“I need to get this out so you can read it and know where I’ve been, where I’m at now, and where I want to be.” My writing partner recently sent me some draft work to “review and comment” for him. He is writing from a place of self-discovery and his writing is autobiographical in nature. He is writing difficult and vulnerable memories. At the end of his pages was a letter to his spouse. I wasn’t sure if I was meant to read it or not, but I knew it no doubt held a deeper level of the hard work he was doing in his writing.
I wept while reading him artfully expressing how he loves his wife and why. He revealed to her disappointments, fears, and worries about their marriage in a loving and gentle way, seeking her help. He asked for what he needed at this place in his life. He asked what she needed from him and who she needed him to be. It was as honest and real and raw as someone can be to another person and yet he had not given her this letter.
When he and I were next discussing feedback on his drafts, we talked about the letter.
“Do you think I should give it to her?”
“Why wouldn’t you?” I asked.
“I am afraid of how she will react.”
A hard and embarrassing memory crept up and tapped me on the shoulder. As my marriage hit one of its early sinkholes. I was 5 months pregnant with our second daughter and doing the heavy lifting of parenting our 2-year-old when the trust I held with my spouse was severely tested. It was my birthday the day I read the email I wasn’t meant to see. I was left feeling alone, unappreciated, unloved, hurt, and scared by the inevitable damage that would have to be remedied by more than an apology.
“Write me a letter.” I said to my spouse knowing I was desperately seeking reassurance that I was still loved, long before Gary Chapman identified my well-worn love language of words of affirmation. He never did. I repeated the request whenever he asked me for gift ideas with no result. To this day I wonder if we had been able to get to a place of true honesty about our feelings, the way my writing partner is with his, if our marriage may have had a different outcome.
It was another type of heartbreak I felt for my friend who was now scared to reveal his deep and complicated feelings to his wife. Over the years I have seen too often the damage done between spouses when we give up on trying to connect our hearts. It happens in small moments like this when we think “it isn’t a big deal,” “now isn’t a good time,” or “I don’t want to start a fight.”
I looked my friend in the eyes and said without hesitation, “Give her the letter.”