[From Julie] I’ve been feeling a little out of touch with Noel lately. I realize this happens to all couples periodically, however this time it seems to be dragging on for longer than it has in the past. The new Real Marriage small group couldn’t have come at a better time for us. We’ve worked on our homework for this week and I’ve re-read the second chapter and watched the DVD segment in preparation for next Sunday. I can feel a slight shift in the way I think about Noel and the time we spend together already. Here’s how:
For the last two months or so we’ve been drifting. Nothing serious or to cause concern but enough of a change that I was feeling the distance between us. We both have been busy, Noel has felt an increased burden in his work life which has caused much frustration and disappointment. We’ve got the usual summer commitments of Bible Day Camp and various other week-long camps. School is of course always on the back burner and Noel is starting to feel the pressure of finishing his thesis edits before his summer short course begins. All of this in addition to the usual life with four boys and my work schedule. It sometimes gets to be a bit too much. Ministry is hard work and can make home life difficult occasionally. It’s a joy to serve and we are happy to do it. I made a commitment to myself when Noel went into ministry that I would do everything I could to make home a haven for him so he could rest in a place free of ongoing conflict and stress. He works hard and I want to help. For us that means he doesn’t have to worry about laundry, groceries, cleaning and most meals. I try to be home when he is home as much as possible. I don’t ever plan on working full-time hours simply because I feel that my family needs me here and it would put too much of a burden on Noel’s shoulders.
Noel doesn’t have difficulty in expressing his emotions. Those of you who know him personally are smiling right now because a truer statement has never been uttered. However over the last couple of months I felt as though he has been holding back from me. He’s not as talkative and when he does talk his undertone has been one of anger and frustration. I have found it difficult to draw him out and on occasion I could feel the stress coming off of him in waves. I started to just not try as hard anymore to get him to talk. I haven’t been sitting in his office with him as much because I wasn’t sure letting him vent to me so regularly was helpful. It certainly wasn’t helping me. Nothing I said or did seemed to make a difference in his attitude or bring him any kind of peace. All this made me feel anxious and helpless in addition to occasionally wanting to slap him. So much for home being a haven. Our regular walks have not been happening and I’ve been feeling a bit out of sync with him. I wanted my loving and attentive husband back.
We had a lovely mini vacation to Baltimore and DC last month which was a wonderful time of respite for us. However occasionally Noel seemed quiet and without a lot to say. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he thought about something but he wasn’t sharing it with me. We still had a great time and we made a little progress. It wasn’t an immediate fix to the situation but it was a step in the right direction. We’ve been very blessed in our life together. God has given us the tools to build a wonderful marriage and the eyes to recognize it when we’ve got it within our grasp. We’ve been in a good place for so long I started to forget that it takes work to build a great marriage instead of settling for mediocre.
So, what’s God been teaching us? What’s he taught you when you’ve gone through a period of distance in your marriage? Already Real Marriage is paying off for us. (You all thought we offered these classes as service to others but we get just as much out of them if not more than everyone else). God has given me the desire to return to that place of connection in our marriage. I feel like I needed a nice long drink of the refreshing, soul nourishing, spirit of renewal with my husband. What it takes to get back there is often hidden in shadow but one thing that has been important is the power of forgiveness. It has shown up again for us recently. We regularly apologize for hurt feelings or poorly chosen words and we quickly forgive knowing that we never intend to hurt each other. We value our friendship and give thanks for each other as we pray. Just like it says in chapter 2 of Real Marriage I’m beginning to feel the shift of doing life face to face again, not just shoulder to shoulder. It’s a wonderful feeling for me to be Noel’s wife and friend not just his partner.
We are still in this journey back to a wonderful place. Thankfully we didn’t drift far. Just far enough to see how easy it is to slip and how easy it is to become bitter. Also far enough to see how hard it is to build a healthy marriage and how much we need God in it. For those of you who have made the trip from bitter to healthy, you have our respect and awe at what you’ve accomplished. God is indeed good.