Connecting Through Adversity
“Love suffers long and is kind. . .” 1Corinthians 13:6
I would be an unfaithful writer if I didn’t write this piece. By now, I think my readers understand that a lot of “happily ever after” is not lived on the mountaintop of marital bliss, but rather in the trenches of resolving conflict. This place can feel more like death and distance than life and connection.
“Unpacking” our bags isn’t easy or fun, nor entering the wounds of our bleeding hearts. But. . .
This is essential relational ground to be covered in our “growing together” process. To avoid this ground is to remain stuck in the wilderness of “immature relating.” This is not a fun place and we want to move through as quickly as possible. The pace depends on our choices and attitudes. Surprise!
Bringing it Home
My wife, Linda, (who may or may not have read this book by the time it’s published,) told me this morning,
“It’s important to write about our failures as well as tell how it’s supposed to be,” I answered, (trying to send a non-defensive tone,)
“You haven’t read what I’ve written, I’ve illustrated a lot of our failures.”
This permits me to tell you more; I’m not “ratting anyone out,” she wants you to have it.
The Fire of Remodel
Your marriage hasn’t been through the fire until you do a remodel together. I’ve decided it’s worse than shopping for dresses with her. When you stop laughing, there’s more.
70 Times 70
No, this isn’t about forgiveness, it’s about how many times a woman is allowed to change her mind. It must be an unlimited amount for me to maintain emotional equilibrium and stay “appropriately” connected throughout the process. The verse of scripture at the top is ever before me.
I’ve modified my belief about Linda and her feelings. I’ve never seen more feelings, or time use demonstrated over the choice of tile, vanities, fixtures, or wallpaper and paint styles and colors. I’ve told her,
“Whatever you like honey, I’m fine with it.”
For some reason, that message hasn’t been enough; She wants. . .more. . .involvement. For unexplained reasons, this produces suffering in me. I want to detach and disconnect until she “figures it out,” then re-engage for the installation process, then rejoice over the results.
This hasn’t worked. Back to shopping;
Say “Yes” to the dress
Shopping with Linda for dresses in itself isn’t bad; It’s kind of romantic and fun, for the first few dresses. Then something happens to me. My blood sugar starts dropping, and I start feeling depleted, and emotionally drained. You know, that feeling where you want to take a nap? You mothers with children will relate.
A guy can only emotionally enter into the purchase of so many dresses that get put back on the rack until he starts shutting down. She can only look “beautiful” in so many of them until they all start looking the same. “Can you just pick one?”
It was bad enough before, now worse, since COVID, when they took all the chairs away. At least with a chair, you could sit down to recover. Now you’re leaning on a wall or hanging off a display rack so your knees won’t buckle.
The Internet’s Out!
You want to talk about “deeper life” in the Spirit; Unplug the internet. This is one addiction that causes immediate withdrawal when the “drug” is removed.
I am involved in a large construction project in my electrical business at the time of this writing. The customer and their family decided to continue “living” there during the remodeling process.
They have three young girls, the youngest is ten, the oldest probably thirteen. Their only salvation, crammed into this temporary “bedroom,” has been the internet. My job is to keep it connected and working throughout the process.
The other day, we cut the power to that circuit and forgot to hook it directly back up. The message came through from Mom;
“The girls said their internet has been cut.”
We went into emergency mode and restored it.
The internet went out at home yesterday. It wasn’t a good day. I should be able to fix it,
“I’m an electrician.”
I want to say;
“ *# Jim, I’m a doctor, not a magician!”
Not wanting it to be my problem, but feeling the necessity to at least put forth an effort; I put on my boots and tromp through the leftover two feet of snow not yet melted from our epic blizzard.
The dish is still up there, and I can see the wire coming down from it. I follow it around the house to where it enters through the wall to the modem. That’s as far as I can take it. Once it goes digital, I’m out.
Frustrated, Linda gets on the phone with the provider. They talk her through different “troubleshooting” steps. I hate those; They rarely work. Sure enough, no resolution. They end the call with the promise to “have it up and running” within forty-eight hours. Frustration and withdrawal increase.
Into the Marketplace
We decide to take a break, get some lunch, and run to Costco. I offer to run the car through the wash for her. The car was greasy and the back window was nearly opaque from the mag chloride they pour on the roads for the ice and snow.
Traffic was oppressive and pushy, everyone and their dog were on the road. Linda says,
“I want to drive through the one by Costco.”
It’s hard to describe the feeling in the air between us. It’s not a good feeling. It feels “ouchy,” and potentially explosive. We are both feeling “owly,” like we need a snickers bar. You want to say something, but don’t want to start a fire.
We wisely go to Chipotle and eat first. We order our food and decide to eat outside. The ice machine is broken and they have to take our cups into the back to get ice. I bring the food out to the table with the napkins, while Linda goes back to fill her drink glass.
The wind begins gusting and I watch in unbelief and dismay as the napkins systematically lift off the table and blow across the street. Time stands still as I watch them helplessly leave one by one as in slow motion betraying my reaction time.
I had made those her responsibility, she left them unsecured to blow away. Grabbing the last one before liftoff, I put my burrito on it and go back in for more. (here to serve.) It was either that or tear off half of mine. It’s mine because it’s the last one and I rescued it. I’m aware it’s taking more and more energy to stay positive and I have to try. (Love is patient and kind.) I don’t make a big deal about it.
Through the Fiery Carwash
We finish eating and return to the car. Linda drives us over to the carwash; It has gates that stay closed until you select your level of wash, then pay. Linda’s having trouble convincing it to co-operate, becoming more impatient.
I’m feeling an emotional co-dependent reaction to her impatience and immaturity. My undercurrent of judgment and requirement began back at the house and builds along with her frustration.
Several attempts at activating the wash fail, leaving the gate clamped shut before us. It feels helpless and desperate as the heat is turned up. Linda states in exasperation;
“I’ve been here dozens of times and this has never happened.”
I didn’t even try to interfere, letting her work it out. It’s hard to know when to stay silent, when to help, or when to take over. I ask a few questions but am the passenger in this case. I suggest that she push the help button. An electronic (female) voice comes on that help is on the way. We don’t believe her.
It feels like we’re stuck in that elevator when the power goes out, and you use that emergency phone, but no one’s going to come, and the building is burning down. She keeps trying., her anger building along with my judgment.
A young man shows up to help. Linda isn’t as kind to him as she should be. He graciously shows her the process of “getting in” and a receipt popped out and the gate lifted. I don’t remember any expressions of gratitude as we lurched forward. I resist control and try to relax, telling myself,
“You’re not the Holy Spirit.”
My part is to be “long-suffering and kind” towards Linda when she is being tested. (I’m being tested too.) She doesn’t need pressure from me to “grow up.” It’s easy to be codependent, then resent our partner for not acting “mature,” and get dialed-up with their impatience.
It’s harder to give them to God and extend grace towards them, staying loving and accepting throughout the process, dealing with our own attitudes of pride.
Back on Line at home
The internet started working again, so they were able to fix it remotely. It’s still a mystery what the problem was.
It’s not until the next morning, this morning, that we start unpacking the dynamic of what’s going on. We share a devotional which segues into an honest conversation and objective analysis of where we are, the dynamic we’re experiencing, and our feelings about it. We reconnect and resolve, learning our lessons the best we can, extracting the available wisdom from the experience.
The moral of the story is;
we are God’s gift to each other for support and strength in fiery times.
We need to own and accept our limitations to love and surrender together to the process to grow in love.
I need to confess my impatience with Linda’s “growth curve,” accept her with love and grace, allowing her time to struggle through without condemning or pressuring her.
She wants to do the same for me.
These “pressure cooker” times expose our immaturity and provide opportunities for both to see our pride, weaknesses, and limitations, so we can walk through them together.
Applying pressure or manipulating, are broken patterns that need forsaking.
They never motivate change or attitude adjustment. That has to come from God, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel with their attitudes.
We can express our discomfort, but not apply pressure, demanding change, or quicker growth. Abuse is another story with other rules applying.
I have to acknowledge the “beam in my own eye before I can see clearly enough to deal with the speck in hers.” Luke 6:42
The upcoming book; Hope for Happily Ever After is in the compiling-editing stage and in progress.
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Joy and peace. Dan