In the Trenches

trench_smlHighs are cool.  Perfect nights like Harry and I had on Thursday.  But highs do not sustain a relationship.  Nor does normal life.  I know a ton of couples who have “normal” and are wallowing in unfulfilled boredom.  No – what really makes or breaks a relationship is how they handle stress.  When someone or something snaps how is that person a support to you – or not.  It’s like the normal days you get up, you train, you prepare, you live.  The parades you boast and celebrate.  But it’s in the trenches where you see what  you’re made of.

My last relationship failed miserably in that area.  As soon as something got hard, he got wiggy and scared.  He dropped off the radar and ran to go hide in his shed.  And when that didn’t work he got mean…bitterly mean.  My marriage failed in this area too, ultimately.  We did better than most but it was usually because we fought our own battles.  He didn’t know how to help me through mine and I was not allowed into his.  We made it for years this way but in the end it left us alone.

I’m in the trenches with Harry almost daily as he battles for the survival of his company.  There is sacrifice that is very clearly felt.  I’m there with him because he needs me to be.  I’m fully aware that our life is not normal…yet.  But neither one of us has the power to change that right now, so we press on.

This morning Harry went into the trench with me.  I had arranged for my ex to have a nice birthday surprise from my children, giving them the idea, the money, the encouragement to actually do something for him.  They didn’t do anything for me on my birthday.  And last night they had their first “double date.”  They planned a movie with their respective dates over at the house.  It was a moment to remember.  I stayed out of the room and they sat arm in arm eating pizza and ice cream.  I was texting my ex about it and he did nothing wrong except be his normal nice self.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with the sense that he really should be there to witness these moments with his children.  It has always been about what they and he are missing due to the fact he left.  And it all welled up.  I lashed out at him when he was only being nice.  And felt like a jerk for doing it.

I told Harry about it when I woke up over chat and he said, “How did he respond?”  And I said, “He didn’t.  He just stopped texting.”

And that is when it became very clear that Harry will always have my back.  He will always be my defender and protector just like his namesake.  And he will do this not out of blind allegiance but because he understands my dilemma and thinks I’m justified in most cases on some level anyway.  Harry already feels more like a husband to me than anyone else ever did.  Including the one I had for 18 years.

I sat in church this morning and read about how Jesus at the Last Supper told his disciples that the greatest among them will follow his example and will serve.  Great leaders do not demand the highest places of honor but they get in the trenches and serve alongside.  And then Jesus said in Luke 22 verses 28-29, “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials,  and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom.”  Jesus had thousands of followers but the ones who were special, the 12, were the ones who “stood by him.”  When the religious leadership was against him, when the people turned against him, when they were run out of towns.  And then Jesus washed their feet.

And it reminded me on several occasions how Harry unlike any man I’ve ever known gets extreme joy from serving.  Something as little as helping me take off my boots.  I can see how he does it that it is an honor for him to help me.  And that makes me want to serve him too.  It makes it ok if I have to iron or wash his clothes.  It makes me want to cook for him and tend to his needs.  It’s reciprocal.

And the Bible says as Jesus loved the church so shall a husband love his wife.  And I got it.  This morning.  For the first time.  That is how Harry is loving me.  How can it be that someone who is not even a Christian understands these principles so well, as if they are embedded into the fiber of his being and not be a believer?  Maybe it means that he is truly called to be and just hasn’t gotten there yet.  But it amazed me and a tear dropped as I sat there in church wishing he was there with me so we could share that moment.

But Jesus got something from his disciples too.  They stood by him.  And Harry and I are standing by each other.

He knows that my husband was passive aggressive in our marriage and was extremely averse to conflict of any kind.  He also knows that for years my ex did not look at me.  I could be naked walking across the room and it did  nothing for him.  And so when Harry asked me what his response to my comment was, the fact that he just quit texting was important.  Harry said, “Its like when he didn’t see you naked. He doesn’t want to see your emotions and feelings naked either.”

Livvy: that is very true he just wants everything to be “nice” all the time and it grates on me
Harry: Maintain an even strain
Livvy: and I’m a FAILURE at it and I’ve always felt like a failure at it my whole life
Harry: you’re not
Livvy: it was a horrible feeling coming back though of how I felt about myself for YEARS  like shit…there I go again. I just failed again
Harry: You did not
Livvy: and Slimeball saw it as that too…because his wife  was even keeled and a rock and when I had an emotion he was like why did you do that? You need to maintain
Harry: When I push back. I can see almost a relief in your eyes. Because I’m not telling you to maintain. I’m debating what you’re mad at. It validates your beliefs.
Livvy: I hadn’t thought about it like that but maybe… almost simultaneously last night I was having a texting conversation with a friend about us getting married and him challenging me again on how I could marry you without knowing what “normal” is between us and shouldn’t I wait until I know what I’m getting into and part of me knows he’s at least partially right but it makes me mad cause all I WANT is normal and I want it so bad and I have you who wants me and I want you and sometimes I am just tired of being alone and waiting and I get mad at people like him who are just trying to be a good friend and watch out for me cause he HAS a wife, he is settled and its easy to say wait when you’re not wanting something.
Harry: I understand that… You want normal.. I’m not there right now and it scares you.. then your ex texts, and you realize you lost normal.. even though it wasn’t perfect. and you were going to lash out at your friend or your ex..Livvy…i hate to tell you… but your human baby.. a beautiful flawed human…
Livvy: its hard for me Harry cause this was a pattern in my life forever. I said two sentences of “stop being nice if I was the person I was you’d be so cruel” and then silence from him and I beat myself up over it forever.
Harry: and look how you talk… “pattern”, “life”, “normal” you never say.. passion, love, companion, partner.  You said I released something in you.. it’s not passion.. you were getting there with working out, and the blog. you’re a passionate person. You always were.  You were just told by your mom, your ex, Slimeball that its wrong and weak
Livvy:  but I believe them
Harry: I just allowed you to break that last wall… the ability to show your passion and not be put down for it.  You DID believe them… NOT ANYMORE  You’re a powerful, accomplished, beautiful, woman…
Livvy: that is why I texted you “I’m not all that –  I promise” It’s like last night I still believed them…and I think you let me “off the hook” and I should be punished… Everyone thinks my ex is perfect cause he’s so nice.  Even last night he was just responding to texts and being nice he didn’t do anything wrong.  I did.
Harry: he did… he didn’t stand up for himself.. you would have respected it.
Livvy: so my lashing out in effect was another test that he failed.
Harry: yes.  And you were also mad at the apathy your kids have for him (not figuring out what to do for his birthday).. and even though you don’t want him back.. your mother instincts took hold.. and you saw him in your kids.. and that scares you… what’s going to happen when they are 30 with their own family if YOU don’t make sure they put family first… if you were gone… if you 5 years he wouldn’t know his kids.they have that  same MAINTAIN apathy…ITS YOU WHO PUTS THE PASSION IN THERE LIVES.
Whether Harry was right or not…I knew in that moment he had my back and he and I were aligned in the trenches on the same team looking out for each other.  It’s something I never ever had with ANYONE else ever.
Livvy: He is supposed to have “CHRISTMAS” with the kids on the 26th he has never once made it happen. He doesn’t make things important and then all these things go by and they all just shrug their shoulders and say…well we had this or that going instead….and life passes them by with one big BLAH…. like my son’s canoe trip he was promised…make it happen damnit!  or paintballing.
Harry: and without the little “nagging” things you do.. they wouldn’t have much of a life with him at all…
Livvy: why buy him the paintball gun and the NEVER ONCE take him and show him how its done??
Harry:  I know
Livvy: I know…and that is the burden part of what I’ve felt my whole life
Harry: yes… and your criticized for it
Livvy: yes
Harry: btw.. don’t marry me….  I can’t spell…
Livvy: haha….(I removed his typos)  right but you have the dynamic of my entire life figured out so I don’t care how you spell.
I don’t care that we haven’t experienced normal yet either.  He is my partner.  He is my love, my heart.  I love him so and he is the only person who gets my brain to think a different way.  I woke up hating myself and feeling like a failure.  And he got me to see that I was reacting to real things that were missing in my relationship with my ex.  Omissions instead of commissions are equally valid.  Just because I was committing the action didn’t mean my ex did nothing wrong.
I’ve never been in the trenches before and seen it that way.  And I’m extremely grateful I have someone who as busy as he is, is patient enough to listen and help me.  So grateful to have someone who is willing to stand alongside me when the chips are down and defend me.
My sweet and loving Harry.

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