Will a Spouse Ever Understand Your Life Challenge?

A couple of years ago I was invited to speak at the annual Valentine's Day Gala for the spouses of the Los Angeles Army Battalion on the topic of life challenges.

I'm no relationship expert. After 17 years with my hubby I view our marriage as a lottery win, but it has been my health challenge (or our health challenge) that has been a catalyst for developing a union of patience and understanding that has helped make our marriage the blessing that it is. But it's how much understanding on his end have I needed? When I first started going downhill on this foot race to the wheelchair, I felt a sense of helplessness and loneliness I hadn't experienced since the baby blues.  Part of this was an ache so deep inside that the love of my life could "see" my pain, understand it completely because he is my soulmate. Suddenly we were thrust into a situation where I was hoping for the impossible. I pined to know he understood my suffering. What I have learned over these past five years is that I should have seen this dynamic in a different light. That this health challenge is not just my journey, it is his as well. My hurricane of emotions blinded me to the fact that he was having his own experience that I myself could not possibly understand. He has always been the most loving and supportive knight in shining armor, so why would I ever want him to know what it feels like to step on hot coals after I'd just burned my feet? 

When you are in a relationship, the one thing most women want to happen with all of our heart is for that special person in our life to fully understand what we are going through because we want in the depths of our souls for that someone to know and understand us completely.  It's almost a thirst, a desire for some so deep there are rarely words to express it so these unspoken words seemed manifest themselves as emotions leaving me confused as to what I should and should not have been upset about. With this, it seemed the one person in the world who I expected to 'see' me completely, at times did not seem know me at all. This can be heartbreaking for couples.  

 

 

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  I happen to be facing an extensive health challenge. I don't know about others, but for myself it became a pretty solitary experience. Not that my husband wasn't there or my family or my friends, but it's a very lonely feeling to feel that no one else in this world could possibly ever understand the intensity and the enormity of the impact it has had on my life, and the life It was supposed to be (come on bring on those tiny violins). It was when I finally realized that noone could ever and will never fully understand my personal experience that a whole new perception offered itself in place of my need for affirmations from the loved ones in my life.

 Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small some, large or octagonal. But every challenge is relative. My own 'worst' will never be the same as someone else's. My health challenge is in many ways similar to the emotional challenge I faced during my divorce years ago and being a single mother with two small babies trying to go back to school. It is a physical challenge, however it was the emotions that were my greatest obstacles.  Much like my health challenge now, my emotional challenge of the divorce took the form of grief. I was devastated and mourning the death of everything I thought my life was going to be. Much like the emotional health challenge, my physical health challenge is just as difficult as it is once again a process similar to grief, beginning with denial, anger, devastation, and gradually I am on my journey to acceptance. Gradually. Although a divorce and losing the use of my legs are two extremes, in no way do I ever compare my challenges to others'.

It got me thinking that wanting your spouse to completely understand your journey is a dynamic faced by most couples every single day.

When I was a brand new mommy I had never been so overwhelmed in my life. However, my husband at the time was unable to understand why I was so exhausted. This brought out a kaleidoscope of colors in my personality ( which is probably why I have a new hubby). How could he not understand? He was there for the birth,  didn't he not see my body get ripped apart  by a pterodactyl, Or the green venom splattered on the ceiling like a Jackson Pollock painting?  It wasn't until years later while facing my current health challenge that I looked back on my life and realized all of the times I was hurt from feeling like my spouse maybe couldn't understand me because he simply didn't care enough or try hard enough to feel what I was feeling? 

 When the Los Angeles Army recruiting Battalion invited me to speak at their couples' Valentine's day dinner,  it brought to mind all of the times I wondered how in the world military spouses, whether it's the husband or the wife, handle their significant other going off to war? But also how does the person going off to war feel when they have to leave their families behind? Both are extreme  stressors. I thought to myself how would I have reacted if I had a brand-new baby and my husband was thousands and thousands of miles away, and when he came home how could I ever know how to explain to him what it has been like for me  while he was gone so he could understand what life is like at home.  Then I thought about the spouse deployed. I couldn't imagine being the one coming home from war to my loved one and want so desperately for them to understand what I had endured and for them to empathize and to help ease my personal pain and know that there is no way they could possibly wrap their minds around the travesties and challenges of war I had endured so I could feel understood. 

 This is where the talk begins. I hope you might find meaning in it and a comfort in knowing that you're not alone in longing for a loved one to totally understand  your suffering.  But maybe as long as we can simply look each other in the eyes and admit how very human we are, we each Just might develop a system of understanding in its purest form that's deeper than than any empathy you thought you needed in the first place.

 

 

 

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