Jully 22, 2003

The words I attribute to my wife in this post are MY words; words I chose which summarize how I felt about what she said; they are not quotes. It would also be wise of the reader to remember that you are getting only one side of the story: mine. Moreover, the point of this entry when I made it, and as I post it now, is not to relate the details of a conflict or to show my wife in any particular light but simply to expose my internal experience.

Brenda and I had our worst (in terms of sheer combativeness and violence…I threw a potted plant across the room, and broke a stool apart) fight ever.

God, who’s voice am I hearing say, “she’s trying to steal from you…she will take your identity if you let her…don’t budge on the truth.” God who is that? IS that you? I know that I must be.

I feel like I’ve just been made fun of. Like Carrie at the prom: invited to a place of honor simply for someone else’s purpose. I feel very used. She paints me into a corner that a real man would not allow himself to be painted into.

It still matters way too much what she thinks of me. I’m afraid that I have only two speeds: Either I let her in far enough that she begins to define me (as an anal retentive, judgmental, hypocritical, bastard who is all about “NEVER” and “ALWAYS” and “BLACK” and “WHITE”)…or I keep her out all together.

I become so angry when she looks at the strongest parts of me – the parts that you are bringing to life again – the parts I am learning to embrace as my manliness – and she maligns them. I’m detailed, and an idealist. I believe so strongly in the ideal of good stewardship – I know that there is a line between GOOD and EVIL. Sure, sometimes that line is blurry – but living in that blurry place is someone else’s strength, someone else’s call from you. Its not mine. I’m the guy you made to hold the line. When she attacks me for being that person – an anger rises in me that is new.

God search my heart, see if there is anything unholy in me. Unlike what she says of me, I do not expect perfection from her. There is flexibility.

I’m most bothered by the fact that I was vulnerable with her; and admitted an error that I normally would not have, and I got punished for it.

I revealed my heart to her I thought this was the kind of thing I’m supposed to share with my wife…but God, if it is your will that I continue to share this kind of thing only to have it balled up and thrown back at me, I don’t see how I can find that place between letting her define me, and shutting her out altogether.

I don’t know how to fight for her! I can fight the Devil, or someone else, but how do I fight HER for herself or more accurately, how do I fight myself for her? It seems that in order to win her freedom from fear, doubt and insecurity, I must kill the man I am becoming. I don’t want him dead – I want the old guy dead.

I’m her worst enemy. I’m what seems to scare her the most. I’m what she fears.

Even in the midst of fighting – her primary thrust is to define me….to tell me who I am. It begins with me investigating discrepancies in the bank statement (or whatever) and begins a loop like this:

  1. If I’m pointing to the facts, and to my anger or disappointment over the failure of an ideal:  she defines me as an out of control melancholy who needs to bring a little balance to his life; who needs to lighten up and quit being so “doomsday”. (This one in particular cracks me up, because she has NO IDEA of all the REAL “doomsday” thinking that never sees the light of day because I AM learning to balance it out.)
  2. If any evidence pops up that indicates that I’m NOT as anal and black and white as she thinks I am (like purchasing a gift for my parents, making a mistake in the budget, being willing to let SOME things fall outside the budget, etc.) it is not seen as evidence that I’m flexible or reasonable…it is simply seen as evidence that I’m an out of control melancholy…. who’s a hypocrite too.
  3. By this time in the “Defining Dan Process”, I’m losing my temper. I went in to it trying to simply get the job done, but now my character  is under attack.  I start to take exception with her defenition and defend myself. Now she adds “Attacker” to the defenition. It is also at this point where I must take responsibility and where the bigger question emerges: I should not be defending myself against an assault on the truth of who I am, but how do I do this without becoming completely disengaged?
  4. I become aware of what’s happening as I hear her opinion of me come out in every sentence. I have now become an anal retentive, hypocrite who is attacking her. This creates such a sense of injustice in me that my anger really starts to build. I will begin acting out in “combat” saying and doing stupid things, or I must get out of the situation.
  5. I can now have a say in her definition of me. I can stay and “accept” my role as an “anal retentive, hypocrite who is attacking her” or I can become a “leaver”…either of which is a villainous role to play, and neither of which is the truth of who I am. But she won’t listen. I have been defined, and there is no way of escaping it.
  6. I begin to fight with her about THIS fact now, and her defense is: “Well – you do it to me! You think I’m irresponsible, that I don’t care, that I’m an idiot”…any number of other things. And her evidence of this begins again at step 1: I came to her with actual problems…actual problems that she is responsible for, that actually exist on paper, and that actually violate agreements we have made – and this is the loop we fight in: She defines me, I try to defend myself, and the original issue gets completely lost – we both walk away feeling unloved, judged, misunderstood and isolated.

It’s my job to put a stop to this. And I don’t know how.

The only way I can see is for me to find that place in between letting her tell me who I am, and keeping her out altogether. Perhaps choosing this is the essence of fighting for her. It’s like John Eldridge says: “If you look to your woman for a report card on your strength, you will always get a F.” I guess I’ve still got a lot to learn about looking to you, God.

Hear my prayer, Oh God. Show me who I am. Show me what YOU see. Please give me such a clear picture that I have no need to compare that picture to anyone else’s. God, give me your courage to stand firm in who I am in you, despite what may be said otherwise. Give me the sight to recognize YOUR fingerprints on the corrections when they come, and humbly take them – keep me supple and pliable – not defensive to your correction. But let me be bullet-proof to everything else. I don’t want to be taken out of the battle for my wife because I’ve been wounded by friendly fire. I put on your belt of truth, and hold firmly your shield of faith. Make me a warrior worthy of defending the woman you have given me.

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