I wish I could tell you that our next step was marriage counseling or all the wonderful books we read together that helped fix Jeremy. But it wasn’t. The next step was changing myself. Just me — not Jeremy. Don’t get me wrong, there were things that Jeremy needed to change, and he did, but I had no control or active hand in his changes. I had tried nagging, crying, fighting, all to no avail. So when I renewed my commitment and placed both feet back in the boat, instead of first seeking to change Jeremy, I sought to change myself.
To begin I found a strong, godly mentor in an elder’s wife at our church, Iris Brooks. I’m not sure how we first began meeting, but on an off for a year or more we met at Starbucks every month or so. This was truly at time of the older women teaching the younger women. One of the best parts of our mentoring relationship for me was that she understood. She too was married to an engineer, which gave her particular insight into our situation. For instance, there were several issues that I placed a lot of importance on, but she was able to help me place them in perspective.
Another way Iris helped me was through her godly advice and prayers. One prayer in particular I remember her praying was that God would glue my tongue to the roof of my mouth when I needed it. Almost immediately her prayer was answered!
A day or two after Iris prayed an opportunity came up for me to become a Teaching Assistant (TA) at my university. However, I would have to quit working at the bank to take the job. When I brought up the situation, Jeremy was totally against it. Of course I was angry! I hated working at the bank and would give anything to teach.
Although, through my talks with Iris, I had come to the conclusion that submission in our marriage looked like me laying out all my reasoning kindly and allowing Jeremy to make the final decision, especially when we were completely at odds, that night particular I did not want to listen. I wanted to fight and argue and make Jeremy see my side. However, instead God answered Iris’ prayer and glued my tongue to the roof of my mouth. I just could not get out the angry words I wanted to throw at Jeremy. So I rolled over, prayed that God would give Jeremy the wisdom he needed, and went to sleep.
In the morning, I had a change of heart. When we woke up, I started to tell Jeremy that whatever he decided would be okay, but instead Jeremy stopped me and told me if I wanted to take the TA job I could. I was shocked! He had been so against it that I was sure he would never change his mind. I sent up a quick “Thank you!” prayer to God for Iris’ wisdom in praying I would keep my tougne would get stuck.
She also helped me to begin to see how I still had bagged from childhood effecting my relationship with Jeremy and preventing me from being the best wife I could be. With her encouragement, I sought out a godly counselor to help me work through those problems.
During this time, I found good counselors through the YWCA. Since I was sorting through issues related to the abuse I went through in childhood, I was able to attend counseling there for free. I worked with two counselors while there. The first was able to help me up to a point, however, due to what felt like baggage on her end, I switched counselors half way through. The second counselor was able to help me tremendously. Especially when she pointed out how I was viewing Jeremy and all his actions through glasses colored by my childhood, which wasn’t fair and often wasn’t accurate.
Through counseling I was able to learn how to change myself, and I discovered that when I changed, often Jeremy changed, too, and adapted to the changes he saw in me.
One of the most important lessons I learned in counseling is that growing and healing is like unraveling a ball of yarn. You’ll begin to unravel it, and at first their are many, many knots you have to work through. Then you’ll be okay and go for awhile, sometimes go years with no knots and you don’t need a counselor to help. Then you may come up on a knot or series of knots you need to work through. During those times, it’s okay to admit you need help and seek out a counselor again.
I have been in counseling on and off for 14 years. As time goes by, my visits have gotten fewer, further between, and shorter in duration. Even though I’m not in counseling right now, I’m not afraid or embarrassed to go back again if I need help. I try to be self aware and not let untangled knots go on too long and begin to effect my relationship with family.
As you seek to change yourself during this season of hurt and confusion, yes, seek God first and often, but also, don’t neglect the importance of Godly mentors and counselors. God tells us to mentor each other, to seek out help, and to confess our sins to each other. It was through these relationships that God brought me wisdom and peace that I could have known no other way, and it was through the changes in me where God worked the most to restore our marriage.