He looks at me from beneath his eyelashes. His lunch tray is disheveled at this point, with half-eaten flecks of food scattered about. His fingers carry evidence of chronic nail-biting and his voice is barely audible above the hum of the cafeteria. I wish I could scoop him into my arms and carry him far from all of the noise and the trouble. I wish I could raise him myself.
"I'm wondering what happened right before you punched your friend," I speak to him quietly. "Your Dad's on his way and I was hoping we could talk about that a little bit while we wait." I watch as his pale blue eyes drift up from his tray and focus on mine. He shrugs his shoulders.
"It doesn't really matter what happened. My Dad's always mad."
The angriest men are the ones who need the most love.
Maybe you've heard that quote before. Maybe you're married to a man who struggles with anger or had one who raised you. Maybe you've been dating that guy, but it's taken a long time to notice that he was more frustrated with life than what you had originally thought. It's as if he's not really mad with anything you've done in particular, he's just angry in spirit. Have you ever experienced that?
It may seem strange to be talking about men when most of the other blogs and news articles you'll read this week are highlighting the wonder of motherhood. Motherhood is incredibly beautiful, that's the truth! That being said, some of you may have trouble celebrating through the relationship struggles which currently underride your Mother's Day. The unfortunate truth is that some of us may walk away from this weekend disappointed. You love your man to the moon and back, but wish things could be better.
Relationship issues are aways heightened around the holidays. I remember my own pastor quoting an article a few years ago. He shared that women are much more likely to cheat on their husbands online the day after Mother's Day. I revisited that piece of information, finding an example article from 2013 in HuffPost.
So, why does it happen?
Throughout the years, I've had the opportunity to soak in the stories of couples in therapy and of women in church small groups, the counseling room, or book clubs. I've heard things like this:
1. I can't do anything right.
2. He doesn't care about holidays and he forgets our special milestones.
3. He's constantly criticizing the kids and me.
4. I don't know how to make him happy.
5. I give up - I'll just put my head down and keep going.
6. I don't even want him to touch me anymore.
As you can probably gather, those statements are major warning signs that something is amiss within a relationship.
Did you know that depression can look like anger and irritability in men? As women, we often associate sadness, fatigue, and a sense of worthlessness to the condition of "depression," because that's usually our female experience with it.
However, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists the following symptoms as being common in men:
Some numbers: At least 6 million of our men will carry the diagnosis of depression around in 2016, and these are only the ones who were willing to go to the doctor to address symptoms (NIMH). Men are less likely to talk about mental health issues to their health care providers than women are. That's certainly a big enough number of our boyfriends, husbands, brothers, and fathers to have a conversation.
But here's the real deal - I don't want any of us to venture beyond the boundaries of our relationship commitments and be tempted to go online Monday! Infidelity destroys families and it leaves us in a place of shame and loneliness. I'm shining a light on this issue so that we can make some considerations this week:
1. Maybe this Mother's Day will be an opportunity for a relationship WELL-CHECK.
2. Maybe our families simply need to slow down, rest, and RECONNECT with one another.
3. Perhaps it's time for some of our partners to GET HELP and it's time for us to ADMIT THAT THERE'S A PROBLEM in our home.
Dear sisters, there's no shame in the struggle. As surely as the sun rises, life happens (and it's not always accompanied by flowers and chocolate cake). Whatever your Mother's Day looks like this year, know this:
You are loved.
You're not alone.
And there's always hope.
Do you have experience with depression? Have holidays ever been difficult for you? Share your encouraging words with women who benefit from hearing them!
With you and for you,
I took another walk around the neighborhood and realized that on this earth as it is--
The race is not always to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor satisfaction to the wise,
Nor riches to the smart,
Nor grace to the learned.
Sooner or later bad luck hits us all.
No one can predict misfortune.
Like fish caught in a cruel net or birds in a trap,
So men and women are caught
By accidents evil and sudden. (Eccl. 9:10-11, Msg.)
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready.(Romans 5:3-5, Msg.)
Photo Credit: Brandon Wilson
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.