This is going to be a post about Dave, my husband. I wrote it, but he reviewed, made some changes and approved it.
Dave and I have been together for almost 19 years now. I can’t believe it. I would be lying if I said it’s been all sunshine and roses. We have definitely been given our share of challenges, but there have also been plenty of good times. Which is what life is all about, right?
There are times when I have reflected back on all of those years and wondered, How did we survive? How did we stay together? There was only one significant time in our years together that the “d” word came up (divorce). I feel very fortunate that we are still standing as a married couple. It could have been easier for us to split up, especially since we don’t have any children together.
I don’t feel like I need to dive into the details of all the challenges we’ve experienced. I know we are not unique. We are not the only ones that have been dealt some difficult cards. Although, the way we have experienced our challenges, is unique to us.
Our relationship has shifted many times over the years, and recently, we have been experiencing another major shift that I want to share with you. Dave has put down his armor and boy let me tell you, he had built an impressive suit of armor.
Dave was raised to be the guy that powered through, that could do anything he set his mind to, the one that took care of everyone around him. He is that guy that everyone looks to for direction. He is very decisive, strong and gets shit done. It was part of what attracted me to him. Dave typically gives 110% when it comes to his career and it shows. He’s a very successful business owner.
He has shared with me that it felt good knowing that he was able to be there for his family and friends and that he was able to reach his career goals. Although when he would experience personal hardships in his life, he felt less prepared to handle the emotions and feelings that would come up, so he didn’t. This is when he began putting on his suit of armor. Partially, it was easier than trying to process all of his difficult emotions, but he also felt like in order to protect the important people in his life, that is what he needed to do. He needed to keep all of his feelings and emotions to himself.
When Dave and I would experience a challenge, a hardship, Dave would be the strong one, he would power through, he would do his best to support me. I was the one that was much better at expressing my emotions. (Yes, maybe a little too good at expressing my emotions, but that is a whole other topic for another time.)
In our marriage, this dynamic worked for awhile. I appreciated that he was my rock, that I could be the one to break down, that he would be there to pick me back up. At the time I was grateful he was keeping it together . . . or so I thought he was.
As life kept handing us more challenges, Dave got better and better at pushing his emotions down. It was getting to the point where Dave’s suit of armor was becoming his normal attire. As the years went on, it was increasingly taking a toll on his physical and mental health as well as our relationship. It wasn’t until he realized that the stress he was creating by keeping his feelings to himself could potentially kill him that he was forced to make a change.
For the past year and a half, it’s been an intense process, but Dave is doing the work to change his ways. I am proud of him. He has seen first hand the importance of the mind/body connection. He is learning that keeping his feelings and emotions to himself is not only harmful to his psyche, but that it can also negatively affect his physical health.
He came to realize that he was not protecting me by shielding me from how he was feeling, that he was actually pushing me away. It was causing me to feel disconnected and unimportant in his life.
The amount of change and self-awareness that Dave is experiencing has been amazing to watch and be a part of. As he continues to allow himself to feel his emotions and connect to his body, we have begun to reconnect and become closer than ever.
Sometimes I start to feel like we have a long way to go, but then I remember that life is about the journey and not the destination, which I know sounds very cliche, but very fitting for our situation.
Are you familiar with the term – a suit of armor? Maybe you have tried one on or you know somebody that is wearing one?
I believe that from time to time we have all tried on a suit of armor and that is okay. We don’t have to share every part of us with everyone.
From the perspective of someone that has had a lot of practice wearing a suit of armor – Dave’s biggest revelation has been that hiding your emotions and feelings does not help . . . at all.
From the perspective of someone that has had a lot of practice being with someone that wears a suit of armor – be patient, practice love and compassion for yourself and the other person. It’s worth it!
“Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s brought out into the open.” Steven Aitchison