When your mind is your worst enemy
Yesterday I said “I’m more sure of myself, and thus less worried about how she feels about me. She is the same, which is also good. We know each other better, which is awesome. We are so comfortable with each other – relaxed as opposed to uptight and fearful.” I also joked about being a bit OCD. For much of my marriage my mind was my worst enemy; I could not let things go, be it the mistakes I’d made, what she had said or did that hurt me, or just not feeling sure of what she felt about me. A few words or a misunderstanding could affect me for the rest of the day. Sexual refusal could mess me up for days. I was pretty good at being fully functional for work, and only those who knew me well and personally would have seen something was wrong, but inside I was in deep pain and turmoil. I heard from a couple of you who seem to struggle with similar thoughts and feelings, so I thought it would be worth another post.
Lori and I both had problems, and we hurt each other regularly. More often than not the hurting was unintended, and sometimes we didn’t know we’d done it, or didn’t understand why it hurt. She said and did things that would hurt any husband, but, because of my tendency to dwell on things I usually made things worse and I suffered a great deal more than I should have. To some degree, I understood this and tried not to blame or punish her for my part. In retrospect, I realise I underestimated how much of my pain was due to my endless rethinking.
Another problem was my “need” to resolve things very quickly. Certainly the Bible tell us not to let things go on, but I had a desperation to deal with problems the moment I knew they existed. I also wanted to wrestle with problems until they were 100% worked out. I know now I regularly exhausted my bride because of this. I’m sure there where things she (rightly) did not share with me because she did not have the energy to deal my overreaction. I must have made it difficult for her to be open with me. None of this was my intention, but I see now it is what I did.
The real question here is how to change if you are this way. How do you back off and give her space when doing that feels like standing in a fire and waiting for her to ask you to step out? How do you stop making it worse by going over and over it in your mind?
- Start by admitting to yourself this is about you, not her.
- Then, if you are serious, admit to her you see you do this. Tell her it’s about you not her, and you know it hurts her.
- Decide it’s not an unchangeable part of who you are; it is something you can modify.
- Decide it’s wrong. It hurts both of you, so it’s obviously not a good thing. No more excuses, it’s something you need to change.
- Learn to set things down. Yes, you will pick them up repeatedly, but if you keep doing it, it will get better. It will get easier to set things down, and you won’t pick them back up as fast or as often.
- Find other things on which to focus your mind. Rehearse the good things about your marriage, and the good things she has done for you. Think of ways in which things have improved. Pray for her – not to change what is driving you crazy or to talk with you so you can feel let off the hook – pray for her – for the things she wants and needs.
- Give her a way of letting you know when you are flooding or crowding her. A gesture is great for this – hands around her own neck or holding her nose as if she was underwater. Respect that gesture and stop when she gives it. If it becomes a way of never dealing with things you will need to address that – probably with third party help.
- Try to figure out why you do what you do. What past hurts or fears have caused you to be this way? If you can’t make progress, get help.
- Keep fighting it. You can gain mastery over your mind, emotions and fears.
Aside from both of you feeling better, learning to let go will make it easier for your bride to focus on things that need her attention, which will have good results for both of you.