I grew up in a home with four women – my grandmother, my mother, my older sister and me. My grandfather died when my mom was a teenager, leaving my grandmother to raise her four children by herself as an art teacher in the public school system. My mother divorced when she was 40, leaving her to raise her then 12 and 8 year old daughters on her own. Needless to say, it was a home full of independent, determined women blazing their own trails.
When I was first married, I remember the suffocating feeling when I got home from work that there was another person in my space the instant I arrived. I had lived on my own for years and had gotten used to my own space, my own schedule and my own mess. I always thought I was a people person, but realized my soul needed space to breathe by itself. As time went on and I became a stay-at-home mom of three littles, I got more used to sharing space, schedules and messes with my family, but the battle to mesh two lives together grew and the thoughts in my head of “he’ll just live his life and I’ll live mine” multiplied. Sharing anything more than our space became a chore and doing it all on my own seemed so much easier.
Most of my life, I have fought a fear of abandonment, making being vulnerable and dependent upon others a difficult struggle. I can remember getting hurt by someone and immediately the walls going up and my heart closing down, shutting myself off from the potential risk of hurt that intimate relationships can bring. That fear coupled with my natural tendency to be independent and self-sufficient in most things, left mine and my Keith’s marriage in jeopardy of distant, cold co-existence that shared the same address and last name, but little else. It wasn’t an angry or bitter existence, it was just easier. But when I decided in my heart to do my own thing, let him do his and meet him intermittently along the way, our opinions, schedules and goals started to conflict and I quickly resented that he thought he had some say in the way I did my days and he became the enemy I had to fight against to get my own way.
And resentment is a fabulous building block to walls around our hearts that were never meant to be there.
I once read a version of 1 Corinthians 13 that included this…
Love always believes the best about others
It was at a time when I started to wonder if my Keith and I were going to make it. I don’t remember actually contemplating divorce, but rather a divide that would soon be irreparable as he went his way and I went mine. My heart hurt because I longed so deeply to have an intimate connection with him, but my independent, selfish and determined habits were standing in the way of that kind of vulnerability.
So one day I began to pray “Lord, may I believe the best about my Keith”. That was it. Honestly it was really all I could muster up.
I don’t remember if it happened quickly or not, but I remember over time there being moments when he would do something I received as hurtful and time would almost skip a beat making room for the thought “maybe he didn’t mean that to be hurtful” to skim across my mind before I had a chance to respond. So, I would ask him. And more often than not, he had no idea that what he had said or done was hurtful. It helped me see the best in him and remind me he wasn’t the enemy.
Once I began to see the best of my Keith, I found myself leaning into him instead of away from him. I remember wanting to share my days with him again. To talk to him again. To be friends with him again. Marriage can oftentimes be a complicated juggling act of so many roles, responsibilities and seasons. And I was great at going through the motions of all the demands without ever allowing myself to feel much. Until I found myself really liking him again.
And then I found I needed him.
Admitting that you need another person is scary. It flows in the opposite direction of an “I’m good and can do it by myself” attitude. Needing another person invites vulnerability and risk of great pain.
But giving him the gift of telling him that I need him, that I would be broken without him, is a place where my heart can rest in the connection we had missed for so many years of my independent determination. It wasn’t something he could ever ask for – it was only something I could give him.
And I have to keep choosing to give him these gifts everyday. When he says something that hurts my feelings, I have to choose to believe the best about him and ask him about it if the icky feeling doesn’t go away. When the selfish, independent habits creep in, I get to choose vulnerability to need him and embrace the sweet connection that comes along with it.
“The raw vulnerability of untempered love. Of that handful of people who hold your heart – skinned alive – and could slay you with their absence. Untempered love is terrifying. But what’s life if we never love others past the rational sensibilities of our self-protection?” – Beth Moore, Entrusted
I’d love to hear what gifts have you chosen to give your husband that may have been hard but brought you closer to that kind of untempered love. If you need courage to give a difficult gift and you’d like to leave a comment below, I’d love to stand with you in prayer for your brave to rise up!
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