Angry Socks and Silences – My Messy Beautiful

Messy, Beautiful Marriages sometimes have icy s

I carried a pair of mismatched, dirty Angry Birds socks in my pocket all day. At breakfast, my toddler was wearing them as mittens on his hands and was frustrated that his attempts to eat a banana with them were not going as well as he had hoped. I gave the boy a hand (his hands, actually) and stuffed the banana-icky socks in my pocket. Where they stayed: All. Day.

 

I thought about taking them out once or twice, but chose not to. The socks felt symbolic: representative of how I have messy, mismatched, sticky things going on in my head and my home right now. I took the socks to the store, to the park, to the school fundraiser concert. They were lumpy and hidden in my pocket, just like the other life-mess I carried with me. Sticky, but out of sight.

In truth, I kept holding on to the socks because I needed them there. I felt my pocket and my fingers could discern the shape of my sadness all balled up.

This week someone told me about their hard marriage on the phone: hard because there has been shouting and blaming and ugly-things-said. I listened and thought, “my marriage is nothing like that.”  Her marriage gets hard when the shouting is deafening. Mine gets hard when the silence is deafening. Rather than flare up, we freeze. Rather than shove, we shrivel. But our struggle is also hard in its own, private kind of way. The damage done is not as noticeable, and  perhaps such silence might even be considered by others to be signs of self-control or loving restraint. But when an iceberg sails into your living room, you would do well to remember the Titanic. Icy silence can do great damage.

I felt the socks in my pocket and I thought about our latest bout of silence. I thought about how fake I feel: a lay-leader in my church and a regular contributor to a website for engaged and newly married couples. Month after month, I write columns about healthy marriage, and I have hinted in my words that maybe “communication isn’t all there is to it”. But if people knew – if they really knew – how, even though we love each other fiercely and even though we are happy most of the time and laugh much of the time and even though he is mine and I am is – even with all that, we still get stuck. We hit a wall. We have a small handful of unsolvable problems. I hurt. I cry. I get lonely. And sometimes, there are ice-bergs in my living room.

And who can I tell, without it seeming that I am dishonoring or blaming my loved one? How can I ask for help, if the solution has to come without the requirement of us talking about it? And would saying these things out loud cause others, who see us as stable – no, need us to be stable – would it cause them worry? Would talking make it better? Or would it make it worse? It can be a lonely thing to struggle in silence in a Christian community.

Maybe I should quit writing about marriage, I thought. If the best I have to offer is a marriage with periodic Scenes of the Titanic, who needs that?

All day long, I thought about the socks. I thought about my husband and I: two angry birds ourselves, balled up together in a sticky mess. A mismatched pair, but a pair nonetheless. In it, together, even when things are hidden and icky. I felt the socks in my pocket and fingered them like prayer beads: asking God to help us fix our nest.

At the end of the day, I took the socks out my pocket and threw them in the laundry. We put the children to bed. We talked about our day. We watched an episode of Friday Night Lights. And drip by conversational drip, drop by habits-of-love drop, we started the days-long process of defrosting the iceberg.

I think maybe I won’t quit writing about marriage, after all, because we’re not quitting marriage. We may not know how to do the healthy-disagreement thing, and we have some issues, yessiree. But he’s the red sock to my yellow sock: we’re a pair of love birds, you know, even when we’re angry.

Tomorrow, those socks get a new start. Freshly laundered. Walking together.

 

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I’m excited to be participating in Momastery’s Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project with this post — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

37 thoughts on “Angry Socks and Silences – My Messy Beautiful

  1. Thank you for this raw and honest post. It is rare, especially amongst the Christian community. I have a marriage that was pretty amazing for the first 15 years and then something began to change…the beautiful tapestry of our life together became frayed and began to unravel. In the 11 years since, we have struggled with the iceberg in our home and a herd of elephants have come to live with us too. Yet I rejoice. Why? Because we have chosen to stay together. We have put our faith in the idea that our future together is still better than a future apart, for us and our 5 children who are slowly growing up and leaving home. There are issues to be dealt with, yes. But as my husband once promised me, he loves me “warts and all” and he has stood by that every day that he comes home to our family. The old addage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” has probably saved us to some degree.
    Please continue to write honest, raw, heartfelt posts. They help me and surely many others.

    • Thank you, Peggy. And thank you too for sharing about the icebergs and elephants (that made me laugh… in recognition) in your home. Bravo to you and your husband for loving each other still 🙂

  2. Beautiful and vulnerable. Thanks for going there. As always, your words are sobering, but still uplifting. You bless me, friend!

  3. That sticky-socks-as-sticky-marriage metaphor is outstanding, Bron. And regarding those you think need you to be stable, don’t let your speculations about their needs keep you from living out the unstable times. Jesus is the only firm foundation, not our sticky and unstable lives.

  4. Happy to have found you through the Messy Beautiful Warrior campaign on Momastery. Thanks for the honest!

  5. Beautifully written, much as I imagine your writings about marriage must be. But don’t fret too much if your writing is only about the good times, with this post you’ve proven that you can write about the brutiful times too — and that’s what makes you a warrior. This is the post that other people struggling with the icebergs in their livingrooms need to read. #CarryOnWarrior

  6. Beautiful as usual. Love these lines: But when an iceberg sails into your living room, you would do well to remember the Titanic. Icy silence can do great damage.

  7. This is lovely, Brownyn. I think so many can relate. I sure can. When do we lean in and fight and when do we shut up and be still and when are we being passive aggressive and when does the slab of silence become a big wedge that stands between us? It is an ever question.

    • Ugh! Exactly! It is an EVER question. And it is one thing to think “what’s the right thing to do?”, and another to think “what’s the most effective thing to do?” – they are not necessarily the same thing 🙂

  8. Lovely. Writing about marriage is hard but so, so important. More people want and need to hear this very sentiment, all the time. Thank you for sharing–

  9. This was truthful and I felt like I was right there with you in your thoughts. There are no guarantees in marriage other than the choice we have to stay or leave. Thank you for writing this post and sharing it.

  10. Great timing, Bronwyn. God’s timing in my life, no doubt. I think that hearing from church leaders like yourself about these kinds of realities only helps me, so I hope you are encouraged to be open rather than fear what other believers might think. We need to know that, actually, most or all relationships have fiery balls or icebergs, at least occasionally! Thanks for your honesty! Glad I still get to share in your wisdom even from the other side of the world.

  11. Thank you for speaking up about this. Silently drifting apart can happen so easily whether it’s because of distractions or patterns of passive aggression, non-confrontation, or serial rejection (we struggle with all four). Even if it’s quieter than fighting, disengagement is pretty darned damaging– it’s not the unity marriage is supposed to be. Your iceberg image is a powerful one. It takes consistent warmth to melt it away.

    You’re definitely not alone in this particular struggle. Thanks for giving voice to it for the rest of us.

  12. Stopping over from WCCB and so happy to have found your blog. This was so lovely and timely for me. I can so relate to the icy silences, thanks for sharing your story.

  13. Hi! I’m visiting from WCCB. I so appreciate your authenticity with this post. I love the hopeful messages that come from a blogger who writes about the joys of marriage, but it can be discouraging to think my marriage might be the only one with problems. I really, really appreciate the message here that none of us really have the perfect marriage and that how we choose to handle the imperfections is what matters. Even though you’re sharing a struggle there is a great amount of optimism within your message that reassures me I can make the right choice too.

  14. Omg, just…wow. So raw and beautiful and well-written and well-pointed. Just really good to hear. and remember. Good thoughts. Good writing. One of your best. People will be reading this and getting comfort and advice from it for years to come.

  15. I wrote about the best and worst of marriage for my momastery contribution as well. Thank you for your honesty. Our marriages share the painful silences. Here’s to thawing icebergs.

  16. As I have said before, I love your one minute marriage maintenance tips, and in this article I love the image of melting the iceberg in drips…Its the little things that help bit by bit xxx

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