My husband and I ten years ago!
Looking back- it’s been quite a journey! The most significant and beautiful experiences we’ve shared all begun with an inner change in ourselves.
I wrote this post a while ago- it’s as true for me today as the day I wrote it:
We put barriers up sometimes because love hurts. Doesn’t it?
I grew up in a culture where for the most part, women were treated like crap.
Most of the women I grew up around were beaten by their men, cheated on and treated more like items to be owned than human beings with hearts, souls and minds.
I think seeing all that hardened me somewhat.
It fanned a fear of men, in me, as ogres who feasted on the hearts of women.
In some part of my mind I saw men as heartless creatures who bulldozed their women without any feeling and when they had flattened them they would easily move on to obliterate their next victim.
I grew up around anxious women whose lives seemed to revolve around their men- men who so often seemed to disappoint; who so often seemed to fall short. Men who seemed determined to hurt the women that loved them.
Without knowing it I’d begun to learn that love hurt. Really bad.
By the time I’d reached my teens love had become a twisted dark foe who preyed on the weak.
And while my raging hormones sought the company of the beings I’d come to view as ruthless ogres- in my head I thought I’d secured my heart in a place where no man could hurt it.
By then I’d also learned that other women were not to be trusted- Turn your back on them and they would have nicked your man right from under your nose! Another twisted experience I’d encountered observing too many of the women I’d grown up around.
And would you believe it- my love life started out… um… really bad.
I encountered guys who’d sweep me off my feet and then soon after that would rip my heart out and chomp on it as though it were a midday snack.
I encountered some girl friends who were just as ruthless.
I was receiving from life what I expected!
On occasion I’d stumble upon a “good guy” but would sabotage the relationship before it got anywhere meaningful… I didn’t even know I was doing this.
For the most part however the guys who wandered into my life were the kind of guys most of the women I grew up around tangled with.
I thought being very clear of the high standards I held for the man I wanted would solve the problem. It didn’t.
I thought dating men who were “serious” about God would change my luck. It didn’t.
And then I met a man who seemed different from any man I’d ever encountered.
Before I knew it I loved him utterly and completely.
Finally! I’d found someone who’d take away all the hurt I’d gone through since I was a child.
He would blow away all the loneliness, rejection and abandonment I’d endured.
Finally! I’d found someone who would dedicate their life to making mine better!
He would make it all up to me.
And while he seemed like the perfect candidate to repair all that had been broken and replace all that had been taken- I constantly reminded myself that he too were a man- and he too would inevitably hurt me. Which meant, I warned myself, that I had to be prudent in hiding my heart and bracing my love for him.
I had a plan. I would let love out only in tiny smithereens. And one day, I told myself, when he had proved his worth, his loyalty, his ascension above the ways of mere mortals, then I would give my whole self entirely to him. Then I would love him with abandon.
“All men are the same.” I’d heard.
In that statement I’d heard: “Oh just pick one and make it work. Because: They’re all the same.”
In my mind the best I could hope for was to pick one that wasn’t too ruthless. I’d come to believe that hurt was part of the package and it lingered on the horizon- constantly.
And so I married this guy. After all I believed he was “the one” who would fix all that had gone wrong in my life. He was my new start…
Come on! Of course you know that only in the movies does this scenario end well. In real life such expectation turns out bad. Really bad.
So it’s no surprise that the first few years of my life with this man were tumultuous, raw, and full of hurt.
Whenever he did or said something that hurt me- my pain was a hundredfold. The agony of any misstep he made was a reminder of all I’d experienced since I was a child!
When he hurt me my auto-response was to hurt him back.
Walls grew between us. Barriers of thick solid iron were erected. Eventually even the small smithereens of love I’d allowed myself to let escape every now and then dried up.
I was lonelier than I’d ever been. This sick, twisted thing called love had got me tangled in a bloody knot and I was its helpless prisoner- like so many women before me.
I had become the hurt, anxious, woman, that as a child, I’d vowed I’d never be.
I’d been so SO careful! I’d say over and over to myself.
I couldn’t understand where I’d gone wrong!
How was it that I’d ended up making such a mess of things when I’d had so many things in place to prevent this hurt from happening!
Eventually I didn’t feel hurt. I didn’t feel love. I didn’t feel much any more. I was numb.
That state felt a lot better! Because in it the pain stopped. But I couldn’t be happy either. But at that time, not being happy was a little better than being unhappy and so, I decided this state worked from me.
After many conversations with a dear friend of mine (Let’s call her Mercy)- my conclusion was that this man I’d loved so much once had hurt me. That was never supposed to happen. And so now I’d retracted my love and that was that.
My friend listened and then asked: “What do you think of someone who’s hurt you? Do you see them as deserving of your punishment for hurting you? Or do you think that perhaps they should be forgiven?”
What I wanted to say to her was: Forgiveness! Girl are you mad! Have you heard anything I said! Why would I forgive?
The truth was for the most part I rarely gave people second chances… If a person crossed me they were dead to me. Period.
Talk about serious unforgiveness issues!
People that hurt me deserved my wrath. Was that not the order of things?
I mean, if I forgave them it meant everything they’d done to hurt me was ok.
If I forgave them I would be giving them more rope to hang me with and eventually I’d be dead. Wouldn’t I?
“I think you view forgiveness and love as weaknesses,” my friend said.
Of course they’re weaknesses! I thought.
My friend knew of my childhood. She knew of my experiences. And she could see that the barriers I’d built were all to protect me from being hurt. Yet those barriers were the main generators of my hurt.
Unforgiveness was a barrier.
Instead of being gracious to the man I’d decided to share my life with I’d chosen to be his judge and jury.
Many times he had been gracious to me… but the experience that had made me hard over the years belittled this as nothing. I allowed my hurt to be bigger than his grace toward me. In fact I allowed my hurt to be bigger than any good I saw in him.
Instead of being his wife and friend I had become his accuser and prosecutor.
Instead of building my home- I’d been ripping it down with my bare hands… because my view of love and forgiveness were twisted.
It’s a hard thing to forget the things of the past and to live in hope.
Hopeful that you don’t have to live the life you grew up around. Hopeful that your love experience can be different…
I do believe that as humans unforgiveness is our default setting. It comes easily to us.
Sometimes we say we’ve forgiven. But we haven’t really.
Because we’re still bitter about the hurt that was inflicted on us.
One of my biggest failings during the first several years of my marriage was not recognising that the dear man, I’d decided to make a home with had, also had experiences that had turned him inside out… He’d also brought hurts to our relationship and exhausting baggage that burdened him.
I’d failed to realise that every misstep I made toward him also reminded him of hurts that had been inflicted on him.
None of us comes to another without much preconception, skewed perception and misjudged conclusions.
There are some ruthless men out there. But yours might not be one of them.
Give him a chance.
I have an awesome sisterhood. Women who hold me up in different ways. Women who affirm me and help me on my journey. They are iron and sharpen me in ways only other sisters can.
Had I held onto the belief that no woman can be trusted I would have missed out on these incredible women.
I have an awesome man. Just like me he’s not perfect.
But looking at him through gracious eyes that acknowledge that his life is not about fixing mine has opened my heart to the incredible man he is.
Instead of focusing and highlighting his shortcomings – I see him as a fellow traveller who also carries numerous battle scars- and as such I magnify his strengths, his goodness, his mercy, kindness and grace toward me.
One of the prayers I pray often is that I would forget the past.
When I started praying this it seemed impossible at first.
But I can honestly say that every day I feel I’m forgetting a little more.
I’m redefining love as wonderful thing that is fully displayed by the powerful.
The strong can forgive.
Experiences do beat us into weakness. I’m not refuting that.
But loving and forgiving are not weaknesses. They are not the enemy.
True weakness is the inability to love graciously. True weakness is the inability to forgive.
Friend I’m not saying I’m there yet. I’m merely sharing with you a snippet of my journey.
You can be strong again.
The love you seek you first have to grasp in your own self.
There is no person, on this earth, who can fix you or your life or the things you’ve been through- it’s unfair to expect that from anyone.
It’s taken me years to learn that love doesn’t hurt. In fact love feels really really good.
And love doesn’t strip away. It builds you up and makes you strong.
I leave you with a word from Lisa Bevere. I stumbled upon it from Stormie Omartian’s book: The Power of a Praying Woman.
Lisa’s word is a powerful truth that sums up very simply what I have attempted to share in this post:
“For centuries women have wrestled and waged war with the sons of Adam in an attempt to get them to bless us and affirm our value. But this struggle has left us frustrated at best…. In the end, it is all a senseless and exhausting process in which both parties lose.
“It is not the fault of the sons of Adam; they cannot give us the blessings we seek, and we have frightened them by giving them so much power over our souls.
“We must learn that the blessings we truly need come only from God.”