Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pain in the Back

My stomach is tight. Not tight like I want to puke, tight like I'm uneasy. I'm not entirely sure what it's about. Danielle can tell something is wrong though. She's asked me four or five times this evening. We tried to figure it out together but couldn't pinpoint it.

Maybe the uneasy feeling originated from a discussion we had earlier. She had severe back pain and we disagreed on how to care for it. I wanted to wrap her like a mummy or put her in a straitjacket. She wanted to play hopscotch or ride a bull. Our compromise? Ride the bull in a straitjacket.*

It wasn't so much our disagreement that was the problem, it was my reaction to it. I felt an enormous need to control the situation. I wanted to impose marshal law. No, you can't do the dishes. No, you can't wrap Father's Day presents. No, no, no!

Every move she made terrified me. I imagined ruptured disks, paralysis, and certain death. (In my defense, my poor wife has had seven surgeries in the last three years and more pain than anyone should endure. She is both the toughest and most cheerful person I know. How she juggles pain and positivity so deftly should be a college course.) Every horrific mental image coaxed me to take decisive action. I would protect her! I would keep her in a small tower locked away from the dangerous world.

It was obvious to both of us how desperately controlling I became. I wanted her to ask permission for simple tasks. I essentially placed a moratorium on her decision making ability. No more individuality for you, wife. That's like founder-of-a-cult level control. Creepy.

While Danielle was crying in my arms it suddenly struck me how ridiculous it was for me to treat my best friend like an adolescent child. But as I realized how obsessive I was acting, something even uglier reared it's head. I saw why.

I wasn't freaking out because I loved her; (which I do!) it was the potential negative impact her imaginary injury would have on me. Because guess what? If she damages her back that's more housework for me. It's less income for me. It's more pain for her, which is more pain for me. Me, me, me!

So in the end, what I thought was about control was really about selfishness. That's gross. That is so gross! I'm pretty sure now that's why I feel uneasy. I want to love my wife more and myself less, but my slimy selfishness creeps up around every corner. I have a feeling this is going to be a long fight.

* That was a joke. I do not own a bull or a straitjacket.


  1. Bravo for letting reality set in... Sometimes a wife needs her husband to hold her and just listen. A husband can't control or fix everything...You won this round, now take a neutral corner and do some laundry.

  2. you may borrow my bull, but there is a waiting list for my straitjacket

  3. I love your post. The more I learn about control in relationships, the more I see fear as the primary motivation. This idea is counter-intuitive. People who want to control appear to be acting out of strength, especially when appearing to protect the weak. But the root of fear is often at the core. I don't remember seeing Jesus ever attempting to control anyone. Maybe that's because He was grounded in faith. That's where i want to live.