When my husband and I are sitting together in a restaurant, he’ll pull my chair over and say, “Closer.” It’s the sweetest thing. He makes me feel loved and wanted and secure. But I haven’t always wanted to be closer.
In my first marriage, when a conflict arose, I shut down emotionally. That doesn’t mean I’d necessarily shut up, though. In fact, you’d typically find me crying or yelling a good deal of the time. But I wasn’t truly in touch with what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. And I certainly wasn’t expressing what I was feeling and why I was feeling it (because I didn’t think I was allowed to).
When conflict arose, I emotionally moved away
That pattern has followed me into all my other relationships. If I’m upset and someone asks me if I’m okay, I’ll say a short “yep!” with a fake smile and sometimes even walk away. I just don’t want to go there. With anyone.
But as I was heading into this second marriage of mine, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t move away when it got hard, or when I felt uncomfortable, afraid, angry, or sad. Because I knew that moving away—especially in a marriage—rarely gets you anywhere. (Except, well, away.)
In fact, it’s in those little moments of moving away that my resentments fester, my defenses rise, my snarkiness blooms, my heart turns cold and hard, and I can forget the depth of the love and commitment we’ve already woven together.
It’s in those little moments of moving away from my husband that my resentments fester, my defenses rise, and my snarkiness blooms.
So now I practice moving towards.
Now, to be fair, my husband, Richard, and I get along a majority of the time, something for which I’m very grateful and still not quite used to. But remarriage and co-parenting can be challenging, and we aren’t carbon copies of each other. We both had long lives before we met and we both have strong opinions about many things, so we’re not always going to magically agree.
In those moments when we’re at odds, when I can tell I want to run and hide (emotionally or literally), I remind myself to move towards him, Beth.
This looks different depending on the circumstance.
It can mean sending one more text that lists off all the things I love about Richard and reminds him that he and I are partners and we’re on the same team.
Or it can mean sitting down next to him on the couch when I could easily stay on my computer another few minutes.
Or it can mean reaching for his hand or walking up to him for a hug or any manner of gesture of connection.
Or it may even mean being vulnerable enough to outright say, “I’m feeling distant and it feels yucky and weird, but I don’t know how to fix it.”
As our counselor put it, “Your oneness is your priority. Anything that seeks to encroach upon that or come between you needs to be addressed.”
Our oneness is our priority
I love that.
Please know I’m not saying that if you are being abused, if you are being cheated on, if your spouse has an addiction, that no matter the circumstances, you should move yourself closer—to your detriment. No. In those cases, you need to make sure you and your children are physically and emotionally safe and you need to take the courageous step to get help.
But if your relationship is not regularly tenuous, if it is more good than bad, I want to challenge you gently to commit to yourself, God, and your spouse that in those off-times—even in your pain and fear—you will choose in your own ways to move closer to your husband. It will take courage, it will take humility, and it will take grace. But it’s so very worth it.
May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in us so that we get along with each other, as well as Jesus, gets along with us (Romans 15:5, The Message).
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other (Colossians 3:15, The Message).