Victimhood in Marriage: Our Story

If you’re a blog skimmer, I’ll save you some time. 

If you’re struggling with constantly feeling like a victim in your marriage, you know it’s a problem, and you want help, do these things:

  • Pray. Ask God to help you love your spouse and see your flaws and quicker to forgive theirs.
  • Seek out pastors and friends who want the best for your marriage and tell it like it is. 
  • Make a point to remember the good things your spouse does. Even when you’re still frustrated.
  • Have some real, honest conversations. I’m going to talk a lot about forgiveness and acceptance in this post but that doesn’t mean nothing needs to change. 
  • Be specific about what you need. Don’t expect your spouse to be a mindreader.

That’s it. There you have it. Have a happy marriage!

Just kidding. 

If you’d like to read more I’d love to share Josh’s and my story on how we (I) struggled with playing the victim in our marriage and how we were able to pull through it, keep on reading.

First of all, I want to say that this blog post has been on my mind for ages. I always knew that I’d write it someday but I 100% wanted to wait for a time when I could do it with the right attitude and heart behind it. By the grace of God, I finally feel like I can do that.  

We decide to move

This story starts when we were living back in Lynchburg. I had been blogging for a couple years and had just started to be more active on Instagram. I had quit my part-time job in the fall while I was pregnant with Evy and that was the first time I was ever not employed by someone else (you know, other than myself). 

I was super excited to be a stay at home mom and have more freedom to focus on blogging and pursuing Instagram between taking care of the kids during the day. 

In the meantime, Josh was working at a job that – to put it nicely – was stressing him the heck out. 

There was a lot of turnover at his company and because Josh worked hard at his job, he kept getting promoted and then promoted again a few months later. With these promotions came more responsibility and the expectation of much more knowledge (his last title was Systems Engineer which usually takes at least a 4-year degree with several years experience. Josh had no experience other than a year on the job and no formal IT education). 

He felt like a fish out of water and I hated seeing him constantly stressed and dreading going to work. His company wasn’t being fair to him and it wasn’t a good situation. We both knew it was time for him to quit. 

We had also aways dreamed of moving closer to Josh’s family and living in the Pacific Northwest, and this started to look like a good time to make that dream happen. 

At first, I was very against the idea of moving in with Josh’s parents. Eventually, I opened up to living with them for 6 months to a year – just long enough for us to get over there, for Josh to get a job, and to save up a little before buying a house of our own (spoiler alert – we’re still living in Josh’s parents house 2.5 years later). 

Basically, I was expecting our lives to look relatively the same once we got over there: Josh working a full-time job and me at home with the kids making a supplemental income on the side with the blog and Instagram.

Adjusting to life in Washington

Once we got to Washington in August 2017, Josh started applying to jobs here and there but was having trouble finding something where he could see himself long-term and would actually enjoy what he did (reminder: he was pretty burned by his last job and desperately wanted to avoid a repeat of that). 

After about 6 months we still hadn’t started saving towards our goals and Josh hadn’t been able to find a job (reminder: I had wanted to be out of Josh’s parents’ house by now already). I thought, “Hey, I could apply to some jobs and take a little of the pressure off Josh to find something in the meantime.”

So I started applying around and within about a month, I was interviewed and hired at my current company, Scouted. Now when I first started, I was extremely excited about the opportunity. I was getting “real-world” marketing experience, working for a fun startup in NYC with great people, and I was allowed to work remotely from home in Washington. I mean, you can’t ask for a better situation than that.

Finally, we were going to make some progress towards our goals. Now, in my mind, I was planning to be at Scouted for only about a year; long enough for Josh to find a job, for me to gain some experience, and still be able to put them on my resume. 

Oh…

It wasn’t until a conversation I had with Josh about a month later – I can still remember the traffic light we were stopped under – when I realized we were not on the same page. 

What I thought was just a temporary job to hold us over, Josh saw as an exciting opportunity for me to provide for our family. 

He wasn’t going to apply for any more jobs. Our current roles, of me being the provider and Josh being the stay at home parent, were our roles now, indefinitely.

I remember feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Or like I had been kicked out in the cold with the door slammed and locked behind me.

Now, for any working mom reading this, I probably sound about as dramatic as a two-year-old who’s been told they can’t eat the playdough. But I want to remind you that I had just quit my job a year earlier to pursue my dream of blogging full-time and being a stay at home mom (which Josh had been in full support of) I had also envisioned myself being a stay at home mom since I was little and it just started to seem like that was finally working out. I had been excited about moving to a beautiful place where I could dive into photography and writing. And just when it seemed like I was about to step into a door that looked wide open, it felt like it was slammed right in my face.

That, and Josh had never been a stay at home parent, and, to be honest, I didn’t think he could do it. 

Not only that, but Josh was also consistently playing video games during the day and in the evening which I had a really hard time with and partially blamed as the reason for why he hadn’t found a job.

The bitterness

I started my new job in January 2018, and, well, let’s just say that 2018 wasn’t our year. 

I felt such a heavy load of resentment. Josh’s transition to stay-at-home-dad was a slow but steady one and I didn’t have a lot of patience when I felt like I had to pick up the slack. 

I was still trying to write for my own blog as well as focus on Instagram, creating organic content that came from the heart as well as participate in paid sponsorships so that we could work towards paying off my student loans and eventually save up for a down payment on a house. 

I found myself keeping a mental scorecard of all the ways I was being a better parent or spouse and backhandedly holding it over Josh’s head when I felt like I was ahead (which was most of the time). This only lead Josh to do the same thing (how could he not?) in order to prove that he wasn’t as horrible I was making him out to be. 

During this time, I didn’t feel like I had the right to write about marriage on the blog anymore because I knew I wasn’t being a good example of a loving and forgiving wife. And I didn’t think Josh was being a great example, either.

Josh and I also had a lot of conversations during this time that never really got us anywhere. In my mind, the only way I would be happy would be if he got a job and stopped playing video games. In Josh’s mind, it didn’t make sense for him to get a job where he would be away from our family all day, he (to be very honest) wouldn’t make as much, and I would have to juggle taking care of the kids while blogging. 

And to be honest, his point of view made sense, but I just couldn’t get on board with it.

What also didn’t help was our families constantly questioning this new dynamic and asking the loaded question, “How are you doing?” that I hated as well. To be honest, I wasn’t ok. I knew I never wanted to throw Josh under the bus, but it’s was extremely hard for me to defend our family situation when I hated it so much. 

**** One thing I want to make clear is that I’ve always loved my job. I’m still at Scouted today and can’t imagine myself being anywhere else. They’ve helped me grow, my coworkers are awesome, and I full-heartedly believe in the mission of our company. I felt a huge sense of pride being able to support my family all by myself and that could never have happened without them.

That being said, I constantly felt pulled in 100 different directions between work, partnerships with brands, wanting to create organic, un-branded content, and being a wife and mother.  To say it felt like too much would be putting it lightly. I felt like I was drowning. Each morning I would wake up with 30+ notifications on my phone from emails to Slack messages to DMs and reminders of my to-do list and calendar invites. I often felt jealous of Josh because it seemed like I was constantly stressed whereas he never seemed stressed. Which I’m sure wasn’t the case, but it felt like it. Hence my mental scorecard. 

The turnaround

Near the end of 2018, I knew that it was time for me to accept our family dynamic and the fact that I hadn’t done so already was hurting Josh and our marriage. It was finally time to let go and to find joy in our new normal. I realized that the only thing standing between me and a joyful attitude was me. 

But it was hard to accept our new normal when it still felt wrong. I would try hard for a few days to be more accepting but eventually bitterness would still flare-up, and usually in the blink of an eye. 

I also knew that instead of racking points on my mental scorecard, I could(/should) just choose to be more honest with Josh about the help that I need instead of unnecessarily trying to do all the things only to make him feel bad about it later. Anyone else ever do this?

I began to pray. 

I knew that I wouldn’t just wake up one day without any bitterness. I couldn’t love and accept Josh on my own. It was too big for me. So I started to pray for God to simply help me love Josh. I also prayed for God to help me see the good. I didn’t really know what to pray other than that. 

I also “randomly” came across the book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered by Lysa TerKeurst. I downloaded it on Audible and began to listen. 

My eyes were opened to the idea that our life and our story didn’t have to look like how I had always imagined it. In fact, it could be even more glorious if I allowed God to shine through and trust him to make up for where Josh and I were lacking. I realized that it took a lot of faith and I hadn’t been trusting God with our situation and instead had been trying to control the outcome of everything to look just how I wanted it. And in doing so, I wasn’t allowing myself to be used by God. 

I also realized that I was allowing myself to remember Josh’s mistakes and shortcomings while easily forgetting all the ways he was contributing and supporting our family.

Our new normal

Finally, once I allowed myself to be open to the idea that our current situation – of both Josh and I being at home with the kids, me working, and Josh being the primary caregiver to the kids – was the best situation for us, I started to feel much more open to asking for help when I needed it. 

What I had been fighting for this whole time, a more traditional dynamic for our family, was actually asking for a situation where we wouldn’t be saving as much money and where our kids would see us less. 

I realized that what I had been fighting for this whole time, actually wasn’t what I wanted at all. 

Honest conversations

We had talks about video games. I didn’t want Josh to stop playing altogether, but we had to work out a system that made it so that Josh was available when I needed him, that way he had time for his hobby that was also a social outlet for him, and I felt like I was still getting the support I needed. 

This is where I also asked Josh to start being more involved in our content creation. He started to learn photography and he now takes 100% of our photos for the blog and Instagram. Because we were able to be open and talk about what we needed from each other, we now feel like much more of a team working towards the same goals rather than two individuals competing with each other.

I also started involving Josh a lot more in the planning process for our content creation which helped him to understand what was on my plate each week as well as help us plan ahead and work together. 

Now that David’s started Kindergarten, Josh has taken on almost all the responsibility and logistics that come with that. It’s taken a lot of trust on my part to be able to let go of a lot of things I used to do, but it’s allowed Josh to step up in ways I didn’t give him the credit to be able to do in the past. 

Here’s where we’re at today

In the end, I will say that we’re still working out the kinks. Some days are still stressful and I still often feel pulled in many directions, but I know now that I’m giving our kids the opportunity to have a childhood with their dad around. On stressful days, I talk to Josh and he offers extra support like keeping the kids busy while I work, taking care of dinner, etc.

We’re also – finally – reaching some of our goals. Early this year (2019) we paid off $25,000 in private student loans (those were the loans with the extremely high interest rates). We still have about $20,000 in federal student loans but their interest rates and monthly payments are much smaller so we’re going to take our time paying those off. We have no other debt other than those student loans – no car payments, credit card debt, nothing. In the meantime, we’ve been able to start saving up for a down payment on a home and are very close to meeting our original goal. 

All we have to do now is decide where we’re actually going to live, but that’s a blog for another day.

I’ll repeat now what I said at the beginning of the post:

If you’re struggling with constantly feeling like a victim in your marriage, you know it’s a problem, and you want help, do these things:

Pray

Ask God to help you love your spouse and see your flaws and quicker to forgive theirs. There are times when we just won’t feel like forgiving or accepting and the only way it’ll ever happen is to ask God for help. He is the one who enables us to love and forgive and I’ve found that it’s pretty impossible to do from sheer human will power.

Get help

Seek out pastors and friends who want the best for your marriage and tell it like it is. Don’t just vent to people who you know will take your side. It probably feels better in the moment, but it’ll only hurt your relationship more. 

Remember the good

Make a point to remember the good things your spouse does. Even when you’re still frustrated. Ask God to help you notice the kind and helpful things your spouse does. When we’re bitter, it can be easy to discount those things or chalk them up to be not as meaningful as they are. But we need to do the opposite. Cherish the small things they do. This is what we would want our spouse to do for us, after all. 

Honest, hard conversations

Have some real, honest conversations. Just because we’re trying to be forgiving and accepting doesn’t mean that nothing needs to change or that our spouse didn’t do anything wrong. Part of being a Godly spouse means holding ourselves and our spouse to God’s standards and – in love – calling it out when they’re not living up to them. This is a whole blog post for another day but in the end, we want to make each other better and we can do that with our mouths taped shut.

Ask for help

Be specific about what you need. We often expect our spouse to be a mindreader and that’s just not fair. Sometimes I think we can fall into testing to see if they’ll do what we want them to and when we fail, it might not be surprising, but it sure doesn’t help our attitude. Instead, why not give them the chance to succeed by telling them what we need and simply asking for help?

Have you dealt with feelings of victimhood in your marriage? How did you find a way out of it and move on together? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

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    Comments

    Rhonesha Bontemps

    This post resonates with me so much! Only I realize I’m not keeping up my end of the bargain of building a business at home. I work on it but not as laser focused as I should be. That was the agreement my husband and I had when I quit to be at home with our son. I know my husband works hard but my complaining doesn’t help his stress. Thank you for these tips! Definitely goin to seek God out about it.