeal to me. I felt strong, independent and powerful in that room. I visited it from time-to-time during our first six years of marriage so by the time our seventh year of marriage rolled around, I had moved in.
Big, BIG mistake.
I look back on that marital seven-year itch and to this day, I couldn’t tell you exactly why I was so pissed off all the time.
But I was.
And I had no reason to BE that angry. I had two small, adorable boys, Kevin was working hard and building a foundation for us and there I was … angry, bitter and feeling very dissatisfied with my life.
I think, looking back, it was actually a myriad of things that caused me to pitch a tent in that Depreciation room.
1. I was young. That’s not exactly an excuse, but everything seems so DRAMATIC when you’re young. Old age really does mellow you out.
2. I was resentful. I had a promising, and rewarding, career at the bank. And I felt like I HAD to give it up because of my babies. Never mind that it was the best decision in the world, at the time, I hated having to leave it.
3. I missed the adult interaction and the mental stimulation. Every stay-at-home parent knows what I’m talking about here.
4. I felt suffocated. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it anymore. I was accountable to my children, who sucked every last ounce of strength out of me (because they were young – and only 28 months apart) which left me little to no energy, or desire, left over for Kevin.
5. I felt like I was being controlled. Not only because I was “stuck” (and I use that term loosely) at home with two small boys, but because I never felt like I was quite good enough for Kevin. I was always too fat, or too lazy because I didn’t have the house picked up or dinner on the table when he got home. You know how it is, when the children are small, there simply isn’t enough hours in the day to do it all.
I think working spouses have a hard time understanding that because they honestly don’t know what is going on when they aren’t there. Our days … don’t belong to us when the children are little. Our needs are put on the back burner because these little munchkins need us to do everything for them. And we have to watch them every single waking moment because children, are curious and don’t have the wisdom to keep themselves out of trouble.
Well, I don’t have to tell you parents how it is, you KNOW.
Suffice it to say, I was just itching for ways to discard my unhappiness and unfortunately, Kevin was nearby.
Now I’m not saying he didn’t contribute to this rocky stage in our marriage. His expectations were way too high. I was not, nor will ever be, a woman who DOTES on my house. I do not like to clean house, I do not like to shop for my house – if it looks nice and is comfortable, I’m good.
And I have not, nor will ever be, the type of woman who wears lipstick every waking moment or wears makeup when they clean house.
Sorry. Get over it.
But Kevin came from this background, so naturally, he expected the same thing from me.
Needless to say, our problems escalated. I won’t go into all of the ugly details but suffice it to say, it got to the point where he changed the locks on my house so the kids and I couldn’t get in and I ended up shopping for lawyers.
I’m telling you this because when I say I understand hitting rock bottom in a relationship? I was there, baby. And the view? Ain’t so pretty down there.
So what saved us?
That’s a very good question. Somehow, I mustered up the desire to save my marriage. And Kevin had no desire to go through a divorce so … we talked. We didn’t go to a counselor – we simply got rid of the kids one night and had a serious heart-to-heart talk.
He got some things off his chest, I got some things off my chest and together, we made a pact to work on the problem areas and to trudge forward in our relationship.
It wasn’t easy. I was SO ANGRY with him for so long. And he certainly wasn’t happy with me. But somehow … we worked through it. I swallowed several bitter pills about myself in the process and I … well, got over myself.
I simply don’t know how else to put it. I had such an attitude about things, about life, about marriage, that when I finally summoned up the courage to take a good, hard look at myself and knew that if I wanted things to change, they would have to change with me – well, our relationship started getting better.
It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took close to a year before we even got to the point where we could laugh and be comfortable around each other once again – but we did it. And our marriage is so much stronger today as a result of our battle to get here.
And in case you’re curious – Kevin did a lot of changing as well. I refused to move forward until he chilled out about some of his expectations – we compromised and met each other halfway.
It takes effort on both sides of the marital fence.
But it quite honestly HAS to start with YOU. Nothing will change if you’re not willing to do a little emotional housekeeping on your part.
Trust me on this.
I can’t believe I shared this with ya’ll. It’s been cathartic to write this all out. Perhaps this explains why I feel so compelled to beat myself up at times because it’s my way of reminding myself to “keep it real.” To not get too big for my britches.
To be a fair, loving and good PARTNER. Because you know? Marriage isn’t about a person, it’s about living life as a team.
My list of positive attributes for Kevin:
Excellent problem solver