“I found us a babysitter for next weekend,” I say as we begin winding down for the night.
“That’s great! What do you want to do?” you ask while taking off your socks.
“Maybe you could plan something for us? Anything is better than just eating out,” I mumble as I exit the room to brush my teeth.
You hear these words from my mouth, but you sense there is more in my heart. You feel pressured as my husband to rise high to date night standards. This feeling only makes you want to pull away from my desire to be romantic.
This scenario probably sounds pretty similar to our married friends. Arguments about what to do on date night may sound trivial to other couples (most are happy to even get a night away from the kids!), but there is more to our story than an indecisive night out as husband and wife.
Underneath my passive aggressive tone was this need to change you. I wanted you to change so I could be happier. I felt if you could just change one or two things about yourself, then I would feel more fulfilled. And it was my job to show you the way.
My persistent perfectionism pushed into the boundaries of our day to day lives, leaving you to fight for your simple preferences in our household. Comments like “leave the thermostat alone” or “we’ll just eat without you if you aren’t here on time” became an insidious poison in our home. For us, these fights were a disguise, existing only on the surface and masking roots of fear underneath.
You found yourself throwing your hands in the air in defeat many times because I needed to have the last word as a controller.
You didn’t realize I was a controller in the beginning. My trait seemed admirable. At first. You saw my drive to push forward even when life around me was falling apart. You saw my persistence to succeed in what I did as determination and focus. You saw the good in me when all I felt was tainted.
Fast forward over ten years later and that persistence and determination torpedoed through our marriage and into my motherhood.
It’s the little things I needed to control that added up to big chunks of your heart being stomped on by my messy, fearful feet.
All these things floated on the surface in our marriage and they seemed like no big deal on the outside. So she likes to keep the house cool? Big deal. She hates being late? Punctuality is a good quality.
But these trivial fights were the tip of the iceberg. Below was a mass of rock-hard challenges we faced in our marriage.
The hardest of these challenges churned within the pit of your gut. The lie that spewed forth with my condescending criticisms that Satan tried to push further into your heart to steal your identity.
The lie that says you are never enough.
Our winding road of arguments and conflicts centered around this lie. The lie that told me you were not enough by my standards. The lie that said if you would just change, then things would be better.
It took you time to realize my need for control came from a past of uncertainty. It wasn’t until I finally gave up trying to make my world perfect, to make you perfect for me, and sought therapy for myself, when you saw a small spark of change in me.
And when that small spark of change started to course through our marriage, then you knew who I really was.
You saw me as the thirteen-year-old girl standing in the driveway of her childhood home, watching her parents end their marriage, walking around as a woman in a thirty-year old body, trying to make sure that kind of fear didn’t happen again.
You saw my false sense of control as a mask for all my fears.
You saw me. You really saw me.
And then we had to start a new journey together.
We had to learn what healthy fighting looked like. I realized my controlling criticisms cut you down to the knees, leaving little room for grace to grow. I am learning what it looks like to glean the positive from a controlling mindset to a healthy structured lifestyle. I’m learning to be who I am in Christ. And I see more clearly each day who you are in Christ also.
It took me time to realize that “you are never enough” was a lie when it oozed from my heart of fear. But, there is truth in thought that you are not enough for me, husband.
I am learning that you are never enough because only Christ is enough.
I am learning that while you may never be enough to fill the uncertain fears I have in my heart, you are enough because you are my partner in walking this path the Lord has before us.
Because you choose me. Every day. And I choose you.
Because you come alongside me and hold my hand, even when our anger screams otherwise.
Because you stay close to me even when I push you away.
Because you see my need for control and perfectionism for what it really is, and you see me with grace eyes.
Your choice to see me with grace eyes reflects in my eyes. When we look at each other, we see each other for who we really are: flawed humans walking in the grace of God.
And for that, I am forever grateful.