Sarah Rieke » Living. Loving. Pressing on.

Love Stories: Aaron + Brittany

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I gritted my teeth, threw back my head and growled, “Ugh!” as FaceTime cut out…again.

My husband instant messaged me: “Internet is overloaded. Can’t get a good connection for FT. Want to chat instead?”

“Sure,” I typed back. It’s better than nothing.

I mentally kicked myself. In our situation, with my husband 600 miles away at Air Force Officer School, it was WAY better than nothing. I knew that many military spouses didn’t get to talk (or type) to their loved ones at all while they were away.

But that still didn’t make it easy. I hated communicating through chatting, where conversations operated on a delay, tone was difficult to decipher, and emoticons fell flat of genuine feelings.

It’s better than nothing…

But tonight, I was just plain frustrated:
Frustrated that the stupid Internet wouldn’t work
Frustrated with solo parenting our 4 kids
Frustrated with my Autistic son
Frustrated by the bills

Frustrated with my marriage

That last one surprised me. For the first time in our 11 year marriage, our relationship felt hard. Sure, we had gone through hard times before—surprise pregnancy, financial troubles, health challenges with our kids, miscarriage, an Autism diagnosis—but, all in all, we had each other’s back.
We always talked it out.
We always supported each other, seeking to communicate and understand the other’s point of view, even if our voices were raised while doing so.
He could always make me laugh, even when I was beyond irritated (usually at him!).
He always held me close when I cried.

But now? 600 miles separated?

All we had was black text in a white chat box, fragile threads of communication (if you can call it that) stretching through spotty cyberspace, holding our relationship together.

Many nights, my husband would get online, totally wiped out from the day and overwhelmed with the mental and emotional workload of Officer School.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” came the deadly refrain. “I think I’m going to fail out.”

And I would summon all my emotional strength and launch a counter attack:
“Yes, you can.”
“No, you’re not.”
“You’ve worked so hard to get here.”
“Don’t give up.”

“I believe in you.”

As weeks turned into months though, and his discouragement returned in cyclical fashion, I found myself dreading getting online at night.

I was going through my own stuff: taking care of 4 boys, end of school programs, selling our house, last minute doctor’s appointments, military paperwork, and packing for our move.

I was stressed out of my mind.

Many nights, when my husband told me about his challenges, I wanted to scream (in all caps, of course), “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR CRAP! PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER! I’M HAVING A HARD TIME TOO!”

But I didn’t. Because we were both going through a hard time. My hard time didn’t trump his hard time.

This season was hard for both for us, as individuals and in our relationship.

So I took my finger off the CAPS LOCK key, pressed delete a million times, and breathed a prayer:

Help me to treat him the way I want to be treated (Luke 6:31).
Help me remember that
Love is patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4).

Help me to not just look out for my own interests but to also look out for his (Phil. 2:4).

My husband did not fail Officer Training School (I knew he wouldn’t!) and we have been back together as a family for a little over a month now.

Yet the difficulty of those months on our relationship still amazes me, primarily because the tension between being selfish and selfless was so palpable. In the last few weeks, we’ve been able to examine our time apart, and the specific difficulties we faced, more thoroughly.

I’ve been Aaron’s wife for 11 years, but I’m still learning how to replace my own selfishness with a choice to love him well. Our foray into military life has just begun so there will be more separations in the future; hopefully, as we keep moving forward, we will learn new and better ways of communicating, and more importantly, loving each other selflessly.

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Connect with Brittany: personal blog // collective blog // podcast episode

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