Last week was difficult for my wife. She was struggling more or less the entire week with doubts, fears, and unwelcome reminders of pain from our past. Worst of all? I missed it.
How did I miss it?
Tammy needed me to come alongside her and provide spiritual and emotional support to wage a battle in her mind, and I missed it. How, might you imagine, could I miss such a thing?
That’s what happens when you don’t talk to each other!
Talk to each other? We talk daily. We pray daily. We are each other’s best friend and have cultivated a very close relationship. We text each other constantly, chat online throughout the day, and talk to each other on the phone. Lack of communication was hardly the reason I missed my wife’s battle.
OK, so you talked, but you weren’t really listening.
That’s certainly a possibility. I have been known to “nod knowingly” while being otherwise engaged in my brain. Last week, however, this wasn’t the case at all. We talked daily and I DID listen. I was very much aware on a day-to-day basis that my bride was encountering challenges. Each time she shared, I offered support and encouragement as a good husband and friend should do.
You probably offered solutions instead of support.
Good thinking. Men commonly fall into the trap of attempting to solve a problem for their wife rather than lending an ear and being supportive. Chalk it up to having a marriage counselor for a father and being a student of communication and relationships for much of my life, but I didn’t succumb to this common pitfall! I did not try to ‘fix’ the situation for her.
I missed the forest!
Very simply, I was aware of and dealt with the trees in my wife’s heart last week. But I completely missed the forest! Each day I was aware of challenges that she experienced and I dutifully supported her to the best of my ability. The problem is that I didn’t recognize the pattern. It wasn’t until the end of the week that I put all of the pieces together and realized that she was feeling attacked mentally and spiritually almost every day!
On Friday, I sat down with a couple of Christian brothers to share our respective weeks and how we could pray for one another. I began to describe my week and it all clicked into place! I realized that Tammy hadn’t just had a rough day or two, but that nearly every day that week she had been waging a mental battle against doubt, fear, and pain. As I posted a couple weeks ago, wounds heal crooked. I have come to accept that it isn’t a smooth or predictable process. Consequently, I eagerly lent a sympathetic ear to my lovely wife, but I missed the bigger picture.
Last week, Tammy needed more from me than just a sympathetic ear or a comforting shoulder. She needed more than a husband who was available to be supportive and encouraging. She needed a champion. She needed for me to roll up my sleeves and tackle these painful memories and looming fears directly and completely. She was experiencing a chronic episode of doubt and fear that I was treating as acute, isolated obstacles.
Deal with the forest AND the trees
The Trees: Communication in your relationship is critical to building intimacy. You need to talk every day and be aware of the highs and lows that each of you is experiencing.
The Forest: Your relationship also needs perspective. You and your spouse need to take time (weekly, monthly, etc.) to look at your relationship and your family dynamics from a broader perspective. Identify trends, recognize patterns, and put your heads together to deal with opportunities and threats that you uncover.
Once I recognized the broader forest of challenges that my bride was wrestling with, I sprung into action. I made a concerted and comprehensive effort to come alongside her heart and wage a war against the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that was plaguing her mind with lies.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, – II Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)