A couple of months ago my husband turned into a man I had never seen.
Changes were being made at work, and he was stressed out in a way I had not witnessed before. My normally patient and conscientious husband was suddenly withdrawn most of the time, and short-tempered with me and the kids the rest of the time.
I say all this not talk badly about the man I love, but to share what I learned during those trying few weeks.
(And before you come for me in the comment section, this has been thoroughly discussed, and my husband has given me his blessing to share in hopes that our struggle may help someone else.)
My husband is a romantic. A provider. A peacemaker. A fixer. The silly parent. The fun one.
Unnaturally even tempered. I, on the other hand, have big feelings that bang around like pots and pans without a lot of warning. Any given day my husband can come home from work to find me having a dance-off with the kids, or in tears over the stove as I heat up leftover spaghetti.
I have never been able to hide my emotions. I work hard. I do my best to parent with intentionality. I organize our lives and give every bit of myself day after day, but I can also be a high maintenance wife.
Sometimes I need a good cry because the girl in my head and the girl walking around in body are rarely the same person. I am a bit drama-prone. Don’t feel too bad for my husband, I have been this way as long as he has known me. He knew what he was signing up for, and so did I. As long as we have been together, this has been who we are.
To see my husband suddenly abandon his role as the fun parent who cooks breakfast and sneaks in fart jokes with the boys while they think mom isn’t listening, was jarring. To hear him become the grumpy dad who yells for quiet and to stop running in the house, was shocking.
For as much time as I spend freaking out at night, every single morning I am a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of girl. Even if you don’t feel like it, you need to check off your to-do list and make the most of the day.
As a sensitive and enlightened woman, I took it upon myself to fix my husband. To help him snap out of his funk.
I engaged a list of super helpful taking points, like reminding him how much other people’s lives sucked even more than his. At least you have a job! Change your perspective, change your life!
That doesn’t work on my kids, and it turns out it also didn’t work on my husband.
I would try to use reverse psychology to convince him he was handling stress well. I would tell him how proud I was of him for working hard and for staying the course, but even as the words came out of my mouth I could hear how condescending they sounded.
That’s all I’ve got. Our communication styles are opposite. A therapist once told us that, but in my frustration and in my anger all of the other stuff she told us escapes my mind. When someone shuts down, I don’t know the next move.
Silence is painful, and for me to feel disengaged is more upsetting than a screaming match to my extroverted heart.
So, I did the healthy thing. I out-performed him in his bad mood act. I shut down even more. I went out with the girls. I stayed on Facebook and Instagram at night until I passed out from sheer exhaustion. I didn’t greet him with a hug after work. I rolled my eyes at his comments like a teenager whose dad didn’t even love her enough to buy her a brand new Mercedes for her Sweet Sixteen. I was a brat.
Turns out, that wasn’t productive either. My effort to force him to see a replica of how he was acting was lost in translation and made the situation worst.
My husband didn’t need a lesson or a lecture, he needed a partner to stand strong by his side and be dependable when so much around him felt shaky.
His identity is wrapped up in his ability to provide for his family. So much of who he is outside of this house. I can’t fully understand it, but I can fully support it.
So, I tried something radical.
I acted like a mature adult, and stood by his side. After 11 years of marriage, you would think I would have learned this lesson, but here I am still learning.
I made a choice not to resent him for his bad mood. Surely, one day (probably next week) I will have days where I am not in a great mood. Hopefully, my husband and family will extend me grace and not meet me with bitterness.
I cooked dinner. I planned a date night. I brought him coffee in the middle of the day. What a gift that such simple acts can remind my husband that I am here and that I love him. I dropped the lectures and let him vent. I placed my hands on his back before he woke up every morning and prayed for him.
I came to the realization that it was not in my job description to fix him.
He isn’t broken.
I can’t demand a Stepford husband when I’m sure as heck not a Stepford wife.
He doesn’t want a therapist or a life coach, he just wants his partner. He wants the dependability and comfort of the woman he loves standing strong when life is shifting.
He slowly snapped out of his funk. Not because of anything I did, but probably in spite of it.
As women, we are in charge of so much. There are so many things that we can fix. So much we immediately know the answer to. Where the social security cards are kept. What makes our child calm down when they are anxious about school. What to cook for dinner that everyone will eat.
There is also a lot we will never be able to fix for our families- broken hearts, disappointment, growing pains and fractured relationships. We will never be able to make life easy for our family, but it is so hard not to try. It is hard not to take it personally when our loved ones act outside of their norm.
But, in the end, we are not equipped to fix anyone. We are simply equipped to love and to remain steadfast in our commitments to each other.
I have a friend that recently told me, “We are all three bad choices away from a Jerry Springer Episode.”
Sorry Apostle Paul. Sorry Socrates, but this may be the truest thing I have ever heard.
Life is a lot of hard work and planning with bouts of joy and fun mixed in. Life is balance. Life is not getting sidetracked or overwhelmed to the point of giving up.
Marriage is the idea that both people can do all these things. Forever. Marriage is two people making one big production of promises on their wedding day, followed by a lifetime of smaller unspoken promises. We will love each other even when life doesn’t look like we want it to.
We will face hard times together. We will share responsibilities. He will take out the trash. I will be in charge of the kid’s activities. He will provide for us. I will keep our family on course.
Marriage is the idea that two people understand and have the same concept of these roles and unspoken vows. Marriage is the hope that neither individual changed their minds about who they are and who they promised to be.
One bad thought leads to a bad choice which can lead to a series of destructive decisions. We have all seen normal people, normal couples go from Brady Bunch to Jerry Springer.
Marriage is the miracle that in spite of all the growing and changes and bad choices, sometimes people still end up together in their old age.
Marriage is love renewing itself and evolving to keep from becoming extinct.
Marriage is a choice to love, even on days that loving doesn’t come easy.
Marriage is messing up over and over, and still finding grace for your spouse.
Here’s to hoping we all stay just a little closer to The Brady Bunch side of the spectrum, or at least a nice Married With Children/Modern Family compromise, but never ever find ourselves in a Jerry Springer phase of marriage.