There was a time in my marriage when I wasn’t sure if my husband and I would share a drawer for much longer. It didn’t happen overnight. It rarely does. Truthfully, I don’t think anyone walks down the aisle with expectations of one day throwing in the towel. We sure didn’t. It happens over time. On the same note, I don’t think anyone ever moves into a sparkling new home only to imagine the mess that will ensue when the new wears off. Time passes, the house becomes old, other things become new, and we try to block out what used to be to distract ourselves. We live in our mess.
I hate cleaning my bathroom. I mean HATE it. It is gross. It is smelly. I feel like a Cinderella victim, post fairy godmother, waiting for someone to rescue me. So I put it off. I ignore it for as long as I possibly can. Most days I would be mortified if you came over and walked upstairs to our master bathroom. These are not the pictures I post on my Instagram feed for the world to see. These are the images I keep hidden for no one to see.
In our marriage, there are parts of ourselves that we HATE to encounter. There are past hurts, unmet needs gone unsaid, missed opportunities to be vulnerable and weaknesses shielded by blame. In our relationship, these are the things we would be mortified if someone knew. These are the things we keep hidden away, while searching for distractions to gloss over the reality of this unwanted mess.
A couple days ago before bed, I began to rattle off a list of some new things I want for our house we are in the process of building. My husband lovingly told me his perspective with complete truth. Y’all it was NOT the answer I wanted to hear by any stretch of the imagination. Do you know what he did? He pointed out the disgusting bathroom. I peeked in only to see my makeup covering the entire counter in disarray, spills from bottles, grime, filth, drawers overflowing with years of disorganized beauty products (and don’t even get me started on the bathtub.) It was not good. He shared how he really wanted me to have all the things on my wish list today, but as it stood, we weren’t ready for them. As a couple, we had let too many things go. He didn’t blame me. He owned his part but it still didn’t make his truth any easier to swallow.
Now before you go thinking that we are OCD clean freaks… we absolutely are NOT. The bathroom was simply a symbol my husband used to open up the conversation for other relationship values and disciplines we have allowed to slip as a couple over the last several months. We know, all too well, it’s not just a tangible mess we must clean, but a state of the heart we must recognize.
Here is where I wish I immediately felt and said with truth, “Honey, you are so right. Thank you for caring about the health and structure of our family and our marriage. Let me go clean that up right now. I am so sorry I let it get this bad.”
Ummm…. no. Do you know me? If you don’t here is the conversation that went through my head…
“Are you really bringing that up right now? After all I do for this family? After how hard I work? That stupid bathroom doesn’t even have anything to do with what I am saying. IF you want it cleaned so bad, clean it yourself, BUDDY!” (Now let’s go ahead and just celebrate silently together the fact that, this time, I did not say all that out loud. THANK GOODNESS! That was a win, right? I owe my self control in this moment to Jesus because it certainly didn’t come from within.)
In reality, as I listened to Chris share his heart on our bed it was up to me to make a CHOICE. When the new wears off, we choose to do the work. I had the opportunity to hear and internalize his need while also seeing his heart to make it better. In general my defenses go up fast, I have to remind myself of the choosing often. This time I heard him. There was a time when keeping the illusion of perfection while a mess sat ignored, held more value to me.
Our conflicts and communication with our marriage have changed over the years. Our growth did not come by putting our marriage behind everything else just hoping things would turn out okay. We fought. We put in the elbow grease. We gave it everything we had. We had to ask for help and we BOTH had to be committed to the process of healing. It took time.
Yesterday, I came home and made a game of cleaning out the bathroom drawers and counters with my daughter. She played in old makeup and jewelry and thought it was the best time. It is far from a Cinderella fairy tale, but this is real life.
After I finished cleaning, he smiled and voiced a quiet appreciation. He acknowledged my sacrifice. As I looked at the gleaming countertops my heart finally reconciled that he was right. Even as I cleaned, I still felt frustration and held onto what I wanted. It was after I took the hesitant step to get out of my mess that I could see clearly the good I had been missing all along.
Again and again. I will clean out the mess in my heart. I will listen and I will put action to my words. I will talk to someone who can help. I will pray without stopping.
Whatever it takes because sharing a drawer with him is my commitment and my reward.