If you’ve been married for a little while, it’s always an interesting exercise to look back at where you came from. For us, a lot of that is done as we’ve shared on the radio, blogs, and podcasts these past several years . We love to share some of where we’ve come from and how we got here.
When Joe and I looked back at our early marriage, we could agree on quite a few of the dynamics that were present in those early years. We characterize our early years of growing intimacy as one big game of Hide-n-Seek. Joe was hiding, I was seeking.
As much as Joe and I were close during our dating years, there was a marked shift in Joe when we got married. After dating five years and with three of those years being long-distance, I was super excited to be close to Joe. Like many young brides, I had high expectations of my husband and marriage.
I knew that Joe came with issues from his past. But we both fell for the lie that said, “being married will make it better”. How much easier we could work on our relational issues, if we just lived in the same home or even the same city. When we don’t have to pay for phone calls, it will be easier. I think that’s a fair expectation?
Maybe it wasn’t realistic. Growing up with so much instability in his childhood, Joe had never seen a family “work out”. Every relationship broke, inevitably. He saw his life as being titled, Things Never Work Out.
Joe thought that marriage- the signed promise- would solve his insecurity about whether this relationship would last. He never outright told me this, but inside, every narrative from his past is saying, you know nothing good lasts. And the even louder voice saying, If she really gets to know you, she won’t love you. Don’t get too close, and you won’t get hurt. Don’t risk the rejection.
He had two reactions to this.
One, he kept his distance. We had a great friendship, we got along well, we did things together, but there was this wall that he had built that told me, don’t come too close. Here I thought we’re getting married, we’d be close. Even closer than when we were dating, of course!! Instead I felt like we had taken a step backward. The hide and seek game commences.
Two, he did everything in his power to make sure nothing bad would happen to me and his safety freak tendencies went into full force. I felt like he could never truly relax and he was always worried about something. It’s like he was always looking over his shoulder.
Why did he have to worry about everything? Why couldn’t he get excited about anything? This is coming from me, whose life could be titled, Things Always Work Out. I didn’t understand his anxieties or moods. They could show up seemingly, out of nowhere.
When I felt that distance and that anxiety from him, I knew it was “his past”. He’d even tell me so in moments of vulnerability. I’m struggling with my past. But it didn’t always make sense to me. If he was hurting, if he was struggling, why wouldn’t he want to be close to me? In the years that followed I learned that it’s not always that simple.
But I was stubborn and still I pursued him relentlessly. Sometimes that meant I pushed. Maybe even smothered. Closed in on his space. Which meant he backed off even more. Learning how to love him without the smothering has been a lifelong lesson I would have to learn in my marriage.
And Joe? As we look back on that time, he freely admits he was running. He did feel safer hiding. But not just from me, but from the pain he carried, and ultimately, from God.
There was a lot to enjoy about our early years. Our love for each other was strong. We cared for each other, the best we knew how. But Joe’s love was clouded by his private suffering and worries. My love for Joe was clouded by confusion, pride, and impatience. We both needed transformation.
By God’s grace, change did come, although not through the easy route.
More, on Part 2 of Ready or not, here I come.