There have been a few times that I've been tempted to quit the Love Dare. The main thing that keeps me going is the fact that I felt inspired to do this, and I know that God wants me to do it for a reason.
The thing that makes it so hard is how selfless you are supposed to be. I've never thought of myself as that selfish of a person, but I have felt selfish as I've done this Dare (even though much of the selfless acts come naturally to me). I thought a lot about that yesterday, and I think I figured out my main issues with the Love Dare. Knowing these issues really helped me yesterday, and I think I can move forward more peacefully.
I am the wife of a sex-addict. I've experienced a lot of hurt. I've experienced my fair share of selflessness. The reasons I'm selfish are mainly for emotional protection. If I'm not selfish, if I give of myself too much, I risk being trampled on and hurt even more. I'm almost always on guard because of an inner self-protection. I've lived emotionally on guard for the past three and a half years (before we were married for different reasons that are a whole separate story). Things were only calm for three weeks between the wedding and my car accident. Then, the emotional trauma got worse from my brain injury and other results of the accident. Our relationship hit a bad spot with our lack of intimacy due to my injuries and his turning to porn and masturbation during that time. When I first learned of his addiction, my self-protection kicked in even more, and I've been on an emotional roller coaster ever since.
I've been hurt badly. The reasons I'm selfish are for my sanity or because of a developed reaction to things. Looking at it all, it's no wonder that it's so hard to give up selfish and become selfless. It feels physically painful at times to make that change. I've had my days during the past week of the Love Dare where I have wondered if he even realizes how much I am giving of myself and if he will notice and follow my example and do something nice for me (selfish, but we all enjoy being served and feeling appreciated). When you are already hurting, it's incredibly hard to only think of the other's well-being and ignore your selfish wants or needs.
I decided that in this book, some things are a little extreme. Or maybe I'm just reading into it way too much. Either way, I've made some realizations and changes as I've gone through the Dare that help me do it better.
I'm not ignoring my wants or needs. I can't be so selfless that I forget to take care of myself. I don't think that's healthy. We all have needs. We all have wants that feel like needs. We all experience emotion. It's not healthy to push those off and ignore them. At least, it's not healthy for me. When I am pushing things away to just focus on Jack (or anyone else), I experience some major anxiety, stress, and overwhelmedness (I just made that word up). I physically can't just not let my needs be met. I can't. Or else I turn into Monsterwoman. I like to serve, and I like being selfless and turning to Christ's way, but I can't ignore what I feel. I have to be validated. I have to let myself feel. It's just a matter of what I do with those feelings--if I handle them appropriately or not.
Through all of these dares (love is patient, love is kind, love is not selfish, love is thoughtful, love is not rude, love is not irritable, love believes the best), I've been able to reflect a lot on things and learn about myself. The things I do that harm our relationship the most are 1) my tone of voice or how I talk to him when I am hurting, and 2) my actions when I am hurting.
Just because I'm hurting doesn't give me the right to lash out and do or say things to drag him down with me. Besides, he's already down. He's already wounded. He's already seeking healing and trying to overcome the devil, so why should I make it worse?
As I have sought to be less negative and angry, more patient and loving, more selfless and caring, and less rude and irritable, I've found more positive and constructive outlets for me and my relationship with him.
On the days I couldn't say anything negative, I had to leave the conversation for a time, pray, and really turn it over to God so I could come back. When I came back, I was able to address the problem in a more constructive and positive way--with communication that didn't just make him shut down.
On the day I focused on selflessness, I did something that really made him happy, and it made me happy.
Yesterday was "love is not irritable." This was the best self-reflective day for me. The chapter broke down reasons why people are irritable. As I pondered the chapter and Bible verses, I realized that the main reasons I do lash out or get irritable really easily (such as when the noises his throat makes when he eats really annoy me and other stupid stuff like that) are from STRESS.
About a year ago, I made a list of stressors because I realized that my stress was playing a huge role in our relationship and my ability to cope with things. I put that list on my nightstand and looked at it every day to remind myself that those things were stressing me out. It sounds weird, but it put things into perspective for me to see that those were my stressors and that most of the things that made me mad in our relationship were really because of a build-up of stress. I worked on balance and peace. Those were topics I studied a lot in my scripture study, and I was able to be okay.
Yesterday, I made a new list. My stress list is 15 ITEMS LONG. 15! Those aren't even little things. Those are HUGE things that really have an impact on my sanity and peace. No wonder I feel like I'm falling apart at the seams sometimes.
I was able to take that list and ponder the Atonement. I prayed and gained strength. I thought about where I can add margin and breathing space. I prioritized. Throughout the day, whenever I got irritated, I reminded myself that my stress level is causing negative reactions and that I'm working on balance and being positive.
At dinner, something happened between Jack and me that really made me mad. After just a few minutes of trying to deal with it there, I just got up, threw my dinner plate in the sink, and stormed off to our room. While I laid on the bed fuming, I thought. I thought about my stressors. I thought about the decision I had made that morning to turn everything over to God. I felt stubborn pride and unwillingness to turn the issue over. Eventually, I prayed. I cried and told God how silly I felt, and I told Him that I desperately needed His help so I could quickly forgive and our night wouldn't be ruined. I felt peace. I forgave. And then I came out, we talked calmly about what had just happened. I calmly and peaceably explained why it had hurt me. He sincerely apologized (which was nice. Also, he did all the dishes while I was mad, which was also nice), and then we ate cookies and ice cream, played games, and watched Sherlock on Netflix. By the end of the night, the love was back. And it was strong.
I am really glad I'm doing this Dare even though it's hard at times. It's teaching me a lot about love and a lot about myself. I'm learning how to allow myself to balance feeling emotion and acting positively and constructively. I'm learning how to strengthen some of my weaknesses. I'm learning to turn myself over to God more often. I'm learning better communication. I'm learning the ins and outs of myself, and I feel like I'm starting to become the me I want to be. And I have more hope.