“What do you want me to SAY? That everything’s perfect? That there’s not a problem here? Do you want me to tell the truth or not?” I remember wondering if my words were coming out of my mouth a little more harshly than I’d heard them in my head seconds ago. Strange, how angry voices carry louder in the dark.
Why is it that things always seem to be magnified at night? A baby screaming with colic, a toddler burning with fever, a couple fighting when they should be REM sleeping… Everything’s more pronounced in a silent, dark house. Ideally, we’d settle all our disputes before breakfast every time so our accounts are kept super short. But sometimes, things spew out sideways late at night just as you’re finally still.
How is it possible that a relatively happily married woman is renewing her wedding vows one day and ready to walk away the next?
It had actually been 2 months since we held our vow renewal ceremony, commemorating 25 years of marriage-not “25 years of sheer bliss” as Blair jokes- but 25 years of working together to make this covenant thing outlast its human counterparts.
I love this man. But love is not enough to hold two humans together for a lifetime.
If I hadn’t given the Holy Spirit free reign to call the shots in my marriage (in all of life, really,) I would not have one iota of the tenacity it takes to stay beyond the honeymoon.
The hardest times for me, are when I don’t feel heard. In those moments, I feel so much rage, I could die or become a felon without flinching. Last night was one of those moments when I felt the “fight or flight” response kick in with the speed of Danica Patrick. Here’s what happened;
I had expressed in a rare moment of vulnerability, that I was feeling some distance between us since our “2nd wedding.” I was hoping that he could just listen and offer some understanding- I was sure he’d been feeling it too. But I was disappointed because I was met with defensiveness instead.
Why does my husband get so upset every time I have something to say? I’m not telling him he’s a failure or that I’m leaving him. I’m not trying to attack his character. The only reason I ever bring something up is because I don’t want anything between us-why can’t he get that? I’d been feeling some resentment start to build up; I wanted to clear it out so I was trying to confess it to him. Isn’t that what the counselor said to do? Why does he have to take everything personally?
And to be fair, I need to ask these questions from the flip side;
Why do I have to take his response just as personally? Why do I get so upset he has something to say? Why can’t I get that he’s only bringing up an issue because he doesn’t want anything between us?
In an ideal world, I’d be able to say anything. He would too. Neither of us would take it as an attack; only a movement toward the other person. There would be no need to invalidate the feelings of the other person or diminish their point. We’d be free to feel one another’s pain and apologize immediately, forgive and make things right. Accounts would be clean and clear. We’d grow in intimacy continually and skip off to the next adventure hand in hand.
But that’s not how it is and that’s not where we are.
After a quarter century of marriage, he still hears any statement that begins with “I feel” as “You are a terrible, inadequate excuse for a man and a complete failure as a husband.”
And when he’s eating a plate of sunny side eggs that I fried with care, I still hear statements as simple as, “Pass the salt please?” to mean, “You are a terrible, inadequate excuse for a woman and a complete failure as a wife with zero ability to cook.”
Whenever I feel attacked or even mildly criticized for my cooking skills, I am suddenly desperate to defend myself. Over the decades, it had gotten so much better…. Maybe I got a little too proud…. Maybe I was becoming too confident in my God given ability to resolve conflicts and communicate effectively. I’ve been told I’m a born teacher/coach since college. But my husband, (while we both do learn from each other….) cannot be reduced to a mere pupil. He’s my partner, we’re in the throes of life together….
And I’m in for the long haul.
Reflecting on this heated discussion has been humbling for me. I see my own arrogant, self centered heart even as I’m complaining about his inability to hear mine. I’m praying about what repentance might look like for me. The Father, in His kindness, convicts me of my own stuff and leads me to repent of it. His Spirit nails me to the wall and is a Perfect Gentleman at the same time- only God can hold these dicotomies all at once.
We humans, though, we’re all self seeking by nature- every last one of us. I’ve been pondering some lessons from this ongoing conversation with God about marriage. Maybe you need to hear them too. So in my next few posts I will share what He’s teaching me. Look for these titles on the blog this fall.
“Less is BEST” (because I need to learn how to communicate with fewer words.)
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T; Find Out What It Means to Me”
“The Difference Between Confession and Repentance”
“How is Peacemaking Different From Peacekeeping?”
Till next time,
ps- Season 3 of the podcast will be launching at the end of this month! Yeay!!! 🙂