Today I am writing about something that some of you may not have experienced: a broken record. If that’s the case, just gather round while I talk about the old days while rocking in my chair. The rest of you may reminisce with me. 🙂
I’m old enough that when I was young, I listened to records.
I would usually buy a record because I’d heard one of the songs on the radio or because it was a group I already loved. Occasionally I would borrow records from the library.
Sometimes the record would get a small scratch on it. When the needle got to that spot, it would catch . . . and catch . . . and catch . . . until I either jostled the record player or picked up the needle and moved it. Or sometimes, the record would skip. Or I would hear that awful scratch. Any way it happened, the song would pick back up and the record would go on its merry way.
It would seem that everything was okay—except that I’d missed something important.
Between the place where the record was scratched and the place where it resumed after skipping forward was a place that had been missed.
When the record was scratched, the song was incomplete to me. If it was a song I hadn’t heard yet, it meant that I didn’t know any of the words to that part of the song. I could go around and try to sing the song for days later, but I always knew I’d missed something. Even when I knew what the words were supposed to be because it was a song I’d heard, I would have missed out on hearing it on my own record player in my own home.
If I was lucky, the culprit would be just a bit of dust, so the next time I played the record I would hear the song all the way through.
Usually, though, it would catch at the same spot no matter how many times I played it. And for a while, I would hold my breath when I played the record, hoping that this time, the record wouldn’t be broken so I could listen to the whole song the way it was supposed to be heard.
Eventually, I came to expect the broken places. I would barely even notice the catch because I had become so used to the way the song played past the scratches.
In the back of my mind I would know a piece of the song was missing, but I got used to the broken version. A few years ago, I listened to a song I’d loved as a teenager—one that had a scratch that I put there myself from handling it so much. This time, I was listening to a CD—and the song played all the way through.
I was surprised by the wholeness of the song.
I’m pretty sure that Big Guy thought I sounded like a broken record sometimes.
There were a few times when our relationship became scratched—because one of us said or did something hurtful, because one of us forgot to extend grace and forgiveness to the other, or because we were having a bad day and a conversation somehow got out of control.
Something was broken, and our marriage would catch or skip. We would try to move life along, but our relationship seemed incomplete.
No matter how much we tried to move past it, I still had a sense that something was incomplete. So I would replay the event over and over again, hoping that this time it would make sense and not catch.
I would move forward in life because I had to—but it always felt like something was missing.
I replayed those events because I needed the song of our relationship to flow and be whole.
Years later, I would bring something up—not because I was trying to hold it against my husband or because I liked beating a dead horse. I brought it up because I was still aware that it was a broken place and I wanted to play it all the way through.
Strong emotional memories leave a lasting impression on me. And each one of those memories became something that I tried to replay over and over again, hoping that this time, the groove would hit just right and the song could be healed and whole.
I would hold my breath, hoping that the needle would play right through. I was hopeful, but I was never surprised when we would hit the broken spot again.
Over time, I got used to the brokenness of those scratches in our relationship. We would be in a conversation, with a pattern emerging between us, and I would recognize the rhythm as the same one that would catch. I had come to expect the catch and skip of the broken record so much that even when it would have taken just a small nudge to get the needle in the right groove, I wouldn’t even bother to try.
My husband didn’t understand why I was such a broken record. “Why are you still talking about that? It was a long time ago!” or “Why are you complaining about the same old thing all the time?”
I was replaying the record because I wanted the song of our relationship to be whole again.
Husbands write to me to ask why their wives are stuck on something that happened in their relationship so long ago. I hear from wives that their husbands refuse to address long-ago problems because the problems are in the past.
I know how frustrating it is to try to heal from a long-ago scratch in the marriage when your husband wants you to just jump ahead and finish the rest of the song.
So what can you do?
Be aware of the fact that you are replaying the event because you want to be whole again. Understanding why you are revisiting something might help you be able to talk with your husband about it or reflect on it differently. If you are bringing up the long-ago event to tell your husband why you can’t trust him, perhaps it can help to explain that this was an event that broke your trust and that part of restoring that trust is to work through it again.
Repair the broken place. It is possible to repair a broken record. It sometimes involves glue or sanding, and while it may never be the same as it was, you might be able to get it to where it stops catching on you. If your marriage has been damaged, get help in restoring it to a place of health. Get counseling. Work through the issues rather than pretend they don’t exist.
Check to see if it is you rather than the event you are remembering. Sometimes, the problem wasn’t that the record was scratched but that the needle was clogged with dust. There are some memories where I was convinced there was brokenness. When I checked myself later, though, I discovered that it wasn’t the event itself that had been the problem, it had been something in me that just needed to be cleared out like dust from a record player needle.
Learn to love the brokenness. One of my friends had a record that was scratched in one particular spot. Instead of complaining about it, we began to sing along with the scratch. The broken place became part of what we loved about the song because we had so much fun singing along. Our years of sexual disconnection were not pleasant, and we wouldn’t choose to live through them again. At the same time, though, we can appreciate the joy that has come out of that time in our marriage.
Even when you are replaying a broken record in your mind, it is possible to get back into the proper groove.
One day, perhaps you will be surprised to open your eyes and see wholeness where the broken place was.
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net