Updated: Jun 18
When I feel loved, my heart is the safest place in the world, for me and everyone else. I have grace. I can see the positive side of any situation or action.
But when I feel wronged, hurt, or threatened, my heart is a scary place to be.
When I was twenty, I married a man I’ll call First Husband. (I wanted to call him “a boy” just now. See, wounded heart. Unkind.)
Our nine-month marriage was rocky, to say the least. Trust had been broken before we said “I do”, and the lies continued unraveling in the months that followed.
I had a very specific idea of what marriage should look like. Or so I thought. Mainly I just knew that, for me, divorce was not an option. I was a good, Christian girl. If I got a divorce, what would that signal to others? If I got a divorce, it would give everyone permission to get a divorce.
I clearly thought quite highly of myself and how many people were hanging on my every move for permission on how to show up in their own lives.
Before we got married, I started birth control. I’d never been on birth control before and therefore had no experience or comparison.
As things began to devolve into the chaotic hell that became my daily existence, I tried everything in my limited power to control the situation. I threatened. I attacked. I raged.
I’ve always had a way with words. Usually, I cleverly arrange them into a witty surprise. In this marriage, I sharpened them and used them as a dagger. First Husband threatened me; I shredded him with my words.
For the entirety of our marriage, I had a deep sense of pride in my ability to cut him to the core. His words and actions felt like an attack, and I was poised to counter-attack with a poisoned dart.
I felt an intensity of emotion I had never experienced before.
In time, my mother suggested I talk to my doctor about the birth control. As it turned out, I had the estrogen of whole droves of women coursing through my body. I felt crazy.
The more out of control I felt, and the more I feared the marriage failing, the tighter my grip became. The more over-the-top my antics.
One time, First Husband was sitting on the couch. I had asked him, for the umpteenth time, to help me with something, but he wanted to watch tv. He didn’t even glance my way when I spoke. This was a well-worn fight. I would ask for something, and he would say “no" for seemingly ridiculous reasons, including simply that he didn't feel like it. Ever. It wasn’t a matter of taking care of the ask later. If he didn’t want to do whatever it was, nothing and no one could make him.
I’d had it.
In the midst of raging at him about his selfishness and laziness, something in me snapped. My words were clearly no longer having the desired effect.
The closest thing to me was a shoe so I picked it up and chucked it at First Husband’s head.
Thankfully, I have terrible aim.
But my action was not okay.
When we got married, First Husband drove a motorcycle. While we were married, he bought a blue truck. When we got divorced, he moved less than a stoplight away from me. I had to actively prevent myself from running every motorcycle and blue truck off the side of the road.
This same spirit can still rise up in me in different ways, not always so outwardly aggressive.
If someone overlooks my “clearly benevolent” acts of kindness, I can find myself wanting to be intentionally unhelpful.
If someone leaves me out, I can find myself hoping they have a lousy time. Get lost. Run out of gas.
The sucky part is, I’m the one who suffers. It feels awful to think these thoughts and feel these feelings.
The more I am aware of them, the more I try to say them out loud. I’ve found that acknowledging the sludge in my heart is the quickest way to clear it out.
I’d like to say that I no longer face this demon, but just three nights ago, I asked my current husband, Judah, whom I call my “real husband”, to put away his laundry. It felt like an innocuous ask.
It was shortly before bed, during the time we usually sit in a big, comfy chair we have in our bedroom, and read.
He was settled and reading his Kindle. I still had to brush my teeth and finish getting ready for bed.
I was still in “do” mode. He was in “done” mode.
“Does it have to be done right now?” he asked, in what I perceived to be a condescending and dismissive way. A rhetorical question.
Honestly, it didn’t, but his push-back pushed my “defensive button” which immediately produced several very good reasons. For example, if he put his laundry away, we could put the laundry basket away, and it wouldn’t be in the middle of the bedroom. The laundry basket was also blocking where I usually sit to read. (I hadn’t decided if I was going to read that night or not yet, but in the moment, it didn’t matter. In the end, I never even sat in the chair or read.)
When I noted it was blocking my place to sit, he clumsily kicked the basket to the side, somewhat clearing my seat but not fully.
I reached over to move the basket fully out of the way. The second my hands made contact with the plastic, I was overcome with this intense desire to aggressively tip the basket sideways, causing all of his nicely folded clothes to messily topple over.
I removed my hands from the basket as if I’d touched a hot stove. My chest was tight.
“I have such a strong desire to knock that sideways,” I admitted. And I felt good about having acknowledged the sludge.
“What does it matter? Just leave it alone.”
Poor choice, Judah. This only increased my aggression. Did he want me to kick over the laundry basket?
We have a marriage counselor who told us that no one ever calmed down by being told to “just calm down”.
She was right.
His words and actions hit a nerve. My blood pressure sky-rocketed, and I quickly and quietly removed myself from the room.
Tooth. Paste. On. Tooth. Brush.
Brush. Brush. Brush.
It doesn’t have to be done now.
When I walked back into the bedroom, the basket was right where I had left it. I was still worked up enough that I knew I couldn’t leave it there. I had to remove it from my sight. I was able to pick it up, without dumping it out, and move it to his side of the bed where it would be mostly hidden from view.
He can put it away in the morning.
I’m thankful that, the older I get, I am able to intervene and prevent myself from acting out my aggressions, but I wish a cooler head would prevail.
I can see, even through typing this, that the seemingly silly shenanigans with the laundry basket likely hit the “first husband” nerve of asking for help and being told “no” for seemingly stupid reasons.
My wounded heart received the message that what I want doesn’t matter. What I think is important isn’t valid.
My inner protector of my little girl heart rises up to fight the battle.
I do matter.