One thing I can say for sure is that it takes pain to experience joy. Do you know what I’m saying? I mean, if we didn’t have any downs and only had ups, how on earth would we even know something good? To me, that sounds like it would be an utterly boring life. Without someone we care about leaving us, we wouldn’t know how wonderful it is when someone we care about chooses to stay. Or if we never lost a loved one, we may never truly value just how fragile and fleeting life really is. Without the downs, we can’t feel the ups. Not really, anyway.
As I write this, I’m coming from a place filled with limitless joy and abounding love. On Friday, May 19th, 2017 my best friend, lover, soulmate, and partner in everything asked me to be his wife. Our journey to each other has been far from easy but I’m thankful for each and every moment that brought us together… the laughter and joy, of course, but especially the hurt and tears. Because without the once unwelcome experiences, we wouldn’t have done “the work” on ourselves and we wouldn’t be who we are today. Perhaps our paths would have crossed but it certainly would only have been in passing, nevermind for a whole lifetime.
Here’s the kicker. We met seven months ago. And the plan right now is to tie the knot this coming fall. To many, this sounds crazy. But as I’ve said a countless number of times, what works for one person (myself included) doesn’t necessarily work for YOU. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Regardless, if it takes a couple of years to say, “I do,” or months… when you meet someone who’s willing to do “the work”, that you’re madly attracted to and who fills your day with FUN and your heart with unconditional love, you’ve found THE ONE.
I used to roll my eyes when I heard “When you know you know!” Grrr, it made me so frustrated. In my head, I’d shout back, “How DO you know???” Ok well, I hate to be the bearing of bad news, but they were right. Actually, hold up. As frustrating as it may be to hear, this is actually GREAT news! How awesome would it be to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone without a doubt in your mind that they’re The One? The One person you’re meant to be with till death do you part? Talk about an incredible feeling. IT TAKES TWO
I believe that it takes two healthy people to have a healthy relationship. And to get to this point, you have to be willing to do “THE WORK”. What is “the work” you’re probably asking yourself? Well, it can be a number of things. It could be your health, how you take care of yourself, and most importantly, being willing to sit in your pain.
Because as I was saying at the beginning of this post, without the pain, you can never truly know pleasure. Without the hurt, you can never really know joy. That means… no burying emotions, no more not talking about something that weighs heavy on your heart and stops hiding feelings that are a part of ALL of our human DNA.
WHAT WORK WE DO
Let me break down what I mean by “the work” some more. This is what my fiancé and I are doing at the time I write this. Let me preface that just because we do these things, doesn’t mean that you need to do all or even any.
1. WE GO THROUGH A WORKBOOK.
We spend approximately every other week going through the workbook, Getting the Love You Want by Dr. Harville, Hendrix, Ph.D. Honestly, I think that of all the things we’ve done together, this one has had the most profound impact with the quickest results.
Dr. Hendrix starts by having you put into words your personal dream of what you want for your relationship. And then you’ll both piece together how you can merge your individual ideas into one shared vision. Chapter two will have you jump right into how to communicate your individual thoughts and feelings to the other person without causing unnecessary damage. I’m telling you, it works wonders.
2. WE GO TO THERAPY.
In all honesty, we’ve only gone once so far but that’s because we decided that once every other month will suffice for what we need right now. In time we’ll reevaluate our frequency as needed. Until then, our goal is to keep disaster at bay by doing everything we can as a couple to keep our relationship healthy.
3. WE LISTEN TO PODCASTS.
We’re both all about continuing to be the best we can be and one of the ways we do that is by listening to podcasts on our own that are uplifting and growth serving. (Occasionally we’ll listen to an audiobook together if we’re on the road).
Some of my favorite podcasts are Kimberly Snyder’s Beauty Inside Out for nutrition refreshers, Good Life Project for awesome interviews with real people, and The Mindful Kind for quick tips to get my headspace in a good way.
My fiancé (I love saying that word) says some of his favorites are The Robcast (which I certainly second), The Liturgists Podcast, The School of Greatness, and Freakanomics.
4. WE READ LOTS OF BOOKS.
The books we each read cover a whole slew of topics, usually something along the self-help spectrum.
I like to read everything from nutrition books by authors like Michael Pollan and Mark Hyman MD to autobiographies like Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton and Miracle Mindset by JJ Virgin. A couple of other current favorites are Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, Ph.D., The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille, and Mindful Loving by Henry Grayson.
Some of my fiancé’s favorites are Scary Close by Donald Miller (phenomenal), Soulful Spirituality by David Brenner, The Alchemist, Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore and Falling Upward by Richard Rhor.
A current read for both of us is Rob Bell’s new book, What is the Bible? This book is fascinating and has the potential to be life-changing. If you have a religious background like I did or no religion whatsoever, get ready to open your mind.
And by the way, I love the occasional fiction book too. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a good fantasy or romantic comedy or whatever it is that you fancy.
5. WE GO BACK TO SCHOOL.
We both always want to expand our brains in any way possible. I just finished up my Eating Psychology certification and have yoga teacher training, nutrition counseling, and other ways to school my brain on my list of To-Dos.
Josh is going back to school for his MBA. ‘nough said.
6. WE HAVE WEEKLY DATE NIGHTS.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important – if not THE most important. This is the time when we’re not doing anything other than enjoying uninterrupted time with each other. We’re not doing domestic things like home projects, gardening, running errands or even self-help activities.
This is a time for us to get out of the house (usually), look nice for one another, leave our phones in the car, make a point to be affectionate (not that that’s hard), have fun, and… ENJOY one another.
Date nights are our regular reminder about why we fell in love with each other in the first place and why we continue to choose each other every single day.
THE PROPOSAL DETAILS
My fiancé is willing to work for our relationship in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Not only is he willing to do “the work” for us to stay strong but he went the extra mile to make sure the proposal was as meaningful and thought out as it could be.
While I would have been happy with a bended knee on our living room floor, he felt I deserved something extra special. He spent two months planning a romantic weekend in Charleston and surprised me with a private boat charter around the Charleston, SC harbor. (NOT unlike The Bachelor! Haha) And on top of that, little did I know that my future in-laws, my mom, and her partner were hiding in the hull of the boat so they could celebrate our special moment with us! Yes, I’d say my man is a #DreamComeTrue. The only way either of us was able to experience the overwhelming joy in the moment and throughout our relationship is because we did “the work” on ourselves before we met. We’ve both felt despair in our lives, sat in it, and came back from it better than before. And now we’ll continue to do “the work” as a couple going forward. What that looks like may change from time to time as will our love for each other and our relationship… but I can’t think of anything that makes me happier and more exciting.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
If you’re doing “the work” in your relationship and it’s not on our list mentioned here, what is it that you’re doing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
And if you’re not already doing “the work” on yourself or in your relationship… what can you start doing today?
Sending you all my joy + love,