We are our choices. We are taught to believe that it is the big decisions in life that will make or break us. College. Marriage. Career. That is simply not true. Every day we make small choices that shape the lives we lead. Although trying to lose weight, we eat three doughnuts instead of just one. We spend an hour on Facebook at work instead of working on the project that’s due by the close of business. We throw clothes onto the treadmill instead of using it. We respond with cynicism and negativity every time someone talks about something good in their life. We hand the child a tablet instead of playing like she asked. We only call certain friends and family members when we need something. One by one, one choice at a time, we mold our own lives. Good or bad, your life and everything in it is an amalgamation of every choice you’ve made.
We are our choices.
Let’s state the obvious for a second. Shit happens. Life can be extremely cruel and difficult. And since none of us is the master of the universe there are tons of things that cannot be controlled or prevented. Still, while we do not choose every circumstance, we do choose our response. We choose how we move forward. Therefore, as simplistic as it may seem, we are our choices, not our circumstances.
The same is true for relationships. Yesterday I realized that the shabby state of my marriage was the sum of our choices. We were choosing to behave in unproductive ways in response to just about everything. Here’s the thing. I had had this thought before, but I didn’t do anything about it. At some point long ago, it came and quickly fluttered away. I still chose to use the same patterns of behavior. Yesterday I realized we weren’t fighting as much. We definitely weren’t hitting below the belt and were able to resolve our differences quickly and calmly. We were hugging and touching more. We are happier than we’ve been in over a year, and we haven’t even found a counselor yet.
The epiphany was simple. We had chosen to have a turbulent marriage. Obviously not intentionally, but with every small decision and every negative action we took against one another. For me, I realized that I felt disconnected from my husband because I had chosen to disconnect. Being around him sapped my energy because we were constantly arguing. So, to keep from arguing I stopped hanging around him. I’d felt unheard and unseen because I was no longer talking to him about my problems or anything that did not involve our son. I was hiding my hurts and depression from him. Instead, I was focusing entirely on his mental health, all the while feeling more and more isolated, unsupported, and resentful. He felt that I was treating him more like a chore than a husband. He was feeling unloved and angry, and therefore intermittently lashed out, arguing about everything to get my attention, and withdrew after the arguments escalated.
Can you see the pattern? Do you see how every day we made small choices that began to crack the foundation of our relationship?
Now, we have changed our patterns. We make sure to have quiet time together at least twice a week. Since we do not have the same taste in entertainment, we have pre-selected shows and keep a list to reduce the chance of arguing. If we begin to get into an intense argument one of us will stop it and we take a time out. This doesn’t always work, but we are getting better. We hug and kiss and act like two people who love each other. We also decided to get involved in the things that made us happy as individuals. Ironically, it was writing for both of us. Him writing songs; me writing everything else.
The biggest turning point for me was realizing my son was getting the wrong impression about marriage by constantly hearing his parents fight. And while I was trying to win every single argument, I was losing my soul mate. I stopped wanting to win and started wanting to be happy.
Anne Frank said, “our lives are fashioned by our choices. First, we make our choices. Then our choices make us.” We chose our lives one decision at a time. So what life are you choosing?