Most of the time my marriage is the best thing about my life. Sometimes, however, it has been strained. Not because Tony and I are fighting, but because one of us is experiencing a dark time. Whether it’s been with our careers, outside friendships, or family issues, there have been times when one of us has been discouraged while the other is living pretty care-free. In those seasons, it is just so hard to know what to do or how to relate with each other.
I am about to share a story with you of another couple and the way they have handled this sort of imbalance. When I first read April’s story, it rang so true for me. I know I have been on her side of the fence a handful of times, but more often have been on her husband’s side as I have struggled through depression and flashbacks of childhood abuse. I just knew I wasn’t the only one who would benefit from her perspective, so today, I would like you to read her story for yourselves.
My husband has been having a rough…well, couple of years. Like most things, it’s layered and complicated but the bottom line is that he is in a place where he is miserable in many ways and doesn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. He has been feeling stuck, demoralized (at work), and like he doesn’t have much to offer. It’s led to a very long season of simply not liking life.
My couple of years, in stark contrast, have been full of invigorating projects, goals, success, challenges, worthwhile failures, and a lot of fulfillment. I love my career. I wake up thrilled. I love life. I have the best job in the world.
This season has shifted his personality. He has historically been defined by his gentle nature, giant heart, diplomacy, and playfulness. His frustration has shifted that to bitterness, anger, and apathy.
These two worlds have been conflicting lately and it’s led to my essential disconnect from our relationship. I find myself working longer and staying away, fiercely protecting my mood and keeping away from someone who will “bring me down.”
“I am going for what I want,” I said to myself. “I am being proactive. I am choosing to be happy. I don’t deserve this negativity. I don’t need to deal with it.”
Today…actually about 3 hours ago, I was speaking with my closest friend, that one you tell everything to. And I said all of those above words out loud. And I was filled with indignant anger and the confidence that since I was choosing joy, I was justified in my attitude and had every right to my happiness.
And oh, my gosh.
How my brain suddenly imploded from the sheer force of the sudden realization of what I had become lately. How deeply and quickly mourning struck my heart.
Here was my husband, the man I vowed to cherish and love, in good times and in bad. This man who has never, ever asked anything of me. Who has loved me precisely for who I am and never made me feel less than. Who will do anything I ask of him. Who puts up with me when I am the most ill-behaved human ever. Here he is going through a tremendous season of brokenness- and here I am talking about what I don’t deserve and essentially removing my support from him
I am ashamed to say that this only hit me three hours ago.
For a man like him, whom everyone knows to be full of love and endearing awkward social graces, for a man like him- famous for his warm, all-encompassing hugs. For a man like him to exude anger and frustration- what must that have taken?
What does it take to push someone that far? Might it be incredibly painful and difficult and relentless? It seems it would take a lot to alter someones personality that much. And if that’s the case, if it has been a long, dull, throbbing existence of unhappiness- then I have been a piss-poor example of how to be a partner through it.
He’s living under the blankets and not wanting to come out. I am dancing through life and telling him he should join me and that if he won’t, then I’m going to do my own thing.
When really, what I need to do is to crawl under there with him and cuddle up and make it clear that I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. Because God knows: he would do that for me in a heartbeat.
This is not the time to discuss enabling. This is a season, not a forever-thing. We will be married for a very, very long time, and no doubt I will also have valleys, maybe worse than this, and I can only hope he will show mercy in and love me through it.
And so dear husband: I am sorry. I am sorry that I’ve been conditional. I am sorry that I was so selfish that my happiness meant more than what you are feeling right now. I believe that you are the most brilliant, loving human being on earth. I know that this is just a season and that you’re going to find your way again.
April MacLean is a business owner, mom, wife, mass consumer of caffeine. After years of living in an abusive home, moving through foster care, and clawing her way back to life, she is now the proud owner of an amazing dance studio in southern California and is a freelance writer and leadership coach for women. You can find her words on life, leadership, and occasional nonsense at www.aprilmaclean.blogspot.com
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