If you are like most married people, you married expecting your partner to be there for life. We plan to be there for them “in sickness and in health” and believe they will be there for us, too. Sometimes something happens that causes us to doubt that they are really there for us. Maybe they weren’t there when we needed them to be, or just couldn’t understand something important to us, and we realized that we couldn’t count on them like we’d hoped. As trust goes away, resentment comes in. We struggle to feel any love for them and from them.
The disappointment can come from big things, like a trauma resulting in a need for support and comfort. It can also come from the “little things” we face each day. For example, stress with a colleague at work where things go some way other than expected. It could be a stressful interaction with someone on the road driving home. It doesn’t matter what it is, but as we share this with our partner, we have an expectation of how they will react. We expected them to support and understand our feelings, but they were not able or willing to do this. Instead of saying, “That was lousy,” they may have said, “Get over it.” At some level we no longer feel that they are there for us. We reached out for them, but they weren’t there. We feel alone.
One of the most painful places I can think of is to be is in a relationship with someone so important, yet so far away emotionally. We are lonely with them in the room. Someone we love can become like an enemy. We no longer know how to talk to each other in a way that really says what we feel, and everything either of us says feels like a grenade lobbed in a battlefield that once was our marriage.
I know it is hard in these moments with everything that has been said and done to realize this, but your spouse isn’t the enemy. The destructive pattern that developed is the enemy of both of you, and these patterns will continue until you either face them, or run from the brokenness in defeat. Sometimes it seems easier to run, but if you run, you both lose. In marriage that is how it will always be: both. Either both win or both lose. Marriage doesn’t have to be a battleground in your life. It can be the oasis it was intended to be, a place of peace in the storms we are facing.
We want to learn to understand ourselves and our partner better and to recognize the destructive patterns that we have started using. This only happens if we can learn to understand our thoughts and feelings, as well as those of our partner. We can learn to understand how our unmet needs and desires lead to disappointment and resentment. We can then find a new way of talking to each other. It is important to learn to fight alongside the one we love against the real enemy: the vicious cycles we’ve been stuck in.