First, I'm definitely glad I chose this journey for my step 9. Over the past two days, I have learned a lot about myself and my capacity to love.
When I read the first chapter and challenge, I felt a little overwhelmed. The first chapter was about patience, and the dare to go with it was to say nothing negative to your spouse all day. I know I'm not a super mean person, but I definitely have my fair share of negative statements in our marriage. In fact, I have found over the past couple of weeks that our vicious cycles of negativity and hurt form when I say something stinging, negative, and/or hurtful to Jack, and then he retaliates. Thus, the cycle has started.
The vicious cycle looks like this: Jack says/does something that irritates or hurts me (keep in mind that when I am already hurting **ahem--the past two weeks**, I am way less patient and more easily irritated). I say something mean/sarcastic back. He gets offended and starts being rude back to me. Then, I'm mad that he is mad at me when it was obviously (sarcasm) his fault. So I get mean again. He's mean again. It keeps going like that until I cry, one of us apologizes and breaks the tension. Or both. Then the cycle is broken. I know that it really would be best to just prevent the cycle, but that honestly always seems so. hard. I feel like I can't express my hurt or pain if I don't react in a way that really lets him know how I feel. And I know that is just so dumb. I always know I'm being dumb, but anger and negativity are addictive.
I know that if I can stop the first negative thing that comes out of my mouth as a reaction to the hurt or other emotions I am experiencing, the vicious cycle is prevented. That is something I have been working on as I have been trying to strengthen my weaknesses, but I just haven't quite found the best way to do it. But, this first dare helped open my eyes to what I need to do for that aspect of our relationship (thanks to God for showing me this was the way for me to go).
So, that's basically what my challenge was the first day. It actually wasn't as hard as I expected. I mean, going one day without being negative is really refreshing. It made me think about everything with open eyes and realize the little things that were irritating were not that big of a deal. Really. It was much easier than I anticipated to stop myself from saying something or reacting in a negative way.
All day long, I thought to myself how much easier it was than I expected. I also thought about how easy it would be to get back in the habit because one day isn't enough to break the bad habit of saying negative things.
The writers of the Love Dare knew that too. I was a little surprised (but I don't really know why) that the second challenge included the words, "along with saying nothing negative to your spouse..." The second day, it was a lot harder not to let the little things get to me. By eleven o'clock yesterday morning, something was really getting to me. I can't remember what it was. I just remember the feeling. I didn't know how to express myself because when I feel the way I felt yesterday, the way I express myself is through anger and negativity. But the Dare told me not to be negative. So, my response to the situation was to abruptly excuse him from the room by saying, "Well, I'm going to read my scriptures now." I read. I wrote in my journal. By the time I was finished, I had gone through my method of processing emotions, and I felt fine. I was so glad I hadn't ruined the day by negatively reacting the way I normally do. The rest of the day was cake. I don't remember any other times where I felt overwhelmed with the desire to be negative.
The other part of the challenge yesterday was kindness. I was supposed to do an unexpected act of kindness. I had no idea what to do, so throughout the day, I was on watch--looking for opportunities to serve out of kindness. I offered to make Jack lunch, but he didn't want me to (well, he wanted us to make lunch together). I even offered to sacrifice the time I had set aside to work on lesson-planning to spend the whole day with him and do whatever he wanted (it took a long time for me to come to peace with that offer because I really needed to work on lesson planning). Luckily for me and my lesson planning, he wanted to work on planning for the business he is trying to start. The act of kindness I chose was to load the dishwasher. Usually, I try to get him to help me with housework stuff. This time, I just did it. And when he tried to help, I told him I was doing it and that there wasn't room for both of us (maybe a little mean, but holy cow he wouldn't let me do anything for him yesterday!). My other act of kindness was to play all the games he wanted to in the evening. AND, I didn't even get competitive and mad when he beat me. Now, that is quite the feat for me.
Focusing on patience and kindness have really been good for me. Choosing not to be negative has taught me a lot. I don't have to be negative to express myself (I actually already knew that, but I wasn't able to break the cycle in myself yet). I can work through my emotions, and if something needs to be addressed, the time to do that is after I have processed, not in the heat of the moment. Sometimes, it just seems easier to be negative and angry, though. That's what Satan wants us to think because that is the way he works. However, I know from experience that being negative and angry only makes everything harder and worse. So, I have to be brave enough to break that cycle.
Choosing not to be negative and angry allowed more peaceful and loving feelings to dwell in my heart. I wanted to be close to him (whereas last week, I did not want to be close to him, and when he would touch me too much, I would have to *gently* say sorry I'm hurting and I just really don't want you to touch me). I wanted to touch him. Throughout the day, I felt a stronger and stronger pull of love and attraction towards him. It was a feeling that has escaped me lately. I wanted to breathe him in. I wanted to be his.
Choosing to be kind had the same effect.
I know I haven't done this on my own. From the moment I read the first chapter and felt the weight of how hard it would be (and it hasn't been easy), I had to turn back to step 1 and ask Heavenly Father for help. I knew I could not to it alone, and He would need to be there with me to help me increase in love.
When we were dating, I knew Jack wanted to marry me, and I wasn't sure about marriage. I had a someone coming home from his mission in a couple of months, someone who, for the past three years, I had planned on marrying. Then my friendship and eventual relationship with Jack put a twist on what I thought my future was. I felt bad because there were times when I knew I was leading Jack on. He liked (loved) me way more than I liked him. He was in the friend-zone, loving me, and I would have to shoot him down many times. We "broke up" from being friends quite a few times. I knew after all those times I needed him in my life. Eventually, we started dating seriously, and it got to the point where I knew we would either have to break up for good or get married, and I was so scared. For everything. I prayed so much for God to show me the way. I asked God to show me if marriage was in our path, and if it was to help me truly love Jack. Marriage was in our path. When I started praying daily for God to help me love Jack more, He did. Our love grew, and I knew without a doubt that we were supposed to get married.
I haven't asked God to help me love Jack in our marriage the way I should. I've fallen into the trap of thinking that love is just a feeling that you can fall in and out of and that the feeling of love determines my actions. I've been hurt and thought Jack needed to serve me to prove his love, and during all that, I forgot that I also need to use action to show and increase my love too. I've prayed multiple times over the past few days for God to help me love Jack better. I have been reminded that while I have been using the power of the Atonement to strengthen me in other aspects of my life, love in my marriage is something He can/needs/wants to help me with too. Through my actions and the power of the Spirit, I've discovered what love can feel like. I've felt love blossoming in my heart, and I can feel the power of what it can grow into if I keep working at it. I know this is only a slight taste of what I have felt in the past, and what I can feel as our love deepens.
It does make it easier that Jack is in recovery and that our relationship doesn't feel completely one-sided. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Today, the dare still includes not being negative. I am so hopeful :)
Also, this is one of my favorite songs about love. Just for kicks.