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.
In 2008, I asked Bill to share a man’s perspective of moving for a Valentine’s Day message. I asked Bill to share what he went through in our marriage during our hard and difficult years of moving. My hope was that women would gain greater insight and perspective into men’s often hidden feelings and emotions about moving, and learn how to encourage and love their husband.
If I had known what was going on in Bill’s head and heart during those years, I would have worked harder (and prayed more) at bridging the gap between us.
God has often 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 stressful years, had such an effect on him.
What Bill shared is timeless for marriages that are on the move, and even a gentle reminder for all women to love and understand your man.
I thought this was a good time to share it again. This is my Valentine’s gift to you…
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 was impatient with our children, frustrated over my plans not coming together quickly enough, and even angry at Susan when things didn’t go my way.
Most men don’t talk about their feelings. If we did, we would tell you our feelings and emotions come right from the core of a man. They address our worth, our ability to provide for, and protect, our family. Although I did not acknowledge or identify my feelings at the time, they were real, and drove my motivation, my emotions, and my behavior.
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?
I certainly couldn’t share all this with Susan. It would only upset her to know I had doubts and fears. She thought I was 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.
My new job always seemed to start before our family moved. Susan would stay behind until our house sold. I didn’t know how long it would take until we would all be together again and questioned the decisions I had made. 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.
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 total disruption of marriage and family through a life change takes its toll on every member of the family, but not as much as in the relationship between husband and wife. It’s easy for the enemy to drive a husband and wife apart during a difficult, stressful time when they need each other the most. He will use anything ― even a move ― to destroy a marriage. I would say to couples: be united in Christ, pray against anything, or anyone, that would destroy your marriage. Claim God’s promises of hope. Recognize the stress cracks, and don’t let them divide and break you.
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.
Here are some things you might consider doing to strengthen your marriage relationship (and this applies to both of you).
- Breathe oxygen into his world by giving him lots of grace, reassurance, and understanding.
- Look for things that he is doing right and then tell him.
- Make it a habit to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes a day for each of you to debrief.
- Be pro-active and plan down-time/date-time for just the two of you.
- Communicate your love in ways that can be seen, heard, and felt.
When a woman encourages her husband, she gives him confidence and hope. When a man listens to his wife, he gives her honor and value. When they mutually communicate and connect with one another they begin the journey of moving closer together in any life change.“
Then Bill added, “That’s about it in a nutshell, Susan. I sure hope what I’ve shared will somehow give a woman greater insight from a man’s perspective on our feelings and emotions whether we are moving or going through any life change.”
In 2008, a year before his death, I wrote in my Valentine’s card to Bill:
I cherish you to the depth of my soul.
You are truly God’s greatest gift to me and the love of my life.
I love you with all my heart.
After all these years, I’d still follow you to the ends of the earth!
All My Love,
In 2021, on this Valentine’s Day, those words are still written in my heart. I would only add: “…And one day, I’ll follow you to our eternal home, and we will be together again.”