Last night I found myself again sitting across from my troubled wife without the words. For me to have nothing to say is a real rarity. And I had nothing to offer, despite my most earnest desire. I am a solver, and answerer, a what can I do guy. But I had nothing. I hate that.
Heidi’s family is going through some tough times that she is struggling to deal with. All of it lies along paths I have not been down myself. It all weighs very heavily on her and I find myself unable to lighten any of her burden. All I have to offer is my presence and my prayers.
Once again, we have hit a stretch where I cannot really follow her. All I can do is be there.
An angel in the form of a commenter on Real Live Preacher’s blog pointed out to me that this is fundamental to my role as the Husband.
Ever since Heidi was pregnant with Girlzilla, through labor and delivery I started to learn about the limitations of my role. I couldn’t bear Heidi’s labor pains or push for her if her strength started to fail. I couldn’t make her labor easier or the baby healthy at the end of it all. All I could do is be there with her and encourage her and love her even as she went to a place where I really couldn’t follow. And, as unsatisfying as that felt to me at the time, those things do have great value in the long run.
Apparently I was in for a long career of feeling useless. Of being there.
When we were struggling with secondary infertility and Heidi’s anguish was beyond my grasp, I was there, frustrated, unable once again to follow. I wanted another child because Heidi wanted another child, but I did not feel the same pangs of loss. We were two separate people, even as I wanted to be one. Once again I had to wait at the door, feeling useless, waiting for a call to help in some way.
Feeling useless, being present to my own futility as a partner, but trying to be there, is good Husband training. The most basic lesson for the men at any marriage education class of your choice is to just listen first and don’t offer solutions. What they don’t always tell you is that you have no solutions to offer a lot of the time. So you can just be frustrated and hold her hand or put the kids to bed or do the dishes and wait for the opportunity to be useful. Husbands like to feel useful. Husbands are often frustrated.
So today I plan to take the kids to the doctor and pay the bills and do whatever useful thing I can to clear some space for Heidi to work this out. I offer my futility up as a prayer for my partner, cultivating my ability to sit with blessed uselessness as an offering to our long future life together. Pray for peace and healing for Heidi’s family.