That Time My Husband Yelled at Me

That Time My Husband Yelled at Me

My husband has never raised his voice at me.

Well, there was this one time.

{Side note: if you “never” raise your voice, that one time you do will be very effective.}

Let me give some context first. Bill was a busy pastor in a small town. We lived in a rambly old house with our four young sons. And a college student from our church. And a woman and her daughter who would have otherwise been homeless. They pulled out the den sofa every night for what was supposed to be a month. But they stayed, their things piled neatly in our dining room, for one full year. This was when I discovered that an open floor plan is not always a plus. Oh, and we homeschooled that year.

These were the building blocks for a meltdown. My meltdown.

The thing about meltdowns is you don’t see them coming. If I isolate each of these building blocks, they turn into sweet memories of good times and lovely people. But all together it was too much. I see that now. Sometimes you smelt into the burning crucible of a meltdown without knowing that is where you are.

This is not to justify what I became in my meltdown; it is simply to define it. To say that there was this intense pressure (which is life) and it pummeled me so fiercely that what was at my molten core oozed out.

I got needy. Now who could I ask to meet those needs? My kids who needed me? The college student who needed my counsel and grace for her supremely college antics? Our friend Carol or her daughter who both wrestled with the shame and the gratitude of living under our roof? Our church? I now know there were friends in our church, including Carol, who could have borne some of my neediness, but back then I thought that was not allowed. Besides, if you don’t realize you are needy, how can you ask anyone to help?

So my husband got the brunt of it all. Not as a direct upper cut to the jaw, but little side jabs, oblique, dirty hits. When I tell you about the night he raised his voice at me, multiply my side of that conversation a million times. A million little needy hooks in the form of “Why don’t you?” and “When will you?” and “Why didn’t you?” A million little statements implying that he was an inadequate husband when it came to meeting my needs. Without realizing it, my self pity was wearing him down.

We were driving home from the video store. And I said, “You didn’t notice my haircut,” said it hours after the haircut, with all the force five hours of stewing can produce. Said it full of so much “You didn’t” that it stung. This was, for Bill, the last straw. He yelled at me:

“Kitti, I cannot meet all of your needs. There is no way. Something is going on deep inside of you, and I’m not enough to fix it. You need to go to God and let him touch it.”

Silence.

I wasn’t just stunned, I was angry. Exposed. When we got home, I said I was going on a walk… at eleven o’clock at night, and I took off down Highland Street toward Linden. Walking away was not done in our marriage then, nor is it now, neither was walking late at night all alone, but I think Bill knew to let me go.

Oswald Chambers said, “When we take a first step toward God, it can seem as if there is no God.”

That’s how it felt. Turning the heavy barge of my neediness all the way around and leaving it to rest in the safe harbor of God himself felt all wrong, felt dangerous, felt delusional. But I did it anyway, transacted right there on a dark sidewalk to go to God wholly with my needs. To turn what had been exposed to his light. To quit expecting Bill to be enough for me, because he wasn’t. I’d implied that he was an inadequate husband when it came to meeting my needs, and now I admitted that of course he was. I began to wonder how he’d breathed under the load of it all.

I walked back up the hill on Summit Street toward home with a settled sense of having done something right. But it wasn’t until months and months later that I knew it.

Somehow, in the house I described above, my morning times with God expanded, protected and sacred. I examined me, just me. I cried a lot. I asked a lot. I healed and then I pulled back a layer and healed again.

And over an unreasonably short length of time our marriage returned to health. Because, the thing is, when you ask someone who will never be enough to do what only the real bona fide Enough can do, you’ll be disappointed every time. You’ll be shortchanged and angry and sad and your self pity will bleed all over the person you love most. My blood type may be different from yours (meaning your meltdowns and your needs may look different), but blood is still blood. Messy and sticky and sapping life.

And sometimes, when you are bleeding like this, headed toward a meltdown or already in it, getting yelled at can be a very good thing.

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