“Are these tears of gratitude?” my counsellor asked as my eyes began to well up. I bit my lower lip and rivers of pain spilled down my face.
“No.” I answered. “I have no words for it yet, but obviously it’s something deep.” I was surprised by the sudden release of emotion. She had asked me a question about Tim and our marriage.
Four months ago, I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression. Connecting with my counsellor had been key to my recovery process. With her guidance, I had worked hard to implement important lifestyle changes to facilitate self-care and help me regain equilibrium. We had gotten to a good place where I had more confidence and felt hopeful about the future.
At the same time, I had been feeling a growing unrest about my marriage. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the cause. Tim and I didn’t have any major rift going on, it was more like a vague sense of distance that I felt was between us. I was unhappy, but I didn’t know why. We were continuing to be intentional about our relationship; we’d gone away for a day to reflect and plan for the year, we went on dates every so often, and we made sure to share with each other about our days. I certainly had nothing to complain about in terms of how he was supporting me. Who else’s husband got up early with the kids every morning so his wife could sleep an extra hour? Or stayed up late doing the dishes? Tim had been extra sensitive to my needs and making sure I was getting enough rest and creative space.
As I talked to my counsellor and cried some more, I finally was able to articulate what was bothering me. I was missing the little extra gestures and surprises that communicated to me that I was special to Tim.
I quickly arranged babysitting with my Father-in-law so that Tim and I could go on a date over the weekend. I told Tim I wanted to tell him about my last counselling session. It wasn’t a “fight,” per se, but it was still a difficult conversation to initiate.
Over a couple desserts and some tea, I described what was going on with me. He listened, paused and looked at me thoughtfully. “Ever since you were diagnosed with Post Partum Depression, I shifted my energy to helping you get better,” he began. “I guess I hadn’t realized that I stopped doing those little things. I actually enjoy those things. I just haven’t had the margin and mental space to think them up. I didn’t even realize I’d stopped until you pointed it out.”
As we talked some more, one thing became clear: In marriage, when either person feels uncertain or unloved, it’s usually because we doubt that the other person is really on our side. Fights are rarely about the presenting issue. Fights are usually about the question, “Are you on my side?”
Taking the time to hear Tim’s perspective helped settle my fears that he’d forgotten about me, or that I wasn’t the most important person in his life any more. It reaffirmed that we are on the same team, working together to make this marriage thrive.
Looking back, I’m glad I made it a priority to book that date and to address things before they became a “Thing.” I could have let this situation slide or wait until the next time we had a chance to go on a date before bringing it up, but something in me (ok, it was my counsellor) compelled me to be proactive in carving out the time and space to talk as soon as possible. In one of my favourite books, “The Little Prince,” there’s a scene where the Little Prince describes some trees called baobabs. He explains how important it is to pluck them out of the ground when they are little seedlings because if you leave them too long, they become as big as castles. Marriage is like that, it’s wise to tend to the baobab seedlings before they become trees.
I felt a bit silly going into that conversation because I didn’t want to sound ungrateful or be the over-needy wife. But beneath it all, what I was really looking for was some reassurance that yes, my husband was still on my side.
(Photo credit: French Couple via Photopin)