In my early adulthood, I prided myself on being a ‘strong person’. Although emotionally sensitive and having endured much sadness growing up, I became very familiar with my emotional world. I viewed myself as someone who could get through “almost” anything, except the imagined loss of my children. I made it through a divorce at the tender age of 27 with 2 young children. I made it through the challenges of being a single Mom. I remarried a few years later and made it through the challenges of a blended family, financial hardship, and going to college while working full-time with a family.
My husband and I had made it through so much that when our children were grown and on their own, I imagined that the rest of our lives would be relatively happy. Of course, I understood that life can bring unexpected and challenging experiences, but I believed that we were strong as a couple. We had been married almost 20 years when both of us were reminded of our fragile hearts. My husband experienced a personal crisis that impacted our marriage, almost to the degree of no return. What was this crisis? Well, it is too long and complicated to share in this post, but I will say that his career defined him (as it does many men) and when his dreams were shattered, he too was shattered.
We desperately tried to find help, but couldn’t find anyone who understood what we were going through. I wrote a blog about what I learned about ‘help’ when your marriage is in need of help.
Ultimately, the stress was too great and we ended up living apart. I found myself in utter disbelief that my life had turned out this way and, for quite some time, could not remember the feeling of being happy. I did not know if we would recover, either individually or as a couple. Uncertainty became a brutal part of my daily existence.
I was shocked to learn of the fragility of my heart, and my husband’s too. I felt broken. My life as I knew it was over. I quickly learned that he was much more fragile than I knew, and he learned of my fragility as well.
Someone said to me “well, you can start a new life”. While this may have been intended as consolation, I didn’t want a new life. I had invested almost twenty years in a life that I enjoyed and I didn’t want to give up on it. I only knew that I loved my husband; I did not want to start my life over again. I wanted the two of us to grow old together but I did not know if he would heal and if the two of us could heal from all the hurt we had inflicted on each other.
During this time, I discovered and was surprised by the combination of strength and fragility within myself. I suppose that it was a blessing that I discovered strength that I did not know I had, as well us a fragility that left me feeling unimaginably vulnerable. I learned more about marriage than I ever imagined. And I learned more about the humanness in all of us than I cared to learn. While I am grateful for these insights, they came at a terrible cost.
My husband and I worked through our crisis and today we are stronger in our relationship. I believe that we are stronger for many reasons, one being that we treat each other now with a new awareness of our fragile hearts. When I look back to moments of arguments, I am stunned by our ability to strike out without awareness of one’s fragile heart.
Thoughts on our fragile heart:
Perhaps all of us have a fragile heart, all of us have a breaking point. My story that I am sharing with you today happened more than five years ago. I write this in the hope that all of us recognize and treat each other with awareness of our fragile hearts, ourselves included. But please know that recognizing the fragile heart of another does not mean that we accept hurtful, mean or unfair behavior from anyone. We must protect our fragile heart as well.
When you’ve been hurt – nurture your heart. I witness so many people be unkind to themselves for different reasons. This is a time when you deserve self-love, self-compassion and self-empathy. You know, all those things that you give to others and not to you.
One more thing that we tend to forget – all of us have hurt another person, either intentionally or unintentionally. Our heart is fragile too when we know we have hurt another person. I’m not referring to extreme situations such as abuse; I am referring to recognizing the humanness in all of us. I have witnessed spouses forgive one another when the injured partner moves out of their hurt and sees the fragile heart of the spouse who has hurt them. It is a heavy heart we feel when we hurt someone we love.
It can sometimes be challenging to see the fragile heart in another person. Many protect their heart in different ways, shutting down emotions, distancing themselves from people, distrusting, being mean, lashing out, and hardening toward others.
There are those of you who have been so hurt that you are frightened to love again. You may have committed yourself to never opening yourself up to the risk of being hurt. I understand. I realized that the more I loved, the more vulnerable my heart was to fragility. But I also recognize that love provides strength. For me, I accept the hurt that comes with love. I would rather risk being hurt than to live without love.
Thanks for reading!
One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section.
About commenting on my blog – I am reminded of when I taught in the College classroom. I encouraged conversation. HOWEVER, I always let my students know that I wanted them to feel emotionally safe in the classroom. The same is true for the community that I wish to create with my blog. You will be safe. I am passionate about protecting those who are willing to open themselves up and share with all of us. Everyone should feel that they can express their thoughts and opinion without the worry of being criticized, attacked and hurt. Disagreement is fine, of course, as long as it is respectful of the other person. We can all learn from one another with love and respect. I want your comments; I want to learn from you just like I learned from my students. But only when you feel ready to do so. Like I said, it took me a very long time to find the courage to blog. So I don’t want to push you, only reassure you ????
Here is my gift to you, my new e-Book! I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope it is helpful. Please let me know!
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: Seyed Mostafa Zamani@flickr.comShare