My husband, Jason, commutes an hour and fifteen minutes (each way) to work. He has faithfully driven this path for four years and, until recently, has never experienced complications. The past two weeks, however, have proven difficult because of a 20-mile stretch of highway that is under intense construction. Stress and time have now been added to his already long drive. Jason, who rarely utters a complaint, has used the word, “Horrible” to describe the traffic flow on more than one occasion.
Even though he has been leaving for work much earlier than normal (so as to guarantee an on-time arrival) and obviously dreads the drive, I haven’t been personally impacted by the construction. I am selfish in nature and so, no matter what Jason’s day is like, mine carries on as normal. I stay home with our children and enjoy the laid-back pace of this season of life along with the crazy chaos four young children can bring. I may say a quick pray for Jason’s travels and offer a “poor guy,” in my spirit, but a little traffic doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.
Until I made the drive myself.
Last Thursday, I loaded the children up with snacks and drinks, and prepared us for the slightly-over-an-hour journey north to visit Jason at his work. I texted him once we were on the road, and his response was, “Good luck with traffic and construction.” I brushed off his warning and forged ahead. The first 15-20 minutes of our trip were smooth sailing as the kids bellowed out preschool songs, and I scoffed at my husband’s complaints. My thoughts suddenly came to a screeching halt along with the cars in front of me. I sat, at a complete stand still, for over 20 minutes. Finally, I began to creep forward, and assumed the worst was over
Boy, was I wrong.
I crawled along at a snail-like pace for a couple of miles, but then had to endure another 20 minute stand still. Crawl and stop, crawl and stop, crawl and stop… and so the pattern went until finally, about two hours later, the construction zone ended. While I am not normally someone who struggles with “road rage” – I was in a foul mood by the time this whole ordeal was over. My poor children saw a side of their mommy that they had never seen. (My oldest daughter even corrected my language as I mumbled, “You’re killing me,” to the nearby cars. She quickly reminded me that we don’t talk about “deading people.”)
Eventually, we made it to Jason’s work and enjoyed a brief visit. My emotions had simmered down, so I was able to think clearly on the drive home. I reflected on how Jason had described the traffic woes, but until I drove it for myself, I could not grasp the fullness of the truth. The age old expression, “Until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” rang in my mind as I thought about my husband and our marriage.
- I am aware that Jason still struggles with the divorce of his parents (which happened over 30 years ago) just as I was aware that there was traffic on the interstate. However, since I am not the one who lived through their separation and arguments, I can’t fully grasp the scars my husband has or how that affects his security in our marriage.
- I am aware that men can struggle with lust just as I was aware that there was traffic on the interstate. However, since I don’t have an intense sight-response of the opposite sex, I cannot fully understand the battle for purity that my husband is fighting or how one overheard conversation, or commercial, can bring such inappropriate thoughts.
- I am aware that my husband is the spiritual head of the home just as I was aware that there was traffic on the interstate. However, since I do not have to bear that responsibility myself, I cannot truly understand the pressure my husband is under to shepherd our family and make the decisions he believes are the best for us.
- I am aware that my husband has outside pressures just as I am aware that there was traffic on the interstate. However, since I only focus on my own problems, I don’t offer my husband the support and encouragement he desperately desires.
I can think of a handful of moments in our marriage that have brought my husband and I closer together because the two of us went through a certain trial or joy together (our broken journey to becoming parents would be the biggest example I can offer). Those moments give our marriage a new dimension because of the fact we are walking the same path and experiencing the same thing. However, most often, Jason has his “to-do” list, and I have mine. He has his sins, and I have mine. He has his discouragements, and I have mine. He has his dreams, and I have mine. While I listen my husband share his heart — the truth is — unless I have walked his exact path, I cannot fully understand or empathize with his situation.
My heart went out to my husband, after making that trek last week, in a way it has not before.
For two weeks, I was able to dismiss Jason’s complaints about his commute because it wasn’t affecting me, yet I can no longer ignore or deny the troubles of his journey because I have lived them. Now I understand the daily driving stress that he has to endure.
Does my husband need this same understanding from me in other areas of our marriage?
Does he need a wife who listens better? A wife who doesn’t judge his sins? A wife who asks what he needs rather than pridefully assume I already know? A wife who doesn’t merely look at her own issues and struggles, but tries to see the ones her husbands endures too? Each day will present new opportunities to offer my husband grace and support. While I confess that I can’t fully understand my husband’s unique walk in this world, I can promise to meet him with sympathy, a listening ear, and a teachable spirit which will enable me to stand next to him and support him in ways my selfish nature has previously prevented from doing so.
Have you ever walked a mile in your husband’s shoes? How has that benefited your marriage?