“So here’s a glimpse into the dark. A glimpse into a marriage under pressure.
I’ve not been writing. I’ve not known where to start or where it might end. Will I write myself to relief or will I write myself to a paralyzing halt? I can’t believe that relief will be the outcome, and I’d rather have the stumbling movement which is currently mine than a frozen to the spot state brought about by seeing in words what it is that I am living with right now. I have also been hesitating to expose the real, but once more I have been reminded that by telling my story and revealing my shadow self I can allow you to share the shadow side of your stories. I really believe that it’s through sharing the shadows that we can become whole. So….I’m just going to throw all the words up in the air and I will see how they land.
My husband and I have spent the past year expending all the energy, commitment and determination that we have had, on working out how to stay married. How to love each other despite everything that is different between us. How to be the family we want to be. How to encourage and enhance each other. How to forgive each other for past neglects and hurts, misunderstandings and thoughtlessness. How to step forward.
But right now we are facing additional pressures. People talk about being under stress in marriage and perhaps it can be hard to imagine what that bland phrase looks like and feels like, so I’m going to share some of our experience of that phrase.
It’s not necessary to name the extra burdens we are currently carrying, but I liken them to monsters which have come into our family life. Some of them have been around for a while and others have recently arrived. These monsters come in the form of illness or financial strain or many other guises. The important thing to recognise is that monsters don’t assimilate. They place demands and they frighten and they hurt.
And along with managing the monsters, we are still trying to manage all the normal day to day pressures. The children. The full time jobs. The wider family commitments. The house work and cooking and shopping and tidying up. The parts of the house that need care and attention and just a coat of paint would be an improvement. The bills to be paid.
So how do two flawed individuals who have convenanted to be together handle all of this?
We have had some fantastic times in the past 6 months, but right now? We are both exhausted. We have reverted to our unhelpful, diametrically opposed ways of coping and communicating. We are pushing each other away rather than finding ways to strengthen each other through this. When we try to talk about anything it is as if we are speaking different languages, and the effort of communicating is so great that we stop trying. A few days ago my husband seemed to want to avoid me. I interpreted that to mean that he was angry / resentful / generally fed up with me. In fact it transpired he was upset because due to altered arrangements we weren’t going to have the time together which he had anticipated. In other words – he was upset because of how much he likes me; not the opposite as I had thought.
When under pressure my desire for efficiency becomes even stronger than usual and I want to talk and be understood in short hand. I become frustrated if I have to explain things which I think should be automatically understood. I mis-read every comment and well intentioned behavior. I assume malign intent where there is none.
When I write this I see that it’s because both of us are hurting. We want someone to take away the hurt, and we can’t do that for each other because we’re both already carrying it all.
Is any of this familiar to you? Isn’t this just the human condition? This is why we need God. Who can I ask to carry my hurts; who is big enough for the burden?
I’m not about to call time on this marriage . We will keep going. I hope that we will keep practicing the things we do know how to do – like being patient, treating each other kindly, taking care of each other, and in doing so, God will somehow take care of the other things – things like enabling two seemingly incompatible people to provide a secure place from which their children can move into their own lives, because at the moment that is what I want above all else.
Today this verse is my ‘strength-giving, get me through another day’ truth and I hope that it will be yours too.
‘God who has called you is faithful and He will do it’ ”
1 Thessalonians 5 v 24
I wrote that six weeks ago.
I write this morning at the end of a week where the monsters became bigger and more terrifying. One of them turned life threatening.
And I want to take a moment to record that it was grace that allowed us to see our weaknesses in glaring technicolour six weeks ago in order that we could talk about how to keep going; in order that we could agree to extend grace and kindness and tolerance and understanding towards each other. It was grace that enabled me to see that we were carrying so much, and that I needed to give myself a day of tears where every part of me felt the pain. It was those things, that have enabled us to bear witness to the monster raging in our lives from a place where today we are giving each other strength, rather than knocking each other over.
This morning, at communion we sang these words. They explained to me what’s been happening.
In these weeks of difficulty ‘present too has been love which tends the hurt.’
We cannot measure how you heal
or answer every sufferer’s prayer,
yet we believe your grace responds
where faith and doubt unite to care.
Your hands, though bloodied on the cross
survive to hold and heal and warn,
to carry all through death to life
and cradle children yet unborn.
The pain that will not go away,
the guilt that clings from things long past,
the fear of what the future holds
are present as if meant to last.
But present too is love which tends
the hurt we never hoped to find,
the private agonies inside
the memories that haunt the mind.
So some have come who need your help,
and some have come to make amends,
as hands which shaped and saved the world
are present in the touch of friends.
Lord, let your Spirit meet us here
to mend the body, mind and soul,
to disentangle peace from pain
and make your broken people whole
John L. Bell and Graham Maule
© The Iona Community
Today I am linking with Lisha Epperson and the #givemegrace community. Lisha’s weekly posts and the givemegrace linkups are one of my favourite things about Sundays . Do visit her blog and see for yourself.