Simply put: where there’s a WILL, there’s a WAY.
[Pamela] wondered if he would even see the note taped to the front door before he left home that morning. My day ahead was full of more dirty diapers, baskets of laundry, and sinks full of dishes. No one asked how I was doing. No one called to check in on my day. I had no other family nearby to have coffee with. I was a young wife and a mom of two toddlers, struggling with more loneliness as a married woman than I ever had when single.
Each day, Robert went to a job he thoroughly loved, worked with people who inspired him, and served in a role in which he found purpose and community. Each night, he would come home, the front door would fling open, and you’d hear, “Daddy’s home!” as the kids went shouting his praises as if Superman had just entered the house. And me? By that time of day, I looked like I had been through a war zone.
The moments I looked forward to the most were moments with him, with my husband. Cuddle time on the couch with no little voices interrupting the movie or bowl of ice cream or late-night cup of coffee were among my favorite end-of-the-day highlights. But, instead, as I entered the room, there he was — sprawled out on the couch, TV remote in hand, snoring like a monsoon. After all, he had worked hard all day. He was really tired. And soon after, he decided to go to bed.
As those first few years of marriage progressed, I felt more like a maid than a wife, but I kept telling myself it was OK because he was so happy in the world in which he was learning to succeed. After all, he was working so hard. I should be really grateful, right? I tried, but still I was so lonely, and becoming lonelier. I had never thought of myself one day feeling lonely in a marriage.
What is a wife supposed to do with such feelings? I had so much that I wanted to say to him, so much I needed to say. But, I didn’t want to be that wife, a nagging wife who was never happy enough. Still, those emotions are a difficult thing to shake. Expectations are powerful. What I wanted to tell him was I needed more of him in my life and more of us. I wanted life to be like it was before the “I do’s.” I wanted a return to the spontaneous, the togetherness, less responsibilities, the flirty responses, the tender touches, the love letters, the getting the butterflies from just being in the same room. Was it really all gone? Were we really going to grow or act old so soon? Was there something I could do? If so, what was it?
I was desperate to know.
I thought about it a lot.
I prayed about it.
Finally, I decided to write him a note. I folded it neatly in a business envelope and taped it to the front door. Then, I waited and went to bed.
FINDING THE NOTE
The note taped to the front door I [Robert] found the next morning was likely an ordinary to-do list from Pamela, I thought. Eager to head off to work while she was still sleeping, I slipped the note in my appointment book and set off to meet my day. I’d check the note later. Right now, a schedule chock-full of other “important responsibilities” wouldn’t wait.
Somewhere around lunchtime, I noticed the note again. It had dropped out of my appointment book and lay on my desk still untouched. When I opened it to take a quick look, the first sentence caught my attention: “Robert, I don’t know what has happened to us.” I decided I had better give it a full read.
The note went something like this:
I don’t know what’s happened to us. The life we’re now living, from my view, is no life at all. At least, this is not what I ever thought life would become. It feels like you’re more married to your work than you are to me. I’m confused. And I don’t know what to do with all that it’s causing me to feel.
I’ve tried in lots of little ways to talk with you about this, but you just aren’t hearing me. You’re so creative at your work — I wish you would pour some of your creative energy into our home, into our children, into me.
There are times I almost wish your preoccupation with your work were with another woman, so I could tell her to “bug off!” Something in our relationship is dying, and I don’t know what to do about it.
Now we have our second baby, and our girls need more than I can give them by myself. They need a daddy and I need a husband. Robert, I don’t know who to turn to.
My wife had expressed her frustrations before, but I’d always viewed them as something she would eventually just get over. This was different, maybe because I now connected the words in this note with the look I’d been seeing on her face. That look I’d been ignoring, a look of hopelessness and pain. Desperation.
After reading the note, I knew this was no yellow light. It was bright red.
RESPONDING TO THE NOTE
Pamela’s written words drove home one point loud and clear: our relationship had entered a danger zone. The question now tensing within my stomach was, What am I going to do about this? My “will” and her “way” were on a collision course.
As I sat there, thinking and praying, I remembered an old saying: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
So, I picked up the phone and called Pamela.
“I read the note,” I told her.
“And, I really want to talk about it,” I continued.
“I don’t want to talk,” Pamela said. Which I knew meant she really did want to talk, but it wasn’t going to be as easy as I might have hoped. She was hurt, deeply so.
I told her I had called a baby-sitter to watch our kids at home, and I wanted us to go to a quiet restaurant so that I could hear her out, fully. After some coaxing, that’s exactly what we did. Out of that three-hour talk I heard Pamela somehow beyond the words and also began to better understand how she felt.
It wasn’t the volume of Pamela’s complaint that finally got my attention; it was the accuracy, or the truth of it. This long, heartfelt talk led to some much-needed changes. Out of that time we established some practices in our married and family life that have been anchor points for us ever since. One was that we started going on periodic Passionate Getaways — a few times a year just getting away as a couple to nurture oneness and understanding in our relationship. This decision, along with some others, have been among the best we have ever made, and we would recommend them to any married couple.
For us, seven years into marriage, the Will of a Man and The Way of a Woman were at a crossroads. The next turn in our journey was uncertain. This point could have been the beginning of the end. After all, our marriage was broken, but instead of breaking apart, the conflict was doing something different. It was about to break us open to a new place of understanding and oneness.
Adapted from Robert & Pamela Crosby’s new book, The Will of a Man & The Way of a Woman: Balancing & Blending Better Together.
Making Room For Your Marriage / 5 Ways to Enhance Oneness
Marriage is all about making room. It involves rearranging the furniture of your world so that the person you are committed to receives priority consideration. Here are a few ideas for starters:
1. Choose a Transition Marker on Your Drive Home – Find a landmark of some type that you pass by on your way home that can serve as a daily reminder to you to switch your “mental gears” before you get home. After a full day of all you have to do, take intentional steps to turn your thoughts toward your spouse. Ask yourself a few “I wonder” questions, such as: “I wonder what kind of day my spouse has had?”, “I wonder how they are feeling right now?”, and … “I wonder what I could do or say in the first few minutes after I see them that would set an encouraging tone for our evening?”
2. Ask Your Spouse Great Questions – One of the best ways to strengthen your marriage is to stay interested in each other. Nothing is more depressing than watching a couple sit at a restaurant and look at everything and everyone in the room except each other. And, to not talk at all. Or, to spend the meal gazing into their smartphone screens, instead of each other’s faces. Take time to get to know more about your spouse’s hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, worries and needs.
3. Fill Your Spouse’s Hope Tank Often – Few things are more encouraging to a marriage than planning fun times and fun activities to look forward to. I [Robert] found out a long time ago that my wife enjoys looking forward to a vacation or getaway time together almost as much as she enjoys the trip itself. Keep your spouse’s hope tank full!
4. Turn Off the Tech at Mealtime & Bedtime – Here’s an idea: turn off the tech and turn on the tender touches! Overuse of a smartphone in the midst of married life is not too smart, not at all. Create some tech-free sanctuaries in your married life and world.
5. Show Interest in Their Interests – Steven Curtis Chapman, the popular Gospel musician and songwriter, has released at least 20 albums. One of his consistent practices has been to include one song to his wife in each of those albums. One of my favorites is “What I’d Really Like to Say,” a song that tries to say the things about married love that are hard to put into words. So, Chapman paints it metaphorically and beautifully in these words to Mary Beth, his wife of 34 years: “What I’d really like to say is what the sun would say to the sky for giving it a place to come alive.” Find ways to help your spouse live out their hobby, dream, talent, or interest. When they shine, so will you.
In this poignant phrase, Chapman speaks of a love that make a place, a place for someone to come alive. We do that for our spouses not just when we marry them or vow to love them, but every time we do something that helps them find a place, a place to grow, to heal, to shine; more room to love, more room live, and more room thrive. That’s what marriage does.
Am I Making Room for You? / 7 Questions to Ask Your Spouse
7 Questions to Ask Your Spouse
.01 Do you always feel comfortable when you are around me? When have I made you feel the most comfortable?
.02 Do you feel like you can talk with me about anything?
.03 Are there things you wish you had room for in our lives that you don’t? How can I help make room for that?
.04 Have I made reasonable room in my life for your family members, your parents, and siblings?
.05 Do you feel you have room in our house to do the things you want to do? What part of the house is your favorite place to relax or unwind?
.06What are the things you do that make you feel most “alive?” Are there any ways I can help you do that even more?
.07 Do you feel I am taking time to help you with challenges you face in your life?