For several weeks, I’ve been driving my husband to and from work (except that when he is in the car, he is the one doing the driving). It is a 45-minute drive one way through rush hour traffic and a couple awful road construction areas.
This has provided me with ample opportunity to ponder what it means to travel together with my husband–not just in the car but in our shared life as well.
For the first couple weeks of our daily drive time, we were intent on what we were experiencing. Big Guy pointed out the nuances of the traffic patterns and told me which lanes were best because of upcoming on-ramps and exits. I paid close attention so I would be able to find my way back. The whole time, we were both paying attention to our shared journey.
The shared journey was good for our marriage. In many ways, it was very stressful. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to get another vehicle, so we were concerned about finances and the amount of my time that is being used in driving. We talked through our shared frustration about our move, our vehicle situation, and some other things in life.
Despite the stress, we were having experiences together. We were united in our frustration and our need for the other’s support. We were facing the unknown, but neither of us was alone. I downloaded a few podcasts about marriage, and when the traffic was lighter, we listened to them together and talked about our own marriage.
Our shared journey was good.
Over the past few days, things have changed. The drive is now routine for me, so I don’t pay as close attention as I once did. My husband is ready to settle back into the solo drive routine he’d developed over the past year. He tries to point out some alternate routes, but I would just as soon stick with what I know rather than learn something new. He’s antsy to get back to normal, and I’m generally fidgety because I do not enjoy car travel at all.
So Big Guy has started listening to news programs on the radio, and I have been working on a knitting project and checking my phone while he drives. He talks at the radio guests, and I express frustration when I miss a stitch. He reminds me that knitting is supposed to be therapeutic, and I scowl. We are on the same trip, but the sense of traveling together has been replaced by the sense of being in the same vehicle, having parallel and unrelated experiences.
Here is what has happened: I’ve been getting carsick. When I pay attention to only what is in my own hands, I lose sight of where we are heading. My husband’s presence fades away from my awareness. Yesterday I felt so queasy I nearly had to ask Big Guy to pull over.
My husband has been getting testy. In our disconnected state, he tends to speak sharply, whether he is speaking to the radio or to me. He hears my attempts at conversation as challenges and criticisms rather than an attempt to connect in some way.
It occurred to me yesterday afternoon that our commute together has been a metaphor for our marriage.
Throughout the majority of our marriage, I felt like we were living our lives side-by-side. It was more like parallel lives than a shared life, together.
The past few years, however, have seen us sharing a journey toward a healthier and happier marriage.
When we are truly sharing an experience, we are united and strong—even when we face a difficult situation. When we stop paying attention to our shared journey, we get grouchy and sick.
By the drive home yesterday afternoon, my husband was as disturbed by the disequilibrium in our commute as I was.
We tried talking, thinking that a conversation would surely reconnect us. By that point, however, we were so off kilter that neither of us could seem to speak clearly and kindly, and both of us were making assumptions about what the other meant.
So we resumed our parallel travel, just wanting to get home so we could be away from each other for a bit. My husband stared at the traffic ahead of us. I looked at the rain through the window, wondering what was happening inside all the other cars.
During the years when our marriage was in trouble, conversation never seemed to get us anywhere, either. We had lost the ability to speak kindly to each other, and we both heard through all sorts of unfounded assumptions.
Back then, my husband would always reach out physically to reconnect. I rebuffed him, thinking he was just a sex-obsessed man who didn’t care about my heart. I wasn’t always sure I wanted a restored relationship, anyway. I was comfortable in my own walled-off world, living my life parallel to my husband but not living a shared life with him.
What I didn’t understand about my husband was this: when he is feeling disconnected from me relationally, physical contact provides the path to relational restoration for him. Physically connecting with me (especially through sex) is the thing that reconnects my husband’s heart to mine. One flesh yearns to be made whole again.
What I also didn’t understand is that the same thing is true for me, too.
Yesterday, after we sat separately sullen for a while, my husband reached his hand to mine. Once again, he sought relational restoration through a physical connection with me.
Over the past few years, God has shown me how much more whole I feel when my husband and I are pulling toward each other, together, than when I am separate from him.
I put away my phone and knitting and let Big Guy take my hand. I looked ahead at the traffic, with him. We began to talk about what we would have for dinner, and the conversation flowed naturally from there.
We were once again sharing our journey.
My heart and stomach settled, and we continued on toward home.
We were restored, and it was good.
Do you travel life with your husband, or are you living more side-by-side than together?
Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net