There are many days that being married, or rather staying married is the most challenging thing that I do. This is still true after 24 years of marriage, no less so than it has been in all of the years of my marriage. The conflicts revolve around the same issues and although we often succeed in living them differently, when the wounds are opened again, and usually with just a single thought, the thorns cut a bit deeper.
Recently, I took a leap and tried to get my husband to see the places where he is unable to connect and extend himself for our kids. There is almost no language available to us in this discussion that does not provoke his defensiveness. Any way I broach the topic, all he can hear is a shrill pitch in my voice; His guardedness setting my tone a notch higher.
Before our four children, we had the same arguments of my incessant planning around his availability and his distancing, internal focus which for so many years felt personal. I couldn’t get for decades that it had nothing to do with me.
As we had and raised our children, my need for connection was generally saturated with raising them. I planned and carried out our family plans and he would be present as he chose- the arguments about his showing up to the basketball and soccer games, the school plays and science presentations waned. It was an argument that never shifted anyone’s ground and only dug the ditch deeper between us.
So I was caught off guard when it came up again around my eldest son’s state tennis match. I am used to dropping my own plans for my kids’ events and even re-arranging a list of activities for the other kids, but something about the importance of this event that didn’t even strike him, sent me off over the precipice, the one that only takes one thought to slide into a deep abyss. It is a dark hole that deepens over time, requiring more effort each time to shake the old resentments that harden my heart into a hateful place.
If you have ever seen the Star Trek series with Jean Luc Picard’s struggle to become human after he is taken over by the Borgs. That is what the emotional precipice of life is for most of us. In almost no time, our own heart is unrecognizable and the easy advice that I give all the time of holding what is most loveable and what is most un-loveable side by side feels impossible. Worse still is that I can barely discern my feelings of the moment for the truth of my life. The darkest parts of how I feel can easily feel like the truth I have been hiding from myself.
Even as I gain glimpses of balance and my better sense of all that works in my life tries to regain control, the dust and grime from that nasty slide hang on. I feel ashamed at the capacity for meanness and unkindness that I hold. I re-learn how much work it takes to love and that the only way to find balance comes at the moment you realize that your unkindness has nothing to do with anyone else. It is yours alone.
Claiming my darkness and letting the other person off the hook is in fact the only way back to recapturing your heart. The act of self-loathing transformed into self forgiveness is the key that makes forgiveness of others possible. My husband will never be a strong communicator/connector and yet the only way he will ever get better at it is from a place of being loveable and acceptable in how he can connect and communicate right now.