The risk of being me

I was unhappy. Steve was unhappy. I began to feel afraid. We were unhappy so I must be doing something wrong. I was certain I could do better and try harder. I’m a pleaser. I want to make others happy—sometimes to a fault. I want to make my husband happy, my kids happy, my friends happy, heck I even want to make the cashier at the grocery store happy. I’ve long believed if I could make others happy, they would love me.

Steve and I fell in love. Initially we were just friends, hanging out in groups with other friends.  But as we spent time together I saw his integrity, insight and compassion. Once I saw his heart, I fell hard. I knew he was a good man. We dated for a few months, had a short engagement and said our marriage vows with confidence. I was determined to be the best wife I could be. I believed with all my heart, I would make him happy and he would love me.


We’ve walked through some of the most difficult things two people can face; losing a job, depression and having a child with a severe disability. Through these storms our friendship has been a strong foundation. Inevitably though, when two flawed people spend an extended amount of time together, conflict happens. Things get rocky. And for us, things began to get very rocky.

We weren’t connecting. I was unhappy. He was unhappy. My fear was paralyzing me. I believed if Steve was unhappy he would stop loving me. I believed if Steve was unhappy it was my fault. I believed I could control his moods and emotions. I was certain I could do better and try harder. I kept a mental list of the ways I could please him. I put his needs before mine and tried to think of my own needs less. I tried to control our marriage, avoiding conflict at any cost. The more I tried to please him, the more I lost myself. Steve didn’t want a wife who lived to please him, he wanted the strong, confident woman he married. My fear of losing his love was putting walls between us. The harder I tried to make him happy the more frustrated and discouraged I became. I falsely believed if I focused more on him and less on myself I could heal our marriage.

I went from unhappiness to exhaustion and desperate sadness. No matter how hard I tried, nothing changed. I was reaching a breaking point, so I decided to risk it all and tell Steve how desperate I felt. He had no idea I was so deeply unhappy.  I’d been trying to save our marriage on my own—and I was losing myself in the process. We met with a therapist and both shared honestly and openly. She helped {and continues to help} us work through our blind spots. We began listening to each other more. I began to say what I wanted instead of trying to please him all the time. I started taking better care of myself and cutting things out of my schedule. I stopped trying to be everything to everyone and began to focus on being me—even if it meant rejection. I needed to be me, not knowing if Steve would love that person.

And something miraculous happened. It wasn’t easy or magical but it was truly amazing. Together, with tears and humility we began breaking down walls. Together we grew closer. Together we shared more, we listened more. Together we stopped casting judgement and being defensive. We set aside our fear of losing each other and began choosing to stay together.

I believe there are cycles within a marriage; we give all we have but love still breaks down. In the breakdown both partners have a choice: go through the pain and fear of reconnecting or continue to pull away. If in our brokenness we can be humble and honest, a new love begins where the old love left off. Love is risky. Showing up is risky. But a healthy marriage consists of two people, each showing up and being their truest self. Two people who adore each other despite their flaws and imperfections.

the risk of being me lisa leonard aodred ring

Slowly but surely I’m learning I can’t make someone else happy. I’m working daily to overcome false beliefs that I can control another person’s moods and feelings. I can only control my own emotions and my own actions. Caring for my own heart enables me to love better.  An ignored heart loves incompletely, a nurtured heart loves deeply. I want to be in a marriage where instead of avoiding conflict, we engage honestly, work hard, daily choosing to be together. When love breaks down, we begin again. I’m still a recovering people pleaser but I’m growing. I’m learning to feel my feelings and stop managing other people’s feelings. I’m beginning to understand love isn’t based on emotions or changing circumstances. Love isn’t one sided. Love thrives when two people choose kindness, patience and forgiveness.

Being me is risky, but losing myself is even riskier. Brave love is risky and beautiful.


  1. This was a truly touching piece. My husband and I have been together for 14 years and married for just over 2 years. We are only 34, we have been together for a long time for being as young as we are. We also have a beautiful daughter who is 10. He is the love of my life but I started putting him second to her and my family. We thought marrying would bring us closer but we still didn’t talk about anything before the marriage. We were like roommates. I found out he had a year long affair, more emotional than physical. We are a year past it and I am still struggling and wondering if we can make this work. If I can forgive him. I love him still with all of my heart and I can understand the reasons (not think they are acceptable). I want my marriage. Does anyone have any encouraging thoughts, words? I hope we can start fresh and new and create a new relationship.

  2. Thank you for your post. I so believe this. Wish my now ex-fiance (13 years together) would read this. Hearing this reminds me that its still ok that i feel this way, even if he doesn’t. I will find someone who will fight for us, or i will be ok with just my girls. Just gonna wait and pray for guidance and healing.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. My 30 year marriage ended 3 years ago and I was a people pleaser to both him and our children. I was recently in an 8 month relationship that ended when I stated my needs for one of the first times in my life. It has been horribly painful but reading this has made me realize that it was actually a huge step on the road to recovery from being a people pleaser!

  4. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story full of hope. My husband and I have been going through something similar and while we’re currently on an upward trend, I truly believe that marriage has cycles. Not all of them are pretty, not all of them are peaceful. You captured what it means to show up and do the work required beautifully. It is scary, but it can be so incredibly worth it.

  5. I had the same reaction that so many others wrote about. You could change the names, and you’d be writing our story. Thank you that the Lord moved you to write this, he must see so many of us doing the same thing.

  6. I can’t tell you how deeply I connected with this extremely transparent post. I think we are the same person. I was reading this to my sister, and as I read line after line I was encouraged knowing I am heading in the right direction. I am hearing the still small whisper from my God reminding me of who I truly am…even though I seemed to have lost her in the shuffle of being a wife…mother…daughter…sister…friend…worship leader ect….the hats are endless. Thank you Lisa, for sharing this with the world…I am a life that suddenly doesn’t feel so alone out here.

  7. I just found your blog and this particular post on FB today. Your honesty and vulnerability in this post is breathtakingly relevant to what I am feeling right now in my 16 years of marriage. With that, I believe you poetically put into words the exact emotions so many others are feeling within their own marriages.

    I have always tried to control others’ feelings by constantly making them happy; at the same time, I’ve always felt it’s risky to love deeply as it means I am more vulnerable to experience loss. That went out the window the day I gave birth to our beautiful baby boy 7 years ago…there’s nobody or anything else I could have ever loved or will ever love more in this world than our baby boy. The fear of loss has been a real fear ever since that day…he is the love of our lives. Still, I try to control situations to avoid loss, such as in my marriage, and lose myself in the process … Possibly while pushing my husband away. So, reading your post struck a chord with me in reiterating that while masking our fears, our true selves become hidden. In return, that facade can push true emotions ( and our loved ones away). By taking off our masks, we become exposed, but, it’s real and true. I’m finding that is true in my marriage of 16 years and that raw honesty between us is the only way we can stop charades and get back to truly and deeply loving each other.

    Thank you so much for being brave and sharing this… It really hit home.

    Years ago, when I first met my husband, he carried a fortune from a fortune cookie that read: It is better to have loved and loss than to never have loved at all.

    Funny how that fortune cookie has come full circle and your post pointed it out 🙂

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words and for sharing your journey. Sending you love and courage as you step our in bravery to be your truest self. xx

  8. I am also a chronic people pleaser to the point that I commit to going to things I don’t want to go to just to make someone else happy. I have a great husband (after a HORRIBLE divorce). lots of friends, am a recent empty nester and don’t have to work so I can’t figure out why I am so unhappy and alone. I have always worked full time and only recently “retired”. I am scared my husband will get tired of me and I will end up in another loveless marriage. I am going to try to go back to work to see if that fills the void. I just needed to get this out and this seems like a safe place.

  9. This is exactky what we are. I am in individual counseling to work on me. Soon it will be marriage counseling, hoping we can save the marriage. It’s a process and thank you for sharing

  10. I can relate to this tale exactly. For so many years I tried to make everyone else happy and shut down my own feelings so much so that I became completely numb, to pain AND to joy. When I began to be real, I faced rejection and it was the most painful experience of my life, so far. However, that paved the way for a truly authentic life that is now filled with so much joy and even difficulty. Regardless, I’m alive to it! And the Lord walks with me in both the celebration and the pain. Keeping striving to be real!

  11. Lisa–
    What a great post. I think we, as women, try so hard to please everyone and we DO get lost in the process. I am going through some similar things right now so your honest words really hit home. What kinds of things are you cutting back on? Cooking is a big one for me…the guilt of not making dinner is crazy! Hugs to you…keep being you !

  12. Thank you…been putting off having a conversation with my husband because I have felt “selfish” for feeling unhappy. A great reminder that in the end, a marriage is about an authentic relationship–not trying to be “perfect.”

  13. I absolutely love this. I love the honesty and optimism. I have just started a blog and this resonates with me. We’re in the middle of our tough stuff. And divorce stares at us daily, but we fighting through it, hopeful. That’s why I started the blog too, I hoped it wasn’t just me who struggled, and I wanted somewhere I could be honest and open, but hopeful and optimistic. So, thank you for your wonderful message of hope and love, self-improvement and family healing.

  14. Thank you Lisa for sharing. Pictures can capture moments that may look perfect in that split second but moments connected to other moments, whether perfect or not, is what real life is made of. With shared hearts and God’s direction I’m confident He will continue His work in your marriage. And my marriage too!

  15. Wow. It is incredible how much this hits home. I am a major pepole pleaser and struggle to care for my own heart. That way of saying it seems so perfect. How have you found ways to take care of yourself and your own heart? What has helped you on your path to findi my yourself?

    1. Hi Kayla, thanks for your kind words. I hit a point were I really needed to make major changes. I cut out a lot of activities in my life and made space for downtime. Downtime looks like alone time, quiet time {sometimes just sitting, doing nothing but thinking and being quiet}. I take a walk or a hike almost every day. I try to get a massage every now and then. I’m trying to let life be imperfect–I’m not going to cook healthy dinners every night. Sometimes we’ll order out or just eat pizza. It works and I get to keep my sanity. Hope this helps. Hugs to you!

  16. I wish I had read this years ago. I went through this same thing. I lost every bit of myself while being married to a man that I didn’t feel I could please. I felt like I HAD to take care of him and our kids and the house to make him happy. But in reality I wasn’t happy. We have since divorced and we remain friends. I have a wonderful man that as he states does not beat around the Bush he pulls it up and he wants the same out of me. For 25 years I didn’t do that and it’s hard to do but I am doing my best. Thank you for sharing .

  17. Lisa, thank you for this sweet, raw, real post. Marriages go through lifey cycles like everything else on this blue planet of ours. Sending you much love for posting this and for being you. I needed to see this today.

  18. Thank you for this post. My husband and I have been married for 26 years; I was 19 when we got married. As I read your story, it’s like I am reading about myself. We have struggled for 25 years, gone to counseling and shed many tears. I am finally realizing that I can’t control my marriage either and I too have lost myself. I still do not know how to find myself, I think after so many years of being lost, I don’t know how to live anyway else; I don’t know what my purpose is. I have found peace in God and that has helped comfort some of my uneasiness, but I struggle daily.
    Thank you again for this post and being so open.

  19. My husband is a pastor and I spent decades being the pastor’s wife instead of being his wife. I didn’t want to be in church. I tried to keep everyone in the church happy so my guy would have less stress. At the age of 38 I had a complete physical breakdown. I laid in bed for two years. It took five years of constant rest before I felt “normal” again. I stayed in the church another decade, but I was miserable. At the age of 52 I left the church. My husband didn’t understand. He was angry and confused. I told him I loved him but I couldn’t pretend to be happy in the arrangement. We went through three very hard years. We talked about divorce; it was his decision. I could live with a man who pastors a church if he could live with a woman who stays home and writes. Long story short, we came through it; we are happier than we’ve ever been. Hang in there. Be yourself. Consider your own needs. It’s not a “sin” or a crime. It’s healthy. And by the way, I love your jewelry. 🙂

    1. Susan, you’re not alone. There is so much pressure on pastor’s wives {and on pastors, too!}. We’re all just human doing the best we can. We need freedom to be imperfect–and just to be ourselves. You are brave! xx

  20. Thank you Lisa, this resonates so very deeply with me!
    This so closely puts into words how my own heart felt during my marriage (now broken and I am pushing through that and forward) that I couldn’t quite put into words just yet!
    This gives me hope to try love again!
    you are brave!! Thank you!

  21. Wow! Thx for your transparency. I’m convinced that transparency changes people. It heals you to say it and it heals others to hear it. It’s so good to know that we aren’t alone in this journey. We are all more alike than different❤️ Your soul feeds mine! Thanks you

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