Deep within the inner workings of each of our hearts is a defense mechanism. When we're very young and shielded from the outside world by our parents, it's small and under-developed, almost non-existent. As we grow older, life starts to sneak in through the protective bubble we've grown accustomed to being encased in, first in the form of hurt feelings at the hands of a friend, or being let down by an adult we counted on, later by our first broken heart, or a betrayal by someone we trusted.
Though the circumstances may be different, the results are always the same. The more we're hurt, the bigger that defense mechanism grows. By the time we're adults, sometimes it's grown so large that there's no room left for other things, like allowing our hearts to be open to the possibility of new love, or falling in love with the same person all over again, every time we see a new side of them that we didn't know existed.
Even for those of us who are brave enough to allow someone inside the walls, past the defense mechanism, there are challenges. It's hard to abandon what you've always known. So when someone hurts you, no matter who it is, or what the reason, that defense mechanism kicks into high gear, telling you to push him away. Protect your heart. Put your walls back up. Don't let him hurt you. Pull back.
The road that led me to my husband was not a smooth one, for either of us. It was paved with heartache and regret and more pain than any one person should ever have to bare alone. So we both know all too well that once you start down a path where unkind words are said in the heat of the moment, or careless mistakes are made with total disregard for the other's feelings, it's hard, sometimes impossible to turn back. Sometimes the pieces become so irretrievably broken that they can't be fixed. This knowledge laid the foundation for our very loving, very open, very honest relationship.
My husband would never, ever hurt me intentionally. That being said, he breaks my heart on a daily basis. Every morning when I wake up and realize that he's not lying next to me, that he's half a world away, in a foreign country, fighting an arguably pointless war, the pain is so new, so raw, that it doesn't matter how long he's been gone, or how long I've had to get used to it. Every time I see something on the news about civil unrest in Iraq, or hear about a close call near his base, the dull ache in my chest that has become a constant turns into a raging fire. I can't breathe, can't think, can't hear. I just hurt. And my heart, which has never been this full of love and pain all at the same time, tries to protect itself.
My defense mechanism shifts into overdrive. Push him away. Pull back. I try to find reasons to be upset with him, even though there are none. I start pointless arguments. I shut down emotionally, sometimes unable to find the words to tell him how I'm feeling. I don't think he would understand anyway. I feel betrayed. I feel angry. I feel hurt. And sometimes it's hard to remember that none of it is his fault, that he probably feels the same way.
Deployment is a scary, confusing, sad thing for everyone involved. It hurts. And it's impossible sometimes for our hearts to distinguish the good hurt from the bad hurt, to recognize that this is the type of hurt that's worth enduring, worth fighting for. But I remind myself every day. And whenever my heart starts to harden, starts to whisper to me to push him away, I pull him closer instead.