I’m a bit more active on the blogging in this season for several reasons: 1) to see how things progress in this difficult time; 2) to check in with my sanity; 3) and hopefully, to show some progress out of the dark valley.
First, it took me a full three days to finally be able to talk, without anger (and I mean FULL days of being constantly in each other’s presence in very small areas– like 2,000 miles in the car, hotel rooms, and around our kids). There still was plenty of sadness, dare I say it, depression… and lots of prayers… but I could finally talk without being angry and nasty, while still being honest.
Having wallowed through some pretty dire and depressing thoughts over the past few days, I was reduced to groans to God of, “I don’t know what to do… tell me.”
Oh yeah, He told me. He kept giving me a verse I know well, one I used to teach students:
Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ack! God, that’s NOT the verse I want right now! I want something like, “Shame on the husband who makes his wife sad…” (there IS such a verse, isn’t there? The closest I can find is “May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and distress.”) But yeah, he’s not gloating or exalting; he’s sad too…
I also listened to a TED talk podcast I’ve kept open on my browser for MONTHS. It was about The Power of Vulnerability, and it was spot on (more on this later).
Yesterday SJ coaxed me to go to church (we are away from “home” so we often just take a mini vacation from Sunday worship, often watching the stream from our home church). I wanted to say no, but reasoned that it couldn’t hurt me. I still felt so distant from him, as ironically the verses from 1 Corinthians 7 were read and preached on (the ones about husbands and wives fulfilling their marital duties and yielding their bodies to each other). Although most of the sermon focused in on the “ministry” or state of being single, I found myself actually quietly scoffing at Paul’s words, as I put as much of a distance in the pew between my spouse and I as I dare. I think the apostle Paul is amazing, but in so many ways he does get under my skin (in good and bad ways). I know that he really wasn’t a total chauvinist, yet I still can’t read some of his epistles without bristling a little. However, what he says is always convicting, and he has quite a bit to say about marriage, husbands and wives.
On the way home SJ asked me to “forgive him.” It just came out so… so… insincerely, to my ears. Not “I acknowledge this behavior wasn’t right; do you forgive me for doing x, and I want to improve,” but sort of like a statement that expects a blanket absolution for “whatever the hell makes her mad,” and move on with a clear conscience.
Well of course as a Christian I am supposed to forgive. And as a person who doesn’t want to be poisoned by unforgiveness, I know the need to forgive, if for nothing more than my own soul. But I couldn’t say a word in response to his statement. I did feel guilty that it seemed mean of me… but he didn’t actually seem to want an “answer” per se. And of course, that made me angry again– to feel guilty for not responding with unconditional forgiveness. Feeling guilty that what I wanted to say is “No! I don’t forgive you any more. I’m out of forgiveness, you’ve used it all up!”
After another day of keeping quietly to ourselves, I realized what bugged me. Wanting to fix things, and actually committing to fixing things, are two different things. Seeking forgiveness means I put the bad behavior/actions/sin behind me, and commit to actively changing. To not do THAT again.
Later in the day, he also wanted me to watch our home church sermon. Sheez, God is persistent. The sermon series is about relationships and this one addressed the “need” for (healthy) conflict in marriages (versus sweeping things under the rug).
I prayed as I tried once again to find sleep last night, not daring to take another dose of Ambien (although I learned it would take 200 of these pills to actually overdose).
By this morning I had really had enough of the silence and impasse and inability to sleep. I asked if he wanted to talk. He readily agreed.
As an aside, he’s continuing to read the marriage books. He has articulated that he’s starting to see that he may have married with the wrong expectations (to “acquire” a smart, interesting, and attractive wife, who would make him feel happy and complete, to assuage loneliness, and to not be that pathetic old single guy); and that he perhaps has guarded his heart (because of previous hurts). These thoughts are breakthroughs, but not at all surprising to me.
I tried hard to stick to the “I feel… when you…” statements. The number one for me is that I would feel loved to know he is there to defend me, to support me, and to show he expects respect towards his wife, his woman. Since he doesn’t do this with our kids (I invoke the Biblical mandates about honor to parents), I don’t even trust him to do this at large, and this feels like such a betrayal. He cares much more about his own need to not be embroiled in unpleasantness, or God forbid, that someone won’t like him. That does not feel loving to me, nor protective. I don’t ask him to endorse anything unreasonable, just that blanket expectation that he could firmly and with conviction say, “You can’t speak so disrespectfully to your mother, my wife. It’s OK for you to disagree, but do so with honor and respect.” I don’t particularly want my kids to honor me solely out of a sense of duty (as I’ve had to with my Dad); I most certainly prefer that they honor me out of love and devotion.
We both have things to work on. It made my heart cheer a little to hear him say that he is realizing that “Our marriage is supposed to glorify God;” and “I need to do and give without expectation of return.”
I feel exactly the same way, but oh, it’s so, so, so hard to carry that off in a one-sided way. Because if you both don’t buy into this, it doesn’t really work. We need to just keep praying and giving it to God.
I cried a lot. I admitted to some really, really dark and dire thoughts. These shocked him and made him a little upset (not my intention, I told him I wasn’t saying anything for purposes of manipulation or blackmail, just that I’ve even been shocked to feel myself so hopeless). I reiterated my commitment to also read the books and renew the respect he needs (he pointed out a few moments where he felt disrespected, and I obviously have a lot of work on perceiving this better).
With our conversation, thoughts aired, and some of the pressing weight of this sadness relieved, I went out to run some errands and feel semi-normal. By the time I returned home, I realized something in my heart. Oooooo, I struggled so much to say it though! What if… what if… I can’t risk my heart being trampled…
And I went for it…
“Vulnerable. I’m going to be vulnerable…” I muttered as I walked towards him.
“Huh?” he asked in confusion.
“I hate feeling apart from you,” I said. Whoa. That is hard to say.
He hugged me, and agreed. He told me, “I’ve got you.”