In September we flew to Tennessee to attend a marriage workshop.
We got to a spot this summer where we realized we had multiple marriage issues, and wanted to see what we could do.
I read reviews of this conference, and everything I found was massively positive. But the kicker was that it was going to cost us $4k-$5k to attend this three-day workshop (workshop, flights, hotel, etc.). I wasn't 100% sure it was going to be worth it, and this was a large amount of money.
But we talked and agreed that investing this money into our marriage was worth the cost. Even if it wasn't spectacular, we were sure that we could learn something.
After going through the full workshop, we were blown away at what we learned. In fact, I would say this marriage workshop was life-changing. We wish we went to this conference early in our marriage!
I want to write more posts about some of the specific ideas they talk about, and this post is meant as a general reflection of the whole conference.
Research and Science-Based
There are a few spiritual undertones throughout the conference, but it definitely was not the focus.
Every concept in the conference is backed by research and psychology. I don't mind talking about spiritual things, but I didn't want to go to a workshop that had us going through Scripture. They didn't disappoint.
It was a very fact-driven workshop. They gave a bunch of statistics about how likely people who leave their marriage for an affair, how often these relationships last. They also describe how the “love path” works and how love can be developed for anyone.
There is so much wisdom and insight they shared during the marriage workshop, that it was overwhelming at times. We plan on going through the workbook again to get a better understanding of certain concepts and to strengthen our marriage.
Compatibility is Bullshit
One idea they pointed out early is that the idea that certain people are incompatible with each other is not valid.
There are thriving marriages out there with a mix of all the different personality types. There are no two types that will guarantee a successful marriage, and people can grow a happy marriage regardless of where they land.
We ended up taking a DISC test, which is a behavior test to see how we communicate differently in marriage.
This behavior test was mind-blowing for us because there have been countless times when we struggled with communication.
I learned that I was a high C (calculator) and D (dominant), while Andrea was a high S (steady) and I (influencing).
My behavioral style tends to have me focus on tasks and details. Andrea's style is much more social, with a more laidback attitude and is much more alert to feelings. We both are incredibly strong workers. And a lot of the descriptions it gave each of us was spot on.
This idea confirmed that most marriages are not easy, and a lot of it involves understanding how each of you works to ensure reliable communication.
From Misunderstanding to Respect
For Andrea and I, we started seeing why we behave a certain way.
Immediately after the conference, we could feel the tone of our conversation change dramatically. We understand each other on a much deeper level and go into conversations better equipped to talk in a way that is productive, warm, and connected.
And above everything, I feel both of us have developed much more respect for each other.
I always thought the way Andrea processed information, in a much slower way than I do, was a sign that she wasn't thinking about the discussion. Now I know she processes information differently than me and can easily get worn out when she is presented with too much information.
My DISC results also explained why when I get overly anxious or stressed out, I can come across as controlling; which is a response to fear. I don't want to “control” Andrea; I just get scared when I feel like we are going down a path that is risky or could cause problems.
There were times when I looked at my reaction and my controlling nature and thought that maybe I was just a dick. But now I know this is a behavior response I've developed from my past, that temps me to take control of situations that make me uneasy. I still need to work on this, but seeing there is a reason for my behavior changes the conversation and allows me to figure out what is going on inside of me.
We Are Opposites
We do have a lot of things in common, but our personality types and behavior responses are almost opposite from one another.
Instead of this being a weakness, this can be a massive strength as our abilities compliment each other. We balance each other out in a lot of ways, and we want to tap into the power this can give our relationship (including running our salon).
By understanding why we do what we do, we are better prepared on how to interact with each other.
Instead of working against each other, it seems we are much more in sync now. But it also means that we need to make sure we feel connected and close to each other emotionally and physically.
And conflict, if handled properly, can lead to intimacy; which strengthens the marriage bond.
They talked a lot about how people create emotional walls as a way to protect themselves.
But these walls hurt your marriage when they go up towards your spouse. They can cause people to grow away from each other and feel distant and alone.
These walls can make conversations difficult, as you may want to say something, but hold back because you are scared about how your spouse will react.
As much as we can build walls towards each other, we can also remove barriers. They called this “giving each other bricks”. The more you disassemble the walls between your relationship, the more intimacy and emotional connection can grow.
Andrea and I have been married for over 14-years, and it became apparent that we both have built and partially taken down walls during our relationship. But this marriage workshop has allowed us to remove the barriers that were still there, and connect on such a deep level that we've never seen before.
Creating a Safe Space
If there are things you can't say to your spouse, that limits the amount of connection you can have in your marriage.
And part of building strong intimacy is creating a safe environment where both people can be honest about what they are thinking and feeling. Even things that might hurt our spouse.
Any time we can give a brick from a wall we've been forming in our relationship, the more healing and growth can happen. But you have to create a safe space in your marriage to make this a reality.
Andrea and I now feel safer with each other than we've ever had in the past. And it feels amazing. I see the love and affection Andrea is showing me, and my heart gets full. And I feel free to show her the love I feel towards her.
Part of why this happened, I think is the amount the respect for each other has grown. We understand each other at a much deeper level, and conversations are much more fruitful.
I love Andrea deeply, and I always want her to know she can tell me anything.
A Thriving Marriage Isn't Without Pain
Before the workshop, I had this idea that the best marriages are the ones with the fewest marriage problems.
But I now know this is not necessarily true. Often the closest marriages are with the people where they have hurt each other the most.
We are all broken, with our own unique baggage. The question becomes how are you going to look at your marriage struggles, and are you going to let them make your marriage stronger.
They talked quite a bit about reframing things. How we perceive conflicts, arguments, and marriage issues can play a role in whether they build our relationship up or tear it down.
I love Andrea. But I also know that I've hurt her in the past. I do not want to cause her any pain or grief. But our experiences have grown our relationship to such a deep level than I think few couples have reached.
I'm not saying this to brag, or that we are special in any way. But I'm incredibly grateful that we attended this marriage workshop, and we are already receiving fruits from that decision.
If you are at a spot where you feel disconnected from your spouse, or if you are in marriage crisis mode, I can't recommend this marriage workshop highly enough. You will not regret spending money on your marriage, and I'm sure anyone who goes will leave with valuable tools you can use in growing your marriage.
I'm more motivated than ever that Andrea is the woman I want to see before I take my last breath. I want to be more connected to her than anyone else on earth, and I want her to know I will always be there to support her and love her. She completes me, and I wouldn't choose any other woman, even if I could do a doover.