I have talked before about making the first step towards reconciliation. Now we take one step deeper. Andrea and I started off on some pretty rocky footing. We both were trying to find our way, figure out what marriage was all about, and make sure we didn't lose ourselves in the process. I was very angry at the world and Andrea was very much a wide eyed girl. She had her issues to be sure but she was not ready for the way I handled problems. I immediately became dominant and for many years crushed her voice. We lived half way across the country from her family and she was isolated and stuck with my family. She learned to stuff things in and pretend that what she thought was wrong, not worth arguing about.
Skip to now. We have been through some MAJOR life changing times. Friends dying, losing a job after 20 years, moving across country and more that I am sure I left out. I have spent the last couple of years getting up after taking a few blows to the chin. During this time I have gone through a depression. The kind where I just didn't want to do anything, and didn't. She wound up carrying most of the burden of having a family and bringing in income. In the past several months I have made quite a bit of improvement and am climbing out of my depression.
What's the point you ask. As I become clearer headed and less fragile, Andrea is feeling all the stuffed emotions from the last 18 years. Ironically I am more understanding and helpful than I have been most of our marriage. She is now almost safe enough to let it all out. As I have said many times, I am deeply in love with my wife. I am faced with a choice. I can defend and claim how right I have been, how wrong she has been or how if she would have done better I wouldn't have been all the things I was, or I can listen to her grief and anger with understanding. I happen to be able to listen. Where it came from I don't know. When she relives the hurt or feels new hurt from me, it gets to me. I just don't like it. Not because it is harsh or has some bad timing. I don't like seeing her in pain and know that I played a large part in it. It does get to me listening to how I did something that caused pain I never knew was there.
I have started to do some simple things that sometimes are nearly impossible. When she is upset I try to get close and touch her (I will talk about touch in another post). I ask her what is wrong instead of making her work up the courage to say something. I listen (mostly) to what she is saying. Some of the things she brings up
I never knew about. I get hurt feelings but I try not to lay blame that is a downhill tactic. I have tried to stop saying "I understand, but". I haven't given up my opinions, desires, tantrums, or feelings. I have
stopped being such a dick about things.
The truth is that we have both had bad behavior in our marriage. I don't think that this is the time for me to take over and be more hurt than she is. It is my turn to be as supportive as I can and give her someplace in our marriage to vent her pain and frustration. Many marriages don't survive under the same circumstances. Too often we drive our spouse elsewhere to deal with their pain. Sometimes we need friends to talk too. It gets sticky if our friends aren't on the same page. Most of our friends hate seeing us hurt and hate the inequity they see. Sometimes they hate it alot and offer advise about distancing from each other.
I really don't want that. I may well deserve it, but I don't want it. If I cannot be there for her then I am pushing her away. Pride is a dangerous thing and after being together so long I really have no good reason to withhold love and affection from her. Except fear. She hasn't expressed any desire to be away or out, but I know that these challenges are worth overcoming. Memories are long, and you don't brush them away with a wish or a few good deeds. I am in for the long haul for however long it takes. In the back of my head I still battle fear. Have I made too many mistakes, have I broken her spirit. Time will answer those questions.
My advise..... When they are hurt, be that friend they turn to for support and healing. It may sting but it is well worth it.