“I never minded the risk, but we always did it together” Anyone recall this line from The Greatest Showman? This was spoken from one spouse to another toward the end of the movie when things weren't going so well in their relationship (don't want to give too much away just in case you haven't seen it). But needless to say, there was a risk involved that began with them adventuring together and then led to one of them shutting the other one out basically.
As we were watching this movie the other day, this line took my breath away! There have only been a few times in our marriage that we have unintentionally shut each other out in the middle of a risk or adventure. Of course, no one ever starts out in a relationship deciding to not ‘let each other in’, but there have been a handful of times in our marriage that we have felt misunderstood…felt like the other one just didn’t “get” us, and the "shut-out" began. Let me tell you now, that makes a marriage an easy target. The lie is in believing 'my spouse doesn’t get me, doesn’t understand me', etc. Honestly, it seems most affairs begin because “somebody understands” the one in a way they think their spouse does not. It’s sometimes easy to get the victim mentality and think that since our spouse didn’t come from where we came from, doesn’t struggle with the same issues, doesn’t have the same weaknesses (ie: biking. LOL) , etc, then they don’t get us and that maybe there is somebody out there who does. Being loved and understood is one of our greatest needs…not only in marriage but in life. We all want to be understood. If you think it doesn’t apply to you, just ask yourself if you’ve ever tried to do something kind, or say something (that you thought was said or done in love), only to have it misunderstood and turned around. That is the worst, right? You leave thinking, “that is not what I meant at all. I was trying to help!” Oh please tell me, we are NOT the only ones who have struggled with this in our marriage! LOL. I am sure we are not.
There was a time in our lives where we were on an adventure where we pretty much risked everything!! We knew it was exactly where we were supposed to be in our lives at that time, but we also knew it was outrageously risky! Our initial goal on the adventure was to do it together but while we were there, circumstances of the adventure had a tendency to pull us apart. Allen has always been very loving and doting on me and very committed!! Therefore, when it seemed like his commitment to the adventure we were on became a priority over our relationship, I knew something bad was wrong. It was a very scary time in our marriage really. Neither of us could really see straight at the time, except we just knew we had to communicate about it and remedy it, otherwise we would never be the same again! After much pressing and pursuing and communicating (even at the risk of being a pest at times), we were able to see the difficulty for what it really was. We were able to see that Allen was shutting me out a bit and it had grown to a dangerous level for our marriage. Once we finished that adventure and resumed “normal life” we were able to step back from it and have perspective and see the danger we were in and how it could have been devastating for our marriage. We began to take this risk as individuals and isolate ourselves and shut each other out from in the middle of it and it was not at all healthy. We had a lot of healing to do after that, but thank goodness we serve the “Great Physician” and he healed our wounds and redeemed that adventure! “I never minded the risk, but we always did it together”... We love risks and adventures, but doing it together is always better!
A more recent happening illustrates this a bit differently so hang in there with this one. When my mom was passing away last year, I had been traveling back and forth to Atlanta for months and then we realized the end was in sight for her and we all knew it would require a lot of sacrifice (major risk)! We knew it would require me heading South to go be with mama until the end. However, we didn’t know how long that would be for. Anyhow, as I walked thru this with mama, it was easy for me begin to shut Allen out a little bit (altho I was totally unaware). After all, he wasn’t there with me and even tho talking to him at the end of the day was the absolute highlight of each day, I still began to tell myself he didn’t understand. Just FYI…that’s a dangerous L I E!!! In the midst of that sorrow and pain, I would sometimes reach out to my twin or a friend who I thought might “get me” when I was breathless from grief. Sometimes I think I shut him out because I just felt so bad that every time I talked on the phone to him, I was either bone weary or sobbing. Loving and caring for someone thru all the stages of death is one of the most exhausting, painful and beautiful things I have ever been thru in all my life! That experience was unlike anything I’ve ever known (or ever thought I would know) and it felt so darn isolating at times. Then even after mom passed, I began to detect a habit. I would not fully let myself grieve in front of Allen at times. Sure sometimes I did, but other times I would be a bit guarded. I would think ‘who wants a wife who cries all the time? I've got to pull myself together!’ And let me just say, for the record, that Allen never did anything to make me feel that way. Never once did he condemn me for crying all the time or get upset with me for being continuously sad or act without compassion even in those moments I was totally unable to function in my grief (There were more of those than I care to admit!). He has always been overwhelmingly supportive of me in this process. Me isolating myself and being guarded around him was due to a lie I chose to believe... Not his responses to my grief! I believed he deserved a happy wife and that he would eventually get tired of seeing me so sad, so I needed to pull myself together and stop crying in front of him. But I WAS WRONG!!! We had taken this risk together, but I was isolating myself in it.
Shutting him out only made our relationship vulnerable to attack. Vulnerable to not communicating well anymore. Vulnerable to isolation. The total opposite of intimacy, of course! Allen has been so patient tho to continue pursuing me in this crazy grief process and not let me shut him out, and it has made all the difference. It makes me want to be vulnerable and let my guard down. His pursuing me reminds me I am not on this journey alone and I need to continually open my heart and let him in.
So you may be asking: What is the solution to shutting each other out? Well here is a small list of the things we did (not really knowing what to do, God in all His wisdom guided us to do these things. All glory to Him!).
1. PURSUE!!! - When you realize your spouse is shutting you out, that is NOT the time to back down and let it be whatever it is. That is the time to pursue your spouse. To love them, to encourage them, to be there for them, to try to understand their feelings. Don’t let the conversation get more and more guarded or more and more casual and slowly let isolation take place. Marriage is no place for “guarded” conversations where there was once intimate communication. Don’t give up on each other. It may take some time, but do the hard thing and press into each other instead of pulling away from one another
2. COMMUNICATE!!! This can’t be overstated! Communicate even when you don’t know how to. Just get vulnerable and real with each other and lean into each other in conversation, trying to understand what the other needs, rather than pulling away and focusing on your own needs. There are so many amazing good books on this as well. If you need help, Love and Respect is always a good one to start with.
3. REMEMBER!!! Don’t forget what you love about each other (yah...they're probably the same things that drive you both crazy too, but that's part of the beauty). That may mean you need to get away to do this, or go for a walk together, or just go out for coffee together. You may need to re-read your old love letters to each other (anyone else besides us have those? LOL), or relive your “glory days” together via photos, videos. Whatever it takes, remember what you love about your spouse and what drew you to each other in the 1st place.
4. HUG IT OUT!!! Yep! Sometimes it’s really that simple. Hugging each other can totally make you feel less isolated and alone! Just like Olaf...sometimes all you need a warm hug! Heehee
So go for the risk, but do it together and don’t isolate yourself or shut each other out. Keep leaning into to each other and pressing on! Do the Hard work of Pursuing, Communicating, Remembering and Hugging!
The prize is worth the price, yall!
Cheering you on,
Allen & Carol