My Marriage and Trophic Cascades

Do you have minute? Can you watch a video about the Wolves of Yellowstone? There’s an obvious metaphor in there you won’t even need me to spell out for you.

If you don’t have time or can’t watch it (find time later, it’s amazing) the gist of it is that introducing small quantities of wolves back into Yellowstone made huge significant changes – even to the course of the river.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

I’m 100% certain you don’t need me to spell out the metaphor as these wolves relate to my life. But I’m going to anyway.

My depression and anxiety were taking their toll on my life before I started therapy. There’s no need to detail that here, just know it wasn’t great. But then I started going to therapy and I started working through my grief over losing my Dad which opened the door to a lot of crap that had laid undisturbed for years. I expected therapy to help me with my depression and anxiety, just like the wolves were expected have an impact on the population of the animals they prey upon, like the deer. That was actually the point of re-introducing the wolves, which had been absent for 70 years, just like the point of therapy was to reduce my anxiety and depression.

What I never thought about though, as I was overwhelmed in darkness of anxiety and depression, was the cascade of other changes that would follow. I have become a better Mom, a better friend, and most importantly? It made my marriage better than it’s ever been.

I could break it down easily and just say, “My anxiety and depression were ruining my marriage and so getting help fixed it.”

But that is way too much of an oversimplification. My therapist has helped me work through stuff I’ve come home to discuss with my husband which has helped him work through his own crap. She’s given me tools I’m using in my life and in my marriage which have also proved useful to him. She’s helped me be vulnerable to him instead of always stressed or angry, and he’s reciprocated.

We cuddle now. We haven’t cuddled in years.

My marriage was fine before therapy, it wasn’t really anything I thought I needed to work on. But like the rivers changing flow patterns in Yellowstone, I just had no idea the impact these baby steps in my personal life could have on my marriage. There were ecosystems along the river of our marriage before, it’s not like it was barren. But suddenly things started thriving where we didn’t know they were depleted to begin with. It’s not entirely accidental, we’re being proactive in a lot of these changes. We are making date nights a priority. We take time to hang out after the kids go to bed even though we’re exhausted. (Except on nights like last night when I was SO exhausted I fell asleep tucking Wesley in, and then woke up, went to tuck Nikki in, and fell back asleep with her for the rest of the night. I was tired, yo.) We are sharing quiet hugs and holding hands. We’re recognizing each other’s needs for support or validation. The trophic cascade (ecological process which starts at the top of the food chain and tumbles down) in our life once I sought therapy has been an amazing thing to watch, but especially as it relates to our marriage which I didn’t even set out to improve upon.

I tell you this story because 13 years ago today, I married my best friend. And things are just really great.

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