Ithink we were standing outside the back door, out by the white pickup under the Big Dipper, when I turned and said it.
Said I hated him.
The dark can make you brave.
Or a fool.
But when you’re twenty-two and think you know everything, panic can tear up your chest like this howl that has to rip free.
“I hate it when you stand there all quiet.”
He kicks the ground with the toe of his boot, drives his hands deep into his Wranglers. Does he hear me at all?
“Hate how you just pull away. Hate how you always think I’m the problem and it’s never you. Hate it, hate it — hate y…”
There. There it is, spewn sick over everything. And the moment that ugliness wrenches free, I feel released — and wretched. Ill.
I want to fling that wedding band encircling my finger and everything. And I want to somehow hold on tight.
I want him to hold me tight.
He turns his back.
How in the world did we get here and so fast and isn’t this the mad dance that drives the wedded wild? For the first two years after our vows, it’s the only dance we knew.
I don’t know how many meals I ate silent, never lifting my eyes from the plate.
I do know how the dance went: a few steps and we’d rub each other the wrong way, irritation building and intimacy falling apart. I’d discuss and he’d distance. I’d rage and he’d disengage. I’d escalate and he’d escape.
Then the icy silence sets in — all this continental distance between us shifting past each other cold in the kitchen.
He’d say he had a migraine and go to bed right after dinner. I’d cry over the sink with the water running. I didn’t know that the first law of love is to listen — listen to the ache under the anger.
No English teacher ever taught me what nearly 18 years of marriage now gives credence to: Anxiety and anger, they come from the same root word.
Anxiety, it can drive anger.
And an angry voice, it can be a cry of fear.
Fears dress up as anger — why didn’t I tell him that sooner?
That’s what I had to tell him is begging behind my angry fronts: all these anxious fears–
“Are you really here for me? Do you really care? Can I really depend on you?”
Under everything, that’s what we’re all terrified of: being left and abandoned. We’re all desperate for connection and God made us for communion, for koinonia.
And whether I’m frustrated that he didn’t take the garbage out or bring the mail in or hang his coat up, whether this is about paying attention or spending money or investing in kids or budgeting time — no matter what words, or volume or tone I use, what my words are stammering to say,
“Can I really count on you? Are we connected? Do I matter to you? Will you love me? “
Please — just hold me tight.
We are always the child.
I didn’t know the research said it, but my heart already knew it: Falling in love again isn’t so much about communicating better, but about connecting deeper.
Poor communication doesn’t disconnect souls — it’s the disconnected souls who poorly communicate. When we’re well attached, we communicate well and when we aren’t fully communicating it’s because we don’t feel connected.
No matter our age, it never stops, this need to feel securely attached, and messy marriages can be because of attachment disorders. That’s what good relationships are: safe havens in the world, this base that makes us brave to venture out into the world — and safe to come home.
That’s what He made love to be: for love to bear all things. “Bears,” it’s stego in the Greek — “a thatch roof.”
Love bears all things — love literally becomes a thatch roof.
That’s what real love always is: I become a roof for you, a wing for you, a shelter in your storm.
Come to me. Count on me to hold you.
I had once choked it out in this wild desperation: “Are women really like ambulances? When we are most in need of tender care, we’re these screaming sirens? And that’s why men pull far away — getting out of the way and off the road?”
He had looked over at me. Looked into me. For a moment, we’d stood there, searching each other — waiting for someone to open a door and be a roof. “Can I count on you? Do I matter to you?”
He’d shook his head, chuckled softly — and reached over, grabbed my hand and pulled me right into him.
“So when you’re angry — it’s really this alarm? That you need care?” He tilts my chin. What if God bound us together — to help us bind up each others wounds?
I nod slowly.
“And what you really need is ER — an emotional response?” He leans his forehead against mine.
I close my eyes.
In this dark, I’m the wild fool who is safe.
And I nod and he holds me tight, his arms enfolding, these trusses all around, and together we stand under this expanse of love, fears flung far away …
5 Ways to Fight through to Love:
1. You don’t need honed communication skills —
As much as the will to connect hearts.
2. Get to the tender wounded question behind every fight:
“Can I depend on you? Do my feelings matter to you? How do you care about me? Hold me?”
3. In the anxiety that’s masking as anger, don’t up the ante
Don’t up the ante with name-calling, labels or threats of the D word (divorce).
Critical language can register in the brain as the same area as physical pain — which leaves your spouse dealing with their own pain, instead of caring for you in yours.
4. Be your spouse’s ER:
Emotionally Respond. Listen to the cries of fear behind the fighting. Hear anger as a cry for attachment, this call for connection. Have the courage in the midst of the heat to tenderly reach out and touch the bruised places. Reassure that you’ll always be there, that you care, that you’re in this together.
5. Hold each other close and long…
Love bears all things. Be a roof, a wing, a shelter in the storm.
Q4U: If you could ask anything at all about how to make a marriage work — what would you ask?
What’s the hardest thing you’ve worked through in your marriage?
What’s one thing you’d tell newlyweds now that you’ve learned the hard way?
How are you forging through to love right now? How can we pray for you today in your marriage?