We'd been friends in College and she was always the "nurturer" taking care of her aging parents, every stray dog and cat and then her husband when she got married right after graduation. I knew that she'd make the best Mom long before she got pregnant with twins. After the twins were safely settled into first grade, her husband lost his job in pharmaceutical sales and she had to go back to work as a Nurse. It wasn't ideal, but it made sense since they had a large house payment and had moved her Mom to a Nursing Home.
After six months on the job, I noticed a change in her. When we'd meet for dinner, her whole focus was on her career, and how she was trying to get "noticed" so that she could get a job in management. "After all, the hours will be more predictable as a Nurse Manager and it will be better for the girls to have me home in the evenings."
It wasn't just an enthusiasm for doing a good job that I noticed, it seemed like she was more competitive, telling me about the other nurses that had gotten promotions instead of her. She sounded resentful, like she wasn't getting what she felt she deserved. And her conversations had lost that "nurturing" tone; she'd admitted that since her husband was only working part-time, he'd seemed distant. But she was too tired after working long hours to worry about it.
I didn't want to be judgmental, but the change was dramatic. She had gone from being a caring, loving person to a competitive "career girl" who was only focused on getting ahead at work. I'd ask her about it gently and she'd respond, "Well, I get satisfaction from my work. The CFO takes me to lunch a couple of times a week and says nice things about me in meetings. It's no wonder I enjoy working; I sure don't get compliments at home anymore."
I remember that I'd started praying for her at the time. I'd prayed to God to "change her back." I wanted her back to the sweet, nurturing, "love thy neighbor" girl who had been my friend for so many years. But each time we’d talk, it seemed to get worse. She'd gotten that promotion and was working long hours, often not coming home until the girls were in bed.
We didn’t keep in touch after I moved to San Antonio in 1992, but re-connected on FACEBOOK after she caught one of my blog posts back in September 2010. We traded emails and I learned of her painful divorce but she was thankful that the girls were doing well; both college graduates and married.
We reconnected in person a few weeks ago when she was in Memphis to visit a new client. The transformation was amazing! She told me about her job at the consulting company, but only briefly. Instead, she wanted to tell me how proud she was of her girls, how she'd joined a different church and had been going on mission trips to Haiti. She was the girl I'd remembered back in College!
Later into the evening, I shared with her about me praying for her to be "changed back" when she was married and going through her “career phase.”
"It took a lot of therapy for me to get here, but I finally realized that I had never really changed. I am a nurturing person, but I also want to be liked by everyone. Unfortunately, I married a man who my therapist calls a "Strict Father" –always developing rules for me to follow and scrutinizing my every move. No matter what I did, he was always critical of my cooking, my cleaning, even the way I read bedtime stories to the girls. My therapist explained that because I didn't feel loved, I looked elsewhere for affirmation. First it was my career. I looked forward to Monday mornings because work made me feel intelligent and that I was worth something. And I became competitive; trying to get more praise and admiration at work. I started working longer and longer hours because I didn't want to go home. I'm sorry to admit that I eventually had an affair with the CFO; it was too easy. He appreciated me and made me feel important. My husband was the exact opposite; he made me feel like I had to chase him and then impress him to earn his love. He never would see the therapist with me; even my therapist supported my divorce.”
“But you are completely different from the last time I saw you. What happened after the divorce?”
“I didn't end up marrying the CFO; in fact we broke up right after the divorce. But I realized I needed help. The therapist was the one that pointed out that it was my husband being unable to love me that had changed my heart, but it was God that would change my heart back. And He did. Now, I try to love everyone, even the people who get promoted ahead of me. I figure that God has something else even better in store for me!”
“It was hard going through a divorce especially when the kids were so small. The saddest part was that my husband didn’t even realize that his “Strict Father” approach to our marriage was causing so many problems. My therapist said that is often the case; they can’t see any other viewpoint but theirs. It’s not that they are stubborn and don’t want to change, they can’t even imagine a nurturing relationship with their wife. I’ve met a great guy recently who is a “Nurturing Parent” type. It is the most honorable relationship I’ve ever had. Only God knows where the relationship will end up, but I’m sure enjoying it every day! I’m thankful that both the girls found “Nurturing Parent” types to marry, too. I’m predicting a long and happy marriage for both of them.”
“But the best part is that I like the woman who I’ve become. I’m following God’s path in my life and trying every day to care for my neighbor.”
I like the woman that she’s become, too!
Blessings, my friend,