As some of you may know, I was married for 45 years before Bill’s death. We weathered 14 moves, along with major life transitions, and huge personal changes that come with uprooting and relocating a marriage, children, home, lifestyle, and relationships.
I asked Bill some years ago to share some of his thoughts, fears, and feelings during our hard and difficult years of moving. My hope was that women would gain greater insight into what men go through during the transition of a move, and how to best encourage and love their husband.
I know his words are just as impactful today as they were then.
If I had known what was going on in Bill’s head and heart at the time, I would have worked harder (and prayed more) at bridging the gap between us.
God has once again reminded me of His grace by allowing Bill to see me through eyes of love and a heart of forgiveness for all the times I failed to be loving and forgiving towards him. I am amazed and humbled to know that anything I said, or conveyed through my actions during those years, had such an effect on him. Bill wrote:
Fear and doubt
Looking back at the many times we moved, I recognize my feelings of anxiety, fear, frustration, loneliness, and isolation. Doubt would flood my mind. Fear would creep into my day. Susan and I were disconnected by miles and emotions and I wondered if we would ever reconnect.
I often thought that I had made a terrible mistake by moving my family so often ― why did I agree to take this promotion and uproot my family? Will I succeed? Do I have what it takes? Why am I even doing this? What will I do if the job doesn’t work out?
Loneliness and pressure
My new job always seemed to start before our family moved. I wondered when we would all be together again and questioned why our house had not sold. I felt the loneliness and emptiness of spending another night alone in my hotel room, in a strange city, when everyone else at the office would go home to a family. Financially, I had to make the job and relocation work. I would tell myself that working long hours would get all the work done and put me over the top for job security.
I certainly couldn’t share all this with Susan. It would only upset her to know I had doubts and fears. She thinks I’m confident about all our moves and always excited about moving up the corporate ladder. Pretty tough stuff, and I wasn’t about to tell anyone my feelings.
If men would talk, we would tell you that we have feelings and emotions about moving too. Our thoughts come right from the core of a man. These thoughts address our worth, our ability to provide for, and protect, our family. Although I did not address feelings at the time, they were real, and drove my motivation, my emotions, and my behavior.
The impact on our marriage
What I didn’t know was how to help (or fix) Susan’s emotions while treading emotional water myself. We were fighting for our own survival, gasping for air, trying to keep our heads above water.
Susan’s words of affirmation, encouragement, and the assurance of her unconditional love for me were like pom-poms cheering me on each day during those difficult times. Her sacrificial love covered me with God’s grace each day while she minimized her hurts while helping to heal mine.
I have learned over the years that the total disruption of a marriage and family routine takes its toll on every member of the family, but not as much as in the relationship between husband and wife. Isn’t it just like the enemy to drive a husband and wife apart during a time when they need each other most?
It is when encouragement follows doubt and worry, when understanding comes after listening to fears and frustrations, when loneliness is melted away by coming together again, when communication brings connection instead of conflict, when God is the focus instead of yourself, and when praying rules your day, that love and hope will be renewed in your marriage.
So, grab a pompom and be your husband’s cheerleader! (It might even be contagious!)
~Tell him you’re proud of him and how difficult it must be with a new job.
~Try to breathe oxygen into his world by giving him lots of grace, reassurance, and encouragement.
~Look for the things he is doing right, not wrong, and tell him.
~Make it a habit to spend 20 to 30 minutes a day to debrief.
~Dwell on the positive, not the negative, things about the move.
~Be intentional about building him up, not tearing him down.
~Kiss him when he goes to work and when he comes home.
~Share something you appreciate about him, something you admire and respect about him, and a reason you love him.
On this Valentine’s Day, my card to Bill would read: I cherish you to the depth of my soul. You are truly God’s greatest gift to me and the love of my life. After all those moves, I would still follow you to the ends of the earth. And one day, I’ll follow you to our eternal home and we will be together again!
Love, your Susan