And I don’t understand his.
The other day I stood at the foot of my bed, folding clothes, making decisions.
We work together, parent together, sleep together. And yet, in all our busy-ness, we weren’t communicating.
How do two people occupy the same space and not see each other? What was my right to demand and what was his? I knew what I was giving and I could, generally, communicate what I wanted. But what did I need?
Love isn’t about meeting your own needs but about being available to meet the needs of the one who is the receptacle of your love.
I decided to die to myself. To let go of my laundry list of requirements for what it meant to be loved.
It’s not an easy process, this dying. I spent a few weeks withdrawing. Going quiet. Until the last, faint echoes of “Why can’t he see me dying!!!” faded into a quiet resignation. And moments of reflection on the many good things, the multi-faceted blessings, the consistency of this man took their place.
I am intense. When I love, I do so without reserve. I am affectionate to those who hold my heart and I pursue them. I engage them. I overwhelm them, sometimes.
In my intensity, I can despise a love that is more gentle, tender.
On Sunday I stood again folding laundry and thinking. My husband walked in. Quiet. Again. He’d noticed the change in me. Didn’t know how to respond. Thought I was angry. Plotting his demise.
“I’m not mad at you, y’know.” I said.
His raised eyebrows indicated he didn’t know if that was truth.
I began to talk of the thoughts which had filled my heart. In an even tone. Without histrionics.
And he listened.
“I don’t want behavior from you that is manipulated. I don’t want you to do or be anything other than who you are. I am struggling with our ‘new normal’ and how busy we’ve become, that’s true. But I am so thankful for you and all you are doing for our family and just for the amazing person I get to be married to that I can’t hold onto these unrealistic expectations. Sure, I want you to do *insert list of desires here* and all those things would make me feel better. But if those actions come from a place of pacifying me? They fall flat. I want from you whatever it is that you want to give. And I realize I need to learn your language. Instead of always demanding that you learn mine.”
At first he couldn’t understand what I was saying. I’ve always had expectations, clearly stated lines of what is and isn’t acceptable. And then the light dawned.
I gave him the freedom, wholeheartedly, to work within his own frame.
A luminous moment in my good marriage. A precious knitting of hearts.
I married a good man. A kind man. A man worthy of respect. But still a man. Flawed and in desperate need of grace.
Just as I am.
When the realization hit that I was truly committed to this change it was as though a load lifted from his shoulders.
My vision cleared. My heart re-opened.
We continue on in this journey called marriage. 17 years and counting.
And half the time I still feel like I am scrambling in the dark.