When I try to tell the story of the changes in our marriage, it sounds so clean. So straight-forward. So easy. And it sounds like from here on out, it’s all smooth sailing.
Trust me when I say that it was messy. It was forward and backward and forward again, and sometimes just standing still was good progress. It was really, really hard.
Know what? Sometimes it still is.
Our marriage is in a much stronger place than it’s ever been before. But life still happens, my husband and I still aren’t perfect, and sometimes it is far too easy to want to slip back into old habits and patterns.
This week I’m a little lonely. I feel disconnected from my husband. My emotional well is empty.
It’s an odd feeling, even as it is sadly familiar. As a result of our son’s struggles with an on-going problem, my husband and I are in something of a fog as we navigate an unknown world to help our son do what is necessary to turn his life around. Individually and as a team, we are full of self-doubt. We wonder where we went wrong even as we realize that kids sometimes make choices we don’t like.
Neither of us is at our best right now. I have been emotionally fragile (translation: I am constantly on the verge of tears); my husband has been surly. We don’t process things the same way. We are trying to put some things back together and we aren’t even sure we have all the pieces we need.
This feeling of disconnection I have is disconcerting. I felt this way for so long that it had become a way of living. Now, however, after having felt so intimately connected to my husband, I find myself at a loss. I had knocked down all the walls between my husband and me–but now that I am feeling so beaten down by my emotional roller coaster, my heart wants to go back to what it knows how to do without having to put in the energy to think about it.
In other words, I find myself launching right back into self-blame and heart-protection mode.
I am fully aware that the problem isn’t my husband. It is my own fragile emotional state that is affecting my perceptions. Somewhere in my fog, I’ve been able to recognize some of the habits, thoughts, and feelings I thought I had moved past.
- When my husband says anything to indicate he’s unhappy with something, I find myself thinking it must be my fault. He discovered that he’d gotten blueberry biscuits instead of plain to go with the biscuits and gravy he’d planned to make. He was doing the cooking, and he had done the shopping. Still, I found myself thinking, “If I were a good wife, he wouldn’t be cooking. I would have done the shopping. I would have noticed this before now and would have gone to get regular biscuits. I would make some from scratch. I’m such a bad wife. I’m a failure.”
- My husband snapped at me when I asked him a question. I thought, “Oh, why can’t he see how frustrated I am when I don’t understand something and I have to ask a question? Am I that unlovable that he won’t really see me and understand why I do what I do?”
- He hasn’t indicated an interest in sex for several days. Instead of thinking about how distressed and distracted he is, I take it personally, thinking that if I were more attractive, a better wife, less stressed myself, and so on, he would be more interested in me. And then I remember how much easier everything was before I learned that sex is for me and not just for him.
- Last night, I was sitting on the bed in my underwear while I put lotion on my legs. I heard my husband coming up the stairs. I picked up my nightgown and wondered if I had time to put it on before he walked into the room. I needed to cover up so he wouldn’t see me naked. I almost kept my underwear on under my nightgown.
- I cried myself to sleep, again, wondering why my own husband didn’t love me more.
As I write this out, I see this chapter of my story from two perspectives.
The first perspective, the one I see from where my mind knows I am now, is the one that allows me to say, “Get a grip and give yourself some grace, sweetie. You’re going through a rough patch. Your marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. You’ll be fine. Your husband loves you. You’re a good and lovable wife. You’re sexy. You’re just raw and fragile, and you’ll feel like this only for a short time. You will be okay.” In a few days, I know I’ll be past the raw stage of dealing with hard news and I will begin to catch up on sleep. I remember that I have a life filled with joy.
The second perspective, the one that looks back at where I was, sobers me. These thoughts and feelings that look so pathetic in writing to me today remind me how my heart lived for nearly twenty years. I didn’t go around and feel unloved and unlovable every minute, day, or week–but it was an undercurrent of my marriage for a long time. For the past several days, I’ve been feeling rotten. As I said, I’m a little lonely. I feel disconnected from my husband. My emotional well is empty. In a way, I admire the fact that I was able to function at all with these feelings for so long.
Mostly, though, it makes me so sad to realize that I let myself live this way for so long. I know that there are many women who are still in that sad, lonely, and disconnected place, just longing for their husbands to help refill that emotional well.
I regret waiting so long to make changes in my marriage. What a waste of my emotional energy it was, keeping those walls built up all the time. I was so focused on protecting myself against my husband’s need for sex that I couldn’t see all that was waiting for me once those walls were down.
The continuing growth in my marriage is still messy, a little forward and backward, and really hard.
But it’s more now, too.
Last night, after my husband snapped at me, I sat in the living room and cried while praying. My husband came in and stood next to me. He stroked my hair. He said he was sorry. He kissed my forehead. He comforted me. This morning, when he saw me on the verge of tears again, he said, “We need to fill your emotional well, don’t we? I love you. Think about what you need, and we’ll talk tonight.”
Having knocked down the walls, I now have my husband right there with me, aching alongside me, and being a comfort simply by being present. I am not alone. I feel God’s arms around me throughout the day. God has sent me my husband’s comfort as part of His comfort. I weep now, but rejoicing will come. And my husband will be right there with me.
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
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