Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 21 - Decisions in Hawaii

When I was in the Philippines flying into Vietnam, I had a lot of time to think. Looking back, I remember how lonely I was. We had only been married a little over six months. We had traveled all over the country, been back home to Georgia twice. There was no time to establish ourselves as a couple. To be honest, I had chaffed at the restrictions that Julia had placed on my time at the bar after work with all the guys. Well here I was living a “dream”. Flying productive missions almost daily. We flew long missions with 16 – 18 hour duty days and 12 hours of flying. When I was off, there was nothing to do but work out in the gym and go to the bar at the Officers Club. Everything was back to my “normal”. But nothing seemed right. I had this nagging loneliness. I was really missing being with Julia. I was writing letters constantly. I think it was then that I made my decision. I wanted our marriage to work. I was willing to give up being “one of the guys”. I know that I was willing to be with her, and her alone, for the rest of my life. Many men never get the opportunity to make this decision. They get so caught up in what they are doing, or so caught up in self pity that the opportunity passes them by. You see, I believe that many men, I won’t say most, believe the lie that it is all about them. It’s all about their needs, and their desires. It’s not really their fault. We have been taught this for years. But we all have a time where if we can think and meditate, we can choose different paths. During that time in the Philippines, I chose to do whatever it took to make our marriage work. So I looked forward to coming home. I looked forward to being with Julia, getting reacquainted with her and starting fresh in Hawaii. So when I got back to Hawaii I was ready to move ahead as a married couple. But there was a big problem.

Julia hadn’t made that decision. Julia is a very strong, powerful woman with definite opinions and desires. When I left Hawaii, she was all-alone in a strange place with a lot of time on her hands. We were isolated from the base and our few friends. She did the only thing she knew to do. She started a new life, without me. She went out and got a teaching job at a private school on the other side of the island. She began to make now friends and create a social life that didn’t include me. She survived. No, she was thriving, and enjoying life without me. Her mother and aunt came to visit her. They were going to stay two weeks. Their timing was perfect, for her. They arrived two days before I came home. So here is the scene. I’m coming home from the war to see and love my wife. I want to make up. I walk into our small two bedroom house to find Julia, her mom and her aunt. This was not the homecoming that I had envisioned. To be honest, Julia didn’t want ne there, she was perfectly happy with out me. After about a week, I didn’t want to be there either. She admitted later that she was using her mother and aunt as a shield to keep me away. After they left, it was very cold and quiet in the house for a long time. It was during that time, probably three to four months that if either of us had said divorce, we both would have jumped at the opportunity.

So what was the problem? Looking back, I see that I hadn’t learned to love her the way that she needed to be loved. Sure I could say nice words, and be gentle and sweet. But she needed more. She needed actions: actions like helping with the house. She needed tangible attributes of love. Her love language, like most women was having someone take an interest in their problems. We needed to become a team. It wasn’t enough for me to sit watching TV (we didn’t have computers then) while she did all the housework. She didn’t want me to do it all. She just wanted me to show an interest and help her do it. She wanted me there with her making life together. Too many men never get this. They think that the wife can do everything. Well, they can. But they don’t want to; they want help. Help without asking. If they have to ask you, it doesn’t count.

But, lets get back to my memory. I began to make changes, and they started working. Slowly we started communicating. As I was making changes, so was she. We both began to work at meeting each others needs, and slowly we both realized that we wanted our marriage. We wanted each other. So Julia’s decision was made too. We had passed a major crisis and had decided that we both wanted to do whatever it took to make this thing called marriage work.

Back to the present, that feeling I had in the Philippines was nothing compared to the loneliness that I feel now. I wish that I could fix this. As I look back, I see all that I would have missed had we decided not to make it work. We were fortunate, in that both of us took responsibility for ourselves and changed. You see, I could not have changed Julia. I could only change myself. Julia could not have changed me. If both of us had not taken responsibility, we would have probably seen a different conclusion. You can’t change your partner. It sounds romantic to think you can, but you can’t. They have to want to change themselves. If you or they won’t change, then you are dreaming if you think things will get better. So our story has a happy ending. Why? It worked because we both, individually, made the decision to change, and then we did change. My prayer is that other couples in similar situations will both not only be willing, but will change so that they can meet each other’s need. It can’t be one sided. In the long term that doesn’t work, it’s more like martyrdom.

Today was a good day. I was able to go to church, get a run in. I talked to the girls, and got all my homework done for BSSM tomorrow night. I also got to think about my life with Julia. Good night.

1 comment:

  1. Tom, Your struggle as a couple after your time in the Phillipines is so like our experience as a military couple after Vietnam. And your wise comments on what it takes to make a marriage out of two individuals is something that we also experienced, though much later. Only the grace of God has held us together and formed us into a "team". One of the things I have always appreciated about you and Julia is your transparency, your honesty. It continues as you blog for us this part of your life journey.
    Blessings on you, Celia