We all have those moments in our marriages where if we said what we are actually thinking it would be, well, game over. Heavily pregnant with our first baby and over-the-top hormonal, I sat on the bathroom floor and cried my eyes out, certain that after only two years in I had definitely married the wrong person — whatever had I been thinking? But I didn’t actually leave the bathroom or say it aloud.
Fast forward a year or two — we were a happy family of three, me staying home for a while with our daughter whom we both adored, enjoying the time I had with her. My husband was going through some work issues. One day he called me while she was napping. Bored being trapped in the house and starting to question my decision to quit working, I said something (I can’t remember) about his situation that I’m sure was completely unfair since I didn’t know the people involved or the context. And I will never forget what he replied, which was the worst thing up to that point he had ever said to me:
“How can I believe in myself if you don’t believe in me?”
Stunned, I was silent. If someone had dug a knife into my back at that moment I don’t think the pain would have been as sharp as the feeling in my gut. Because he was right. At that moment, in that hour and that day, I didn’t believe in him. I didn’t believe in his ability to solve the problem, to find a better situation, to take care of our family. And I felt the pain and sadness in his words put cracks in the foundation of what we had.
I had to make a decision. Did I believe in him and our family, or not? Did I think I knew everything and had all the answers or had I actually married the right person, and was I ready to fight for the love of my little family, despite the doubts and frustrations I had about the current situation I felt my husband had gotten himself into? I felt terrible — terrible that not only did I actually get to the point where I felt that way, but that it had been so obvious that he’d realized it and internalized it, and that it had deeply saddened him.
He has never, since then, had a reason to believe I doubted him or our family and our life together.
This summer we will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary and about 16 years of being together. After so much time together I can thankfully still say I am married to my best friend, and one touch of his hand is enough to make all the stress and worry of work and kids and life completely dissipate. There will of course always been those words we bite back for the sake of our marriage, but I am thankful that day so many years ago he had the courage to say what he did.
Maybe, even after all this time together, I am still not the best person to give marriage advice, but I’ve learned a few things. Believing in him and our marriage are two of them.