Where I live, tree roots spend the winter in a state of dormancy. They are resting, not actively growing. Still, they are ever-ready to resume their growth and absorb water when the ground temperature rises above freezing. Essential processes will recommence when the season is right.
Looking out my living room window right now, I see trees that are bare. The winter cold and the shortened days stripped them of the leaves that make them look so alive in the spring and summer. I know, however, that stretched beneath the ground, where I cannot see, are roots that continue to hold the tree steady. Sufficient water (and maybe a good layer of mulch) during the rest of the year have prepared these trees to withstand a Wisconsin winter and then flourish again in the spring.
A few weeks ago, I shared with you that my husband and I were rocked by some developments with someone we love.
We continue to walk a difficult path. Nearly every day is a challenge, and we know it’s going to be like this for a while yet. We also have every reason to expect that things will improve over time. While that is a comfort, we still need to weather a storm before we arrive at that point.
I’m struggling. I function well enough, but even basic functioning requires more physical and mental energy than it typically does. I’m not sleeping. I’m not eating well, either. I’m feeling “meh” about lots of stuff. I feel just as dormant as the trees outside do as I maintain essential life processes and little else.
Big Guy and I are not at our best right now. We make assumptions about the other’s words and actions, and we’re quick to react. We are also making an effort to be more understanding of our own and the other’s less-than-gracious behavior.
Every day I sit at the computer and try to write a blog post; every day it just falls flat. It’s hard for me to think about having anything to offer anyone when I’m wrapped in my own bubble of grief and pain and worry.
My marriage, thankfully, is a sanctuary during this time.
People who know us well have commented on how our marriage looks now. They can see that we are happy with each other. We’re content in our relationship. Things are easy between us. We laugh a lot.
That’s all the stuff you can see on the surface. I’m glad people can see that we’re thriving—but we are thriving only because so much of the growth in our marriage in recent years has been in the roots and not just in the branches or leaves.
Others see signs of life in our marriage only because we worked on the fundamentals that hold our marriage in place. We’ve worked on the kinds of things that help build a relationship: communicating, praying, meeting each other’s needs and desires, and trying to live out 1 Corinthians 13.
Our relationship is far more grounded than it was for many years. It is more stable. It is better able to withstand this temporary storm that surrounds us at the moment.
Working to become a better partner in our marriage was hard. Undoing years-long habits of thought and behavior was a mountain of frustration for me. I was easily discouraged, I failed more than I succeeded for months, and then even once I got better, I was frustrated that my husband was still operating from the patterns of behavior that he had learned in response to me.
For a long time, every change I made was for my husband: I worked on sex, I worked on respect, and I worked to change my attitude.
I frequently wondered what I would ever get out of all the work I was doing. For a long time, I felt like I was the only one watering and mulching our marriage—and it was all for my husband.
In years past, a far lesser storm than the one we face now would’ve rocked our marriage and possibly knocked it down. We lacked so much of what a marriage needs to thrive and grow: mutual trust, an understanding that we were loved, and the knowledge that expressing our need for connection would elicit a response of loving connection rather than a rejection at a time of vulnerability.
When we were each hurting and vulnerable, we walled the other out. We isolated ourselves from each other at the time we most needed the stability of a good marriage.
Now, during a time of hurt, instead of isolating, we unify.
Because we nourished the roots of our marriage then, those roots are able to hold us up now.
The Wisconsin winter trees outside my window have roots that hold them strong and steady during this time of dormancy in the face of winter cold and storms.
My marriage has grown good roots, too, and I can see what a difference the watering and mulching has made.
Big Guy and I reach toward each other, finding strength, safety, and solace in our marriage.
Our roots are what help us hold on to each other, and it’s holding on to each other and God that keeps us holding on.
In order to deal with the storm currently surrounding us, I am slowing things down here on the blog just a bit. It won’t be quite to the point of dormancy, but it is likely to be noticeable so I thought I’d let you know that I am doing this intentionally in order to take care of the people I love.