A woman called in to my radio show to complain about her resentment over “fulfilling the needs of my husband.” I asked whether those needs were immoral or illegal. “No,” she said, “just feels like a burden.”
There is one more level of complexity to her story, which I will save for later. For now, let’s focus on the all-too-often expressed sentiment of being “burdened” by the needs of one’s spouse.
How can you possibly feel burdened responding to and taking care of the needs of your beloved, when that is the exact definition of “loving” somebody? It is a blessing and a privilege to have somebody to love.
Loving someone is to be aware, sensitive, and involved in meeting that person’s (reasonable) needs. When we express resentment, it is usually because we see the person as a kind of intrusion into what really matters: family, work, friends, and hobbies. In which case, it’s obvious that we’re taking that person for granted.
People don’t actually “grow apart” in relationships. They simply stop taking care of each other. They stop waking up and looking at their spouse with gratitude and awe. They stop finding ways to make that person happy that they are married to each other. They stop behaving as though they love that person with their last breath. They basically stop being the kind of person they themselves would want to come home to.
Another caller complained that she couldn’t “focus” on being a nice wife or mother because she was so angry that she just came down with Cushing’s syndrome. Although I appreciate being furious at such a challenge, the best medicine is continuing to enjoy the love and warmth of spouse and children.
Instead, injured parties often turn on their families instead of turning to them. Why? Because the very human reaction is to get back at whoever hurt you. In reality, it is often just bad luck.
The complexity I mentioned with the first caller was this: She lost a child at five months. The death of a child can break marriages up because one or both of the parents go into a corner to mourn.
Pulling into themselves like that doesn’t make the pain go away.
In fact, it intensifies it and isolates the person at a time when that person needs the bonding of a loved one the most.
Getting through the tough parts of life can make one pretty self-centered, which is counterproductive to feeling better, and enjoying the quality of a marriage and peace in the home.
Emotional and psychological health is not an accident, and it is much within your control.
Isolation, wallowing in resentments, rehashing hurts, and finding ways to strike back at life make living a terrible agony.
Being a “fair-weather spouse” is not about love; it is a narcissistic view of relationships. Keeping an open heart to the warmth of family and friends, putting yourself out for others at a time when you feel you have nothing to give, will give you a big surprise: a better mood and a better view of life.
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