I used to be the type of person that thought everything would be okay if I tried my best. Everyone trains us to believe that this will be the case, and when you don’t get what you expected or what you feel like you deserved, there comes the all-too-famous platitude again…”But you tried your best!”
No [intentional] offense to people who will probably take offense to my perspective, but that doesn’t help anyone.
When my husband walked out on me a few months ago, I did everything I could think of to try to fix our marriage, to try to convince him to come back, to make him see how this was his home and I would do anything to make it work. But my attempts consisted of a series of honest conversations, some financial help when I saw him struggling, leniency when it came to the schedules of me and my kids, firing off question after question every day about mistakes he’s made in the past, getting upset over text when he didn’t reply or when he replied something I didn’t want to hear, and more failed attempts that even included teasing and obsessing over every minute I couldn’t account for his whereabouts.
Who runs back to a wife that won’t let you figure out your own finances like a man, that doesn’t respect herself enough to stand her ground when you try to change things up last minute all the time, and who nags worse than when you lived with her?
You know what I accomplished with my “best”? Nothing. Actually, I take that back. I pushed him further away. And I was only doing what was best for me, not necessarily helping his situation. It’s challenging to discover that along with focusing on myself and improving my habits and finding my happiness, I had to remember to let my husband be–to allow him to do the same for himself and to love him like God loves me.
We were on a track to better things for a week or two, and after a month of my behavior, I gave him a deadline. When that deadline came and went, I shoved him into a corner and demanded that he make up his mind. Are we going to split up or not? Because I can’t keep waiting around for you.
…And this coming from the same woman who told him a day after he left that I would be willing to do a trial separation–anything, really, as long as he didn’t consider this definite and gave us another chance before calling it quits.
But when he told me he thought there might be hope for us (such a vague statement now that I think about it), I jumped into a mode where I believed I was owed an explanation for everything wrong he’s ever done to me. Every lie he’s admitted, and ones he hasn’t. With my friends and family in my ear demanding that I demand more for myself. I thought it made sense that I take a strong position and be aggressive.
“Hell yes, I do deserve better!” I foolishly thought.
It was foolish, because while a separation was driving me nuts, I had no right to anything else. If someone wants to be with me then they will be with me. If they don’t, then who am I to try to control their actions/decisions? It’s much more difficult to understand and to accept when there are children in the picture, but once I gained a clearer insight of how life works, I realized I had to abandon that attitude immediately for my children and myself.
I don’t deserve anything. No one deserves anything. Life isn’t fair. Good people get hurt. Bad people win the lottery. But hey, God forgives. And He’s merciful. And we don’t deserve that, at all. So when it comes to what people owe us–what this world owes us—the sooner we realize that it’s nothing, the quicker we can get on our feet and get out of our heads and step aside from our egos to live life in a healthier and happier way.
The second time we decided to work things out, it was because I let go of my pride and admitted that first of all, I don’t want a divorce. I may have given him an ultimatum which would inevitably equal a divorce but it’s not what I wanted. I wanted him. Our marriage. Our family. But I also wanted happiness, for me and him and our kids. And the only way I knew how to start going down that road was to learn to be friends again.
Friends communicate effectively (mostly). They respect each other. They get along. They deal with anger in healthy ways. They forgive. They are understanding. And while all of this builds a strong marriage, it still meant that if we decided to get a divorce, the time and effort would not be a waste, because our kids need parents that can coexist like civil humans. So that was the decision we made, and it’s taken us to surprising places in our marriage.
We still haven’t dealt with the past, or the giant issues which caused him to feel like he could not be with me anymore, but we are working on interacting in a good way, and that progress is trickling down into areas of our marriage that desperately needed attention.
But none of this would have been possible had select friends not reminded me that I cannot control anything my husband does. I actually cannot control anything except for what I do. For someone who is used to controlling a lot in her life, this was a big shock to me. I mean it makes sense, but it’s tough to accept. And once I did, my life turned around. I feel better equipped to handle a lot, not just this potential divorce but other conflicts and disappointments.
I gave my husband space to think without asking questions (thanks, Megan). I was “less critical and more understanding” (thanks, Rob). And I focused on myself (thanks everyone who loved me and kept telling me this even though it took me months to listen).
I’m not perfect. I still ask certain things that let my husband know I don’t completely trust him yet (and why should I?), but I have sealed off most of the issues from the past, because I understand I can’t fix them until we are in a better position. And I still have negative thoughts or doubts but I don’t impulsively attack him whenever I’m hurt by the emotions which accompany those thoughts.
People still think I’m insane for not filing for divorce and ending the misery of being in limbo (separated but not divorced or living together), but part of me trying my best has to be comprehending that my best is never going to be enough. I need to call upon God. And with His help and strength, I am capable of so much more. I can be a gentler person. I can love my husband, and others, in the way God loves His kids, and that lessens the anger and the frustration by factors of a hundred.
With God, I’ve found the patience to talk myself down from despair when I remember a lie my husband told or a terrible fight we had, or an intense crying session that snuck up on me in the middle of the day. With God, I can have peace even if my heart is broken or the world around me is falling apart, even if my reality is shattered into a million pieces. Despite the fact that I don’t know what’s going to happen between me and my husband, I’m becoming the mother and wife and person that I need to be because I’m putting my hope in God.
I always tell people what a difference having faith can make, but I don’t think I ever had real faith until this happened to me. And I feel blessed to be living this way, where God’s promise is solid and I never have to question it and I know He’s not lying and that He loves me and believes I am enough. To put these expectations on God rather than my husband or even others in my life has made a tremendous impact. It’s super hard and I am improving every day, but it’s definitely worth it, and that’s why I don’t think any of us is ever doing enough until we push ourselves to this limit where it’s all in the hands of God, and we are letting go completely. It’s scary but so rewarding when God shows you He can work such wonder in your life.
My cross country coach in high school used to say that if we didn’t feel like we were about to throw up once we crossed the finish line, then we didn’t try our best and I always thought that was stupid. It’s not healthy to push yourself that hard. But now I understand. If you really want something, the way I want to be happy, or the way I want my marriage, then you push as hard as your body, mind, and soul will let you, because what’s the point of holding back? You only live once, and staying in your comfort zone may be nice, but leaving it (even if it’s against your will) could be amazing.