Recently, I spoke with a young woman that reached out to me for some advice because she is struggling in her marriage. I have never met the woman and it can be difficult to counsel people via text because you can’t fully understand a person’s true feelings without speaking to them in person or even over the phone. She has two young kids under the age of five and she has been fighting with her husband and feels like her marriage is fractured. She works full time and finds the time to work out most days, but when it comes to going out with friends and leaving her husband with the kids, he makes her feel guilty about it.
After digging a little deeper, she admitted that she feels resentful of him for making her feel bad and is completely turned off to having sex with him anymore. When he so much as touches her, she retracts. All of these things are completely normal in many marriages especially when young kids are involved.
Often, a wife gives all she has to her kids and has very little desire to be affectionate to her husband. He, in turn, feels neglected and the cycle of disconnect ensues. At first, I thought this guy may be controlling and too selfish to watch his own kids and allow his wife some time to herself, but then she shared some details that made me feel otherwise.
She said that since she shared her need to go out with friends once a month, he has been more understanding and tried to be more accommodating. She shared that he is a good father and shares the workload (somewhat equally) but tends to be a homebody. She, on the other hand, is always on the go and likes to socialize. She told me that he is trying to give her what she needs but that she feels like it’s too little too late.
I couldn’t help but feel like she was past the point of no return. She had already made up her mind. She spent so much time and energy resisting his love and affection she closed herself off from him and now no matter how much he’s trying to give her what she needs—she can’t bring herself back to that place of love. I felt such a sense of sadness. Normally, I’m the one telling a woman to be strong and not put up with any shit from a man, but this case was different. It’s not that she was right or wrong for her feelings, but she was taking his love for granted. He was trying to change because he loves her that much. She admitted that she felt like a bitch for pushing him away even after he was giving her what she needed.
My advice to her was to surrender to love. Take down the guard and stop pushing him away. I told her that love was hard to find and that giving up on marriage is nothing to take lightly. I pictured this young woman walking away from her marriage and being alone with two young kids—regretting her decision.
Shocking—I know. A cynical bitch like me telling a woman to surrender to love. I meant it with every fiber of my being. I remember a good friend of mine that was married young and divorced gave me the best advice when I was going through my divorce. She told me, “Be sure you walk away from your marriage knowing you did everything you could to save it. Don’t have any doubts that you did all you could to salvage the relationship. That’s when you know you should walk away.” Those words were the same words I told this young woman because they were my solace when I found the courage to end my marriage. She wasn’t dealing with betrayal like I was. She was just trying to find her freedom. Her sense of self.
I wish I had done that early on in my marriage, but instead, I lost my sense of self. I put everything into my children and because I never fully trusted my husband with all the lies and countless times I thought he cheated during our relationship. I kept him at arm’s length. If I had trust in my marriage, if I had someone that didn’t try to control me—I would have fought harder to save my marriage. Marriage is sacred and should be treated as such. Love is precious and it’s not something anyone should take for granted.
I’ve learned that in all my years of being alone. The question is—do I value my freedom over finding love? I’ve been reading the book “You Are A Badass” by Jenn Sincero and it’s been eye-opening. In one chapter she uncovers the “stories” we hold onto about our lives. She explains that in a subconscious way, we hold onto false beliefs because they are safer. We get something out of the beliefs we hold onto. An example of this is the belief that ‘there are no good men out there’. She jokes and says, “Really? All the good single men were hunted down and killed?” This resonated with me because I know there are good men out there, but I created a story that I won’t find any of them online because of a few bad experiences.
Perhaps my beliefs create my reality because I’m scared to love again? Loving someone means I have to surrender my power and just like this young woman I’m trying to help, I’m unwilling to wave the white flag and allow love to make me feel vulnerable.
I think I’ve uncovered the real reason I’m still single. Even though I find myself listening to love songs and cry at romantic love stories with a deep yearning to be loved—the truth is I’m resisting the surrender. My shield is still there protecting me from what love really is—a complete willingness to be defenseless.
I realize I’m good at giving other people advice and having insight into their issues when I can’t even see my own. I have a blind spot when it comes to my own life and the truth is, I’d rather not look in the mirror. I feel safer behind my shield. My shield allows me to get comfortable with not sharing my bed or my remote. My shield allows me to have power over where I go and whom I hang out with on a Saturday night. My shield allows me to not shave my legs in the winter or put away my clothes piled up in the corner. I can be completely me and not answer to anyone except the bill collectors. The shield works well for me until I feel alone and unloved.
The shield always comes with a double-edged sword—doesn’t it? If I were giving myself advice, I’d see right through this defense I’ve put up. I’d tell that person to put down the weapons and allow love to conquer all. Too bad I don’t take my own advice.