Did you cringe when you read that question? I cringed at it, and it's my own question.
This is a hard one, folks. Of all the things we want in this life, love tops the list. But do we want to GIVE love as much as we want to receive it? I've asked myself this question numerous times.
In my humanity, I can't say yes. Thankfully, I am able to operate out of something other than depraved humanity. And you can, too.
As believers, we have a new heart, as Ezekiel prophesies:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 36:26 NIV
This is very good news.
If, like me, you struggle with people pleasing or codependency, you may have noticed that loving others well is more challenging than you really want to admit.
At the core of a people pleaser (or codependent) sits a terror strong enough to rip any of us apart: the fear of rejection and abandonment.
Did you know what drives that fear?
"I never get what I want. It's just my lot in life."
The words spilled out of my mouth with a sad, yet angry energy. I threw them at my counselor, hoping for some sort of rescue. I'd always wanted to be rescued, all my life. White horse, valiant knight, the whole bit.
I was many years into what I called a miserable marriage, and as a marriage counselor myself, I was beaten down, defeated. I'd hoped I possessed enough training, or insight, or something to bring about the relationship I'd always dreamed of. Instead, I felt shame and self-loathing.
All my abilities led to nothing in this relationship. He felt that any time I opened my mouth that I was "therapizing" him (his word). I resented him for even saying that ridiculous word out loud.
My expectations for life and love were trashed, yet there was always something that compelled me onward... the slightest shred of hope.
But that day, in my counselor's office, I felt the full weight of...
Maybe you've already sent kiddos back to school, in some form or fashion. In the upper Midwest, we've still got another week of summer, but regardless of date, we're all living in back-to-school weirdness, finding ourselves navigating through unwanted, uncharted waters.
After a summer of emotional and political intensity (verging on insanity?), I think it's safe to say we all feel a little jarred. I imagine our kids do, too. And they're watching us for cues about how to feel as we approach school re-entry.
The vast experience of emotions streaming through our everyday lives can feel overwhelming. Fear, excitement, hope, anxiety, dread, and relief commingle, creating overwhelm, exhaustion, and frustration.
This stuff is hard.
A friend texted me last night saying she's essentially in emotional lock-down. It's a 5-alarm fire inside her soul, and it feels like there's not enough water in the world to quench it.
So how do we walk our sweet kiddos through this...
Most mornings, in the foggy twilight between sleep and consciousness, my mind requires a bit of time to catch up to speed on reality. I'm guessing yours does, too.
This morning, for those few, fleeting seconds, I believed today was a Monday like all the Mondays I've known before... coffee, school, work, etc. Until my brain arrived in real time, and made the disheartening discovery that there is still a pandemic, and life as we knew it is temporarily on hold.
But these foggy, forgetful mornings betray a deeper truth. My tendency to drift into denial is as strong as anyone's. We're pain-adverse creatures, I often say, and these days of alarming news every 30 minutes kicks that feature into high gear.
As the reports spin and swirl, I've found my iPhone's weekly "screentime" reports the past two weeks telling the true tale. My desire to numb my feelings finds its home in Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest... small, innocuous distractions that lull...
I had gotten my hopes up so many times, sure that things would improve. They just had to. I couldn't continue living like we were.
Except, they really didn't improve. Like, at all.
Oh, there was a slight upshot for a few days, but eventually everything just crumbled...again.
If you live with a spouse who deals with depression, you know what I'm talking about. The vast amounts of hoping one can do, the feeling that this time...this time...something would be different. After years of hoping and having those hopes dashed time after time after time, it becomes too exhausting to hope.
I never thought I would utter those words... too exhausting to hope? What kind of faith is that?!
Well, it's the human kind, that's what it is.
But in the midst of living through the ebb and flow of hope and disappointment, Jesus whispered love to my heart. I didn't even know if Jesus had stuck around for this insanity that...
What happens when all the things you've been taught as a marriage and family therapist don't work on your own marriage?
What happens when your cries for help and health and change are left seemingly unheard by a God whom you believe is good?
What happens when there's nothing left of a marriage except the fact that you made a covenant and you've got two precious kiddos who deserve to have their parents try with all their might to stay together?
What happens when you believe that "perseverance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint...." but all you feel is disappointment and hopelessness?
Six years (and really, it was much more than that, probably 11 or 12 years if we're being realistic) of ups and downs, hoping and praying, shaking my fist at God and wishing I could just run away, wreaked havoc on my heart. I wasn't so sure we were going to make it.
So, can a marriage survive ongoing depression? My...
It happened so gradually that I couldn't see what was right in front of me. He seemed more distant, more irritable, and more checked-out with each passing month. Yet, there were good days, too....at least a few. Always short with the kids and rarely kind to me, I began to slowly back away emotionally. I questioned our marriage. He wouldn't - or couldn't - talk about anything without becoming defensive. I no longer wanted to talk to him. About anything.
I would get mad and I secretly hoped that demanding his help or his participation - or his anything - with a raised voice would exact some change. He said nothing. I felt crazy.
I remember saying, "My husband won't take my influence." It was one of the most defeating feelings I've ever felt.
I was desperate enough to ask for help from a seasoned marriage counselor because I couldn't stand it anymore.
Two weeks later, he lost his job.
After more than a decade as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I can tell you a few things with certainty:
1) The vast majority of marriages truly can be salvaged (in my opinion).
2) The biggest obstacle that most people face in marriage is their own selfishness, not their partner’s.
(Before I go on, I want to explain very clearly that I am not writing to women and men in abusive marriages. If you are being physically or psychologically harmed by your spouse, this article is not for you, and I URGE you to seek help immediately.)
That may be a very hard sentence to read. There were years in my life where I would have run the other direction if someone told me my biggest issue was my own selfishness. But now, standing on the other side of my own marital struggle, in addition to helping others walk through marriage challenges, I can testify that the one key ingredient to any success that’s been had - in others or myself - is humility.
Humility isn’t easy to come by....
I was puzzled early on. We were newlyweds, and he had professed his undying love to me in front of all our friends and family, yet something was strangely missing. When my birthday came around, only a month and a half after our wedding day, I had sort of expected something special to happen.
Instead, he bought me shoes. From Payless.
Okay, so shoes are good, I like shoes, but the whole thing was a bit odd.
I would ask him what his favorite food was, or his favorite song. I wanted to store up this information for later use on birthdays or anniversaries. Eager to get to know my new hubby better, I asked him lots of these questions.
But his answer was always, “I don’t know.”
I was perplexed. As a woman who has lots of favorite things, knows what she wants, and isn’t afraid to tell people what that is, this was new, foreign territory. I didn’t like it.
I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just needed to think about it for a while....
The feelings had been churning in my soul for well over a week. A bitter irritability set in and I found myself snapping at my loved ones because I felt used and unseen.
I texted some friends, asking for prayer, putting just a few words to my troubles. They prayed.
The gnawing ache remained….disgust over an ongoing issue with food I have, confusion over how good I feel professionally yet how “off” I’d been feeling inside, shame over my prayer life having tanked over the past couple weeks, and a general sense of “I just can’t get it right”…
Suddenly the words exhaled out of my soul, “Jesus, I just can’t do this. I can’t. I don’t even want to.”
And there it was; the piece I’d been missing all this frustrating time. Brokenness.
At that moment, my world seemed to right itself a bit. It’s not up to me to figure out.
As a woman who considers herself very competent,...