I was talking to my best friend today about some things and I realized that so many people have such a crazy idea about marriage and relationships; me included. My husband and I are going through some things, and while it’s not my place to publicly talk about the specifics, I can talk about what I am learning by the Grace of God, my therapist, Alanon (there is no love addiction 12 step program close to me) and spiritual direction. As well as a great text conversation with my best friend who is the best friend anyone could ever have asked for.
The biggest lesson of the past few months, that barely hit me this morning, is that nagging has become the most common way that a lot of women think they can get their men to do what they want. I have lived and watched enough people in my life to know the pattern of men at bars avoiding their nagging wife isn’t some kind of fluke. “Stop thinking you can change anyone” is a theme in all my codependency books. Yes, men nag too and try to control, but in my opinion it’s in a totally different way than women, and the motivation is different too. I am not a man, so I can’t really speak about their walk in life, but I can talk about what it is like to be a nagging wife who thinks that if I bitch enough my husband will do exactly what I say. Where I have failed the most is thinking that my husband is supposed to be everything my father wasn’t instead of being who God made him.
I have come to realize that I had this illusion about what a man should be. Not just a list of being kind, respectful and responsible, but of who he should actually be to me. How he should love me, how he should live, think and process things. This is so distorted for me because I was never taught how to love or how to be loved, which is so common in people. I have acted as if a man who doesn’t do things exactly the way that I think he should, is just another asshole who has failed me because he has failed to make me happy. I have this very self-centered view of what love is and it has created this huge conflict in my home. From what I see around me, I think that it is causing a lot of conflict in a lot of homes, even if so many people’s Facebook updates try to paint a different picture.
The cold hard truth is that my husband doesn’t feel safe to be who he is with me. When a man doesn’t feel safe, he will do what anyone who doesn’t feel safe does, he will hide, try to put on the best face to keep from “getting in trouble” and go somewhere else to be his authentic self. Adam in the garden anyone? (I know women do this too, but again, I am talking about my own observations and experiences.) When that happens the woman will freak out because it brings up all our insecurities of not being good enough, pretty enough and being left. The freak out is our survival instinct. That starts the pattern of nagging, crying, throwing things and wondering what is going on with our life. And by “woman”, I mean Leticia Adams.
My best friend said that all the older ladies she takes care of say that the secret to having men who want to be at home is to make it a place where they love to be. I agree. Every bar that I have ever worked behind has been full of men who are not happy being at home. For whatever reason and of course they can have plenty to do with why their homes aren’t a happy place to be also, but a man will do anything to get away from a nagging wife. Ask me how I know.
We women are really bad at taking care of ourselves mentally. We take care of a lot of things and are going a million miles an hour organizing our family, working, caring for kids, taking care of our parents along with all of our family’s spiritual needs like praying, trying to get them to heaven. A lot of us are just trying to do the right thing by submitting to God’s will, which means a lot of discernment and discernment is exhausting.
I have not ever been able to just take time for myself without feeling guilty. The secular world’s idea of “me time” never has never sat well with me since becoming Catholic, mostly because I feel tremendous shame and guilt for having taken so much time for me while drinking and sleeping around. I realize now that none of that was for me to be healthy but for me to try to relieve the pain I was in. I do not know how to balance anything. I’m a radical. I am always living in one extreme or another so when I think of taking time for myself, I automatically think that means abandoning my husband and children. What I am learning is that I need to take time to do things that make me happy while balancing my responsibilities at home. I forget that part of my responsibility to take care of myself. That is not selfish, that is selfless because who the hell is gonna keep these people alive if I am in a straightjacket?
Men are not meant to be a replacement father or some dreamy idea of what a perfect man is supposed to be for us. They are their own people; they have their own wounds from carrying their own crosses. Our job as wives is to make sure that they have somewhere to go to get those wounds tended to so they can heal and lead us Home to God who is our Father. That isn’t to say that we wives are supposed to just allow ourselves to be treated like doormats, no, we have to learn how to set boundaries that aren’t punishment for not being perfect, but are ways to protect ourselves from being hurt and protect our husbands from using us. How that looks in every marriage is different. It isn’t just to allow our values or the safety and good of our children to be stomped on by anyone, even if it is our husband. That may mean that we live in separate living spaces until boundaries are set and each of us takes care of our own issues with the love and help of the other. Love does not mean that we just take whatever crap is flung at us; it means learning how to be our own person and allowing our spouse to be theirs instead of living in fear that if we set boundaries we will be abandoned.
Love means to will the good of the other, and sometimes that means willing ourselves to stand on our own two feet, to put all our hope of happiness in the only man Who won’t let us down -Jesus, the only One who can be our Prince Charming – and to stop trying to change our husbands by nagging. We can’t change anyone but ourselves.
Today I am making Jesus my Prince Charming and letting my husband off the hook so that he can be himself because I love who he is, flaws and all.