The strong and the weak changes.... or does it?
I was going through social media memories today and I came across a quote I shared regarding marriage, and it really got me thinking about my marriage. We are coming up on our 10 year anniversary in April. Now the quote read “A strong marriage rarely has two strong people at the same time it is a husband and wife who take turns being strong for each other in the moments when the other feels weak.”.
Now… a healthy marriage is a good, even split of carrying one another’s burdens and being strong for the other when they cannot be. But what’s it like when one partner shoulders the burden the majority of the time? There are plenty of examples of when this type of marriage might occur. A few that come to mind are when one partner won’t share… It’s difficult to be strong for someone who doesn’t show their weakness. Another could be with a narcissistic partner or a substance-dependent spouse. Maybe as a SINGLE parent, you don’t have someone else to shoulder your burdens, so you shoulder them alone….. and it is EXHAUSTING.
Just holding your own burdens along with your partner’s is a lot when done for an extended period of time. But if you have children in the mix, forget about it. So what do you do to release and set down some of the weight of your burdens? I experienced an array of emotions when I read that quote today. First I smiled and thought what an amazing way to look at marriage. Then I worried… Was I that kind of spouse, did I take his burdens as my own and be the strength he needed from me? Then I got irritated…. You’re damn right I am that spouse. In fact, I have been that spouse for nearly 10 years… But then I felt sad….
In these -close to- 10 years, I have been the strong one 95% of the time… When he was weak with women or alcohol, I was strong, and instead of crumbling into a puddle, I was strong, supportive, and forgiving. I picked HIM up from his crumpled mess of guilt. When he tore me down while intoxicated, I stood tall and took it, praying he didn’t really feel those things in sobriety. When his self-esteem is low, I boost his ego. When his shift was rough, I have a rebuttal for every negative thing he thinks he did to prove to him, it wasn’t so bad and all is well. I often weathered many pregnant nights alone, spent the first weeks of our children’s lives with the support of my mother and grandmother while he was chasing his dreams.
But when I tried to recall all the times he was my strength, it got harder… Now that’s not to say he is not a rock for me and that he is not supportive… In fact, I think this falls on me. I allowed myself to be treated the ways I was when we were in a dark place for many of those years. I wouldn’t crumble, I wouldn’t lean on him…. I don’t know if in those early-mid years of our marriage if he even would have known how to be the strong one if I stumbled… If I needed a crutch. When his drunken promises to our kids weren’t kept, I had to pick those pieces up and be strong for them too. I couldn’t even feel angry or hurt until after I had mended the broken hearts of my kids. How was that, you might ask?
Well, frankly it sucked. It hurt. It became second nature and I often find I am still numb to MY needs. I need a shower, but I hate showering at night, yet I can’t get myself to sleep at a decent hour to wake up early enough to shower before my kids arise. As Jake is a dancer he is a massive fan of soaking in a tub. I will ALWAYS make sure he gets his baths whenever her wants them, but I won’t say, “Hey- you know what… I actually really need a shower, so I can shower now, while you are available to keep an eye on the kids?” Is that strong or stupid? I don’t know. He NEEDS those soaks to ease his mind, clean his body, and heal his muscles. So maybe my strength in putting off my own needs for him to fill his own is a strength.
Now, he is an AMAZING rock and strength for our kids… I mean I have said it, Jack Pearson level
is my Jake in regards to parenting. If not better. He can get them to eat any time (I can’t), he will do enriching activities with them EVERY DAY (I don’t), they LOVE spending time with him (they pick him over me when we are both available), he will sing and read 50 books and songs at bedtime (I play soft music and rub backs until they are asleep)….. He is amazing. He is creative and he is smart and he is a joy to be around. But his mental health requires a lot of love and attention…. This can be exhausting. I am always telling him how amazing I think he is, how sexy and handsome he is and what an incredible dad he is, etc... But even when I do it organically, his brain tells him they are lies and he often asks and checks in with me to make sure I think these things...
He also reciprocates to a degree, but I often feel I am building HIM up, rather than feel I have a solid place to lean. I don’t know if I have the answer for you on how to cope with needing someone to be your strong side sometimes, but I can say, being dependent, resourceful, and loving another person so much that you would do anything for them, is a HUGE strength. I can pick myself up, I can find solutions to my problems, and I love with every ounce of my being and infinitely engrossed in my love for this man, makes being the strong one easier. As I read through this blog post I feel that I don’t express enough the growth we have come through in these past 10 years, and I often share the negative with my readers, but I feel like reading someone else struggles that mirror my own, is healing. So I share the struggles and what I have personally experienced, tried, had success in, etc.
I have had an adventurous marriage. Sometimes the adventure was not a pleasant one. But, it’s my journey none the less and I would not change who I am married to. I love him more than he will ever know. I just wanted to be clear that he is an incredible human and I am lucky and blessed to be his wife. Okay now that’s been said-What do you do when you need a strong person to hold you up? When your spouse or partner CANT be that person? Journal it, see a therapist to carry your burdens, or have a conversation with your partner… Express your needs to be able to be the weak one every once in a while. We all need a little give and a little take. It will take practice but it can happen. Why? Because MAMA, YOU are worth it! We can rise above our weaknesses AND we can lean on our partner… neither option makes us weak. My heart goes out to all of you who need a strong partner to lean on…. Talk to your partner and I pray you feel some relief from your burdens together.