Dear Pastor Lily,
How do you deal with it if you feel like your man is pulling away or he says he needs space? I understand that it’s a healthy thing but emotionally I feel hurt and worried that things are changing. I know that men and women are hardwired differently and it’s natural that he should want to find a sense of equilibrium… or if something is bothering him he needs time alone to figure it out, but how can I learn to be patient when he is not happy? I’m finding it difficult to sleep because I know he is not his usual self right now. How can I deal with this more effectively in the future? – A friend Down Under
Dear Friend Down Under.
You prepare for it well in advance, because otherwise, marriage can be extremely lonely. To be a great wife you have to be very good at and comfortable with being on your own. Marriage is about companionship, romance, and love, but it’s also about independence and being secure in one’s self. This issue is something you need to resolve as soon as possible because it happens in every marriage.
Imagine how I could have felt when my husband spent 3 weeks traveling to Africa, came home for 5 days then left for Israel for another 10 days. I was home alone, pregnant and caring for a two-year-old who has medical issues. I was definitely tempted by jealousy, frustration, sadness, loneliness, and fear. One could argue that it wasn’t fair. What if I had gone into early labor on my own? Could we afford this? Etc. So what’s a girl to do?
I’ll tell you what I did.
I grew tomatoes!
Literally. I had about 20 little tomato plants lined up on the windowsill. Then I researched tomatoes. I bought and mixed soil. Started seedlings. Transplanted them. I searched Pinterest for best pruning practices. In other words, I kept myself busy and distracted. Because most of the time he was away, he couldn’t even call home.
During that time I also made plans and went to visit my mom. I went on coffee dates with ladies from the church. I focused more on my bible studies, and I spring cleaned the house.
Actually one of my favorite things to do when my husband is away is deep clean the house. I like it when he comes and the house looks awesome. It smells great because there are biscuits in the oven, the bed is fresh and straight and the shower is restocked with his favorite brand of body wash. I do this because it immediately informs him that I was thinking about him while he was gone and anticipating his return home. I’m creating a warm inviting home for him to come back to and which he will long to return to the next time he is away.
You plan for it and treat it as a gift to yourself.
My husband Lovingson, likes to eat the same thing every night for dinner. Sadza with greens and meat. I’m okay with that because it’s an incredibly nutritious meal and the whole family enjoys it. But, when he is out-of-town, I buy sushi, samosas, pasta, and potatoes because he doesn’t like those things. I also read books or watch movies that he’s not into.
Taking care of a husband is a lot of work.
So when he is away I take advantage of the time to refocus on me. I give myself a manicure. I take bubble baths. (This was much easier before we had children). It’s Me Time!
Then when we are reunited we have great stories to share with each other. I listen attentively and try to really understand and appreciate the stories he shares from his travels. Because if you don’t care, he won’t share and that becomes a problem.
You just make a decision.
I really love our marriage. Not just my husband, but our relationship. Therefore, entertaining any negative thoughts of jealousy, frustration, fear, or resentment will hurt our relationship. It is then my job to protect that which I love. So when those feelings come up I try to acknowledge that they are there but I don’t agree with them. Sometimes I pray against them. I will tell God that something is really hard right now. Most of the time, I just go check my tomatoes.
One more thing. I talked a lot about how to handle physical space and you were kind of asking about emotional space. The answer is the same.
Think about it this way.
If he has been actively pursuing a relationship with you for the past couple months he has likely neglected other things in order to make time for you. Those things have probably piled up and he needs to take care of them before they become an irresolvable problem. Whether it’s making sure that he is maintaining his work load so that he can afford to take time off for a wedding, or hanging out with his family and pals so that you have people who want to come to your wedding when they get their invitations.
He needs to take time to take care of those things.
A navy seal being interviewed about his time in the combat field. His wife asked him to take a picture of where he sleeps to show the kids. He went to the bunker to take the photo and then thought about the pictures of his family he had stashed in his gear. He hung them on the wall by the bed, took the picture, sent it to his family, and then took the photos back down.
Now you’re probably wondering “WHY WOULD HE DO THAT?”
It sounds so heartless. In the movies we always see soldiers with pictures of their loved ones tucked into their helmets and love letters tucked into breast pockets. They need these momentos to remind them what they’re fighting for.
In reality, what this highly decorated Navy Seal commander really needed to do was be extremely focused on the mission in front of him. He was in charge of and responsible for the lives of other men who also wanted to go home and see their families again too. You could easily assume that he took those pictures down because he doesn’t have a sentimental bone in his body. The truth is, in order to be highly effective and reduce the risk of getting blown up by the enemy, he needed to separate himself from every other part of his life in order to safely return home to his family.
It sounds counter-intuitive.
But, even in our simple civilian lives, men need to do the same thing. They need to work hard without distractions when they’re at the office so that they can enjoy going home at the end of the day knowing they’ve done their best to provide for their family.
If you feel like your man is pulling away, don’t make him apologize for needing space or time for the things he needs to do. It’s hard enough for people to create boundaries and express their need for space, especially if it’s with someone they don’t want to disappoint. So do your best to express appreciation to him for sharing his needs with you and then work together to make it happen.
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