In the early years of our marriage, communication was our biggest deterrant to happiness. I thought we totally understood one another while we dated for 2 years, but as soon as my husband returned from Vietnam, it was like we were strangers. He seemed to take everything I said and make it something other than what I was saying. And I obviously could not pick up on the subtleties of what he wanted me to take from things he said. For some reason, we had difficulty discussing anything concerning finances, household order, and timing for getting things done. We fought over absolutley everything for 20 years. I was discouraged and exasperated to the point of believing we just needed to divorce. I could not bear another year of arguing, because I was lost, to the point that I dispaired of life. I was even confused why God had not offered us some kind of help. I changed, and changed and changed myself, trying to yeild to what I thought my husband wanted me to be - so much, that I lost who I was. I buried myself in trying to be this person he seemed to think I was. I felt like he didn't love the person I really was, to the point that I hated myself. The more I prayed that God would make me the person I needed to be, the more silent God was, and I could not understand.
After a lot of reading, and learning that God was not pleased with my becoming someone other than the person he created me to be, I felt I was to a point of hopelessness. The only thing I understood, which wise people were telling me, was - to draw a line with my husband, and say: "I am not going to try to change into this imaginary person that you think I am supposed to be anymore. I am going to go back to being "me." I miss "me." I liked the me that God made.That "me" used to be happy. She was extremely happy when she met you, and she is extremely unhappy now that she has lost herself. If I am not who you thought you married, I am sorry. I am asking you to give me time to find myself and be that person again, while being the judge of who that person is, myself. YOU do not get to say who I am. Only God and I do. Then after a while, if you don't like that person, we will part. I thought that was the me you fell in love with. I don't know what happened.But I can't be the imaginary person anymore. I don't even know who she is, and I don't think you really love her either."
A huge burden was lifted for me, and I began to say, "No." more often. I learned I was being co-dependant to his anger addiction, and I wanted to break the cycle. Was I being disrespectful suddenly, and refusing to submit to my husband? No, I was asking for mutual respect, and beginning to communicate in a way that was edifying. A counselor who was helping me learn how to communicate properly, told me to always speak with a little voice in the back of my head saying, " Your husband is not a mind reader. Tell him your wants and needs." I entered this new kind of communication with trepidation, almost sure that it would fail like everything else I had tried, but oddly, I made great strides in communicating things that I couldn't get my husband to hear for 20 years. I made myself not respond, whine, speak in anger, or give in. And the marriage that I thought was surely lost -- my husband was suddenly making extremely real efforts to restore. The walls I had put up for protection, I mentally took down, with a strong warning that they would go back up again if I felt that we were moving backwards instead of forward. And I put time limits, verbal ones, for certain things to happen or change. I asked for straight forward answers to questions like: "how can I know you are genuinely going to help me make our lives together work?" I bared my soul and made certain he knew that I had become afraid of him and who he wanted me to be. I was afraid how far this tight grip on my life could go. I drew a line and made it clear that I would never cross back over that line again. I would say what I meant only once, and I would live by what I said, no wishy washy giving in, especially if he threw his weight around, or made threats. And if I didn't see results almost immediately, I was gone. He had power over me, only to do what it took to have me stay.
At first he didn't understand, but as I began to not let him draw me into arguements, or trying to defend myself, somthing happened. I began to have an inner strength. The Holy Spirit was responding too. Some things puzzled me, because they were what I always beleived but I was living what I believed in a new way, one which included communicating a strong intention to live by what I believed. My husband had been taught somewhere that female submission was something that was akin to what we see in other nations where women walk behind their men. His was a world where he could do anything he pleased, but I could not. I was to see myself as lower than him, and if I didn't, he would give me plenty of reasons to. I knew this was not the way Jesus expected me to live, and I was totally taken by surprise to see this archaic behavoir from someone whom I thought believed as I did that submission in marriage was mutual. The day I found out for sure how he thought was the day I said: "I thought you were my best friend. What happened to that?" To which he answered: " I was never your best friend. I asked you to be my lover, and I married you to cook and clean and be there when I need you. I don't want to hear your problems and feel your whiney feelings. If you want a friend, go find you a girl."
It was for that reason, that the very first thing I felt needed communicating was that I had thought I married my best friend and that I could tell him anything. That my misconception of our marriage was that he really didn't want me telling him my stuff. I felt as if my best friend had died somewhere back there and I was just now finding out. After some lengthy discussions where I made certain things that I no longer would consider acceptable in our marriage, very clear...I just prayed and stood my ground, and tried to remember who I was.
One day when I was very depressed, I had sat in the car after taking the kids to school, with no energy to even enter the house, and the sun glinted on the dew in the grass where dandelions bloomed. I felt like I was a dandelion, unloved, and was feeling sorry for myself, when the yellow in the yard began to move. I looked harder and realized that among the dandelions in the grass were dozens of goldfinch feeding on the seeds that fell from the fuzzy stage of the blooms. For an instant, I wasn't depressed, discouraged, sad, unhappy, or tired. I was exhilarated and sat there for a very long time hoping they would not leave so I could feel well for a little while longer. My counselor had recommended that I make myself vulnerable, and if and when I got my husband's attention, tell him things that were intimate to me, share my feelings completely. Knowing how he said I needed to find a girlfriend, I was scared to try, but I found an opportunity, and I told him how for just a little while I felt whole, and believed it was a gift from God, and a sign that he was pleased with what I was doing. He didn't say much, except that he just didn't understand why I was so unhappy, but he was glad I had enjoyed the birds.
When Valentine's day rolled around, I wasn't sure I wanted to play like a Valentine. But my husband insisted. I collect tins. Not many, only special ones. So my gift was a tin, a pink and white striped one, my favorite pattern. On the very center of the lid were goldfinch, and a sentiment: "To my Best Friend." Inside my favorite chocolates, and various other mementos that said: "I am listening, and I am trying", including a small love note that was more like I remembered when we were dating. Needless to say, it was the beginning of the new phase in our marriage. I will forever be thankful for a Bible concept that puts communication above submission. That says the best sacrifice is to frame how you speak to the people you love. And that it does not mean to politely, lovingly keep your mouth shut. It means to speak, saying: "This is what I believe, this is how I feel, this is how I plan to respond, this is what I need, this is what I want, this is the time frame I expect to work toward, and this is who I am, in Jesus name."
But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29
My precious Lord, I have difficulty sharing the way you gave me courage to speak firmly and quietly, without being defensive, the things that needed to be said to save our marriage. Now 20 years later, I sometimes have to remind myself how communication edifies my marriage, rather than bringing division. But let me, find better ways every day to minister grace to the hearers. Strong in what I believe, to the point of being able to speak with definitive words who I intend to be, how I intend to behave, what I will accept from another person, and why I will stop anyone who will cross the boundaries I have set. Please share this concept with a soul who finds themself lost to who they thought they were. Help them find the inner strength to do your will, and be the person you made them to be. In Jesus Name I pray, AMEN