It had been one of those days where tension was high from the start, so we could have blamed several things for the moody atmosphere that surrounded our home. “Home” might not be the best word here; it paints a picture of a cozy, “warm fuzzy” type of place where you kick back after a long day and relax in a welcoming space. That night it felt more like a house, a building providing shelter from the rain.
I would have rather been out in the rain that night. If it hadn’t been for the kids, I would have made myself a nice little reading spot in the corner of the porch where I could disappear into someone else’s world for a few hours.
But the kids needed me, and I certainly wanted to be with them. They have a way of picking me up when it feels like everything else is weighing me down.
I was mad. He (my husband) was too. We avoided eye contact when we accidentally crossed paths in the living room while he was on his way to the kitchen for his nightly bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, which inevitably would not end up in the dishwasher until the next morning. He spent most of his time in our room at the desk which was covered with his school papers. Glad I don’t need any space on that desk.
He was extra flustered that night because of some added stress from the university where he is obtaining his Master’s. He hates taking online classes, but is forced to if he wants to keep teaching. In the two minutes we had for conversation when we met up at church that afternoon, he told me about other stressors from his day at work. I had also been on an emotional roller coaster that week, having found out that “corporate” (whoever that is) might eliminate my position at work soon because our numbers aren’t as high as they want them.
We love helping out with the youth at church, but it’s been a tough past few months since we stepped in as the temporary leaders instead of volunteers who just show up and help with whatever. Creating an organized lesson that is enjoyable and engaging is hard. Many of the kids come from challenging home environments which makes them, well…challenging. And if we don’t go in there with a pre-discussed, well understood plan, we may not accomplish anything.
So that evening’s meeting was basically unplanned. It wasn’t the disaster it could have been, and we kept a good face, but the “good” fell apart when the last kid left. We didn’t really argue. We were too exhausted to do that. To be honest, I don’t even remember what was said. I guess that’s how petty it was.
Whatever it was, it set the stage for a miserable night at home. We had driven separately to church, so we each had time to think through things on the way home. I can’t speak for him, but I’ll admit that my mind was throwing logs in the fire every inch of those 8 miles.
To make matters better, a youth member called when we got home and said she had left her stuff at church. I jumped at the chance to leave and told him that I would go unlock the building so he could spend some time with the kids. I was sure that the 3 year old hyped up on red Koolaid would be great at calming his nerves.
I cried most of the way there. That’s just how I react to things, I can’t help it. As I said before, I don’t even remember what was said, so obviously it wasn’t life-changing, but at the time I felt otherwise. I knew that the tears were the result of a mix of things, mainly mental and physical exhaustion. Whatever comment he had made pushed me over the edge, and my insecurities started telling me I was a horrible wife. I knew my reaction was dramatic and unnecessary, but I wanted something to take out my anger on, and this provided the perfect punching bag.
The Christian music on the way home made me feel somewhat better, reminding me that there are much bigger problems in the world and I’m living for a much bigger purpose than to make sure my husband and I are happy all the time. But still, I wanted perfect peace and I wanted it NOW. And my human emotions wouldn’t listen to what my head was telling me to do.
I went through the motions at home. I gave the kids a bath in the only tub in the house, which is really close to the desk where my husband was working. I cut bath time short in an effort to get the kids to bed early. My 19 month old stood beside me while I dried my 3 year old’s hair. I could feel the tension that was between me and my husband who was sitting only 7 feet away when I suddenly felt a warm, wet something hit my left thigh. My reaction time was incredibly slow, and it ended up soaking the top half of my pants. Ten feet from a potty, and my child chose to PEE ON MY LEG! I busted out laughing, my 3 year old busted out laughing, and I become even more hysterical when I realized my husband was NOT laughing. Any other time, he would have been. He was doing a great job containing himself for the sake of whatever we were mad about.
The rest of the night is blurry. I’m pretty sure we didn’t look at each other at all, which was immature and unhealthy. We were a little short with each other the next day but slowly made our way back to normal conversation. Two days later, we finally shared a laugh over the potty experience-what a ridiculously ironic ending to an unnecessarily dramatic night. My attitude (and my leg) stunk.
Marriage is hard.
I don’t have to expand on that. I’m obviously not the best person to give advice. What I can offer you is reassurance that yours is probably more normal than you realize. Or maybe ours is abnormal, and I can make you feel great about yours. Either way, I think you’ll agree that bringing two people together who were raised differently and respond to stress differently is, well, challenging.
We have matured so much since we were married, but some days I, he, or we still let the outside stressors get the best of us.
As with anything, keeping scripture in mind helps. I love the wisdom of Proverbs, which tells us things like:
“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” (21:9)
“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” (21:19)
“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.” (12:4)
I certainly don’t want my emotional reactions and selfishness to make him wish he lived on a roof or in a desert. I want to love regardless of how I feel or how he acts. If we both try to do this, we will survive, and not only survive, but we will hopefully show our children how to love when things aren’t easy.
Marriage is hard, but if uniting two people who are willing to give unselfish love and forgiveness no matter the circumstances, is so worth it.
I’m thinking about all of you today-whether you are no longer married, not yet married, or married and feeling stuck, feeling great, or feeling like you are on a roller coaster.