When I was 12 years old, I looked out my bedroom window of my apartment and made a deliberate decision: I wanted to be a mom. This wasn't a small decision. But I would never have guessed it would start a pattern of living that would eventually lead me to the marriage I wanted.
As a preteen, I saw my future in motherhood. So I began to study other moms. I was probably a bit stalker-like. I would watch with pierced focus. I would observe moms for as long as it took to get what I was looking for.
If I liked an interaction between a mom and her child, I would file it away to my mental "keepers" list as something I would use as a mom. If there was something that bothered me, like a reprimand in a car or at a grocery store, I would mentally walk myself through questions: Why don't I like what happened? What bothers me about the situation? What would I want as the child in that situation? What could the mom do that would make the child change? From my observations I formulated how I would mother.
I would user fewer but more meaningful rules. I would have rules based on a general understanding of respect for others instead of rules outlining specific permissions or limitations. I would never compare my children to their siblings. I would never use profanity directed toward them. I would keeping the conversation going when there was conflict.
I also decided there would only be a few things my children would leave our home with. I wanted my children to have an absolute knowledge that I loved them. They would know I believed in their greatness without hesitation. They would know I loved God and I could be relied on to tell them the truth. When I became a mom, I was able to achieve this. And as each child left the nest, they confirmed those beliefs at the time.
Little did I know, this same pattern would also hold true to reviving the marriage and romance I wanted as well.
My pattern for my goal of marriage
As my husband and I stood before the divorce judge, we made a last-ditch effort to turn back the hand of destruction and take a stand. We stopped the divorce proceedings and the judge wished us well.
Overall, my husband did not exactly engage the way I had hoped. This pushed me back to my old pattern I followed to become the mom I wanted to be.
My first step was admitting I love being in love. I envisioned a romance that was private, intimate, laughter-filled, quirky and honest.
The next step I took was watching other couples and making a list of the things I did and did not like. I found a general tenderness among the behaviors I liked. When there were things that bothered me, I would process the same questions as I did when I was young and preparing for motherhood.
I found windows of learning and discovered opportunities to apply my ideas. I saw my flaws flashing like bright neon signs. When there came a point when kind gestures and romantic overtures were not enough, I enlisted in formal education to fill in the gaps. Today, I have a toolbox of ideas and methods on how to save a marriage. I use them frequently.
Finally, I decided that should my marriage end, there were certain things I wanted my husband to know. I wanted him to know I loved him and believed he deserved the ultimate happiness. I wanted him to know I believed in him and that he could trust me without question.
This desire created a change in me - similar to that change that occurred in me as I stood by that window years earlier. Just like the pattern I created toward motherhood, I had developed a pattern toward my marriage. Those simple and easy steps reinvented my marriage. My marriage went from surviving to thriving. My actions literally gave my husband a reason to re-engage in our relationship.
Using the same steps I had applied as a 12-year-old, I created a pattern of marriage success. The pattern is simple and easy. It can be applied by anyone:
Your pattern for a successful marriage
Create a vision of a loving and romantic marriage by observing others.
Initiate processes to get the marriage you envisioned.
Regardless of your husband's shortcomings, look for your own limitations and improve them.
Make sure your husband knows you love him without question. Let him know he deserves happiness, you believe in him and he can trust you without hesitation.
Karleen Andresen is a mediator and conflict professional. She has a specialty in crisis and suicide issues. Focusing her work on the mainstream, Andresen hosts half day workshops to share how hostage negotiators help others deal with stress - and you can too! If they can talk someone from the ledge, it works.