Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What he's doing right.

Today marks three months since That Night.  As I have contemplated the awesomeness of my husband lately, I have been so grateful for the way he has approached this huge upheaval in our life.  After all, there is no guide for how to tell your spouse you lost your faith, or that you've been hiding something so life-altering for years.  And I know (especially as I've had a lot of opportunities to talk to people since my last post) that many people face the same kind of situation.  It may not be a loss of faith, but there are a lot of times when a person might need to reveal something potentially devastating to someone they care about deeply.  Dan could not have done a better job, and I thought I would share a few key things he's done that have helped me and our marriage and family enormously.

1.  He told me the truth.  As difficult as coming to grips with all this has been, I am so grateful that he had the courage to tell me the truth.  That was not always his plan -- he had planned to keep up his facade of faith until our kids were out of the house.  Let me tell you right now, that would have been a disaster.  It was hard enough dealing with the fact that he had been concealing this struggle for five years.  Add another 15 on to that, and the damage might have been irreparable, both to me and to the kids.  Plus, I don't think he could have done it.  I knew something was wrong, even though I didn't know what.  His secret-keeping was suffocating to him, and it was weighing down our whole family.  We didn't recognize that at the time, and thought we were pretty dang happy, but the difference as we have truly worked together and fought for each other has been incredible.  If that weight had remained on our relationship, it would have done more damage every day.  Tell the truth -- there is no good alternative.

2.  He talked.  Like many men, Dan would not put "let's sit down and talk about our feelings" at the top of his "fun evenings" list.  But he recognized that I needed to talk, to know what he was thinking and feeling, to be able to express to him all the overwhelming crazingess in my brain.  In the days and weeks since "the big talk," we have spent hours and hours and hours talking.  Dan has let me get to know him at a deeper level than I ever have before, and that was crucial in helping me get over that initial "do I even know you at all?!" feeling.  And now I know that he really will talk to me about whatever comes up, as we continue to work through all of this in the future.  There are going to be lots of issues dealing with this, but I know we will be able to talk and work through it.

3.  He let me grieve.  Dan knew me well enough to know that his loss of faith would break my heart -- that's why he kept it hidden for so long in the first place.  And it did.  I went through all the classic stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and finally acceptance.  There probably needs to be a "feeling like you're going to have a nervous breakdown" stage in there, too.  None of that could have been easy for him.  But he didn't get defensive or demand that I "get over it." He respected that it was going to be a process for me, and stayed right by my side throughout, completely supportive.  Even when I have been fine for a while and then suddenly have a little breakdown, he has been completely patient with me.  His patience and support and absoutely continuous love are what have made it possible for me to regain complete confidence and faith in him.

4.  He has stayed positive.  He has not looked to blame others for his loss of faith, or tear anyone or their faith down.  He is living in a way that is true to what he feels is right, without bitterness or anger.  He supports me in my own faith in a positive way, and is truly striving to build instead of destroying.  That is the measure of a good man.

5.  He loves me completely.  The #1 most wonderful thing that Dan has done throughout all of this is to show, both by word and action, that he loves me, that our marriage is his top priority, and that nothing will change that.  In the midst of so much change in our family and our lives, knowing that nothing can change that.  Not because we just know we're strong and take it for granted, but because we are both willing to work every day to protect the love that we have for each other.

What it all comes down to, I think, is unselfishness.  This doesn't surprise me -- ever since I've known Dan, which has been 15 years now, he has always put the needs and feelings of others ahead of his own.  And in all of this, a time when he could have been selfish and defensive, he has continued to try to make this as positive a situation as possible for all of us.

I love Dan with every part of me.  I am so grateful for the courage, positivity, and love with which he is facing this change in his life.  He never set out to lose his faith or to hurt anyone, and throughout this transition he has worked -- really worked -- to proactively be the man he wants to be.  That is what has made the difference between "potentially devastating" and the beginning of a beautiful future for our family, whatever that future might hold.