What You Actually "Do" When You Say, "I Do"

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From the moment I said “I do” on August 3, 2006, I really had no idea what I was going to have to actually “do” over the next eight years of my life. Yes, I chose him in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, for better or worse (mostly “better” because as a newlywed, you don’t really anticipate just how bad things can be nor how “worse” they can become). What was somehow left out in my vows was, “Do you choose and commit to him through years of sexual challenge? Do you choose and commit to him while you both struggle in the uncharted territory of parenting? Do you choose and commit to him when you feel emotionally and spiritually a thousand miles apart?”

My story of gratitude begins on the best and the hardest day of my life -- the day I made it metaphorically to the base of Mount Everest. I abruptly realized that I don’t just get to set-up camp there and reconnoiter for a few months before making the climb. No, with the words “I do” my ascent began, ready or not (mostly not). Staring up at the daunting mountain, I reminded myself that I willingly choose to climb it with no training or experience; but ,thankfully, not without a guide or guides.

Gratitude and willingness have been my guides.

Like most people, I did not come from a childhood free from dysfunction. However, I also didn’t come from a childhood devoid of love. Thanks to the combination of both, I sought out therapy early in my life. I saw it as a positive for me and a way to learn and grow. I was going through therapy while dating different guys, always hoping to find my “one.” I had a general list of traits and qualities that I was looking for, but always wanted something deeper than “someone who can wakeboard” (one of my life’s passions.) I always knew that one day that wakeboarding champion could get injured, get old, or grow out of being a wakeboarder like other surface traits.

Through the gift of therapy, I learned that everyone has his or her crap. Everyone. This helped me conclude that I needed to find some “one” who would be willing to do “the work,” some “one” who wanted to climb Everest with me and recognized that we would need to confront challenges, dysfunctions, trials and growth edges.

Through many heartbreaks for which I am thankful, I met guys who wanted the great relationship without the work -- or expected that if it were really true love it would just work. Somehow, I knew that naïve approach simply wasn’t going to work. Call me a romantic pessimist, but when choosing to meld my life with someone else’s, I erred on the side of realism rather than romantic ideals. I finally found my “one” – a handsome, intelligent, fun, romantic guy (yes, he was a good wakeboarder, too) who was more than willing to do “the work.”

We are now eight years into our climb. When I look back I realize we have had a lot of moments where we were eye-balls’ deep in snow that could have sucked the life out of our relationship. However, we’ve also had moments where the sun has broken through, giving us the gift of warmth and the opportunity to sit, rest and just enjoy each other’s company. We have been in one of the hardest years of our climb – with the stresses of having two kids, with another on the way, but it’s also been the most transformative and beautiful. I find myself continually grateful that I have a partner who has never looked at me and said, “I’m done climbing, it’s not what I thought it would be” or “You climb and carry me; it’s your fault that our relationship is so hard.”

I treasure the moments where he has looked at me with watery eyes and a softened heart and thanked me for choosing him. It gives me the fuel I need to climb another day, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When he expresses his gratitude and genuinely sees me for who I am and the strengths I bring to the table, it brings me a bit closer to him. It causes me to soften my sharp edges toward him and gives me the perspective to see him as we all are ... just trying to do the best we can with where we have come from and wanting to go to places in our relationship we have never known. I’m grateful that he sees me with gratitude as well.

I have a partner who has willingly engaged in “the work” or the metaphorical climb from day one. It’s not always fun but he he keeps climbing with me. Our mutual supportiveness and gratitude have carried us through storms that neither of us could have predicted when we said “I do.” As I see relationships around me crumble and fall, my gratitude for all we have only grows. No, our relationship isn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t choose any other partner to ascend the mountain. I have my daily moments where I write down what I am grateful for with my partner, and it guides me to the peak of Everest. The moment I said “I do” was the moment I said “I do commit” to keep doing the work, to keep climbing with my partner, with gratitude and willingness as my guides.

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Kristin Hodson is a Sex and Intimacy Therapist and Founder of The Healing Group: Where Women Go For Hope, Growth and Healing. She has the mantra of work hard, play hard, love hard and lives life passionately outloud. She is an adjunct Professor at The University of Utah in the Social Work department, is co-author of the book, "Real Intimacy: A Couples' Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality" and is currently co-authoring her second book, "Yes, You Can Talk To Your Kids About Sex." . She feels the greatest and most fulfilling pursuit in her life is having the privilege to mother her two spirited children and always being refined into a better person because of her husband.

This post is part of a 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. If you want to start from day 1, click here.

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10 Steps to Clean Fighting With The Person You Love

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Ground Rules for Fighting

Every couple fights... but how you fight is a HUGE factor in your likelihood of staying together.

Fight clean, stay together. Fight dirty, not very likely.

There's good, clean fighting and there's dirty, underhanded fighting. I love Ze Frank's rules for a good, clean fight... and so I decided to share them with you:

No hitting, pushing, shoving, or any other kind of physical altercations.

That is bad. Always.

No swearing.

Swearing should be reserved for exclaiming about how large a poop is, or how hot it is on a particular day.

No overarching awful generalizations about a person's character.

Generalizations are generally kind of crappy... things like "You always..." or "You never..." Try to stay focused on the content that started the argument in the first place.

You should realize there are actually 2 arguments going on...

One is a feelings argument, and one is a content-specific argument.

Sometimes when the feelings part of the argument gets very very intense, it's probably best not to stay focused on the content, and just deal with the feelings part. For example: Let's talk about the schedule for who makes the bed later on. Right now, let's focus on why you're getting so angry about it.

Allow yourself when things get crazy-heated to have a timeout.

15 seconds to 15 minutes. No judgements. Just walk away. Calm down. Then get back into it when you can. When we become emotionally flooded, we go into fight or flight mode, and instincts are to either retreat, or attack. We lose touch with our sense of humor, and the ability to be empathetic. Take time to calm down.

Don't threaten to leave just for leverage.

That's a playing card that will lose its value quickly, and sour the relationship quite a bit.

Don't use your partner to fight past battles.

If you find yourself saying things like, "You always make me feel..." and you can trace that feeling to past relationships, well, it might be on you.

Hear what the other person is saying.

Repeat back exactly what the other person said. Sometimes, especially when fighting, we hear things that are not said. Try not to fight with what you think the other person is thinking. Otherwise you're fighting with yourself... which is going to turn into a long fight.

Learn how to apologize quickly and in the moment

Sometimes the wrong thing slips out of your mouth. If you can't think before you speak, at least be thoughtful enough to apologize after you speak.

Use the Intent Sandwich

When you have something difficult to say, start with clarifying the intent. "The reason I'm telling you this is that I care about our relationship, and I love you very much. It might be difficult to hear, but hiding it from you would be more damaging than telling you."

What rules could you adapt into your fighting style?