I really dislike airing dirty laundry, but there is definitely a place and a time for a public confession and that’s what this is. Throughout the entirety of our marriage, Aileen has been wanting to be heard and accepted. To be loved unconditionally. I thought for a long time that I was doing that, albeit with an additional mission of “fixing” or “rescuing” her.
For those that know us and have ever thought, “Wow, Kevin seems to be really critical of Aileen”, you have been correct.
Many of you know the struggles that Aileen and I have had throughout our marriage. A lot of you have walked though those times with us providing love and support along the way. In those events the situation usually appeared to follow this pattern: Aileen had done something very hurtful, unexplainable, and for no good reason AND that I was the “faithful victim” in each case willing to extend grace. This perception that everyone had, including me and Aileen, was something that I bought into and really didn’t put up much fight for those well meaning people who tried to “set Aileen straight”.
As you can imagine, it is pretty devastating to be in this place again if for no other reason than things seemed to be going well in spite of some occasional but serious arguments. (Please note that while there are some similarities between this case and prior events there a lot of differences and Aileen has not done anything wrong.)
However, with this most recent event, I have finally woken up to something that Aileen has been telling me for a very, very long time – in fact, it wouldn’t be far fetched to say our entire relationship. Due to a combination of being quite dense and a huge helping of my pride, I failed miserably at showing Aileen that she mattered to me in the way that means most to her – to value her “voice”.
I think Aileen finally was able to summarize this issue most succinctly just this weekend both for herself as well as for me, but she has been trying to tell me for a long, long time. Aileen wants what we all want: to know that her thoughts and opinion matter – that she matters.
Early on in our marriage Aileen would say or do something that I would be quick to point out as in appropriate, TMI, or kinda crazy. The majority of the time, my response was due to my discomfort with how Aileen did things. *I* certainly wouldn’t do it that way and so I made sure Aileen knew that what she did “wasn’t right”. Those of you who know Aileen know that she is a live wire and will often say things that can make one feel a bit uncomfortable – but she does so innocently. She’s not trying to shock you to one-up you. She just says what comes to mind. But because I was uncomfortable with it, and because she did it a lot (for my taste as a young, self-righteous husband), I ended up correcting her. A lot. In this, I let her know that she was not my equal, but someone less than me to be corrected.
The more damning thing that I did was to argue Aileen into submission on many, many topics. I love to debate, so some of this was honestly because I assumed this was OK. Aileen had told me repeatedly that she wasn’t comfortable with it but I usually pushed ahead anyway. I felt had the “superior perspective” and made sure she understood that. I offered token lip service to acknowledge that I heard Aileen, but I demonstrated time and time again that I didn’t really consider her opinion worthy.
The really challenging thing for Aileen was that I was a “good Christian man”. So every time she raised a concern, question or disagreement, and I pounded her into seeing it my way, she had to give in because of my logic and my “righteousness”. Most people would tire of this in a few weeks or months. Aileen held on and did what she felt (and I convinced her of) she was supposed to do for several years before she had to find a way to push back and gain some control of her voice.
Over the past two years, I have been wanting to dream about our future. Ever since I’ve known Aileen, she has not wanted to dream. She has faced a lot of disappointment and as a result, finds dreaming about the future to be an exercise in being let down. Nonetheless, Aileen supported me in dreaming and, in fact, started dreaming with me. Unfortunately for her, her attempts were often met with debate and argument and me telling her that she wasn’t doing it right. Again, her voice didn’t matter. So even when she tried to meet me in my place of freedom – a place that was uncomfortable to her, I made sure to show her it wasn’t enough.
I honestly thought what I was doing with Aileen was healthy and good, and my intent was to help her grow – but it was horribly applied and much more often than not, I put my pride ahead of my wife.
The intentions of this diatribe are a confession of my role in the events that have occurred in our marriage. That Aileen’s actions are far more likely due to my failure to value her opinions, thoughts – her – than anything else.
My hope is that when our mutual friends encounter Aileen, they understand that she’s not a fool, or a monster, but someone who was drowning and undervalued.
And I admit that I hope Aileen reads this and believes me when I say that I finally get it. And though I don’t deserve it, I hope she would be willing to risk another attempt. I have no more use for my pride. I want to share your thoughts. I want you to know I value and respect you and I want to spend the rest of our days enjoying who you are and exploring who you are becoming instead of trying to direct it. And I’m sorry that my actions pushed you this far.