My grieving husband became a person that I didn’t recognize. While I wanted to be sensitive and to walk with him graciously and patiently, more than anything I just wanted him to be the person I knew. I wanted him to stay constant so that I was comfortable. I wanted him to be the man I married. So instead of being sensitive and gracious, I became selfish and turned inward and we both entered that all too dangerous “survival mode.”
For us, survival mode looks like this- our kids are cared for. They are fed, interacted with, loved. Their basic needs are met. Beyond that, however, we are on our own. I take care of me, he takes care of him. We talk as roommates about schedules and money and grocery lists, instead of as lovers and best friends about our hearts and our cares and our struggles. Important things are left unsaid and we just move through our days. We coast.
We had been coasting all throughout last summer when we hit the breaking point. We were in the middle of a fight when we realized, “This isn’t working anymore.” No, not our marriage- we were not at all admitting defeat. Our coping mechanisms, our coasting, our survival mode- they weren’t cutting it. In addition to that, the things we usually used to pull us out of that place were failing us. He was deeply hurting and so was I. We couldn’t seem to help each other.
So we saw a counselor. We told him where we were. We told him that we didn’t seem to be on the same page anymore. We told him that nothing seemed to be working anymore and we didn’t know what to do. We attended our first session together and then started seeing him individually each week. As we individually began exploring our pasts with him, we opened up to one another. While we were having painful conversations about the hurt of our past, and as a result we were crying and hurting and working through things, it all came as a relief compared to the awkwardness and sadness of the summer.
Our boys started third grade and Kindergarten, and that added a new level of stress to our family. Our Kindergartener had a hard time transitioning from me to his (utterly amazing, loving, gracious, kind, and patient) teacher on school days. Our boys only go to school two days a week, and I home school them the other three days. There were tears every day at drop off. Not just tears, but sobbing-and-grabbing-onto-mom’s-legs-and-having-to-be-pulled-away kind of tears. This stress, along with the stress of figuring out how to teach two different boys at two different grade levels with two different temperaments while also trying to corral their 3-year-old sister on home days led me to realize I needed to free up some mental space.
It was time to step away from my job at the church.