Through the last 8 years, the life John and I have lived has been dominated by an oppressive silence as we have avoided bumping into each other's wounds. Many who know me personally would find that bizarre since most people can rarely get me to shut up. Of late the silence had calcified into a bitter avoidance as we grew farther apart. We fought to hold it together with classes and medication and finally counseling. Nothing seemed to breach the walls of animosity that we had built. Ironically, within the last week, we have come to realize that those walls came from our deep desires to care for each other.
Our counselor sent us home with the videos from the Love and Respect conference. The primary thesis of the teaching is that without love women respond with disrespect and without respect, men respond in an unloving way. When Katie was born, nearly 8 years ago, John seemed overwhelmed and frustrated. We found out she might have Down syndrome before they even handed her to us in the delivery room. I fell into caring for her, researching her issues and doing everything in my power to buffer John from all but the most wonderful things about our new daughter. As time went on, I carried more of the demands from Kate and PJ and anything else as John went into more and more physical and emotional pain. Unbeknown to me, he began to resent what he saw as a lack of confidence on my part toward him and his ability to lead and care for us. All love feelings evaporated from our relationship as I felt the stress of all I carried and he resented my independence in action and thought.
Then, something changed in the middle of the first video. As John reached over to put his arm around me, I could tell his heart had finally gotten it. After our friends left, he apologized and tenderly held me. I know we still have much work to go. Since that time, I've still seen flashes of irritation that surprised me but I'm much more aware of what I have done to make him bristle. For that matter, we still have 4 more videos to go in the series.
Still, this morning, when we moved around each other, it was not silence that was felt but quietness and for that, I am grateful.