I was visiting with an old friend of mine the other day (who recently moved away and came back into town for a few days), and we were going through the bullet points—new location, house, kids, activities, work, husband, etc. One thing I really appreciate about her is her honest assessment on things. For example, a few years ago, after my divorce, she came to me and told me she was struggling with her relationship with her husband. “I’m not happy,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about divorce and wanted to get your perspective.”
Oh boy, my perspective. Those of you who know me well know that I believe in marriage and staying together. I believe that if both parties are willing to dig in and get help—with a willingness to evaluate their dysfunctions and work toward making positive changes and really pursue healing through counseling and faith—that there is hope for ANY couple. Whenever I talk about this the subject of emotional or physical abuse comes up and that is a much more serious and deeper topic. But what I’m saying is that there is hope for those who want it. We live in a time where mental health issues are acknowledged and professional help is near. And you all know I am an advocate for relentlessly pursuing that avenue. I am the poster child for those who are broken and in need of assistance.
So I shared with my friend that although I was on a path to healing, I didn’t feel that this was the original intended path. I shared that it’s hard not to see your kids half the time, and it’s not natural to try and be a mom and a dad when you’re with them. Bottom line is that it’s not plan A, it’s plan B. I knew that her husband loved her deeply, he just struggled with the communication and execution aspects (lol, yes I realize these are big categories). I told her that if there was any way they could work it out, I would highly recommend staying together to give it a valiant effort.
When she came back to town I was very interested in how things were going because honestly, I care about them as a couple. She started her response with this comment, “He’s 70% great. If he were 50% or 60% I don’t think we would make it but fortunately he’s got a lot of great in him.” This statement out of context is actually quite shocking. I mean who wants to be evaluated on the “great” scale and find out they barely made the cut with a C average. This discussion with her husband would be very wounding, but I immediately understood what she was saying: I’m married to a really great guy but we don’t have a good marriage. Despite that, I’m choosing to stay and make the best of it.
Then she took it a step further. She shared that she had made a decision to change her perspective. Her biggest complaint was that she didn’t have a soul-mate, that her husband couldn’t connect with her on a deep soul-level. But instead of shutting down and saying, “You don’t get me so I’m not going to even try,” she chose to press in. She told me that she’ll speak to him as if he gets her and she’ll pour out her heart and then say, “This is where I’m at.” She just went through a really tough season where her dad was battling stage 4 cancer. She advocated for him and even received a trial drug grant (the drug worked!), and now her dad is doing well. When she was going through all of this, she shared her heart with her husband and then ended with, “I feel like I’m going to break down.” Her husband’s response was amazing. “Just tell me how I can support you,” he said. “I’ll do anything to help.”
How many times do we punish people for not reading our minds and knowing all the answers? In the past my friend would have shared her struggles and then expected her husband to put the pieces of the puzzle together and interpret its meaning. The problem is that he doesn’t know how to do that. And it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. So instead of resenting him, she changed her approach. In this case she was essentially saying, “Here’s how I’m feeling and I’m about to collapse. Can you help me?” He is no longer baited by her trick questions, but given the opportunity to be supportive without having all the answers.
I walked away from my conversation with her thinking about how proud I am of the two of them. And how much I learned talking with her and listening to her process her growth. These relationships we get to enjoy on earth are pure gold.
And speaking of gold, at Bible study this week my leader, Nicole Rowell (a dear friend of mine who I completely adore) shared one of her favorite sayings. When we interact with people, let’s think, “There you are,” instead of “here I am.” My friend is walking that out with her husband, day by day, interaction by interaction. I’m letting that marinade this week…and trying to impart this to my boys.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.