"When he treats me better, THEN I will be more affection with him. If he starts meeting MY needs then I will consider his needs. When he is doing ________ then I can't feel love for him."
Unfortunately our husbands are thinking
"It doesn't matter if I do what she wants, she still won't be intimate. If she would consider what I want, then I could be more loving to her."
Our teacher called it a merry-go-round. Around and around we go, waiting for the other person in the relationship to make the first move. Waiting and waiting to feel better, more loving but being totally self-focused. She said that even when we have "noble" moments where we make the first move, we attach so much expectation to our gesture that we become even more bitter and hurt when there is no positive response.
When I learned this from her, I felt in my heart that it was true. I hold my love and tenderness towards my husband hostage, waiting for his "payment" of his own love and tenderness. But Pete's addiction has magnified this struggle 100x. His addiction is the perfect excuse for me to withdraw and fester, getting so dizzy on that merry-go-round that I feel sick.
Recently a friend challenged me to set aside the addiction and share my heart with my husband once again, through an increased effort to be affectionate with him. It was hard at first, honestly it was awkward. And I didn't even do that great of a job, I'm still working on it.
I think sometimes we are willing to put ourselves out there, to feel vulnerable as long as we get the response we are looking for, as long as our investment pays off. But love doesn't require repayment. To be truly given, love must demand nothing in return. Naturally it will hurt if our husband does not respond with automatic adoration and appreciation. But many of us are in damaged relationships with wounds that are deep.
I know that when I am off that merry-go-round I feel at peace. Even if my emotional needs are still being neglected (which is still painful) I can feel comfortable that I am not contributing to the problem. And surprisingly my needs become less important as I spend more time thinking of his. Sometimes I find gratitude in the smallest most subtle changes I notice in him as his indication that he does in fact appreciate my efforts, even if his pride and addiction keep him from more dramatic demonstrations.
Some days, I admit, I am going to just hang out on that merry-go-round, desperately hoping he'll reach out. But those selfish days are always my worst, most miserable days. Last night at group meeting someone shared this quote and it is going to be imprinted on the inside of my eyelids until I start to feel it in my heart.
“But,” you ask, “what if people are rude?” Love them.
“If they are obnoxious?” Love them.
“But what if they offend? Surely I must do something then?”
“Wayward?” The answer is the same. Be kind. Love them.
-Joseph B. Wirthlin Ensign May 2005