Our first major argument came during year two of marriage. It was close to Christmas, and the demands of my job were the focal point, because it was midnight, and I was still hard at work. We went to bed without any resolution.

As I laid next to my husband, spitting mad, I silently reviewed all the reasons he was wrong. Doesn’t he know that if I don’t stay up working on these spreadsheets, kids in the community won’t have Christmas? Doesn’t he understand that this is just a busy season in my work year? Doesn’t he realize how difficult this is for me already?

Oh, the irony (and selfishness). I knew deep down, I was wrong. I also knew that if I kept choosing my career over my husband, we would have a difficult road ahead. Here’s the thing: I didn’t know how to transition from a single, high-capacity, goal-oriented woman, who could eat chips and salsa for dinner and pass out reading her kindle, to a married woman, with the same eagerness, who had a wonderful husband, who called most of my meals appetizers.

I knew I had to change. If I wanted to remain in reciprocal, intimate, life-giving relationship with my husband, then I had to stop bringing him my emotional scraps. I took three steps to that end, and within a year, I stopped people pleasing, experienced more meaningful friendships, and started bringing my best home.

 

Reevaluate Everything

First, I reevaluated everything. I realized I had a habit of killing myself for projects no one cared about. In the name of my integrity, I wanted to give everything and everyone 100% of myself. But the truth was, what I called integrity was actually perfectionism and people pleasing. Yes, integrity is saying what you mean, and doing what you say, but it is also about wholeness, congruency, and trustworthiness. I didn’t feel whole, and while I was building trust at work, and in my field, I was losing trust at home. I began to ask myself, why in the world was my life packed with unreasonable responsibilities? Who was I trying to please, and why in the world, were they trying to kill me? These questions helped me discover my desire to achieve and earn approval in order to feel valuable, instead of knowing the beautiful truth, that my life holds immeasurable value, no matter what I do. I stopped blaming others, because in reality, only I own my life, my calendar, my heart and my choices. No one was intentionally trying to kill me (I don’t think…), but the only person who could responsibly hold my boundaries, was me. Through the process of reevaluating, I gained a gold nugget of truth: I do not have to be perfect to be loved. I found freedom to make healthier choices, and to stop earning approval and start being present.

 

Dive Deeper in Relationship

Second, I dove deeper in relationship with my closest friends. Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend wrote a book, Safe People, and they describe safe people as doing three things:

  1. Dwelling—People who are able to connect with us in a way that we know they are present with us;
  2. Grace—Love does not have to be earned. We are accepted as we are, knowing we will not incur wrath or be shamed for what we are experiencing;
  3. Truth—People who will be honest with us, telling us where we are wrong and when we need to change.

This doesn’t mean we are not accepted, but that they will be honest with us about our faults without condemning us. Safe people give us grace and truth, and my friends are safe, loving women. Because we all needed some accountability, we began weekly calls and meet-ups, where we would ask each other difficult questions, one of them being “Are you giving your family your emotional scraps?” The love and responsibility we feel to and for each other, helps me become my best self in the context of rich, meaningful, encouraging friendship. Our time together reinforces that I am loved for who I am, not for what I do.

 

Love Him the Way He Needs to be Loved

Third, I started loving my husband the way he needed to be loved. We shared more meals together. We talked about our day, and walked the fine line between work taking over our evening dialogue (and attitude, for that matter), and emotionally connecting over the challenges and highlights of our week. As our heart connection grew stronger, our physical connection grew as well. We drew strong boundaries around our marriage, our home, and our friendships, and we found ourselves able to give in the workplace and beyond from a content and satisfied soul, instead of feeling depleted, exhausted and starved. I learned that as I let things go, no one died, and as I journeyed toward wholeness, I built trust in every area of life. And I found myself, proud, in a good way, of my ability to change and to love with my whole self, in the proper context.

I’m a mover and a shaker—I don’t like for anything to fall off my plate, but in reality, I am a human being, with limits, flaws and faults. And I’d rather a few balls drop, than for my relationships to feel hollow. I don’t want to be a shell of a person—I want to be fully awake and alive, and wholly present in the relationships that mean the most to me.

What about you friend? What small tweaks can you make, to stop bringing your emotional scraps home to those you love the most?

Photography: Caleb Jones

Ashley Abercrombie
Ashley Abercrombie

Ashley is passionate about transformation in people, communities & neighborhoods. She is a justice junkie, committed to developing sustainable solutions to felt needs through a restorative justice model, through partnership & collaboration. The Abercrombies live in Brooklyn, NY & pastor together on Wall Street at Liberty Church’s
downtown community. Visit her blog to learn more.

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