Today Me: There’s a very special guest in my head-space/blog-space today… it’s the younger version of myself! The girl who nags her boyfriend-turned-husband but always has a good reason for it; the girl whose marriage regularly includes crying and seething and ordering Luke to sleep on the couch (if he’s lucky and she doesn’t kick him out of the house completely!)
Wait, what’s that you say? You didn’t know that girl even existed?
Well, stay tuned, Reader. You’re in for a treat!
Here with me, right now, is a newly-married woman of just 20-years-old–Amanda Rose (Branyan) McKinney, but not exactly as you know her. She’s not long out of highschool…not yet a “McMommy”…and not yet willing to admit that, perhaps, some of the issues in her young relationship are hers.
Welcome, Younger Me!
Younger Me: Thanks, it’s great to be here! I’m a writer, too, you know?
Today Me: Yes–and a very good one. Just be careful. It’s not good to let talent go to your head.
Younger Me: Good advice. I wouldn’t want to look back in ten years and realize I’ve started talking to myself.
Today Me: Yeah, this is a little weird. But it seemed like a good idea at 2:30 this morning.
Younger Me: Oh, do we still wake up in the middle of the night unable to sleep until we write a little bit?
Today Me: Well, mostly we wake in the middle of the night to feed babies. But, yeah, occassionally the nagging muse still comes to visit. And that brings me to what I want to talk about, Younger. Nagging. So why don’t you tell me about your marriage?
Younger Me: Seriously? I’m Younger, but I recognize a leading question when I hear one. I’m not trying to be “nagging” toward Luke. But either something is seriously wrong with our marriage, or something is seriously wrong with ME.
Today Me: Go on…
Younger Me: Well, if it were anyone else, I might have trouble confessing this. But since I’m talking to myself, I guess I’ll admit it: sometimes I wonder if I have some kind of mental illness.
Today Me: Why would you think that?
Younger Me: I just get sooo angry with Luke! And, once I’m angry, I start saying things I don’t even mean…but it’s like my mouth stops working and I CAN’T say “I’m sorry” or “Let’s just start this conversation over” or ANYTHING except angry words. In those moments, when I’m trying to express my feelings and he doesn’t understand, I want to throw my hands in the air and walk out. I used to do that fairly often when we were dating. (Once I slammed down my engagement ring in a dramatic fashion and threatened to walk 9 miles back to my house. I made it less than a block before he was able to coax me back inside. But that’s only because I realized when the cold air hit me that it was going to be a terrible walk home, so I let him take me back inside.) Now that we’re married, quitting isn’t supposed to be an option. Even threatening to quit is wrong. But I find myself doing/saying more and more unfair and outageous things just to help him understand I’m unhappy! And we’re no closer to figuring out the source of my unhappiness in the first place.
Today Me: I have good news, my young friend. You are NOT crazy. And, even better: the source of your unhappiness is yourself.
Younger Me: (*scoffs) How is that better news, exactly?
Today Me: Come on, be honest with yourself. Which is better news for a control freak: you have to wait for Luke to fix this? Or you can fix this on your own?
Younger Me: Go on…
Today Me: Sweetie, I know you’re not trying to nag your husband. But when the Bible warns it’s better to live on the corner of the roof than with a nagging wife, it’s talking about you. I know, it stings to hear. But it’s true, and there’s more: When you cry and preach and cry some more, then finally send Luke to the couch (or out the door), you’re doing him a favor. In those moments, he’s glad to be there–away from your verbal mistreatment. Of course, you always insist you want him to be truthful. But what would happen if he said, truthfully, “Yes, I sleep perfectly fine on the couch, once you’re done unloading on me. My life is peaceful except when you want to ‘talk’ about something.”
Younger Me: See, what you’re saying sounds reasonable. But, it’s not hard to talk about it now because I’m not already worked up. It’s different when I’m angry. When I’m upset, I can’t hear truth. How can I fix this myself if I get so angry that Luke can’t even say what you just said without making it worse?
Today Me: Two things: learn how to manage your anger so you don’t get to that point, AND stop expecting Luke to say what you’re already able to say to yourself.
Younger Me: That’s an interesting suggestion, I think… BUT, what about the fact that Luke is supposed to be the leader of our family? He’s supposed to take charge! Yet I barely ever see him. And, when I do, he’s usually cram-studying for a test he almost forgot about OR watching football like some teenager. I don’t think he realizes he’s not a bachelor anymore. He has a wife who needs him!
Today Me: I’m sorry, who did you say was leading the family again?
Younger Me: Luke is supposed to. But God gives women more sensitive feelings, so they can be the barometers of the relationship. My Marriage Barometer has been sensing problems for a long time now! SOMETHING IS WRONG!
Today Me: Oh, Honey, put all those marriage “enrichment” books in that file cabinet marked “T-R-A-S-H.” An over-abundance of pop-psychology advice, disguised as biblical truth, only confuses you further and makes things WORSE. Haven’t you noticed?
Younger Me: Yeah, the books aren’t helping because Luke won’t read them! He doesn’t love me enough, and he’s not a strong enough leader to put in the effort!
Today Me: No. He won’t read them because he’s not the one who’s unhappy. And, as the leader of the family, he will decide what steps to take if/when he thinks it needs “enriched.” The solution is simple. (Not easy, but simple.) Put yourself in Luke’s position and imagine being married to yourself. Stop thinking about your needs long enough to remember that Luke needs a wife who is emotionally responsible. Then, treat him the way you would want to be treated. Look for ways to treat serve him. Do this when you feel like it and when you don’t.
And, most importantly… (Are you listening? This is going to change your life.) MOST IMPORTANTLY: when you have a yucky feeling crop up on that “marriage barometer” of yours, wait it out. JUST WAIT.
Younger Me: Just wait? As in, sit there feeling terrible and struggling under the surface, while Luke enjoys his football game? You mean LIE to him if he asks what’s wrong???
Today Me: Just. Wait. Don’t SAY anything. Become a third-person observer of your feelings, like a weather man watching the clouds go past. You will notice that the sun is covered; the atmosphere might begin to feel cold and rainy. You may even acknowledge that you’re feeling unpleasant. But JUST WAIT! The clouds will move along again, all by themselves. You don’t have to do or say anything for the sun to return!
More to the point: stop blaming Luke for the rain. Weather happens whether he’s “leading” the way you think he should or not, so stop looking for another person to blame…
Younger Me: All of this just feels so crazy. What kind of stable human feels sad or angry or even a little “off” for no reason? This is exactly why I said I must be crazy!
Today Me: You mean what kind of human has complex and often contradictory feelings? Uh…all of them. Fear not. This isn’t pathological. Furthermore, who said it was for “no reason?” I said your feelings aren’t meant to be used to grade Luke’s leadership skills. I didn’t say your feelings are completely without purpose.
Younger Me: But what in the world could be the purpose of giving me feelings that I’m not supposed to share with my husband?!
Today Me: Ah, that’s something we can ponder together another day… You and I will have time to work on several ideas and theories, while we’re waiting for the sun to return. Or sometimes even while the sun is still out! We love to ponder. I hope you’ll come back again sometime so we can record more of our conversations.
Younger Me: Right now, I’m feeling a little annoyed that my feelings are being invalidated. Honestly, I don’t feel like being cooperative…
Today Me: Just wait.