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There's a Hole in My Life That My Husband Can't Fill

Photograph by Twenty20

"What's wrong?" my husband asked.

Instead of snapping, "I'll give you one guess about what the hell is wrong?!" I took the high road with, "I'm just sad today."

"Oh," he replied. Then he said nothing and exited the room.

Nothing.

It's been more than six months since my mom's passing. I've been up, down, sideways, buried, on top and also fragmented at the same time. I've been confused. I've been devastated. I've been accepting and strong. Grief is complicated, and I know that everything I'm feeling is "normal," but I can't help but be angry. So angry.

At my husband.

Right after tragedy struck my family, I had a deep conversation with a friend who lost her dad suddenly a few years earlier. "You're going to have a lot of displaced anger," she warned. "You're going to fight with your husband and be mad for reasons you don't even know why."

I nodded and went on with my life. I now think of her words every day: You. Will. Fight. With. Your. Husband.

He's a great man, an honest guy, an incredible dad to our kids and he loves me. And I love him, too—deeply. All the important things are alive and well, except my recent loss has now put another loss in front of me: What happens when your spouse can't heal what you need healed?

I always thought my husband would be my rock, the only one to make me feel better, the only one to minimize any pain with a look, a talk, a hug. I'm disappointed that I'm wrong, because he doesn't have a clue about what to say.

He can't fill the void I thought he'd fill.

With our kids, he's sensitive, compassionate and way too much of a pushover, so why can't he be that way with me?

Through this unexpected reality, I'm now realizing that my husband wasn't raised with the know-how of what to say to someone struggling through a difficult time or how to comfort through someone's worst. His parents don't know how to do it, and neither does he. It's not his fault—but, man, I have been mad.

So mad.

My mom was my counselor in each part of my life: kids, family, career, relationships. She was the only one I got practical perspective and actionable advice from, the kind of perspective and advice my husband just does not know how to do as a partner. With our kids, he's sensitive, compassionate and way too much of a pushover, so why can't he be that way with me? Because I'm an adult? I'm hurting here.

Am I expecting too much? Probably.

The harsh reality is that I'm disappointed. In what, I'm not sure. Disappointed in who I thought he was? Maybe. Disappointed in myself for still needing such strong guidance as a grown woman? Absolutely.

I still need reassurance. I still need confidence. I still need cheerleading. I still need so much and the fact that he doesn't know how to provide it in a way that actually helps is scary as hell for me. It doesn't discount the wonderful parts about him, nor do I think it diminishes our marriage or love for each other, but it makes me even more resentful of this space that I'm desperately seeking to feel less empty in.

Clawing my way out of my frustration is one of life's toughest lessons: I must now fill this void myself. As a mom, it's time to grow up and do for myself what others might not be equipped to do for me. Because I have to. For my kids, for my marriage, for my life.

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