When you are in a relationship with someone who is abusive or has an addiction, you learn the hard way not to rely on that person. To be on time. To follow through. To offer up kind words at the end of a frustrating day. To pray for you. To support you. To tell you the truth. Basically, for anything.
In fact, Jan Silvious, author of Foolproofing Your Life, says that when you are in partnership with what she calls a biblical fool, it’s not a relationship that you’re in, it’s an agreement. What she’s saying in essence is that you cannot be in a relationship with someone you cannot trust who treats you poorly on a consistent basis.
So, for twenty years, over and over again, I learned I could not rely on my partner. That was a bitter pill to swallow and a truth that I tried regularly to ignore and deny and refute. In fact, I’d act as if I could trust and rely, and continually be hurt and disappointed. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Years of not accepting my reality, it was now on my head. I didn’t want my reality to be my reality. But it was.
Until one day I realized that I should not rely on my partner for anything emotional or spiritual. That it would actually now be foolish for me to think I could. And so I stopped. High walls around heart erected, check.
And then we divorced. And I was single. And I no longer had a partner at all.
And I came to terms with the fact that I may never again have a partner. And I learned to become emotionally and spiritually self-sufficient. Yes, I had friends and family who loved me, but they all had lives and, for the most part, partners of their own.
I was alone. I was on my own. And I made myself get used to it.
Fast forward to today. I am in a relationship with a good man. We just finished up doing premarital work with a counselor. After one of our sessions, we were given a test to take on our own and discuss together, and this was one of the questions:
I rely on my partner for:
a) lifting my mood/making me smile
b) keeping my self-esteem up
c) being my best friend
d) listening to my gripes
e) taking care of me
f) my short-term memory
h) taking care of the things that I don’t want to do
i) not too much, as I am fairly self-reliant
Tall-Shadow answered all of the 166 questions in healthy ways. I, on the other hand, was a deviant. On at least a quarter of the questions, I added an additional response as I didn’t like the choices given me. (I wonder what that says about me. Anyway…)
And this question was no exception. My written-in answer was this:
j) I’m leery of relying on a person for things like this.
“Red flag”, Tall-Shadow gently joked. And he was right. We brought up this question in our next session and our counselor pointed out that yes, we shouldn’t rely on someone else to change our mood or boost our self-esteem…that things like that are our own responsibility. But then he said, But if you two are not there for each other to listen to one another and take care of each other and be each other’s closest friend, what’s the point?
You see, those of us in hard marriages or who have left hard marriages who learned to put those pesky high walls up around our hearts? We learned to believe that if we don’t need someone, then they can’t hurt us when they disappoint us or don’t come through or say mean things. And we learned this hard, hard lesson time and again.
But if we’re not careful, we will start to believe that that is how it’s supposed to be. That we aren’t supposed to need each other. That a walled-up heart is a safe heart when in actuality a walled-up heart is a sad and lonely and potentially bitter and cynical heart.
We do need each other. God made that super clear when he created the beauty of the world and Adam and looked around and said that everything was very good, except that it was not good for man to be alone. So he created a partner for him. A partner that he could rely on.
And so that’s where I find myself right now: though it’s stretching me and a little scary, I am choosing to allow myself to need this good man. He does not bring to the table the collective hurts of my past. He is a new man to me. And though he is human and will let me down in the future (as I will him and already have), he is consistently good to me, consistently kind, consistently dependable, consistently trustworthy. And you know what? Scary as it is for me to admit, I need him.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here, or “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here.