A journey doesn’t always go forward.
Before I began this journey of transforming our marriage, the arguing was frequent. The tension was constant. I went years without feeling even a moment of peace with my husband. One comment or question with the wrong wording or timing would set the other one off, and there we would go again.
As our marriage has changed over the past three years, we have argued less and less. We still disagree about things, but we just don’t argue. In fact, this past weekend we talked about the fact that neither one of us could remember the last time we’d fought.
We can’t say that anymore. On the way home from an errand last night, I was reporting to him what my doctor had said about how I can approach weight loss. I was expressing frustration, and he wanted to tell me how to lose weight. I responded with “I’m not done talking about how I felt about the doctor yet,” he said that I was trying to control the conversation, and before I knew it, we were having an argument.
Sitting in the same room all evening, we exchanged little more than small talk for most of it. Lying in bed next to my sleeping husband hours later, I still felt incredibly agitated. All the feelings from the difficult years of our marriage flooded back into my heart and body. I remembered what it was like to believe that my feelings didn’t matter and that my heart was irrelevant.
I woke up at 4 this morning, surprised to find myself full of tears. My husband woke up, held me, and tried to comfort me–but I realized that body image was now part of my tears. In all our years together, my husband has never, ever, ever made a comment about my weight or indicated that he sees me as anything other than beautiful. But last night, simply in saying that he wanted to give me advice, I heard a criticism.
All our culture’s messages about women’s bodies slammed into me, even though I knew that my husband’s desire to share a weight loss approach came out of his need to lose weight, not his thoughts about me. Knowledge does not always lead me to the right feeling.
Sexual attention has become a comfort for me, so that is how my husband tried to comfort me this morning. I found myself yanking my nightgown down to cover my stomach and trying to pull the covers over myself. I was able to recognize what I was doing even as I was doing it, but I still did it.
It would be so easy to let all these feelings pull me down and back into habits of gate-keeping–lights off, covers on, and wearing full-armor sweat pants and t-shirt to bed in hopes of deflecting his sexual attention.
Sometimes I travel this journey by leaps and bounds, and other times, it’s a matter of two steps forward, one step back.
Regaining ground gets easier as I travel further along in this journey. Three years ago, barely a month into my efforts to change, I would have seen this as a sign that it wasn’t worth the effort. Now, however, I know that I just need to take a deep breath and keep on moving.
It is so easy to feel discouraged and to let that discouragement interfere with our progress. Those moments are when we most need to be intentional and thoughtful. These are the times we take deep breaths, tell ourselves we can do it, remind ourselves how much better things are, and pray for perseverance.
As I dressed this morning, I intentionally chose my sexiest bra. It is my husband’s favorite. Every morning when I go downstairs, he asks me what I’m wearing underneath my clothes. I showed him. The huge smile on his face was a balm on my spirit.
And I knew that I was back on track.