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Another night of silence and gloom, a dark cloud cast over our tiny apartment. Me: quietly keeping to myself, stealing glances his way, reading the same sentence over and over as I sit, compassionately concerned on the couch. Him: stewing in the corner, angrily hammering at the computer keyboard, working on his resume. Again. Like every other night this week. Because he just plain hates his job.
We’ve had a couple of these seasons in our 10 years of marriage. I am so very thankful we aren’t in one now. The memories of those times are still thick and tender.
How I sat on that couch feeling useless, lonely, scared, caught in the backwash of his frustrating vocation. Every husband is different, as is every wife. For us, the hating of his job manifested itself in cold, quiet evenings. My introverted husband retreated deeper and deeper into himself, leaving me alone in silence wondering, analyzing, mourning for him, for us, on my own.
I tried to be enough sunshine for both of us. Making delicious dinners, planning interesting outings and extra awesome date nights. But for the most part, I was helpless. I couldn’t overpower the weight of the daily grind. No weekend adventure or extraordinarily pleasant evening at home could make it go away. Nothing could change the fact that he would have to wake up tomorrow and face it all again.
There was nothing I could do to change his circumstance at work, and our time at home would never be “perfect” enough to make it all worth it. All I could do was control my reaction. Change my expectations and exhibit some self-control, of my tongue as well as my emotions. Most importantly, I had to allow myself to be changed for the better by this test. I had to water the seeds of change and starve the seeds of descent.
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I prayed a lot and decided to just give my husband a giant break. I had to separate my emotional well-being from his, not allow his mood to affect my entire life, and not allow his work life to cast a shadow across everything in our world. But I still had to remain sympathetic, empathetic, compassionate and kind. It was hard work. Really hard.
There were nights I just wanted to yell at him to pull it together, stop holding me emotionally hostage. Snap out of it, already! But how often had I done the same to him in my own despair for my own reasons? Sometimes being married means letting someone else be miserable, and being miserable with them, sitting silently, sadly together and letting the mood of your home whisper, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
I had to make conscious choices to grow empathy, compassion, patience and faith in my heart. Oh wow, were these painful lessons. I would rather have gone my own separate way and said, “Hey, give me a call when you’re in a better mood. In the meantime, I’ll be living a life.” There were days that I wanted to snap a quick solution, “If you hate it so much, just quit! Ugh! Just quit and shut up about it already.” If only it were that simple.
Instead, I had to buckle down and choose empathy and compassion, truly understanding his frustration, experiencing it, living it with him and standing by his side. I had to struggle through day after day not knowing when it would end, but learning to be patient as he worked through his own struggle, learning to have faith in the man I married. Because this man, this grouchy soul, he wasn’t the man I was used to. I had to keep believing the better version of him was still in there somewhere. I had to be patient until he returned.
I did none of this perfectly. I’m not even sure I did it particularly well. I know I did my best. That’s about all I can say.
I tried really hard never to complain to him, but to air my grievances with trusted friends and family members who could pray for me, him, and us. I really did my best not to pressure him with my frustrations concerning his work, not to pile on more pain and blame, but just let him deal in his own time and his own way.
I’m so very happy that we are on the other end of it now. He loves his current position, and we couldn’t be more blessed. I’ve never been, nor will I ever be the perfect wife. I do hope in those seasons, when he hated his job, that I earned a deeper love and respect by supporting him in his dark time. I know it was a dark and lonely time for me, too. But spending a lifetime with someone is bound to require a “changing of the guard” of sorts, where each partner in turn stands watch and bears the brunt of the burden.
While he mourned his miserable condition, he retreated from the rest of life. It was my turn to bear the burden of everything else, to do all the reaching toward him, to do all the connecting for the both of us, to do all the merry-making and silver-lining-finding, as well as deal with my own problems and disappointments, on my own without his helping hand. He has most definitely done the same for me.
We each take turns carrying the burden when the other just can’t bear anything else. In fact, sitting here in the trenches of brand new motherhood, reflecting on the hormonal swings and sleepless, emotional ups and downs of life with twin newborns, I can see through the haze how he doing this for me right now. Choosing empathy, compassion, patience and faith. Caring for me, understanding me, baring the burden, remaining patient, having faith that his lively, silly, sunshine-y bride will return in a few months time. Because some days I really hate this job. I just hope I loved him then, while he hated his job, as well as he is loving me now, on the days I hate mine.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mama, and blogger who loves Jesus & large non-fat lattes. You can find Marie on her blog encouraging, challenging, and laughing… under a pile of diapers.