The overly used phrase “It takes two to tango”, is very applicable in most situations, and this one is no exception (maybe that’s why it’s so overused…). But the goal of this post is not to detail Sidney’s role in the conflict. While I get his approval and blessing on every blog related to him, he is not the one who chooses to reveal his personal life on the internet. He’s just the lucky one to be married to me (oh and he’s the Corporate Director of Brand Strategy—it says so on his business cards. Or it will, when I -aka “he” – designs them).
Anyway, what I want to explore in this post is how his actions in the conflict affect my relationship with him. I am having two key struggles: How do I trust him again? And, how do I control my actions regardless of his response?
Question One: How do I trust him again?
I believe I was hurt more than Sidney in this particular conflict (he’d agree). Each person has vulnerable areas that hurt more than others when poked; my illness is mine (along with my funny bone…that hurts like **** when it gets poked). Some of Sidney’s actions that evening hurt me deeply, and put a crack in the trust I have in him. As a result, I question my commitment to allow Sidney to see and be a part of my illness.
Part of me is tempted to let him go to bed next time and then break down in the guest room and hide my pain from him. Besides there’s less clothes in the guest room for me to throw around and that would make clean-up easier. I want to handle the situations myself so he does not have the opportunity to hurt me. But the other part of me knows my husband loves me dearly, wants to help, and it takes time to work through the best ways to handle these situations.
God says there is no limit on forgiveness; but is there a limit on the number of times I open myself to hurt? And how do I determine what that limit is? After hours of thinking, reading, and discussions with my therapist I developed these guidelines:
- Is there an underlying theme that causes their poor reaction? For example, are they close-minded, stubborn, or insensitive?
- If yes, is this characteristic evident in other areas of your relationship? Watching for this charateristic in other situations can help you determine if it will continue to affect their reaction to your illness.
- Is it simply a lack of understanding? If so, are they willing to listen and learn? Do they express a desire to do better in the future?
- Most importantly, do they understand they hurt you and regret their actions?
Exploring these questions is tough, not a lot of fun, but important (say like eating your veggies or exercising)! But it can be useful in your relationships with your spouse and also others in your life.
Question Two: In a meltdown, how do I remain in control of my actions regardless of his?
When my therapist first asked me this question it felt like I was inviting Sidney to be a part of my illness, but expecting him to fail. Not a good attitude for any situation in marriage and I have more faith in Sidney than that. But after more talking I was able to identify a healthier view of the question.
Here’s an analogy of that view—Suppose I’m going on a road trip alone. It’d be important for me to know how to change a tire in case I got a flat along a deserted highway (and let’s pretend I had lost my cell phone so there was no way to call AAA—which is not that hard to pretend knowing my history!). So as I’m driving merrily along singing “Baby Baby Baby, oh Baby baby baby” (Justin Beiber—don’t pretend you don’t know that song) at the top of my lungs, I hit a broken beer bottle (I’m on a deserted highway after all!) and my tire goes flat. I pull off to the side of the road annoyed, but prepared. I know how to handle this problem by myself. But then, I turn around and riding in on a white horse (deserted highways in my fantasy world are the best!) is a ruggedly handsome cowboy. He swings off his horse in one fluid motion, removes his beat up Stetson and says “It’d be my pleasure to help ma’am?”. Of course my plan of doing it alone is abandoned and I let the cowboy help me out.
While a long-winded analogy—the short version is this. I have plans and tools to handle my mental illness alone. Yet, God blessed me with supportive family and friends who, during some of my more difficult moments, will ride in to assist me.
I’m pretty comfortable with my answer to the second question. I’ve started working on adjusting my mindset to including the possibility (but not guarantee) that assistance might be available. And while Sidney doesn’t have a white horse, he looks damn sexy stepping out of his sports car.
The first question I’m still working through. I know my husband loves me (he married me after all!) and sincerely wants to help me so I’m not giving up yet. It might take a while, but fortunately marriage means we have “till death do us part”. I personally think him purchasing a white Stetson would be a great start.