IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! The first time my husband said these four words to me, my world shattered! What do you mean it’s not about me? As far as I could remember, our vows went something like ‘In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, blah blah blah it will ALWAYS be about you’ … at least that’s what I remember hearing.
In the early stages of our marriage, if my husband went quiet and drifted away from me emotionally, I would immediately start re-tracing my steps and trying to figure out what I had done wrong, I would go over earlier conversations in my mind and try and assume at which point I did something to send him into this somber state. I would go round and round in circles mentally, play out scenarios in my head, and make unwarranted assumptions. By the end of it all, in my make-believe world, we were filing for divorce and going through a custody battle for our children.
Eventually, I would be so emotionally exhausted and frustrated from my imaginations, ( I mean we just got make-believe divorced for heaven’s sake!) that I wouldn’t even have the energy to find out what was wrong with the poor man in the first place. The end result of this emotional comrades marathon would be me being emotionally withdrawn and lost in my own head, whilst husbae would be exactly where I left him, subdued and in a somber state. When I finally came round, I would come out guns blazing and ready for war, pointing out how unappreciated he made me feel when he became emotionally withdrawn and unavailable. I would reiterate how hurt I was and how I deserved an apology. And it would be at this exact moment that I would be told: “But Amanda, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU!“
This would of course then send my emotions spiraling out of control and lead to further misunderstanding and confusion.
What I know now, and what I didn’t understand back then, was that my husband being subdued or emotionally withdrawn, more often than not had nothing to do with me; he would either be lost in his own emotions or dealing with some issues outside of us, and instead of availing him the space to go through it, or finding out what he needed from me to help him go through it, I was instead having mini divorce parties in my head.
After having several similar altercations, I decided to try a different approach and decided to make myself emotionally available instead of reciprocating the withdrawal. I would find out if he needed me, and if he didn’t, I would step back and let him be. This would allow him to withdraw guilt free and would give him the security of knowing that he is in a partnership that allows him to take an emotional vacation if and when necessary.
I have found that this same approach works with other relationships in life. There are times when a work colleague, a friend or even the teller at the grocery store could just be having a bad day, but because we don’t receive the type of attention we think we deserve, we often take great offense and allow their mood to rub off on us, as opposed to just acknowledging that they could just be having a bad day, a bad week or even a bad life! But the fact of the matter is, most of the time, it’s not about us anyway, and that’s okay.
Marriage has taught me that sometimes it’s okay to let the people around us retreat into their shells without us thinking that we are the cause of the retreat and to instead give them the security of knowing that its okay to withdraw from time to time and that it won’t be held against them. And so these days, when husbae retreats into what I like to call his ‘nothing box‘, I give him a gentle kiss and ask him what he needs from me, and I let him know that I will be right here when he returns, because he and I both know that I ain’t going nowhere, not now, not ever.