Don’t Be “That” Wife…
I told Benjamin I would never give up on him; that I would be here to work things out no matter how hard things got or how much it hurt. I vowed to God that I would stay with my husband, for better or worse — yes I promised these things on my wedding day, but I also vowed them a year and a half later, when my marriage was full of pain and I wanted nothing else but out. The time has come again for life and marriage to test my grit, and my willingness to stay. There is this idea I have that staying means working on things and “working on things” means that I must be doing something; if I’m not doing something then I might as well leave. Why stay here and do nothing? However, what if doing nothing is actually the answer? Certainly everything I’m doing seems nil; or only seems to be making things worse.
Most are familiar with all of the metaphors for clinging to something only to suffocate it, letting something go and if it comes back it’s yours, etc. The image that comes to my mind at this time is a hand, clutching a beautiful flower, only the closer you look, the flower is full of thorns and when you look even closer, the hand is bleeding. I liken that image to this scenario: when something you so desired, something you’ve worked so hard for and wanted all your life (like a successful marriage to your true love), begins to hurt and possibly even emotionally cripple you.
God is speaking to my heart right now and telling me to “let go,” but I don’t think He means what the world means (divorce). God is trying to tell me to “let go” and stop trying so hard. Maybe the answer isn’t more talking, more therapy, or more books; but more prayer, more grace, and more love. Less nagging, less micromanaging, less analyzing; and therefore less conflict, less worry, and less stress. Part of the letting go of my incessant need for control means realizing that my husband is an adult; and he can’t gain responsibility for our household until I give it up — I have to accept that my husband is a big boy and fully capable of making responsible choices without my direction.
Letting go of all that is wrong in my marriage and all that bothers me about my husband’s behavior does not mean not-caring, nor does it mean blindly looking the other way. It means making a healthy choice to protect my emotional boundaries, and an even healthier choice to not micromanage my spouse as if he’s a child — but rather carrying all of my marital woes to the One who can not only enact change from within my husband’s heart, but can also heal my heart and help me accept and love my husband for the imperfect human he is.
Caveat: the awareness that the control you have over a situation is an unhealthy illusion does not mean that letting go of said control is any easier to do. Difficult times tend to breed anxiety and fear; and that illusion of control serves as a temporary coping mechanism. The unfortunate part for those that have to live with you is that the anxiety and need for control have the potential to turn you into a petty and manipulative…bitch. Sorry, there’s just no better way to put it. ;)
The ironic part is that actions borne of anxiety and a manipulative need for control are often detrimental to the very outcome you’re trying to achieve. A wise woman once said “when nothing works, do nothing.” Anxiety has the potential to enact change, that’s its purpose — to hand us that message that something needs to change, and then turn around and leave. However, if you fail to be mindful of how much control you truly have over the outcome of a situation, then you run the risk of doing or saying things that are completely unnecessary and/or counterproductive.
I was at my wit’s end when I finally went to my therapist’s office. I asked her, “when am I being wise by letting things go, and when am I just avoiding uncomfortable situations and not enforcing my boundaries?” Over the course of the hour she reviewed some of my DBT skills with me by basically asking me: what is your priority: the objective of this issue, or the health of the relationship? Self-respect IS indeed a factor in considering interpersonal interactions; but as long as both parties feel heard and respected and there are healthy emotional boundaries, the objective of any issue should not be prioritized over the good of the relationship.
I began writing this article in a self-reflective state; as a wife who was disappointed and frustrated at all of my failed efforts to improve the state of my marriage. Throughout the process God revealed several truths to me. First of all, you cannot change your spouse; only He can do that. Trying to change someone through nagging and manipulating is insanity and frustration in its purest form, because it simply does not work. God did not give us such great insight into our mate’s heart so that we could nag and scold them about their shortcomings; but so that we would know how to effectively intercede for them at the feet of Jesus. Secondly, the only way to see real change in your relationship is to let go of your need for control. Praying for change in your marriage and finding ways to manage your own anxiety are much more productive ways of finding the peace and contentment that you’re trying so desperately to create with your own futile efforts.