When my husband and I are sitting together in a restaurant, he’ll pull my chair over and say, ‘closer’. It’s the sweetest thing. It makes me feel loved and wanted and secure. But I haven’t always wanted to be closer.
In my first marriage, when a conflict came up, I would shut down emotionally. That doesn’t mean I’d necessarily shut up though. In fact, you’d typically find me crying or yelling a good deal of the time. But I wasn’t truly in touch with what I was feeling and why I was feeling it, and I certainly wasn’t expressing what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. At least not to my then-husband.
When conflict arose, I emotionally moved away.
That pattern has followed me into all of my other relationships. If I’m upset and if someone asks me if I’m okay, I’ll say a short “yep!” with a fake smile and sometimes even walk away. I just don’t want to go there. With anyone.
But as I was heading into this second marriage of mine, I made a promise to myself. I told myself that I wouldn’t move away when it got hard, when I felt uncomfortable or afraid or angry or sad. Because I knew that moving away – especially in a marriage – rarely gets you anywhere. (Except, well, away…)
In fact, it’s in those moments of moving away when my resentments fester, where my defensives rise, where my snarkiness blooms, where my heart starts to turn cold and hard, where I can forget the depth of our love and commitment already woven together.
So, now I practice moving towards.
Now, to be fair, Richard and I get along a majority of the time, something I’m very grateful for and still not quite used to. But remarriage and co-parenting and living apart can be challenging, and we aren’t carbon copies of each other. We both had long lives before we met, we both have strong opinions about many things, and we’re not always going to magically agree.
So in those moments when we’re at odds, when I can tell I want to run and hide (emotionally or literally), I remind myself move towards him, Beth.
This looks different depending on the circumstance. It can mean sending one more text that lists off all the things I love about him and reminds him that he and I are partners and we’re on the same team. Or it can mean sitting down next to him on the couch when I could easily stay on my computer another few minutes. Or it can mean reaching for his hand or walking up to him for a hug or any manner of gestures of connection. Or it may even mean being vulnerable enough to outright say, I’m feeling distant and it feels yucky and weird but I don’t know how to fix it.
As our counselor put it, “Your oneness is your priority. Anything that seeks to encroach upon that or come between you needs to be addressed.”
Our oneness is our priority.
I love that.
Please know that I’m not saying – that if you are being abused, if you are being cheated on, if your spouse has an addiction, that no matter the circumstances – move yourself closer, to your detriment. No. You know me better by now. In those cases, you need to make sure you and your children are physically and emotionally safe and you need to take the courageous step to get help.
But if your relationship is not tenuous on a regular basis, if it is more good than bad, I want to gently challenge you to commit to yourself and to God and to your spouse that in those off-times – even in your pain and fear – that you will choose – in your own ways – to move closer to your husband. It will take courage, it will take humility, and it will take grace. But it’s so very worth it.
May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in us so that we get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us. -Romans 5:5
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other. -Colossians 3