I, like you, go through tough times, and it affects my marriage.
You, see I’ve been in a real funk lately. I’m experiencing so many things for the first time, and quite frankly, I have no experience with it and am finding it hard to navigate. And what’s worse? I don’t want to talk about it. I see myself in a shut-down phase. Do you ever go through things like this?
I’m 52, and I’m peri-menopausal, which is causing me anxiety I’ve never experienced before. I feel like I’m coming out of my skin all the time. My brain is in a complete fog where I forget so many things, big and small. I’ve been having telehealth appointments with my doctor since the pandemic started. Yesterday, I drove to the doctor for my appointment, went up to the door, and saw the sign that said the office isn’t open and all doctors are making telehealth appointments. Ladies, this has been going on for a year, and I forgot it. I can’t even think of names I know like the back of my hand. For two months, I’ve missed the same bill. Added to that, I’ve embarked on a new career in my midlife years and dealing with the further stress of being an entrepreneur. I feel like I’m riding on the crazy train.
See my funk?
I don’t intentionally shut my husband out when I’m going through a difficult season, but that is my habit. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until the gulf gets pretty broad. I become aware of it when I start going my separate way, being only willing to engage in surface conversations, and living in my head instead of connecting. The relationship becomes perfunctory.
So, why, if we know intimacy is about sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly, do we close down sometimes when we are struggling with something in our lives? I believe it is because of the messages we hear inside our heads and from a society that tells us to be strong, power through, be a badass.
Here’s what I know from my own experience and my husband’s because he goes through seasons of this too. We revert to old habits of trying to deal with our problems independently, and pretty soon, we are disconnected.
The Self-Defeating Messages in Our Heads
“I should be stronger.”
“I don’t want to be a weak person who is needy.”
“If my spouse knew what was going on with me, they’d think less of me.”
“My spouse couldn’t possibly understand what is going on with me.”
“These are my problems, and I need to figure it out.”
“Something is wrong with me.”
“I don’t want to be a burden.”
“My spouse will think I’m crazy.”
“I’m not enough.”
Have you ever heard those messages before? I sure have, so I try to suck it up and end up isolating myself. I get quiet. I retreat into compulsive reading and researching things I want to learn. Not a bad pursuit, but I said compulsively like hours on end, shutting out the world around me, including my husband. I’ll lose myself in Netflix binge sessions or emotionally eat. Basically, I check out. Other people may lose themselves in working out, drinking, shopping, or in their work. Whatever your “drug” of choice is to check out, avoidance just delays the inevitable of having to face life on life’s terms. It will stay there and cause disconnection in your marriage until you can talk about it openly.
So, if you and your husband have been going through this and don’t know how to get the connection back, I’m going to give you some simple tips to try.
Get rid of the messages
First, write down some of the negative messages in your head about what’s going on with you. Then with a marker, write “Not true” across the list. None of those self-defeating messages are true.
Identify the Feelings
Second, on another sheet of paper, write down everything you are feeling and what is behind it. For instance, right now, one of mine would be, I can’t think straight. I forget things and feel like I’m in a fog. About that, I feel shame. I feel like I should be better than this. Maybe your kids are going through something that you can’t fix for them, and you are taking on those feelings and worrying your head off. A statement to write down is I am feeling powerless to help or fix what’s going on in my child’s life. I feel overwhelmed with it all, and I feel fear and pain. Get everything down on paper, and don’t put a time limit on it. You may be able to get it all out in one sitting, but if you come back to it and find more comes up, add to it.
Third, affirm your self-worth. I am going through some tough things right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m less-than. It is okay to feel my feelings. I can face these problems and find solutions. I’m not weak when I share myself with my spouse. I don’t have to go through this alone. Nothing is wrong with me. I’m not crazy. I am human. What others think of me does not determine my self-worth. If this is difficult for you, see yourself as a child and be the parent. What messages would you tell that child to build them up.
Step away from this process and allow it to simmer a bit in your mind, body, and emotions. Take all the time you need because I promise you’ll find strength and clarity in this process. I’ve done it so many, many times, and it works.
Finally, when you have gotten this clarity, do the most challenging part and talk with your spouse. I always preface this with. I’m not looking for you to fix this situation. I just need you to listen. Bless their hearts. Men like to fix our problems. They mean well, but always ask for what you need at that moment- I need you just to listen. Your husband will likely have a response which you can ask for when you are ready.
Be vulnerable even if you fear they won’t understand. It isn’t about your spouse understanding everything you are going through. There are things my husband goes through that I can’t fully understand and vice versa. Men and women are very different creatures, but the feelings we have are the same. Self-doubt, frustration, fear, joy, pain, sadness, love, and anger. These are universal human experiences. When we realize how alike we really are, we can have more empathy and be less likely to hide our feelings. We are all human beings going through the same emotions. The payoff is when you get vulnerable. It’s easier for your husband to share himself as well. It feels safer to share the deep stuff when the other person is doing it. And it will keep your husband from thinking he’s done something wrong. When my husband goes into himself with his struggles, and it causes disconnect, I always make up it is something about me.
If you find yourself in a disconnected funk in your marriage right now, I highly suggest you try this. It works. I’ve known this pattern for a while now, and I know it works, but I can still fall into the old habits at the drop of a hat. Knowledge is power and when you know better, do better. True intimacy means sharing yourself fully even when you feel like it’s just your problem to figure out.
I want to invite you to an Instagram Live that I’ll be doing with two guests you’ve probably heard on my podcast. Kevin O’Connor and Terri Kellums. It is called The Messy Middle Years: Critical Conversations. This first episode will be all about dating in midlife-both for singles and married couples. You might be amazed about what we have to say about dating. It will happen next Wednesday, June 2nd, at 4 pm PST and 7 pm EST. You’ll find it on Instagram under whatwomenwanttoday. Terri will be hosting first. Each week we will be doing a live and covering a different topic. I’ll be posting a link on my Instagram account, so if you haven’t followed me on Instagram, you will find me at reviveyourmidlifemarriage. I do hope you can join us. We have a lot of fun together and many laughs. This will be very interactive, and we will be responding to questions and comments from the audience. I know that’s a lot to remember, so go to the show notes at reviveyourmidlifemarriage.com/42 to see the details.
Here is where you can find Kevin O’Conner : https://www.practicalmasculinity.net/
Here is where you can find Terri Kellums: http://whatwomenwanttoday.com/
Till next time, work on improving your marriage every single day.