When we’d been married about ten years, we had a season in life in which I needed an extra dose of Big Guy’s emotional support and he didn’t provide it. (I wrote about some of it here.)
My attempts to talk with him about it resulted in his verbal dismissal of my feelings—so I stopped.
I stopped trying to talk with him about it. I stopped sharing anything with him that would involve my heart. I stopped being vulnerable with him—and that included really participating in sex.
My season of “no” had begun.
Several years later, in one of our more open conversations about our sex life, he asked me if I knew what had happened to make me so resistant to sex. I felt like I was taking a big risk, but I told him. Then I asked him to help me deal with my feelings.
He didn’t apologize for having hurt me. He didn’t even acknowledge my feelings in any way. His response was to tell me it was in the past, it was my problem to deal with, and I should just get over it.
My mind was flooded with words I wanted to say but couldn’t: Talking to you is how I was trying to get over it, but you just dismissed me. I’m reaching out and asking you to love me enough to help me, and you don’t. Why would I want to work on anything just so you could have more sex when you don’t even love me? Every time you dismiss my feelings, it piles on to the memories that I’m already struggling with. There’s a giant snowball rolling down the hill, picking up more snow and getting bigger and bigger. I’m begging you to help me stop it, but you’re abandoning me at the bottom of the hill to deal with it all alone. Why don’t you love me enough to help me?
My heart was horribly bruised. Trust was hard for me anyway, and my husband had just shown me that he could not be trusted with my heart.
Heart-broken, the very thought of sex with my husband made me feel unloved and abandoned.
I felt like that for quite a few years.
~ ~ ~
Choosing to let this go was an important decision I made in working toward a healed marriage.
Eventually, Big Guy did hear me and apologize. I understand now that his responses grew out of his own feelings about having put me in the situation in the first place. At the time, though, it felt awful.
I was trying to move forward but got stuck in a loop that sent me back to the original pain and compounded it. I was stuck in an endless Groundhog Day, only instead of reliving one day until I got it right, I was stuck reliving one hurt over and over again until I figured out how to let it go.
I’ve heard many men say about their wives, “I don’t get it. Why is she still upset about something that happened so long ago? I’m not like that anymore. Why can’t she just let it go?”
Every time I hear that, I recall the bruising my own heart experienced when my husband told me the same thing.
The memory no longer causes me pain—but I haven’t forgotten the pain that I felt time and again when I thought about it.
~ ~ ~
Do you struggle to let something go from earlier in your marriage? Do you find yourself stuck in a loop that goes back to a hurt from long ago?
I think this happens with a lot of us. Sometimes, it is a hurt that grew from a conversation or event that a husband doesn’t even remember.
You can stay stuck until you figure out how to move forward past that hurt. How can you do this?
- Reach out to God. Let Him carry you through your healing. Ask Him to help you let go of the hold this memory has on you in your marriage.
- Give yourself permission to have your feelings in order to let them go. Sometimes we feel guilt about feeling how we do. We might be thinking about how we think we’re supposed to feel, and our guilt or shame about feeling a different way becomes part of the burden we need to let go.
- Try to understand your husband’s point of view. Why did he do or say what he did? Did he speak out of his own hurt or insecurity? Did he do something that was a sinful response to something you did? Your husband is just as human as you, and maybe the fact is that he was a jerk or he messed up big time. Is he still that same person anymore, or has he grown since then?
- Use God’s truth to counter your feelings. When I thought about feeling abandoned, not even worth my husband’s attention in dealing with feelings caused by his actions, I reminded myself that God will always be with me, even if my husband isn’t. As I thought about the deep emotions elicited by the difficult memory, I tried to think about them as lies from the enemy. I learned to silence them by speaking God’s truth. (It’s a process that I describe in this post.)
- Ask your husband for support. This won’t work in every marriage. However, if you are able to find a calm time when you can explain that you are struggling to let go of a hurt, you can ask your husband to pray for you.
- Write a letter that you won’t send. I wrote my husband a letter that explained everything I’d been feeling and why I hadn’t let it go. The process of writing was therapeutic. Naming my feelings, describing what my experience was like, and saying what I wished he would do was critical in breaking the cycle of looping back to the hurt. It was the first time I really got it all out there. I took the letter to our compost pile and prayed that my hurt would get transformed into something that could nurture our marriage, just like my kitchen scraps would get transformed into something that would nurture the garden in the future. You could also burn what you’ve written or delete everything from the screen.
- Focus on the present reality. I have a friend who was deeply hurt by discovering her husband’s porn stash years ago. Even after he had been through counseling and had worked hard to get past his porn addiction, she still viewed him as a porn addict who’d hurt her. He had repented and had changed, but she still treated him as the man he had stopped being over a decade earlier. Pay attention to ways your husband has grown and focus on who is he now rather than who he used to be. Likewise, you are not the same woman as you were when you experienced that hurt.
- Seek professional or pastoral counseling. Sometimes we just need someone else to walk alongside us. Counseling can help us develop a new perspective on our feelings and give us new strategies for dealing with those feelings as they arise.
Being stuck in a never-ending loop of hurt isn’t good for you or for your marriage. Instead of reliving that hurt time and time again, isn’t it time to break the cycle and work toward healing?
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net