“The Parked Car” Marriage Test

Any normal marriage is filled with lots of ups and downs. It’s to be expected couples navigate through sickness, health, job changes, becoming parents, and all the things that can happen over the time of a marriage. Sometimes, as things change and life gets chaotic, we can go into automatic mode and miss the fact that our marriage is no longer a source of happiness or support. How do you know?  “The Parked Car” Marriage Test. The test is simple. As you are pulling up at home, you see that your spouse is home. How do you really feel about that? Do you want to get inside immediately or do you dread the moment you walk through the door and sit in your parked car for as long as possible?

For a big part of my marriage, I wanted to run inside as fast as I could. I wanted to give my husband a big kiss, give and get a big hug, and talk about our days. Those days are a now a distant memory.

I’ve heard from a number of women who dread going home. I also remember those feelings. Anticipating the myriad of questions: Where were you? Who were you with? (Um, did I marry my mom?) …You have makeup on, is there anything going on? (Um, no. I’m pregnant, went out with my toddler to a museum to meet friends with kids, and because I rolled out of bed in preggo leggings, I added makeup to look presentable.)

There were times when I thought those questions were fair and harmless. But after years of them, and of justifying why I needed a 10-minute break (let’s try I’m pregnant, a full time job,a very active toddler?) …I finally hit my limit and no longer felt like it’s was okay.

A friend of my recently talked about how her home felt FREE and at PEACE when her husband wasn’t at home. I thought about how to respond to her:

Stating, “You are not alone” is not good enough.

Asking, “Well, have you really tried? Have you tried marriage counseling?” disregards feelings, and although well intended, it can often be seen as cruel.

Advising, “You should stay, for the kids, you know,” reinforces the guilt that is already there.

Saying, “You should find the good things you are grateful for” insinuates someone should be more grateful and ignore the feeling of being crushed every day.

Explaining “Well, he’s just being a man” is …well, a huge disservice to all men, but also not a reason why anyone should stay in a bad marriage.

But, sometimes, it’s not about our response. It’s about the fact that the more they talk it through, they are validating their intuition and understanding what is acceptable to them and what is not. Sometimes, the words of your spouse are drilled into your mind so much that you question your own judgements. It can be heartbreaking to realize that you’ve been okay with being unhappy in your marriage.

So, if you take “The Parked Car” Marriage test and realize you love your spouse, celebrate by telling them. But if you take it and realize you have been dreading going home, it’s time to get some help…marriage counseling, personal therapy (no shame in going to a doctor for our mental health), or a friend who will listen – to start with. You do not need help because there is something “wrong with you.” You need help because this is likely a new situation you have no prior experience in and it always helpful to have someone with perspective and knowledge to help you navigate next steps in your marriage.

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