When I first learned to know the man I would marry, I realized that he had a protective veneer about him. His castle was surrounded by a moat^, and it was his first line of defense against allowing others to get closer to him than he felt necessary. While he had many friends, he allowed very few to get close to his heart. He called it his fortress.
Dave* let me know that I could approach his fortress, but only if and when he was ready for me to come in would I be allowed to enter. He wasn’t about to open his heart to someone unless he was convinced he wanted that person to stay forever.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have friends with whom he shared. It wasn’t that he couldn’t have a good time and show a gal a nice evening out, but he wasn’t going to open his fortress to someone who wasn’t going to become a part of his life.
So when the day came that he invited me into his fortress, I knew this was for real, and I knew I wanted to stay, forever. Inside his fortress, I felt safe and protected.
We said our vows, and I entered his castle for life. Inside the castle, I am protected and safe. I am warm. I am desired. I am cared for and loved. For thirty-one years, this castle has been my home.
But there are days when it could seem that the shutters are closed and the doors are barred. I’m still technically inside the fortress, but I could feel left outside the walls if I allowed myself to embellish those feelings of not being a part of his world.
Sometimes when my man is facing stress, he needs distance and space. I could force my way in, but I wouldn’t be welcome even though I’d have that “right” because, after all, I’m his wife.
Relationships are like that. It doesn’t mean that I don’t belong or that I am unloved. It doesn’t mean that I’m not desirable or allowed to be at home and warm. It simply means that he needs some time and some space because of what is happening in his world. Sometimes those events are small, like a flat tire or an appliance that is no longer working. Sometimes those experiences are more significant, such as financial difficulties, business challenges, or relationship conflicts.
So I have a choice. I can barge in, demanding that he share his world with me, or I can give him space to sort out what’s going on and then share with me if and/or when he is ready. Let me tell you what I do. I remember the story of the North Wind, the Sun, and the Traveler, and I decide to become the Sun.
In Aesop’s fable, there is a quarrel between the North Wind and the Sun about which of them is the strongest. They agree that whoever can remove the cloak of the traveler below them is the strongest.
The moral of this fable is this: Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail. That is why I try to become like the sun.
When I feel that my spouse has distanced himself from me, I know I could pitch a fit and demand answers. I know I could make life difficult for this man I so admire and love. I could make him choose between answering all my questions about what he is facing or paying a price for not sharing. But even if he was forced into providing the answers I so desire, I would not have won his heart. He would have retreated further into his fortress, and I would be facing even higher emotional walls separating me from the man I love.
I have learned to back off the bluster. Rather than demanding answers now, I wait. Rather than pounding on the closed door, I retreat. I don’t withdraw. Instead, I attempt to create an atmosphere of security, respect, and love; for I know that life right now is threatening his manhood and he is “circling the wagons” and “battening down the hatches” for the challenges of the moment. Then I ask few questions, and I pray.
At times I convey my silent support. Sometimes I find small things to do that will show that I care. Freshly brewed sweet tea when the pitcher has been empty says a lot to my man. A look or touch (or sexy text if I am not with him) that tells him I desire intimacy with him is powerful because I know that nothing makes a man feel more like a man than being desired by his spouse. Sexual intimacy can rejuvenate him and give him confidence that he can conquer his world.
Other times I give verbal affirmation. Sometimes I ask if there is something I can do to help. But mostly, I back off. He needs the space, and my love and commitment to him make it easy to give him what he needs.
While there are some things I do, there are also some things I don’t do. I don’t try to tell him how to fix or correct the situation. (What man needs a wife to tell him how to change a tire, park his vehicle, stack the wood, pack the trunk for a trip, or fire the furnace?) I don’t belittle his decision or the way he is handling a situation. I don’t try to get into his heart. I wait until he is ready. I don’t even try to make sure he notices that I care.
He notices, all right – but sometimes he doesn’t know that he notices at that point! If things are done or said during those times that are hurtful, I know that we will talk about it later- much later, when the stress is over and the heat of the moment is gone. I have learned that trying to talk about it during those stressful times will create more heat than light. I’ve learned that I don’t have to have the last word, and I can let it go. I have also learned that giving God a time-frame for the walls of the castle to open up is not wise.
In Aesop’s fable, when the Wind disappears and the Sun comes out, the traveler first loosens his coat. As the rays from the Sun continue to beam his way, he wipes his brow, removes his hat and then his cloak. Finally, he sits down under the shade of a tree and rests. And that, my friends, is where a man will be when he is ready to invite you into his heart.
When I am welcomed, when I am wanted, when I am warmed, that is when I know that by waiting I have enabled my man to find rest in his world. I have become like the Sun. Yes, it’s true: “gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.”
^A moat is a deep, broad, dry or water-filled ditch surrounding a castle, fortification, building, or town; historically its purpose was to provide a preliminary line of defense.
*Yes, Dave is my husband. He has read every word of this post and approved its publication.
August 17, 2016. I posted this earlier on Pinterest, and I have changed the title slightly; that is why there are two different “pins” at the end of this post.