My husband started working weekends from now until Thanksgiving and left last Thursday for Norfolk, Virginia. We've been trying to mentally prepare for these trips for the last few weeks, arranging child care for the Fridays when he is gone and trying to keep in mind that our time together as a family would be cut much shorter, but for good reason - the trips are a great second income for us with minimal interruption to the kids' schedules.
I think one of the more frustrating things about marriage is the way you can be totally on with your spouse for weeks and then all of a sudden... or at least it feels like all of a sudden, the communication lines are disrupted and something goes awry. Usually I'm able to identify a primary cause for the refraction - those "monthly symptoms," a disagreement, some disappointment - but the week before BW had to leave for this trip, there wasn't anything specific to which I could attribute the bitterness I was feeling, those ancient emotions of self-pity and desire for attention and affection that are rarely filled because I am hunting for them and watching for the missed opportunities. My sights were turned inward.
It is so easy to live in the place of self-pity and selfishness. How are my needs not being filled? What disservice is being done to me? Why aren't you paying attention to me? Other people think I'm awesome, so why don't you? Most of the time, the afflicted party (my husband, for instance) is oblivious to this shift in my mental state because I conveniently fail to share these emotions with him. You would think that the gift of writing would come along with a communication party favor or something. Instead of expressing my sudden and irrational need for affection/compliments/quality time/etc., I become sullen and bitter. I leave my husband bewildered. Now, instead of just one of us being miserable, the other one has the great pleasure of being confused and distant, too.
It's tempting to wait for BW to see how pitiful and needy I am and to become the patron saint of unconditional love and passion sweeping in on his trusty steed of virtue and adoration, rescuing me from self-pity and depression. Tempting, but usually fruitless. While my husband has his shining moments of charity and thoughtfulness, their gestures are reduced in significance when I'm begging for it. How much greater impact they have when I am simply loving my husband, by choice, emotion, or otherwise, without conditions or expectations.
It is really hard to get back to that place when I've dipped below the level of love and appreciation I typically feel for my spouse, but I must choose to love my husband unconditionally, even during those times when I'm feeling neglected or unappreciated. It is absolutely necessary to lay down my needs, stop being petty, and choose to remember why I love this man. Jesus didn't wait for the world to love him, he loved us first, regardless of our behaviors. And since that's the model we've been given, it's probably the one we ought to try to follow.
I'm not good at this. I'm much better at sitting around waiting to be loved and then being utterly disappointed when my husband doesn't warm up to the cold lump of annoyance sitting on the couch. Why on earth would he want to love on that?! I don't snuggle with him or compliment him or go out of my way to serve him when he's like that, so why would he make the effort for my sorry self? Only out of God's love can we love our spouses when they (or we) are like that, and the rewards are usually beautiful and lovely for both of us.
He's on his way home today, and having had three days apart in which to love on my kids, play in the garden, hang out with family, and talk to the God of the universe about my ridiculousness, I think I'm ready to act like a wife and love my husband again.
"Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." - Philippians 2:4