My heart is heavy as I sit down to type this. I do not know how to relate to you this story, nor do I feel joy in its telling. But I feel this is the story I need to tell today; the real, the visceral pain I’m living is the story, the only story I have for you. Please accept this love offering.
I’ve never been an exemplary husband. That’s not self-deprecation, but a stated fact. I’ve failed in that role time and again, but my real failure was convincing myself that I could and would somehow overcome this shortfall too.
To put it in blunt, non-churchy terms, I failed to pursue continuing to romance my wife, show her how special she was and is, to live with her in an understanding, non-judgmental and non-defensive way, and to cultivate a safe environment for the mutual building of our collective faith experience as husband and wife becoming one. I am not proud of these facts.
Daily, I’ve dealt with self-loathing over these words. Today, I must continue to actively remind myself not to hate myself for this. It’s a real struggle. But do not feel sorry for me, please.
I have spent the past nearly three years hurting my wife deeply, again and over again. Each time I let her down and the subsequent disappointment was a direct hit to my confidence; failure became my identity — or should I say failure became my full identity.
I am a failure, as I’ve come to believe this my name. I should have gone to Social Security and accepted legally what had, in reality, become my existence. Though, I did not stop trying.
One of my primary strengths is identifying problems and fixing them. I’m highly introspective and have employed this fixing internally much of my life with general success. I’ve employed this at work and in relationships time and again. But, my strength in my marriage failed me. I did not have it in me to alone fix the growing problems.
For all of this, my marriage wasn’t strong but it subsisted. And in one conversation that subsistence came to a screeching halt and my life as I’d known along with it. Crash.
We needed space, we needed time, to heal. Apart. What was I hearing? And where did the air in the room escape to? Why were my lungs suddenly on the verge of collapse? Why does my heart race with the thud of rock? My world inside and out had given way and caved in on me.
But I was not dead. At that moment, it seemed a worse fate. I tried with every ounce of my willpower not to vomit, not to succumb to a state of shock, but asking intelligible questions was largely beyond me.
I wasn’t angry; I was decimated; completely devastated. I came back after a pep talk with a good friend and mentor, I had collected a few of the shards of my self and asked for some clarity, explanation, an ounce of something that might make sense to me. I got a lot of explanation, but that was it. I was at a loss. There is where we would leave it for the night.
The morning brought with it a renewed request for my physical removal from the house, this time in the form of a plan. It was the plan. I wasn’t aware that I’d agreed to any plan. But it was now the. Deep within me, I did not feel I could respect this plan. I didn’t.
It’s possible I’ve not seen my wife more upset with me. The request from the other night — the request for me to leave the house — was not a request. I had disobeyed a direct order. It wasn’t adding up. What was happening? What had happened?
She kept reiterating that she felt unsafe around me. I don’t pretend to have the perspective to say her perception is unfounded. But, this was a drastic escalation. This was the rug being pulled out from underneath me. I must be missing something.
I weathered the rest of the week in the basement, but I felt I needed to spend the weekend at my mom’s. I knew in my heart there was something there for me; I felt the Spirit telling me He had something for me particularly in conversation with my mom’s husband. I was glad to give Amy some space, so I followed.
Over the weekend and numerous minutes in conversations, it dawned on me that I had been ignoring the fact that my wife too grew up the child of humans, that she too brought issues into the marriage — I was not the only one. What that was is not mine to share, certainly not here. But this was some crucial insight.
Most importantly, I began to remember that I am not who I once was — my wife was right, I have been defrauding her. She married a man and he began to die shortly thereafter. I today am scarcely like that man. This transformation has not been the product of deceit, but rather a misguided attempt at loving my wife. But who can love a spineless chameleon who is the shell of a person? I never stopped to ask this question.
She says she hopes the marriage succeeds. She says she wants to fix things. But tomorrow. At least a couple of months from now. Our relationship is on pause. Is a relationship like a podcast? Can one play, pause, rewind, or fast-forward at will? Does a heart work in this way? Or are we fooling ourselves?
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. I don’t know much of anything. I am in control of about as much, maybe less. But I am not a victim. I hope you don’t read that here. I am a ship caught in a violent storm who has hit the rocks and my ship — the very ship that’s taken me years and miles, that up until this point was indestructible — has been reduced to splinters tossed across the surface of the stormy sea.
There wasn’t time to salvage what I could from the wreck; I was in imminent danger of drowning; the only thing to do was grab onto a piece of the wreckage and let it keep me afloat. So I float. On God’s great sea. No land in sight. But I have my debris. And I have prayer.
No, I have so much more. I am grateful to say I have some great people caring for me today. I have fallen headlong into the arms of my community, the community I kept at arm’s length. I have my family. I have the moment-by-moment grace afforded by my God. I will be okay. Someday. Today, I hope to persist.
Originally published at faiththroughdoubt.com on August 23, 2017.