We stood in the middle of the open kitchen, facing one another. My hands were on my hips and I was talking a mile a minute about all of the reasons why we shouldn’t change our plans.
My husband Eric stood on the other side of the counter. His eyes were troubled, but I was too busy trying to smooth everything over to really care. Finally he raised his voice, “you don’t seem to believe that I have an anxiety problem!”
And honestly, it was true. For the first four years of marriage, I didn’t believe Eric when he told me he knew his anxiety wasn’t normal. Why would a wife not take her husband’s medical concerns seriously? I didn’t actually mean to disregard his needs and struggles. But I thought I was helping by offering what I thought were my common sense solutions to every potential problem.
When I felt him beginning to get anxious about something we had planned, I would rush headlong into an explanation of why everything would be fine. I thought that if I were helpful enough, I could outwit his anxious feelings. But it turns out, that’s not the way it works. It’s not something I could just “fix.” And we often ended in a fight.
Everything changed for us when we realized our child was suffering from noticeable anxiety. When we sought clinical help for our son, Eric began asking for help as well. Sitting down with my husband in some counseling sessions was eye-opening for me. Having someone there to guide our conversation and keep me from being “the problem solver” was really beneficial. I started listening to his experience without trying to fix everything. Our marriage was strengthened because my husband felt truly seen and heard by me.
Today, we’ve learned how to tackle anxiety as a family. My husband is honest—both with himself and with me—about how he’s doing and what he needs. He has been willing to re-evaluate returning to a counselor when it’s seemed necessary. I have learned that it’s okay to suggest creative solutions, but to never force him into circumstances he knows he can’t mentally deal with. More than ever, I take his concerns seriously and have stopped writing them off as small hurdles to jump over.
I’ve learned to listen and give my unwavering support, and I feel confident that our marriage will thrive despite anxiety. We know that anxiety will attack, but together, we’re stronger.
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