Almost every guy I work with hits a point where it all feels like its going south. Every word spoken is the wrong one, doing empathy is possible but not very probable, and stringing together enough coherent thoughts to communicate something meaningful to a hurt, angry wife is nearly impossible. Hitting this point usually results in him clamming up, shutting down or responding with anger. He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t mean to, but the powerlessness of the moment is often overwhelming. It would go so much better if he could just cry and groan.
Seriously. We all have those moments where words are entirely inept and nothing in our vocabulary could accurately capture what is happening in our hearts. Paul speaks to the inadequacy of words in Romans 8:26:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Sometimes wordless groans say enough. Perhaps they say even more than articulate, verbose language. Strangely, we humans know the profundity of groaning amidst pain. We have an innate comprehension of what someone is expressing when, at a funeral, a loved one groans through tears. We understand what is being communicated when groaning accompanies the news of terminal illness.
I wanted so desperately to tell my wife that I understood how bad I had hurt her, but I couldn’t. I would freeze up. My shame and the reality of the pain that I had caused would paralyze me. As much as I wanted to say the right thing, the words were elusive. Then one evening, as Shelley expressed how badly she was hurting and how infuriated she was at what I had done, I broke. I started to cry, then sob. As I opened my mouth to say something, I had nothing. I tried to force myself to speak but no sound would come out. Then I started feel the pain well up inside me and I couldn’t catch my breath. The tears kept gushing. I tried to fight it back, fearing she would think it was a pity party or that I was trying to manipulate her. I also feared she would think I was weak. But I couldn’t hold it back. A well was tapped that evening which I can’t even begin to explain. I ended up lying in the floor, in the fetal position, heaving, crying. Between groans of pain I was able to mutter the words, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” I have no clue how long it lasted. It felt like forever. I don’t know what Shelley was doing while I was in the floor weeping. I can’t remember her saying anything. She was probably freaked out because I was inconsolable.
Unbeknownst to either of us, we were healing. I needed to purge that well of regret and shame. She needed to see deep brokenness and hear groans that expressed pain beyond anything words could suffice. I had to revisit that well multiple times too. There were more moments like this one to follow, albeit never to that depth again. I learned that sometimes I just needed to feel her pain and let myself express it. At times she needed a response audibly and at times she needed it visibly. When I ran out of words and realized the ineptitude of my vocabulary, I knew it was time to simply feel and express.
Perhaps you’re a wife reading this and you wonder if this is the wall you’ve seen your husband hit? Share this with him and talk about it. Or maybe you’re a guy who hits that wall, like I did. Share this with your wife and talk to her about it.