Nicholas and I have been married for eleven years. We work hard. We have two small children. We recently lost a baby. In theory, these should be tough times for our marriage, but they have been just the opposite.
These past two years have been our happiest and most fulfilling as a couple.
My husband is still the man he has always been. He is attentive and caring and intelligent, but he didn’t magically stop doing all the things that annoy me (leaving his shoes around the house, paying too much attention to his iPhone, giggling to his favorite podcasts, this is not a comprehensive list). We still fight and he still hurts my feelings from time to time.
No, Nicholas didn’t change. I did.
It all began when my best friend and I read Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman. The book is built around the author’s Christian journey, but I think it has important truths for anyone no matter their spiritual beliefs.
Emily speaks specifically about the three parts of the soul: our mind, our emotions, our free will and how easy it is to become a slave to the tyranny of emotion.
As I was reading this, I realized this is similar to what I read several years ago in a VERY different spiritual book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. He called the emotions the “ego” so I’m not sure I ever quite made the connection but the point is similar.
My emotions are relevant but they are not reality.
For years, I’d let my emotions rule my marriage. If I felt neglected, it was because I was actually being neglected. If I felt unloved or hurt during a fight, it was because Nicholas didn’t actually love me and wanted to hurt me. It is embarrassing to admit how many times I thought during a normal marital fight, “Well, he doesn’t love me. We should probably get divorced.”
Y’all. Nobody – I mean NOBODY – loves me more than Nicholas Holland. And I suppose on some level I knew this because obviously we aren’t divorced. Outside the highly emotional environment of the fight itself, actual logic would take over.
Still, it was exhausting to ride that emotional roller coaster constantly. Not to mention, poor, poor Nicholas. (Sorry, again, honey!) I can still remember how confused he often looked during our worst arguments as I would cry over how he clearly didn’t love me.
It’s not that my emotions were unimportant. They were relevant then. They are relevant now. If I feel hurt or neglected or even unloved, I need to recognize that and say so. However, I have to constantly remind myself that the reality of the situation is much more complex than how I feel in that moment.
Recently, my therapist drew a Venn diagram explaining the importance of one’s emotional life in relationship to other aspects of our lives.
It looked like this.
See how lovely and balanced that is?
Yeah, mine was more like this.
Truthfully, recognizing that I need to beef up my other circles has not only made me a happier wife, but a happier person. It has also become increasingly essential as I face the very emotional reality of pregnancy after the loss of our baby.
During the tough days surrounding my former due date, I felt a lot of things. Mainly, I felt like our baby was dead. I had to remind myself that that emotion was relevant. It was relevant because I am still grieving the loss of our little one. It was relevant because I am incredibly anxious about the arrival of our son in February.
However, it was not reality. Our baby is very much alive.
And when I took a deep breath and tried to focus on some of those other aspects of my life I felt so. much. better. I listened to the logic in the voices of my husband and friend and doctor who reminded me my pregnancy and baby were healthy. I focused on my physical self by taking long walks outside. I worked on my spiritual self by meditating and writing.
And guess what? It worked!
Now, real talk. Is my Venn diagram now perfectly balanced? HA! That’s a big old no. More often than not my emotions are still elephant stomping all over my other circles.
However, when that happens, I remind myself that how I feel is relevant. It’s just not reality.
How do you manage your emotions? What realizations have changed the relationships in your life?