I had a fruitful spiritual direction session a few months back that I’ve been meaning to write about. Fortunately, I take notes, so I can write about things way after the fact. Such is my life right now. Anyway, among other things we spoke about marriage and how I grow in virtue just by loving my husband.
Love. It’s trickier than I used to think. I’m fairly good at telling people I love them. I’m wordy like that. You can bet I send texts, emails, and tuck cards beneath pillows. But words come easy. Backing up my words requires more out of me, especially when I’m tired and grumpy because my husband gets all the glory. Oh, let’s all fawn over Dr. McDreamy. Meanwhile, I’m back at the ranch, hidden. Hidden. I struggle with a mother’s anonymity. When kids want to be noticed, they throw tantrums. Maybe that explains why I can act like such a child.
Just this past week, I was feeling sorry for myself and acted all pouty. I was missing my husband. I was missing my man-on-deck and helpmate. I was tired of long board reviews*. My feelings were justified, but the “Wah. Wah. Wah”? Um, not so much.
I reminded myself, “Offer it up, Katie. Offer it up.” I have a very special intention that’s never far from my prayers, and my spiritual director has encouraged me to offer everything and anything – all those small crosses I encounter throughout my day like dealing with a sick baby over the weekend and waking up on the hour every hour – for this hope in my heart. I’m working on “offering it up” (and keeping my mouth shut but clearly failing as the griping in this post proves) so that it becomes a habit, an automatic response to the trials of motherhood and being married to a man whose work is demanding.
Even when I fail to keep my grievances to myself, my husband and I rarely fight (at least not in the yelling or take-note-of-my-histrionics-please kind of manner), but that doesn’t mean our marriage doesn’t take work. I doubt most marriages end in the wake of one screaming match. It’s the little things that add up, that we allow to fester and erode marital unity.
In my own marriage, we both have to be careful to not let the small stuff snowball. I have to be careful to not complain that he’s not here for me in my myriad moments of need, and he might not admit it – being the peacemaker that he is – but I bet he has to be careful to not see my moments of need as being too numerable and/or too unpredictable.
We often have to meet in the middle – wherever that may be on any given day – each of us making sacrifices and overlooking some of our wants to meet the other’s needs. I am the needier one, so this middle ground might be tougher territory for me. But I’m working on affirming my love for him more and seeking out affirmation that he loves me less. Why? Because I believe in our marriage. I love my husband and because I’d like to grow in virtue.
Early this week we celebrated our eight-year anniversary. There was no grand, romantic candlelight dinner to mark our love that evening. Instead, there was only time for a quick, early morning good-bye topped off with a good luck card and a goody bag brimming with my husband’s favorite snacks. Then he left. That night we were alone in different states.
My want for a romantic celebration and conversation may have not been met, but neither was his. But we gave what we could and when you’ve been married for a few years, you see that that’s often enough. My anniversary gift to him this year were my prayers for a good night’s sleep and a successful oral board examination the following day. His gift to me was the successful culmination of nearly a decade of medical training (oh, and a beautiful bouquet of bright blooms).
When he returned home, we were more happy footed on our our middle ground, being together and high-fiving his achievement – our achievement – of surviving medical school and residency, of having babies during his medical training when throngs of people warned against it, of meeting each other’s needs the best we could and when we could, and of looking ahead to a new, exciting chapter in our married life together.
*Our girls were tired of not seeing Daddy much either. A few nights ago Madeline was flipping through one of my husband’s many review books. “Mommy,” she said. “I’m studying in Daddy’s book because I miss him so much.” Good news: No more board reviews! Woo-hoo! Oral boards passed!