So what do you do when the one person that you are supposed to look to as your biggest supporter is the one person that you want to stab with a screwdriver every time they advise you? Well, that’s a toughie.
At the beginning of 6th grade I weighed 150 pounds. When I left for college I weighed about 180 pounds. By the time I hit my mid-30’s I was over 400 pounds. On the flip side, the last time someone called my husband chubby, he was probably still wearing diapers. In college he also weighed about 180 pounds. The difference was that he is 6’2” and at that time had virtually no body fat. He grew up in Philadelphia and did not skimp on his cheesesteak consumption. Yet he never was faced with the mantra, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” He could eat what he wanted when he wanted. Or he could just not eat. Food was a non-issue for him.
He was not down with the weight loss struggle. It wasn’t even on his radar. So it should not have been surprising to me that he could not fully identify and understand the mental weight loss game that I had been playing since the first time in 3rd grade when a boy by the name of Bucky Barker called me fat. But it was surprising. And while it was terribly unfair of me, there were times when his good intentioned and sincere attempts to support me in losing weight did little except to deflate me and make me bitter.
After a month of “doing good” was met with little to no weight loss, phrases like, “That’s ok. This month we’ll just have to buckle down and try harder…you can do it” would cause my blood to boil. Pushing me to exercise beyond what I felt I was capable of made me want to sit on the couch with a bowl of ice cream. And when I was a hot mess, in tears because I had failed once again to beat my own demons, I desperately wanted him to give me the perfect solution while simultaneously resenting him for pointing out that I had a problem.
Whether it be over weight loss or some other goal, when you and your spouse are looking at things through different experiences and eyes, it can cause tension. Lots of it.
I went in dieting cycles. Low calorie diets, high protein diets, strict diets where you track everything, diets where you go solely by your body’s natural urgings. And diet after diet I would lose weight and then put it back on plus some. And as my unhappiness grew, my husband grew more exasperated. He’s a fixer. And despite his best efforts, I wouldn’t let him fix me. And while I didn’t know it at the time, I was stressing HIM out to the max.
While he had always tip-toed around my “fat emotions”, there was a day when it came to a head. I had thrown in the towel on an exercise program that he had implemented for me. We disagreed about my reasons, and out of anger I told him (in a not so Ephesians 5:22 sort of way) that he didn’t understand and that I didn’t want his help. He then in turn told me (in a not so Ephesians 5:25 sort of way) - FINE but that if I didn’t do SOMETHING, I was going to die, leaving him and the boys to be alone.
So there were our problems in a nutshell. He was trying to push me in ways that weren’t working for me. And I was being selfish.
That’s when I really started pouring myself into prayer. I didn’t want to be selfish. I didn’t want to be a defeatist or a whiny baby. But I also didn’t want him, the man whose affection and approval I longed for the most, to be the one who was policing and pointing out my deepest insecurities and failures.
For years I had wanted to explore the idea of weight loss surgery. And for years my husband wanted no part of it. So I didn’t think about it. I wouldn’t go through with something that major without a 100% buy-in from him. But then, over a relatively short amount of time things changed a lot. Logistically I can’t tell you what put us on the same page. But there we were. I remember being in my hospital bed post gastric bypass surgery looking at him as he slept in the recliner next to my bed (that he didn’t leave for the entire 48 hours I was in the hospital) and I got all weepy because it hit me how far we had come. In the year that it took for me to get insurance approval for the surgery, he had been supportive in the exact way that I needed him to be. He let me drive the ship so to speak. He gave input and asked questions when it was about something major, but he recognized that ultimately, this was something that I was going to have to navigate through and decide to do for myself and that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t fix it for me. I think in that realization we both found freedom.
So what is the answer?
I know some of you will agree completely and some of you will think it’s a total copout, but I can only attribute our change of dynamic to both of us totally resigning ourselves to God’s will. We stopped trying to push the other one to do or be what we wanted them to be and we just began to follow the paths that God was leading us down - trusting that if we had misread His will, that He would close any doors that needed to be closed.
If you are the one in need of support, you’ve got to be intentional in your requests. Let’s be honest. When it comes to emotions, men and women view each other as bizarre, irrational, and alien life forms. Instead of expecting your spouse to intuitively know what it is that you need from them, just lay it out in a clear and concise way. Straight up tell them how you want them to support you. The tricky part is that YOU have to figure that out first before you can tell them. Otherwise, you are an emotional bucket with a hole in the bottom that no matter how much they pour into you, the bucket will never be filled.
If you are the one with the spouse that needs supported, don’t try to fix them. You were not created to be their fixer. Pray that God will bring other people into their path to do that so that you can be freed up to just be the positive giver of love and encouragement. And just listen with an empathetic ear.
Oh, have I mentioned prayer? Lots and lots of prayer.
But step one is putting down the screwdriver.
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord." Ephesians 5:22
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Ephesians 5:25