When Trust Doesn’t Work

I have a private blog where I discuss my marriage problems in-depth to a few caring people, but I wanted to provide a general update here as well. I am on depression/anxiety medication now, and it was rough at first, but my body has adjusted to them. I’m definitely experiencing more even emotions without the roller-coaster ups and downs. And yet, depression still hits, like when my husband of 12 years doesn’t know that I need my glasses for far away (I’ve only been near-sighted for most of my life). And when I’m making financial decisions based on the fact that we have no net income, and my husband tells me I can spend as much as I like (because he knows I won’t spend too much). He doesn’t understand how confusing and frustrating that is. I want to get a job, but I have three kids to take care of.

And then there’s the whole trust thing. It doesn’t work. I find myself starting to be able to meet his eye, talk back to him, and then he says something that sets me back to where I was. I hate it. I actually find myself hating my life.

In Christ, I am loved. In this house, I am loved by my children. Desperately loved. Hugs and kisses every hour or so. I kind of get sick of it, but I am grateful, too. Why do I need to be so affected by my spouse’s lack of faithfulness and love? I wish I could get over it. I wish I could pour my energy into an art project or writing project, and use that as therapy, but all that seems too frivolous for these desperate times. I would feel guilty for being artistic when I should be practical. I find myself hating who I am, too, and I know that’s wrong. It’s hard to talk myself out of these thoughts. What is that called? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Change the way I think.

I’m not telling you all this so you can see how low I get. I’m writing because I need to know myself, and then I can work on praying about the specifics. And you can pray, too. Because God is in control, and He listens and understands.

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Insecure

How is it that last night I could write about the beautiful promises in Isaiah and be all happy about God taking care of His people, and today I am an insecure mess in need of a good cry? And feeling like people will be angry or dismissive of me if I cry?

So I read the promises again. They are wonderful. They are true. And I’m still struggling big time.

I’ve even been doubting my vocation as mother and homeschooler. Maybe I should be working. I can earn more than my husband; support the farm. He doesn’t want to quit farming and the cows are doing awful. Maybe I should be doing that. Or work and homeschool at the same time. It’s been done. Who will take care of the kids? I don’t know. I don’t know anything right now. Except that I’m trying to do everything right; follow the rules, live in integrity. And I feel like I’m doing it all wrong, anyway.

Even my freelance writing; it’s a source of income. But it’s not steady or predictable, or enough to cover groceries. And if I spend too much time on the computer I end up thinking of my husband at counseling saying how I was on “that stupid computer” most nights. But I was taking care of the kids during the day. And this stupid computer is actually one of my favorite places to be. And I don’t think, deep down, that it’s wrong for me to be on here. But maybe it is. Maybe I’m always wrong about everything. Maybe I’m a horrible wife and mother. I don’t think so, but I also do.

Beautiful Promises of Isaiah 43

We had a sermon on Isaiah 43 tonight, and it got me thinking more about that lovely chapter. Here are some things I’ve been thinking about.

Vs. 1b: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” To be told not to fear is a wonderful thing in itself. I do fear. I fear a lot. And I shouldn’t because God has called me by my name and said I am His. He takes care of His own.

Parts of vs. 2: “…they shall not overwhelm you… the flame shall not consume you.” Wow. So when I feel overwhelmed and consumed, it’s really just a wave or a flame that’s touching me while I am in the very safe grip of God.

Vs. 4a: “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” It reminds me of that hymn, “Jesus, Lover of my Soul.” Just when I think I am unloved, I am proven wrong. And actually, when one person unloves you and dishonors you, that’s when you begin to realize how many others really do love you.

Vs. 13b: “I work, and who can turn it back?” That’s so reassuring. God is at work, and all the sanctification He works in me and others cannot be turned back or dismissed or reversed with lies by anyone.

Vs. 26: “Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.” Ha, I’m not exactly sure what that means, and I’ll probably check my study Bible later, but right now I’m thinking, hey, this is an invitation to communicate with God and to claim the promises He has given in His word. I’m not a big fan of arguing, but reminding God of Himself seems like a thing I can do.

One hundred percent

I had a talk with my husband tonight about lots of things, and it was confusing, but it did break through some nasty silences, and anyway, I feel better now about hashing some of my thoughts out here, now that I’ve at least mentioned them to my husband first.

When we were first married, he told me (and I was willing to agree) that everything we had was 100 percent his and 100 percent mine. I have since found out that this is easy to say, but feeling like it is true is impossible, at least for me. In an effort to make it true (or more true), I believe I got it into my head that he and I were 100 percent one person. And so if he did something stupid, it was just the same as if I did something stupid. And I could legitimately beat myself up for it, or legitimately get angry at him for making me stupid.

I wish I had never believed that statement. Because actually, I’m different than him, and his weaknesses are his, not mine. I can’t fix them by being better at them myself. We all have our own personal struggles, and we all have our own minds and ways of thinking.

It’s super hard for me to tell myself that there is nothing I can do about the way my husband is right now. It’s hard to form a little fence around myself and say, “Hey, I’ve got some work to do on the inside of this fence right now, and the way you are is doing more damage than help, so I’ve got to keep you out.” It will be hard to know when it’s okay to open the gate. Probably, I’ll open it more often than is good for me.

Ideally, that gate should be open to my husband 100 percent of the time. But this time in my life is not ideal. And I might have to settle for 25 percent. Or whatever. In the meantime, I work on the inside of my fence, getting advice from wise people (letting the good in), and wisely taking the advice (making myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually stronger while keeping the bad out). Sounds just as easy at that 100 percent theory sounded, but it’s not. It is so very hard to do the right thing. Only God really knows exactly the right thing, and following His will is something you do when you have those moments of personal strength (or faith). It’s so easy to mess up and do your own thing. It’s also so easy to think that my husband ought to be doing the same thing as me. But of course, we’re not the same person, and even our fences and gates are different. For instance, what’s going on right now in this post is helpful to me, but if my husband tried to read it, he probably wouldn’t understand it in the same way. And get offended. Or give up on ever understanding me. But that’s what I’m keeping out right now… I am not him. His thoughts are not mine. Shut that gate.

A Chance to Clear My Thoughts

I set my kids the task of clearing up the toy clutter, so I now have a chance to clear my thoughts, which are many.

First thought: It’s fieldwork season; which means my farmer husband is going to have yet another aspect of work to do. I can think of so many things around the house that I would like help with: cleaning up all the garbage littering our farm, getting a hose ready that I can attach a sprayer to (because the birds are up to their dirty business on my windows again), making a plan about the weeds that come back with new determination every year, the garage door needs repainting, and so does the picnic table now that I’m thinking about it, and the mold in the upstairs bathroom is looking bad again, and I simply don’t know what to do about it. Plus, it looks as if a big patch of the lawn died even though I did mow the leaves last fall. I need to do some major raking on the lawn to remove twigs and nuts. I understand that I can do some of this myself, but some of it is beyond my skill level. I get such a hopeless feeling when I contemplate the state of our farm.

Second thought: My husband said, “There must be something you can concentrate on instead…” So I thought about that. I’m doing fine on homeschooling. What am I supposed to be concentrating on? My home. The Bible says I should be busy at home. I’m obeying and not obeying at the same time because I’m busy at home, but my busyness at home is creating needs that I can’t meet by myself, and so I’m discontent. But how can I be content with this place? Sure, if the neighborhood suddenly got bombed or hit by a major tornado or something, and my home stayed the same, I’d probably be content with it. Because then the standard changes. Then it’s about survival only, not living appropriately with beauty and order.

Next thought: I really want a therapist or counselor. I feel like I need to get some of this hashed out. But the closest nouthetic counselor is too far away. And I don’t do Skype. The nouthetic counseling network doesn’t have anyone who counsels via emails; I checked. There must be someone who will counsel me via email…

Another thought: I’m reading a little book about bitterness (and this may be another post someday), and I know I have bitterness problems. But am I bitter about sin or not? I honestly can’t tell. Is forgetfulness and lack of thought sin? Is acting differently in the company of different people sin? Is falling asleep in church sin? I could go on. I am super confused about this, and I can’t untangle the answer.

Final thought: Bitterness comes with a sort of hardness. In some cases, this hardness seems necessary… or I’d be crying constantly. And yet, I am called to have a gentle spirit. Am I gentle or harsh? I seem to flip-flop. I wish I could just find a magic potion to make it okay to trust my husband again. I’m starting to feel stupid for believing him.

This does help me. I think I can go play a game or read a book before sending my kids to bed. Thank you for hearing me out.

A Prayer for Power and Strength

Dear Lord, You are God. You are all-powerful and mighty. You are also compassionate and loving. You are also just and wise. Dear Lord, I ask You to do what I cannot. Grant me the strength I need to live the life You gave me. I ask for the power to overcome evil thoughts. Please dispel the evil in me and around me.

Lord, You made me Your child. Please be near to me. My own children ask me for hugs and kisses. I come to You for comfort and love and an assurance of safety.

Lord, thank You for keeping all Your promises. Thank You for never letting go. And Lord, I know You speak through Your written and preached Word. Please help me to understand it correctly this time. Forgive me if I misinterpret, and lead me toward Your truth. I love You. This whole family needs You. I no longer ask You to pull us together; I ask for peace, however You design it.

Thank You for being all-knowing. Please care for those reading this prayer. Please grant them a measure of peace as well. In Your Name, Amen.

Moving Toward Healing

I am going to attempt one of my most careful and sensitive posts on Revision 3. Why? Because I read a marriage book in an attempt to help me with my marriage problems, and it was unlike any other book I’ve read. I did write some posts on another, more private blog, documenting my reactions and confusions as I read the book. I have since turned that blog off, and this post will be where I stand concerning The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick (2013).

Why I find this book helpful: The early chapters consist of two quizzes, one longer and designed to help me figure out which specific areas of my marriage may be emotionally destructive. The second is shorter and designed to determine if indeed my marriage can be called destructive or if it is merely weak or unhealthy. I did indeed end up with the “destructive” result. Although I didn’t even want to write about this second quiz at first because I didn’t really want to admit my marriage was that bad, now I have found this helpful. My mood swings, my depression, and my “feelings of craziness” are easier to explain. I can now pinpoint ways my husband acts that I don’t like and I don’t want to cover up. I have realized that I’ve been doing a lot of personal freaking out over things my husband does, and then I blame him privately, which makes me feel bad, so I shift the blame to myself, which doesn’t really make anything better, and I end up being enormously confused and feeling crazy. I now can put specific words behind what I’m freaking out about. That is very helpful.

What I don’t like about the book: The author, who is a Christian counselor, covers a lot of different types of emotionally destructive marriages here in this book. While the problems in my own marriage are subtle (yet awful) things like playing mind games and being indifferent to what I want, many of the examples in the book are severe abuse, and so the author is often showing how the husband and wife need to be separated, even to the point of divorce. She certainly doesn’t advocate it in every case, but her advice to leave your emotionally abusive spouse comes easier and more frequently than the advice I’ve grown up with. I wind up wishing for more advice for the less severe abuse cases.

The hardest (but maybe best) advice from this book: The author promotes something called “living from your CORE.” This is a personal strengthening-up. It is about what I do to keep myself strong and well. I need to be committed to truth and reality (that’s a big one for me – as I said before, I was covering up). I need to be open to growth, instruction, and feedback. (I’m open for feedback here, folks.) I need to be responsible for myself and respectful toward others without dishonoring myself. (Another big one – I tend to dishonor myself, and being responsible for keeping myself strong against the ways my husband acts is difficult. I haven’t really figured out the best ways to do that yet.) And I need to be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me. (Again, this is difficult. I’ll explain why in the next paragraph.)

My big confusion right now: My confusions tend to change and multiply depending on the day, but right now I have this thought: how do I be content in all circumstances, be forgiving, and still not enable my husband to treat me badly? I can’t even write my way through this one. I simply don’t know.

How am I currently handling the information from this book? One of the things I don’t like about my husband’s way of communication is his tendency to keep important information from me. I am the opposite. I tend to spill out too much emotional information that I probably would be better to keep to myself. So, yes, I’ve already discussed much of this with him, for better or worse. And he says he will work on some things, which I’m happy about. Because I now am noticing what upsets me, I get more pointedly upset at him, but this still leads to better communication between us. It’s better than senseless depression that seemed to have no source.

I am also seeing a need to emotionally withdraw from the relationship sometimes. It’s important that I don’t do this all the time, or I’d be totally cold-hearted and impossible to live with. On the other hand, this marriage isn’t going to be fixed by me alone. So I need to detach myself until my husband is willing to put in some effort toward the marriage cause as well. His big problem is that he’s too busy for anything. I feel bad about pressuring him to change when he has so much work stress as it is. But it’s exactly that stress that is spreading its toxins throughout the rest of the family. I can’t change that. So I have to shield myself against that bad stuff resulting from his bad situation. And I have to do that without allowing it to abuse me. That’s really hard. (Open for feedback here.)

Quote of the Day: “God calls us to be biblical peacemakers, not peacekeepers or peace fakers” (104). I have definitely been trying to be a peacekeeper and a peace faker, and now I have to try to be a peacemaker, which isn’t easy for me. Please pray for me. Thank you.