I’m in a long-term relationship. I have the most brilliant husband. He’s my best friend. I could never imagine not being in love with him, until that day when I thought I wasn’t. And boy did this scare me. He was my soul mate. How did that happen?
It was a period in our life where he was under huge stress with his job. Like many men, that meant going into his cave and internalizing things. But the more I tried to reach him, the deeper he retreated. He became a shell of himself. And this went on for way too long.
When we met, I was a young, single mother, having left a relationship to an abusive Ex. I was the screwed up one. My husband was the strong one. I wasn’t used to this ‘weaker’ version of him.
It was subtle but there was a definite shift in our relationship. He started to defer to me in everything, so I’d have to make all the decisions. He’d leave me to drive everything that we did. To now oversee anything to do with our kids. He just disconnected. And I started to resent him for it.
It was as though I had to become his mother. I hated that role. And I hated that I was turning into a nagging one, to his new more child-like persona.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I started to bully him, needling him by making sarcastic remarks. I guess deep down I was becoming needier and punishing him for him no longer being the strong man I was used to. For making me play the role of a nagging mother. And of course, all this did was to make him retreat into his cave even more. I was pushing him away. We were disconnecting further.
I looked at him one day and thought, I’m not sure I love you anymore. I could even imagine that we might one day break up. Oh. My. God. That was unimaginable to me before. It scared the hell out of me.
Up until then we’d been so strong, so close. We have the same sense of humour and always laughed our way out of arguments. There was the absolute certainty and comfort in knowing that we’d grow old together. It terrified me that even the solidest of love I felt, could evaporate like this. The most perfect of marriages could disintegrate, as ours was now.
I had spent many years working on myself after leaving a man who had nearly killed me. After all, that kind of guy had attracted me, when other women would have run a mile. I had to take responsibility for my side of that dysfunctional relationship. And I had to do so now.
So, I looked hard at what was happening. I was once again becoming someone I’m not. I didn’t like how I was behaving. And I wanted to love my husband again. This was a massive wake up call. Something needed to happen, or our marriage could end.
I always say, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher comes’. Well, one day I had the television on and someone, who I don’t recall, said: ‘love is verb, not a noun’. And when they went on to explain it further, everything clicked into place.
I knew that a relationship, when it is healthy and works, is one between two adults. Sometimes one is stronger, the other one is weak. Other times it is the reverse. And that had been true for us up until this point.
But I now realized this seesaw had tilted too far one way, for too long. We were disconnecting from each other and connection is what keeps love alive. Our relationship was veering into becoming a dysfunctional one. So, when my husband was becoming more of the child to my parent, we stopped functioning as adult to adult. I resented him, as I didn’t want to play that role and be his mother. I certainly didn’t want to have sex with a ‘child’, so that side of our relationship suffered too. Had it continued like this, we would have spiraled into our demise.
‘Love is a verb, not a noun’ the guy had said. If you ‘fall out of love’ with someone, the way to get it back on track is to remember that fact. So, I did as he said. I started to show love in my actions, as well as words. I dropped the sarcasm and resentment and replaced it with kindness. After all, he was still my best friend. I showed him the respect he deserved.
By changing my behaviour, little by little he responded in kind and we found our way back into the middle. Communicating as two adults again. He finally talked openly about what was stressing him. He hated his job, but in his mind, he had to be the breadwinner, as he was the man. ‘Chuck it in’ I said. ‘You don’t have to be. I don’t expect it and it’s your problem if you think so’.
He had been the main breadwinner for years, that’s true. But by now I was earning a good enough salary for us to cope if he did what I suggested. ‘Chuck it in’ I implored him. Life’s too short. The relief on his face was clear. So, he did. And I got my man back.
In this down time, we got our relationship back on track. He started running, he got fit. He found his self-esteem again and the love that I feared I had lost, came back more than ever. As his did for me. We are stronger than ever now and I’m happy to say there’s no way on earth I can imagine not growing old with him today.
My husband later got a job with the company he’s still thriving with. So, chucking that old job in was also meant to be. Our relationship going off kilter was a wake-up call that something needed to change. I guess it’s inevitable at some point, if you’re with someone long-term.
Over the years I’ve learnt that a guy needs time in his cave to process any stress and to leave him be. Especially, when he first walks in the door after a hard day at work! He’s learnt that women need men, at some point, to come out of their cave and talk those problems through. And we both now know how important it is we stay connected. By showing love as a verb – not just in what we say, but what we do. Adult to adult.
Originally published at www.beingunbeatable.com