Dear Scott,

We’ve weathered many rocky and dark roads together, two children born with life-threatening conditions, the day-to-day bone-wearying struggle to care for a child with special needs, the end of a church, the death of a child. Statistics say that the burden of all of that should have ripped us apart years ago. I am convinced that we would not be together without trust.

You’ve heard me say more than once that I can’t separate respect and trust. I respect and embrace you as a man, friend, confidante, and lover because I trust you. You say things to me that I refuse to hear from anyone else because you’ve earned my trust and my respect. If you tell me that I’ve said or written something harsh (as is common) or rash, I probably won’t like it (okay, you and I both know I definitely won’t like it), but I’ll listen. I don’t respect, I don’t listen to, and I don’t submit to people who I don’t trust.

respect signThis trust has been hard-won. You know better than anyone the struggles I have being vulnerable with you. I think it has taken you by surprise since I pour my guts out in writing on a blog (by now you know that I feel safer and more in control in written than in spoken word). I don’t let my guard down easily. Control may be an illusion, but I have a death-grip on that illusion. Letting go, even for pleasure, has required time and practice and patience. Trusting you with the shadows in my soul – the doubts, the questions, the fears, and especially the parts that are becoming different than when we first met and married – has been terrifying. How would you respond to me? Would you be disgusted? Disappointed? Turned off?

One of the most valuable lessons I learned about trusting you came after our daughter died. I couldn’t understand why you weren’t adrift in a sea of blackness like I was, and I was irritated that you seemed to be functioning and holding together while I was falling apart. I plucked up enough courage to check out a few books on child loss from the library. In one of them, I read that couples are more likely to stay together when they allow each other to grieve in their own unique way.

I’ve discovered that this applies to everything, not just mourning. When you give each other space to be individuals, to respond to life differently, it tells them that you love them for who they are, not who you want them to be. In the revealing of who I am to you, I have to give you the same space to be you as you hear and respond to it. In the listening, you give me space to be who I am becoming.

So far, every time I tell you something difficult (like that I didn’t know if I believed the Bible was inerrant or that I simply cannot submit to an authority that asks me to relinquish my intellectual, artistic, and expressive freedom), you rise to the occasion. Even after the occasional exasperated, “Why are you are so stubborn?” you hold me close and whisper “I love you” anyway. And every time you do, you sink another pillar of steel into the trust we’ve built together. I know that you’ve got my back, and I hope you know that I’ve got yours.

Your strongest ally,

Joy

Every Monday Scott and I join Seth and Amber to write letters to each other on the fight to keep our marriages happy and healthy. This week’s prompt was “I trust you because” and you can link your letter on Amber’s blog. Next week we’re writing on “Enduring loss together.” (See the schedule of writing prompts for April here.)