It had been a very, very difficult year. We had spent the year quite directionless with few successes, I had felt isolated from my husband because we both were so depleted that we had nothing to give each other, we had no friends that were peers, and felt hopeless as we watched ourselves fall into a hole financially. I was being beat down by a neighborhood in which I saw no beauty, that was constantly barraging me with noise, and one in which, while people were pressing in on me, I felt quite alone.
At the end of this dark year, and facing another one that had the potential to play out just like the last one, my husband and I got away for a friend’s wedding. We made it a long weekend with no kids, and while there, I had a chunk of time to devote to putting words to what I was feeling. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate another year doing the same things that we had done the previous one.
For those of you who have seen the movie Beauty and the Beast, you might remember the scene in which we learn why Beast has to get Belle to fall in love with him. There is a rose under a domed glass case that is slowly losing its petals. It doesn’t look in good shape – the last few remaining petals are drooping and sagging, and we hold our breath as one more petal drops. If he doesn’t get Belle to genuinely love him by the time the last petal drops, he won’t be able to break the magical spell, and he’ll forever be a beast. You can sense from his extreme protection of the domed case that the situation is desperate, as if Beast’s life itself is dying with the rose.
That was me. I knew that at that moment, my insides were the rose and that my sanity, peace, joy, and ability to cope were slowly dying. I know that this sounds a little over-dramatic, but that scene was the picture that most accurately described where I was at that time. I had become focused on one primary goal: keep the rose alive. I felt that if I didn’t protect my emotional health, no one else would. I needed to stay functional for my family.
I spent our long drive home talking with my husband about these feelings. I had a glimmer of hope in an idea that I felt that God had given me, but I needed my husband to be on board with me.
I am not a romantic. I’d much rather be served with the practical (filling my car up with gas, helping cook a meal, emptying out the trash) than to be showered with lovely words, flowers, love notes, chocolates, etc. However, my husband is a lovely, thoughtful romantic. I’d spent the early years of our marriage silencing that side of him – not intentionally, but effectively.
So I approached him on that ride home with the idea of declaring this coming year the Year of Romance. I told him that I desperately needed all that he had to give me, and that I was open to all of the ways that he was gifted with to love on me and our family. And I told him that I wanted him to begin the journey of trusting me enough to open up that romantic part of him once more.
It is with this background that I begin a short series on romance. Through this dark period, I learned some key principals about how to ignite warmth and fellowship even when going through difficulties. (In no way am I declaring that I have wrapped up all of the answers in this field – I can just report what worked for me.) This idea of romance first involved my relationship with God, secondly my relationship with my husband, and a close third, my relationship with my kids. I hope that you stick with me long enough to hear the happy ending of the story!