Even though we’re in the middle of posts about Secondary Boundaries, I felt compelled to write about this today. This one is written to husbands to help them understand some of the healing process. I would love to hear any feedback from wives though!
It is important for men to realize that in recovery a wife doesn’t know who she is going to get. She is dealing with at least 3 different people as it pertains to her husband. Let me explain…
First, there is the “man I married”. He’s the man she fell in love with, laughed at his jokes and thought he was brilliant. She thought he would love her through tough times, protect her in life and lead her well. He’s the one she dreamed about riding off into the sunset together. He’s also a fraud.
Then there is the liar. He’s the one who was faking it, putting on masks like nothing was going on. He’s the one who stole her voice and her confidence in what her gut was telling her. That guy ripped off her sense of security and hijacked her sanity. He made her think she was crazy because she could sense something was wrong but couldn’t put her finger on it.
Next there is the man in recovery. He’s the guy trying to get it right, striving to live well, but stumbling forward through trial and error. Understandably some of the error looks a lot like guy #2. A wife desperately wants to believe her husband is different, but she can’t trust whether he is safe or just pulling the wool over her eyes again. She wants to be close and comfortable with him, but doesn’t know how close she can allow herself to be before the other shoe drops.
Why is it important to identify these? Because a wife wonders who she’s going to get.
Wives can be incredible detectives. Not only in terms of going through phone records and internet history type things, but in reading the men they are married to. In recovery, wives are sensitive to clues as to which man she is getting. They are listening to tone, watching body language, paying attention to eye contact, listening for words that may be indicators. Most importantly, wives in recovery seem to have keenly sensitive radars to their husbands heart. They know when that heart is hard rather than soft, gruff and edgy rather than tender, defiant and emboldened rather than humble and contrite. She’s reading all that.
When you are having a good day together, she wonders who is present. When you return from a business trip, she wonders who is walking in the door. When you’re hanging with the kids, she wonders who they are getting. When you are about to be physically intimate, she wonders which man is in bed with her. It happened at our house this week. During the conversation in an intimate moment Shelley asked, “are you manipulating me?” In effect, what she was saying was, “which man are you? Can I trust you? Are you safe? Am I safe?
I urge you, husbands, to go overboard in reassuring your wife that she’s getting the new you. To be sensitive to her fear when she senses the old you. Whichever old you that might be. I advise you to roll with it and be patient when she sends a shot over the bow and it feels like she is trying to pick a fight; she may just be trying to see which man will show up.
Be the new you.