Eric goes hunting every fall. He has for as long as he can remember and probably before that. It's what his side of the family does. It's a sacred tradition to them. Because it is a tradition that takes him away from me and the kids for a whole weekend at a time (or longer) I have never been a huge fan.
I'm not representing myself well. It wasn't simply that I wasn't a huge fan, I really hated it. It might be fair to say that it was the single thing I disliked most about who I married. It built this huge wall of resentment between my husband and myself. It was so difficult when he was gone. I was frustrated that it was so easy for him to just walk away and leave us all for a whole weekend, just because that's what his family always did. It felt like no one ever told him that there were seasons that your new family was going to be more important than what you grew up doing every fall. Instead of sympathy from his side of the family I got a litany of reasons why his hunting escapades were good for him. Honestly, I didn't care how refreshed he came back after the weekend, I was more exhausted after his weekend away than I thought I could handle and I didn't feel like anybody cared. It fed my annoyance and built a wall of resentment between me and his family too. By the time his truck finally pulled in late Sunday night I was hurt, angry, and bitter. Not a great combination. And a lot of unhappy moments of me trying to make him "pay" for his full weekend away from his responsibilities while I was stuck with what I felt was more than my fair share.
Thankfully God doesn't allow us to reside permanently in selfishness. Marriage has been a lot like taking a really long lab course in purging selfishness. There have been whole units on the truth that the only thing you have the power to change is yourself. I hated the wall building between us almost as much as hated hunting. At some point I came to terms with the fact that I needed to stop trying to change Eric. I can't change what he loves. I can't change the traditions that he grew up thinking were most important. I don't have the power to change my husband's perspective. As much as I wanted him to choose to stay home and be with his family instead of go off and spend a whole weekend doing only what he wanted to do, I didn't have the ability to make that happen. And when I tried I only added bricks to the wall that we were both constructing between us. I needed to learn how to live with all of who my husband was, even the stuff that wasn't my favorite. After all, I did marry him, for better or for worse. Some women have to struggle through a whole lot worse than their husband leaving to spend time in the woods every fall.
I've changed. I have more changing to do. But as I have changed, the walls of resentment are being deconstructed.
As I've changed I've noticed that I'm not the only one who is changing. He's working at tearing down that wall too. He dislikes the wall as much as I do. He chooses to be home with us more and he goes less often. When he gets back I realize he engages better with all of us because he's refreshed and appreciative of the gift of time away. Now we talk about his going in that kind of language, as a gift.
Gradually other things have changed that make the long weekends a little easier. My parents now live ten miles away, instead of 3,000. I'm no longer completely on my own when he leaves. The kids are a little older (three, five, and six). And finally, I've tried to talk to his family less about the hunting so that they don't feel the need to defend their family tradition.
This fall he was gone for one weekend. While he was gone, and even when he got back, I didn't know if he'd be going another weekend or not. I hoped not, but I didn't really know and had to try not to think about it. Thinking about it just created lots a breeding ground for self-pity, not healthy in any marriage. And now that the season is over, I'm relieved that we have the fullness of his heart back again for another ten months.
We've decided that this year I'm going to follow his example. I am going to walk away from my responsibilities as wife and mommy for a whole weekend and remember what it's like just to be a daughter. My mom and I are planning a weekend away, just the two of us. I'm hoping to return as refreshed and rejuvenated has Eric seems to be after his hunting trips. I can hardly wait. If I'm lucky this will be a tradition that my mom and I will get to embrace as many years as Eric's family has embraced theirs!