It’s Got To Be Perfect (Not!)

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When I was young and madly in love, we had a “song”. Okay, I know that sounds TOTALLY corny, but we were in the corny stage of young love, so we were allowed. 🙂  Here it is. It will give you a clue as to the era, and also to our idealism.

Yep, we had dreams of our “perfect relationship” being perfect right throughout marriage “til death do us part”. We were NEVER going to argue or disagree or drift apart or anything like that. When our church minister suggested a marriage preparation weekend, we knew there was no way WE would need something like THAT! But you know what? Now this may come as a surprise, so it would probably be wise to sit down.

Are you ready?

It hasn’t been perfect.

Truly, it hasn’t. I kid you not. It’s hard to know how imperfection creeps in, but it does, because we’re human and all that. If you’re in a marriage of 20 plus years and can honestly say that your partner and your marriage are truly 100% perfect, I will know that you are either lying or deluded. If you’re honest, I bet you’ll admit that your marriage isn’t perfect either.

During our marriage we have weathered some very, VERY tough storms and nearly capsized on more than one occasion. And yet here we are, still together. Still trying to work things out, and still as imperfect as we were back in the days when we didn’t know we were!

But this post, as part of a link-up series of blog posts set up by the lovely Jessica Bowman, is meant to be about how awesome my husband is. So onto that part of it…….

The reason why I started my post by talking about my imperfect-but-still-together marriage, is because marriages are imperfect due to the imperfect people in them. It is in recognising my husband’s imperfections that I have come to see how awesome he really is. (Oh, for the record, I’m not actually perfect either! And I’m also pretty awesome. :))

My husband (we should just call him Geoff, yes, since that’s his name?) has walked a path of pain for much of his life. With his encouragement, I will reveal a portion of his story here, because it is a significant factor in this “awesome husband” post. I initially only referred to his depression when writing this post, out of respect for his privacy, but he has asked me to be more open with you all, because, in his words, “It is time that men stood up and spoke out about such things”. Or their wives, with permission of course.

When Geoff was a boy he was sexually abused. More than once. And I’m not talking minor stuff here. Enough said about that. The sexual abuse, coupled with really nasty, ongoing bullying during his childhood (and even in adulthood, to be honest), and then the death of a close friend, followed shortly afterwards by the unexpected, awful death of our second child, resulted in not only depression and anxiety, but also a fairly nasty case of post traumatic stress disorder from which one psychiatrist said he would “never recover”. It is often totally debilitating, and has, as you can imagine, resulted in some complexities and difficulties in our marriage, with Geoff finding it very difficult to be the husband and parent he desires to be, which only adds to his sadness and despair.

For most of his life, he kept his abuse hidden deep in the dark cupboard of shame. Finally, after quite a few years of marriage and noticing some things of concern, I asked him outright if anything like that had happened. The door on that cupboard of shame that had been bulging and cracking under the stress of hidden secrets finally blew right off. Geoff  developed  chronic, almost unbearable lung pain, a deep, dark, debilitating depression and a crippling, invasive anxiety. His Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was in full swing. On more than one occasion I found him curled up in the foetal position craving the sweet release of death.

During this time we were living in a christian community, in a leadership position, which was incredibly difficult. We wanted to leave, but were really needed that year so agreed to stay. In the midst of his incredibly challenging personal struggles, Geoff still managed to conduct lectures almost daily to a bunch of older teens and young adults about stuff that was pretty heavy and hard-hitting and close to home. He also did many other things as part of the staff team. It was anything but easy. In fact, he was in agony every single day and went to teaching sessions dragging that big ugly black dog of depression kicking and screaming the whole way, and fighting the anxiety monster at every turn. It certainly wasn’t easy, but he did it. Not as well as he could have if he was well, but he soldiered on until the year was done. And then our family packed up our house and limped back to our home town where he would be able to seek refuge, and healing and recovery from his pain. In the midst of that very, VERY hard year, someone dared to criticise him for “not pulling his weight” in comparison to the others on staff. I was shocked and saddened by the lack of insight, and through my tears proclaimed that whilst my husband might be producing only 10% of the outcome of the other staff, that 10% required 210% of effort compared to what they had to put in to achieve their seemingly more significant outcome. To attain a similar result to them would have pretty much killed him. And at that point in time, he would have been happy with that outcome anyway.

It is with some understanding of the depth of darkness and difficulty he has endured, that I am filled with admiration for who he is. And that is what I wanted to say, in this “My husband is awesome” post. Awesomeness is so easily compared at a superficial level, but unless one sees the incredible pain and immense effort that lies beneath some people’s level of “awesomeness”, it is really really unfair to judge and compare based on the visible evidence alone.

If I had suffered as he has suffered, I am not sure that I could have produced what he has produced. So here is a snippet of some ways in which I think he is awesome, in spite of his own challenges and suffering.

He works, while I play

And he works HARD, putting in a huge effort and very long hours to set up a teaching business, educating people about issues relating to mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction, and spending many days and weeks travelling, being away from the family. He is also finishing off his master’s degree, and when he is home he also works in an incredibly demanding, draining, dangerous job, seeking to provide help and care to those struggling with intense mental illness and drug/alcohol addictions. He receives death threats and horrific verbal abuse, while I play with our children. Yes, I know it’s more than just play, but the comparison of our lives needs no further mention!

He provides, while I spend

He works incredibly hard (see above) to earn enough finances to support the six of us, so that I can stay home full time to raise our children. This has meant that we are still renting, and also paying off debt. So whilst he works INCREDIBLY hard, he often feels inadequate because by this stage of life about 98% of our friends and family are well on their way to owning their first or second home. While we rent. And as a man, he feels a sense of disappointment in himself, that he isn’t a “good enough provider”. But to my husband I just want to say thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

He fights to survive, while I cruise along

For some people, it can be just so damned hard to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes that’s just because we stayed up late (me); for other people (Geoff) it’s because the “black dog” has them in shackles. The effort required to get up and get going some days is something I am often unaware of, as I rest in blissful slumber, but I do occasionally see glimpses of the struggle. What I see more often is someone who just keeps soldiering on, in spite of the pain, the suffering, the sadness and depression. For some people and for various reasons, life is often hard work. For others, it’s cruisier. I don’t understand why.

He goes the extra mile, while I often take it for granted

You know those women who complain about how their husband leaves mess everywhere and doesn’t tidy up after themselves? Well, that is not my husband! He is the one who, after a long, hard, demanding day at work, will come in and work his magic on the house, rectifying disaster zones that were overwhelming me, and blessing our family with a clean slate to play on tomorrow. I know he often does this because he needs the order and tidiness to be able to relax, and yet the truth remains that HE DOES IT. I am honestly the worst in the world when it comes to staying on top of clutter control. I’m more likely to be lying under the heap trying to find my way out! And I forget so often to show appreciation for how much he helps out with the housework. I try every day to improve in this area, knowing how much it means to him. And yet I just can’t seem to change quickly enough. Well, there are the occasional baby steps, but when I think about it, and about how hard he has to work to achieve what he does, I feel so frustrated with myself in comparison.

Because when it comes down to the line, he is the one who not only puts in an incredible effort against all the odds, he actually achieves huge outcomes as well. And even though the outcomes are less than perfect, less than 100%, when the effort required to achieve that outcome is 250%, I think that classifies as bloody AWESOME.