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3 Ways Walking Helps A Hurting Marriage?

walking

Walking is one of the best ways to work through grief and keep depression at bay.

According to mayoclinic.org, 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week can improve depression or anxiety. Last spring, I said goodbye on this earth to my mom. 2020 was full of good-byes and painful separations for many of us. With each death or separation, we experience deep grief. As a person who lives with depression, I knew I had to work through the grief from Mom’s death and not stuff it.  And if I have the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ, then my separation from Mom is only a temporary separation though very real and still painful.

I took the recommendations of the Mayo Clinic and began to make a walking plan which ended up looking very different than it started because I wanted to do it with my husband.

At first, Dave and I began walking every other day.

Then, as I realized the walking did help me cope, Dave and I decided to walk every day. A few weeks into that decision, we set a goal to walk an average of two miles every day for the next year.

Then the mental challenge of walking began.

Forget the physical. My brain thought: Every day? For 365 days?! Up until this point in my life, I was not an active person. While I moved and did things, I didn’t spend regular time outside and certainly didn’t exercise daily. Who does that?

We decided to do it.

365 days of walking hand-in-hand.

This from a couple whose world shattered a decade ago when Dave admitted he was addicted to pornography. That same couple!

No, wait.

We are a new and improved couple who achieved our walking goals together. And here’s how.

  1. Set daily goals with positive peer pressure.

Walking daily in the springtime when the sun shines and there’s a gentle breeze is one thing. But walking daily meant all kinds of weather—especially living at high elevation in Colorado. It also meant walking when I didn’t feel well or hadn’t had a good night’s rest. It meant walking with Dave when we didn’t see eye-to-eye on something. And even when we traveled separately, we committed to walking. We decided, if one didn’t walk, it blew our daily commitment for both. Positive peer pressure 😉

Each week we picked a day to exceed our average distance goal. That meant telling myself I could do it when I’d never walked that far in my life. To mark our progress, we used the Runkeeper app. Dave synced the program to our phones, and as the streak grew, we decided we didn’t want to break the chain.

We set other mini-goals. One was to complete a five-mile walk by the end of August. Two miles a day felt hard when we started. Yet, each week we added a little bit more to our walk. By the end of August, we hit that goal. I couldn’t believe it.

Dave’s support encouraged me and pushed me to become a stronger person. If I were not walking with him, I’d be content to repeat the same walk each day. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing that. But, without Dave’s push for variety, I’d have missed out on the new challenges and personal discoveries I made.

Like recovery from depression and addiction, these daily milestones create the momentum we both need to remain healthy. Working together on a common goal strengthens our relationship. Often when there’s a betrayal in a marriage, we need to find new ways to reconnect. Walking together creates this new connection.

But we had to choose to make that connection.

As a runner, Dave initially struggled to walk with me. He’d much rather be running because he can cover longer distances in the same amount of time. For him, it didn’t feel like exercise at the start. But, he knew I needed to do this and wouldn’t without his encouragement. He exemplified God’s command for us to submit to each other in love. He put my needs ahead of his desires. (Talk about a sign of recovery!)

Who supports you to be more than what you are today? What mini-goal could you set to bring positive change in one area of your life?

  1. Consider setting your health goal together as a couple.

Walking together, mostly hand-in-hand, gave us time to talk about our marriage. Remember me saying that we walked when things weren’t great between us? Well, we had time to work through these issues. Often, because I felt so frustrated, I walked faster. Bonus: burn more calories and better aerobic activity!

And we worked it out.

But, holding hands forced us to match paces—what a lovely example of what marriage requires. At one point during this last year, Dave started having shoulder and arm issues. While trying to work through the cause, he discovered that at certain times when we’re walking, he actually tenses his muscles and tries to pull me along. While I noticed the subtle pull at times, I didn’t understand how tense he was. And he didn’t realize he was subconsciously trying to get me to walk faster at certain times. Here’s the deal: Dave is almost a foot taller than I. A foot! Therefore, our strides are different. Duh, right? This means we have to learn to match strides—he shortens his, and I lengthen mine. It’s a work in progress.

Our strides will never be perfectly matched due to our height difference. Trying to get them close causes discomfort for both of us. It feels awkward. Yet, when we manage to match our strides for a short bit, the ease and fluidity in our walking feel amazing.

What aspect of your marriage suffers from an unmatched stride? How does it feel when one person runs ahead and insists the other person “get with the program”? What can you do to define a better rhythm in this area of your marriage?

  1. Identify false expectations tied to your goals (and marriage).

I didn’t realize it, but I had false expectations for meeting our goal. Surprisingly, I discovered some unrealistic things I thought would happen while we walked. Things like walking daily would burn so many calories I didn’t have to watch what I ate as much. Not true. While the walking did help me fight off the worst of the depression, it didn’t make a big difference in my daily caloric intake.

I also thought we’d set a route and stick with it. I like the routine of walking the same route each day. Dave needs to explore different pathways. Some days all I wanted to do was check off the walk from my list, but usually, those were the days that Dave wanted to try a different route, and we’d end up going a lot farther than I planned.

Another false expectation I had was that Dave wanted the same result as I. Walking two miles a day seemed like a huge goal to me. It was. But Dave needed more challenge. So, after we accomplished the five-mile goal, he asked me to consider a ten-mile goal for our one-year mark. Thankfully, he knows me well enough to mention the thought and then let me process it.

As we discussed what that might look like, I warmed to the idea. But then the day came that we set to walk nine miles. The wind averaged 30-40 miles per hour. We decided to walk a beautiful trail in our area that would be an out and back. We weren’t five minutes into this hike when I knew I’d have to conquer this decision mentally. Thankfully, I’d learn to communicate these thoughts to Dave to garner his support.

Two and a half hours later, we arrived back at our starting point, thankful the wind was at our backs the last part of the hike. We did it! The results looked slightly different as we met our mileage goal but not our time goal this time around. But isn’t that a great picture of marriage? The steep hills seem to come at the worst times. But they can be conquered, especially if you keep your expectations in line, communicate about the struggle, and work together.

You have to face the reality of your situation—in walking and marriage. When we were in the initial stages of recovery from Dave’s porn addiction, we constantly crashed into false expectations.

    • Dave thought he’d recover from his addiction without it impacting me.
    • I figured his recovery was on him but didn’t realize the damage I’d sustained.
    • We thought it’d take a few months at the most.
    • Years later, we still bump into some issues that need resolving.
    • We imagined that life would go back to normal once we got through the initial recovery period.

Where do you see false expectations in your life? What needs to change to accomplish your goals? How is your normal holding you back from greater freedom and joy?

Our normal never returned.

Instead, we discovered a new, exciting, authentic marriage. It’s more about “we” than him or me.

I believe there are days when being married is the most difficult thing you’ll do that day.

The pain of the past seems to restrict any forward progress.

The idea of setting mini-goals, especially together, feels impossible or at least awkward. And your hopes always seem to outpace the results.

When you do set out to make improvements, false expectations create roadblocks and stall your progress.

I get it. I’ve been processing this year-long project for days and days because I can’t believe we did it. It was a giant goal and not easy, just like our decision to get honest, angry, and real about what was broken in our marriage. We decided to choose better. Choose each other. Every step of the way. It didn’t come overnight. And some days, I didn’t want to do it (just like our walk).

But look what happens when we set those mini-goals and hang in there.

God fills in the gaps, steadies our feet, and celebrates with us.

The last year taught me many lessons I’m still unpacking and applying. Do you know what thrills me most about this adventure? Walking with Dave every step of the way.

It may seem hard to believe that we could be at this point after the devastation of Dave’s pornography addiction.  However, God worked a miracle in our marriage as we both looked to Him to heal our wounds. Today, I help wounded women heal from this horrible pain. I offer free resources, a tender heart, and one-on-one help through my short-term Aftershock Recovery Method coaching. You deserve to heal whether he decides to change or not. You don’t have to live with that pain. I can help.

Oh, by the way, we did walk ten miles on our one-year anniversary. But that’s another story.