As I mentioned in Part One of this series (did you miss it? Find it here), my husband and I grew up together. We know each other about as good as anyone can. And yet, we still went through a time in our relationship where we found ourselves far apart. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch this problem until I had deeply and effectively barricaded myself from him and the rest of the world. I became an expert in plastic reality; a vendor of a fake genuine. I stormed ahead unaware until my husband finally stopped me in my tracks when he asked, “Just let me love you.”
Unaware of what was going on inside my heart, boundaries were cemented into place that helped me keep everyone at an arm’s length and maintain an extremely shallow existence. I was ‘fine’ until I wasn’t, and then I blew up. I lashed out and attacked those closest to me whenever I felt as though the fine lines defining my box of seclusion had been breached. I was frustrated with the pattern I saw in myself but I didn’t know how to change it. Have you been here? As I mentioned in Part 1, our time in the Desert was not defined by discord; we were both still fully committed to our marriage and each other and working hard to fix it. What we weren’t doing was hurting us more, however. We didn’t know how to give and receive love freely, with no strings attached. We both craved a love free of inhibitions and agendas – a love we were both unsure how to give.
It was only when I realized that I was, in the most basic terms, rejecting offered love, that I began to see the light. Then my dilemma wasn’t trying to figure out what my problem was, as much as I struggled to find out why. Why did I feel the need to protect myself from those that offered me love? Part of the answer lies in a deep need to control my environment, and, in many ways, everyone else’s. We’ll cover that another time…. But for our purposes here, we’ll stick to the other reason: I had gotten out of practice.
Just like if you don’t use it, you lose it, I had gotten so caught up with life that I had stopped practicing how to give and receive love. And so I had gotten bad at it. I could go through the motions, but under the surface I had become hardened and independent, and my husband knew it, and it hurt him. No one wants to be thrown artificial love like a plastic bone to a dog. We all crave genuine, uninhibited, intimate, all-seeing, all-forgiving love. I couldn’t receive it so I couldn’t give it… which meant we were both starving in a relationship that’s only problem was an inability to offer and inspire real love.
Once this was uncovered, I knew where I had to turn. I’ve known my whole life that there is no other entity on earth that can satisfy my soul’s craving for love and intimacy like my Savior. Somewhere in the busyness of crazy every day life, I had lost that closeness in my relationship with the Lord. I had put myself at arm’s length with Him, too – and it had begun a spiral down to the Desert we now found ourselves in. Fixable? Absolutely. Avoidable? Oh yes.
I now know how to keep myself far, far away from the edge of that cliff to self-seclusion. Although I still look for love and completion in my marriage, first and foremost I need to be filled by my Savior. If there is a need in my heart it isn’t that my relationship with my husband isn’t good enough, it’s that I’m not receiving the love that God has offered to me. He is more than enough to satisfy all of my needs and keep me on the rock of His salvation, regardless of the ups and downs relationships will inevitably take.
No marriage is perfect, and ours certainly has a lot of growing to do, but we have been blessed to learn this valuable lesson early on. I need to open my heart to give and receive real, honest, raw love. And in order to do that I need to be constantly immersed in the love and truth God offers to me. I was created with a deep need for honesty and acceptance in vulnerability and intimacy, and you were too. Let’s try to find our confidence in Christ and not look for our relationships with others to be our primary source of affirmation. I hope this is helpful to you! Leave a comment and share your thoughts.