I haven’t shared much about this, but a couple years ago my husband Steve and I went through a marriage crisis. It was one of the scariest, darkest times of my life. I told him I wanted to separate. I needed space, time, I needed to be alone so I could think. It was surreal to say those words to him. It was like someone else was saying them. But I was desperate and something had to change, I had to change.
For a long time I believed that to be loved I had to be less.
Steve didn’t tell me these things. I brought this deeply held belief into our marriage.
I had to make myself smaller so he could grow and shine.
I had to give up what I wanted so he could have what he wanted.
I had to sacrifice myself to make him love me.
If Steve was happy he would love me.
If my kids were thriving they would love me.
I believed there wasn’t enough for all us—I would have to take less so they could have more.
I thought this was love—give everything and ask for nothing in return.
It didn’t work. At all.
I tried so hard for so long to make everyone happy. I went from tired to frustrated to bitter and exhausted. But I kept trying and trying. Giving and giving, sacrificing and making myself smaller—until I was desperate.
I was done trying, done with my marriage, done with feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. I was done with feeling like a failure.
I needed space–time to be quiet, to rest, to figure out what I needed to change so I could thrive.
Steve was devastated when I told him I wanted to separate but he graciously made space for me. That evening, after I told him I needed time, he packed an overnight bag and went to stay with a friend. The next day he came home to stay with our boys and I went away for a little over a week. I spent time grieving, walking, journaling and praying. It’s hard to describe how hard those days were–the depth of my sadness, the fear that I was losing my family. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried that much in my entire life. It was like all these feelings I held inside me–all the feelings I tried to ignore while I took care of everyone else–came flooding up to the surface. Those feelings were there and they had to be felt. I knew things had to change and I knew the change was going to be brutal. I wasn’t sure if our marriage could survive–but I knew I had to change me, my wrong beliefs, my habits that were hurting me and my family.
During those dark days I had a lightbulb moment. I am a person–a whole person with my own thoughts, feelings, needs and preferences. For so long I saw myself as less–just a vehicle to take care of the other people in my family. I didn’t count. My feelings didn’t matter. But in that lightbulb moment I realized I DO COUNT. I matter. I matter just as much as my husband and children. I have thoughts and feelings and needs and preferences just like they do–and they matter. There are four people in our family and I am one of them.
So I started saying what I thought.
I started saying what I needed.
I started speaking my mind and sharing my feelings.
I started making time for naps, walks, time with friends, alone time and so many more things my heart needed.
I started being a whole person with my own thoughts, feelings, needs and preferences.
My voice would shake as I began to represent myself. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to put up walls and run away but I stayed and tried to engage honestly. It was terrifying. Steve and I fought more. Things got messier. I worried about the boys. I disrupted our rhythm. Change is hard. There were times I didn’t think we would make it. There were many tears and I so much fear as I started living honestly and without apology. I had to be me, even if it meant our marriage ended.
Slowly but surely things started to take shape. I was getting stronger and braver. I was becoming whole–becoming ME. Becoming who I was always meant to be.
Friends, life is crazy hard sometimes. While I long for peace and beauty, sometimes the only way to get there is through conflict and darkness. My journey has been up and down, forward and back and I still don’t have it figured out–but I’m learning.
Steve and I are married and our relationship is stronger than ever. We are having more fun. We are learning to let each other be who we are without fear. It could have ended differently and even with a different ending it could have been beautiful. There isn’t one right journey or one right path. There is simply the journey each of us are on, the path each of us are walking.
When we walk in honesty and vulnerability we are living out of our truest selves.
This is love.
This is brave.
This is brave love.