“I’m ready to give up trying. I don’t want to care anymore. I’m ready to build my happiness next to you but not with you… I don’t know if this can be healed. I’m not even sure I would be up for it. I’m not saying we should end our marriage. I just need to be less desperately unhappy. If that means having no expectations of anything from you then maybe that’s my answer.”
This is an excerpt of a letter I once wrote to Dan. It was after years of constant stress, crisis upon crisis with our son. For most of that time, we had been an effective partnership. But the stress had taken its toll, and I came to the end of my rope. Dan didn’t have the inner resources to hold Nicholas’s rope and mine too.
I was deeply hurt and furiously angry, which pushed my husband away into self-reproach and defensiveness. He withdrew. I chased him with bitter demands. It was a mess.
It’s no secret that marriages can crumble under the pressure of parenting a child who needs special care. But we are not doomed to fail in our most important earthly relationship. We can shore up our defenses.
Further down, the letter read this:
“In my Bible reading the other day, Jesus said that to follow is to deny oneself, take up a cross and follow Him. So I am going to try. I just hope that eventually you will not want to be a cross. If Jesus matters to me then I have to try to keep my vows to you.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but along with the bitterness flowing from my pen came a thread of truth, of hope. The beginning of healing for our marriage came when I stopped looking at all Dan was or was not doing, and focused on following Jesus.
At first it was an angry throwing up of hands, giving up. But under God’s ministration it morphed into surrender, enabling an eternal perspective, and eventually, a compassion for my husband.
I never gave Dan that letter, although later I showed it to him, after a lot of counseling and working on reconnection. Writing it didn’t save our marriage. God did that, through a wise counselor, time, work, and His Holy Spirit. The letter helped me see what was going on in my own heart. It opened the door to God’s work in me.
Every marriage is different, but there are some actions that can help in nearly every messy relationship:
1) Get help from a godly counselor. Sooner than later.
2) Acknowledge the stress of caring for your kid with mental illness and recognize the toll it can take on your marriage.
3) Place your confidence in the only One who can bear the weight of your expectations. That is not your spouse.
4) Pray with honesty abut your pain, write it out in a letter (unsent), cry and grieve over the fractures in your most important earthly relationship. Don’t deny the hurt; process it.
5) Practice kindness and compassion for your spouse, especially when you don’t feel like it. Believe it or not, he is going through this too.
6) Be careful and wise about venting. Confide in those who are the cheerleaders and supporters of your marriage. I’m not advocating putting on a happy face and pretending all is great. Just choose your close confidants with caution.
Dear friends- this is such a hard one. If I can pray for you in a struggle with your marriage, please leave a comment or contact me through my website kirstenp.com. I would count it a privilege.