Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On the Best of Love and the Worst of Fights

Marriage is a stage for two people to act out their deepest dysfunctions.

Or something to that degree.  That is something that Wes and I were told in our pre-marital counseling, and I can't disagree with that. Even in this state of engagement, I am so closely confronted with the flaws I've spent a good deal of my youth trying to overcome, ignore, or cover up.  I've never been more aware of my selfishness, my pride, my anger, my anxiety, my fears.  I can't hide that in a relationship.  And foolishly, to try to hide anything only makes it so much more destructive when the truth surfaces.

This has been a memorable season.  It's a bit blurry, but so memorable.  After getting engaged, Wes and I have been on a nauseating rollercoaster ride.  Except I hate rollercoasters.  I wish we were on a "hilly path" instead, with gentle inclines, and a few obvious crags to step over. Things on our journey would scream at us with yay's and boo's.  Like the excitement of having financial contribution for the wedding would be a big "yay!"... and then we both lose a job or two, and that's a big "boo."  My emotions haven't found equilibrium.  I think I'm getting stomach ulcers.

Worst of all, as my emotions are heightened, my moods will change and it will affect the communication between Wes and me (aka, we'll get into fights).  The fights usually entail something about miscommunication, or misunderstanding, or faulty expectations, or invalidation.  Shake that mixture well, and pour over the open wounds of our youth-- the scream-inducing reaction is not conducive for gentle speaking tones and prime listening skills.  It becomes a wrestling match of blame and pride and victimization and guilt.  Not to mention it's colosseum style - we fight to the death.

But I was never more aware of Wes' love and fight-diffusion-skills until last week; I can't even remember what we were arguing about (go figure), but I remember these things happened:

  1. Wes left me alone to go cry. That in itself was meaningful.  He's realized that instead of figuring things out immediately, solving things on the spot, the space between us allows me to have a level head, and I'm less apt to say hurtful things in heightened emotions.
  2. But even if he gave me space, he stayed.  He never left the house, he just waited in another room.
  3. It wasn't solely that he gave me space, and that he stayed, but after a length of time, he came back, laid next to me, held me, and let me cry more.  Of course, the bigger response to this would have been for me to come up to him with my tail between my legs and say I was sorry for letting emotional outbursts get the best of me.  But I think the significance of this is that it takes courage to love.  It is an act of courage to move towards someone (especially like myself), so volatile and unpredictable. Indeed, in the middle of fights and arguments, the immediate response is self-preservation, defensiveness, self-justification.  But to say "I care about you enough to move towards you in love, even if you might hurt me" - this is courage.  This is love.


"I know you're not mad at me.  You're just in a lot of pain, you never had time to heal, and you're more likely to take it out on me," he said.  I wept even more.  I never mean to hurt him, I told him, I don't like who this wedding has made me be.  I'm more stressed and anxious, more prone to being less of a friend, and more of a spacey a**hole.  But honestly, I swear it's not the wedding.  The wedding just so happens to be the fire, the hot water to extract all the ugliness that's been sitting at my core, waiting for me to be too tired and weary to hide.

Marriage is a stage for two people to act out their deepest dysfunctions.

When we fight, Wes doesn't always approach me that way, but that day he did.  We both knew the pain he was referring to.  We both know that in these outbursts, it's likely that I'm not angry at Wes, I'm angry at my upbringing, I'm angry at people from former failed relationships, I'm ridiculously angry at myself - and I never got my frustrations out.  Those people hurt me, I hurt myself, and I've been looking for vindication and never felt the fullness of forgiveness and freedom.

As much as Wes recognized his best approach in that moment, there were things that I too needed to face.  Courage for Wes looked like approaching a screaming banshee.  And for me, courage for me was to let him love me.  To not wallow in my hurts and become a repetitive victim.  To let him approach me in the places that are vulnerable and frightening.  To admit that I am that hurt person who hurts people.  To allow him to see the open wound, and maybe pour some stinging, though healing salve.  Weird how we allow our wounds to fester because healing itself can also be painful.

I began apologizing him for the way that I am.  Except instead of condemning me, he took my snotty face into his hands and tells me so gently that he already forgave me three years ago when he chose to commit himself to me.  He told me that he came into this knowing my brokenness and ready to be gracious towards it.

Wes isn't the type of person to be full of woo or charm, he says the things he means, and he means it fully and honesty.  I don't say that as a degradation, I say that because that tells me he means every word.  And that's the kind of lie-shattering statement that breaks the cages I keep myself in- that I need to work for grace, that I need to be better, that I need to be perfect before I can be loved.

It's as if I never understood salvation, hey? It's like I never understood it whenever Paul wrote in Romans that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  It's like I blocked the verse out of my head because it's such an overplayed verse that we've used in tracts on the Romans Road to Evangelism.  But I am watching God love me through the way the Wes loves me.  And I am feeling loved, by both of them.

We've diffused fights in the past, and I can't tell you what about this particular transaction for an unknown argument was so healing.  Maybe because I let myself be vulnerable.  Maybe because I wasn't denying my pain.  Maybe because Wes moved towards me in compassion and selfless love.  Maybe it was a combination of everything above.  But I can tell you that understanding what courage looks like for yourself- it's the thing that brings out the best of your love and diffuses the worst of fights. It's the thing that rebuilds bridges, that confronts pain, and allows the hurts to heal.


currently reading: You and Me Forever, Francis Chan
currently listening: Without Words: Synesthesia, Bethel Music
currently watching: Gilmore Girls

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