Where Logic Meets Love

A Change of Plans

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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A Change of Plans | Faith Permeating Life

I had a topic for today, but then my life veered sideways, like Willy Wonka's elevator, and I found myself staring at an entirely new sets of concerns.

Mike has been back home (where his family is) the past few days, helping his mom move. Typically I try to maintain privacy on here when it comes to my in-laws, but now that this is being thrust upon me, I will at least provide the background that his parents are divorced and he has a brother a few years younger who has lived, unsuccessfully, on his own, with their mother, and now with their father.

Today I checked my phone at the end of my lunch hour and found a long text from Mike with concerns about how the current situation was not going well for his brother, who has severe depression among other issues (and is trying to quit smoking), because his parents were not understanding what kind of help his brother needed. Following this was another text asking if he could bring his brother home -- to our home, to our 1-bedroom apartment -- with him tomorrow. For a "short time."

Deep breath.

I'm sharing this here not only because of the short-term effect this is going to have on my life, but because I like to provide a window into how my marriage works.

I went into the hallway by the elevators and called Mike. I listened to him talk through all the concerns he had about the current situation with his family and why he thought he'd be able to help give his brother structure. He listened to me as I laid out every possible concern I had and everything that I wanted him to think through before bringing his brother home, knowing as I did so that there is no cure for Mike's unfailing optimism about every plan he ever makes.

I found myself dangerously close to using those hyperbolic phrases "you always" and "you never," but I tried to keep the conversation in the realm of honesty. There is a reason you should know your spouse's flaws, and it is not so you can throw them back in his face when you feel criticized. It is so that you can say, "Here are my concerns about this idea, and here's why, based on what has happened before."

In the end, the compromise was that his brother could come for one week, provided that his bus ticket back was bought in advance and with the understanding that Mike was not going to be satisfied when the week was up and was going to believe that he could do more to help if he just had another week, and that he was going to have to deal with that.

(If this all sounds harsh or selfish and you're picturing Mike's brother as some meek, helpless person who just needs love and care, know that he can have a temper and that Mike has been known to break promises to me to avoid provoking that temper. That is not a situation I want to live in without a clear end date.)

It's really, really hard sometimes to know when to say no and when to just trust. I could have said, "Remember this time and this time when you said you were going to stand up to your brother and you didn't? How will this be different?" But your spouse always has a trump card, and that is, "You have to trust me that I have changed and this time will be different."

There are a lot of ways that trust plays into a marriage, and this is one of the more unexpected ones, I think. If you can't trust that your spouse has the ability to change, you will never allow them the opportunity to prove themselves. And so this whole next week is going forward on Mike's trust that his brother can follow through on making positive change if Mike just provides him the structure and the motivaion, and on my trust that Mike is going to be as tough as he says he will be when his brother throws a fit and refuses to cooperate.

If I have to, I'll spend the weekend and the beginning of next week at my parents' house. I'm willing to trust, but I'm not stupid enough not to have my own backup plan.


  1. OK I read this one fully before posting :) But, ohhh yes, I have a similar situation in my family, with MY younger brother who has similar issues as yours. It's frustrating, and then throw in a spouse with their opinions on the situation since their family wouldn't handle X or Y that way...and yeah.

    Lots of luck and patience over the next few days!!

  2. @Rabbit
    I generally try to avoid making any comments about Mike's family or how they do things, but when it has a direct impact on my daily life... we'll see.

    Thanks for your empathy and good wishes!

  3. OY! good luck and keep us posted.

  4. I just realized I made a wee typo. I mean to say "your BIL" not "yours." I knew he wasn't your brother!

    Very good that you don't make any comments about the family. I try to be objective as possible, but it can be hard.

    Glad to hear that things are going well--hope they continue!


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